IN THE VINES

FIVE FRIGHTENING STARS to the Kindle version with audio–It’s FABULOUS!

  • Author: Shannon Kirk
  • Publication Date: July 17, 2018

Allow me to collect myself. I might need a puff of Albuterol.

Wouldn’t you know my last post was a list of the best novels I’ve read this year? And now, I’ve read the darkest fear-builder of them all.

Oh, well, I’ll just be off building my new Hall of Fame shelf. This shelf shall be titled “NOVEL-LONG SPASM OF TERROR” and it shall contain this one and only book. With a spotlight shining down on it. And maybe an occasional strobe light. And scary music.

If Misery and Sharp Objects and Dolores Claiborne all banged into each other, rolled around on a dangerous cliff and fell into the raging Atlantic Ocean together, a mermaid would rise up from the depths raising this beautiful book to the heavens.

Mermaids and other lovely things are detailed in this uniquely Gothic thriller. Yet, it is so crazy, I can only think of if as an ugly kind of beauty. The writer, Shannon Kirk, is one to watch, friends. She is uberly talented and I can’t even imagine how she conceived of this story and wrote it in such a technically difficult structure. Amazing.

Ahem….move over Gillian Flynn, move over Stephen King. There is a new queen in town.

IN THE VINES starts in the middle of a terrifying scene and only gets more terrifying from there. Until the 50% point, you will HAVE NO IDEA WTF IS GOING ON. AND IT WILL SCARE YOU TO DEATH. THE DREAD. THE FEAR. OH MY. MY.

I didn’t know much about this book, except that all the cool kids have been raving about it! When it became available “free” as an Amazon Kindle First Read with the Audible sync (or something like that), I snatched it up and am so happy I did. Check out the First Read membership and I think it is still free.

I would recommend reading it with your eyeballs first because it is super confusing -in a good way-when you start. Then, when you’ve got a handle on the story, listen to the first rate audiobook. The audio actresses are PHENOMENAL. Shout out to one of my favorite characters, Popover!  (Johanna’s devoted cat). Everything about this book just screams horror movie.

I don’t want to say anymore–the less you know, the better your experience will be. Just know this: IN THE VINES is the story of a wealthy New England family. There is much love between them. There is also hatred and obsession. Secrets and rage. Adoration and sheer psychotic-ness. It is an almost strictly female cast of characters that is exhausting in the best way possible. Now, just go read the freakin’ book!

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Family ties so strong you can’t escape…

Mary Olivia Pentecost, known as Mop, was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country—and one of the most guarded. Now, two years after her mother’s mysterious death, Mop is seeking closure on the disquieting tragedy by returning to the New England seaside estate of her cloistered Aunty Liv—once her closest relative and confidante.

But behind the walls of the isolated estate, the shadows of the past are darker than Mop imagined. The puzzles of the family history are not to be shared, but unearthed. With each revelation comes a new, foreboding threat—and for Mop, the grave suspicion that to discover Aunty Liv’s secrets is to become a prisoner of them.

How well do we know the people we love? How well do we want to know them? The answers are as twisted as a tangle of vines in this throat-clutching novel of psychological suspense.

About

Shannon Kirk

Shannon Kirk is a practicing attorney and former law professor in Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband, a physicist and ultra-marathoner, and son, a cat-loving, basketball-player. Shannon is a multiple-award winning author of The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall and Method 15/33, which is optioned for film and an international best seller. Prior to moving to Massachusetts, Shannon was a trial attorney in Chicago for ten years. Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, Shannon spent her very early years moving around the country: Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Upstate New York, and finally settled to grow up mostly in Raymond, New Hampshire. Her home was an eccentric and loud, although loving, household with ten million pets of dubious origin. Both her parents encouraged pursuits in the arts, often dragging her and her three brothers to flea markets and antique shows, while giving lessons on the genius of Bob Dylan and Santana. Shannon’s three brothers are artists: one, a rap/blues musician, another a sculptor, and another a physical therapist with a woodshop. Shannon attended Trinity High School and moved on to West Virginia Wesleyan and St. John’s for college. She graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1998. When not writing or practicing law, Shannon enjoys creating sea-glass sculptures, painting, and hanging with her family and two cats, Marvin and Stewie, who sometimes appear in her books.

Shannon writes in several genres: poetry, literary fiction, suspense/thriller, and young adult.

Shannon is a member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

FORCE OF NATURE

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Jane Harper
  • Publication date: February 6, 2018

SHE’S DONE IT AGAIN!

Jane Harper wrote THE best book I read in 2017.

THE DRY deservedly won many prestigious awards and Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk won the hearts of readers around the world.

When a debut work of fiction is nothing less than magnificent, the highly anticipated second novel looms large. Will it live up to the first? Is Harper a one trick pony? Do not fear, Dry fans!!! FORCE OF NATURE does not disappoint and will cement Harper as your go-to mystery/psychological suspense author. Bless!

Instead of the drought ridden Australian outback we got to know intimately in THE DRY, this book is set in the wet, cold and windy Giralang mountain range north of Melbourne. Let me tell you, when you turn that last page, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that you’re snugly wrapped in front of your fireplace and not out in the FORCE OF NATURE battling the elements.

Jane Harper is first and foremost a fabulous, effortless writer. I love her spare detailing, every word packs a punch. Nothing extraneous here. She also k n o w s people. What drives people, their fears, their downfalls. Her psychological skills are put to full use in FORCE OF NATURE.

Five women from the BaileyTennants financial firm are persuaded to take part in a back country team building exercise that will test their limits beyond imagination. The women have complicated relationships with each other, extending beyond their co-working status. When they emerge from the wilderness, one member of this not-so-happy group is missing.

Our beloved Aaron Falk is called in with his new partner, Carmen Cooper, to assist with the investigation. The story is told from two views, one from the running investigation and the other in a slowed down reality of exactly what happened on this hike into hell.

The result is an addictive, page-turning story rich in atmosphere, mood and setting. It is easily a standalone novel, but there is so much back story on Aaron Falk that a new reader would be greatly missing out by reading the two books out of order. There is ample biographical info on Falk’s personality traits and what makes him tick—all to be discovered in THE DRY.

FORCE OF NATURE feels like a natural, organic follow-up to THE DRY. The premise of this book is brilliant, realistic and terrifically suspenseful.

Highly recommend!

SOMETHING IN THE WATER

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Catherine Steadman
  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018

 

For domestic suspense fun, it doesn’t get much better than this! SOMETHING IN THE WATER is Numero Uno on the NYT bestseller list this week, a Reese’s bookclub selection and the movie rights have long been snatched up!

All that buzzy attention heaped on one lil ole debut novel can make some of us (okay…..me😂)a tad skeptical. No need to worry. You are in expert hands with Catherine Steadman. Maybe you live on a deserted island and haven’t heard, but Steadman is a fabulous, gorgeous actress working in the U.K. She, most notably, was a cast member of Britain‘s Downton Abbey. She can also write like the pros, if not better. What the heck? So much talent in one person! Quit your day job or not, Ms. Steadman, you are a superstar either way!

There are tons of summaries out there. Please don’t read them. Listen, I accidentally read the “spoilest spoilers” EVER in the New York Times and Kirkus Reviews. Geez. Don’t look for more about the story. I would have enjoyed it so much more if I didn’t already know what the something in the water was! Take my word for it.

The pacing is brisk, the narrator is unreliable (BUT NOT A DRUNK!) and the story translates quite believably as a realistic situation. You guys know how much I abhor the hand-wringing heroine. But here, our protagonist is VERY pro-action. True, she doesn’t always make the best decisions (omg!), but she tries her best and I, for one, felt a weird kind of kinship with our main character.

It’s my favorite kind of suspense-building story. One bad decision leads to another, leads to one more and so on…..It’s the ultimate “what would you do” situational structure. Steadman writes in a slick, sophisticated manner. I’m completely infatuated with her wit and style.

If you enjoyed The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10, or The Flight Attendant you will love Something in the Water.

The audiobook is stellar! Steadman acts as her own icy, sexy narrator and you will quickly understand why she is such a wonderful actress! Highly recommend! I am so excited to discover this new, gifted author. Looking forward to her career in this difficult-to-write genre

JAR OF HEARTS

FOUR STARS

  • Author: Jennifer Hillier
  • US Publication date: June 12, 2018

After feeling duped into reading a few too many light weight “thrillers” that are promoted as dark and twisted, all I can say is:  Thank God!! this book doesn’t read like chick-lit! It really is dark and twisted, a bit gritty and graphic and best of all, set in the Pacific Northwest!! Hooray! Also, the pacing is extremely fast, I read the entire thing in a matter of hours.

All good things, yes? Ok, to be honest, YES! My minor complaints: a little deeper characterization would have been most welcome. Also, the book felt too short! I wanted so much more to the final reveal. The ending felt rushed and was over too soon.

JAR OF HEARTS refers to a mason jar of cinnamon candy hearts, not a jar of real hearts (whew!)…This isn’t a Jeffrey Dahmer story, but it does sidle right up to the borderline between thriller and too many violent details. I know, I know, I love my dark and disturbed characters! BUT, I don’t really enjoy reading graphic details first hand in a novel. I like to keep my distance and let the the investigator read the autopsy report. Thankfully, this one is brief on the Patricia Cornwell-type ickiness, but it gets a bit close for me.

The mystery feels fresh and original, even if it’s not. It’s written in an engaging, addictive manner and I was immediately pulled into the complicated friendship between Georgina, Angela, and Kaiser. When Calvin enters the story, all their lives are changed forever. The high school flashback parts are brief and essential to the story. I never felt like the story lagged, even between time switchbacks. The parts of the story focused on life in a women’s prison were fascinating to me! Most of the book felt very authentic, realistic and thoroughly researched.

Well done, Jennifer Hillier! Now I just need to dig out my copy of Creep, I LIIIIIIKE YOU AND WANT TO READ MORE!

I definitely would recommend this book if you enjoy a serial killer/crime fiction every once in awhile. This one is fast, engrossing, gritty– but, not too graphic. JUST about perfect!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for my galley copy. The book is set to be released on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. All opinions are my own

Goodreads Summary: This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

THE PERFECT NANNY

FIVE STARS

  • Author: Leila Slimani
  • US Publication date: January 9, 2018
  • UK Title: LULLABY

Goodreads SummaryWhen Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start. Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.

I still have chills days after finishing THE PERFECT NANNY. I’ve skipped over this novel many times thinking it would be the old “hand that rocks the cradle” plot. I could not have been more wrong. This unusual book got under my skin in the quietest, creepiest way possible and it deserves nothing less than 5 stars.

The story opens with a brief graphic scene of violence depicting the death of two young children at the hands of their nanny. I almost put down the book, I was afraid it would continue. But, no, that is only the first two pages. An unsettling and disturbing framework is set and the reader now views the rest of the story from the beginning, all the while knowing how this is going to end.

Since we know WHO, the driving force of this tense character profile is WHY? As in real life, we see glimpses of madness in a person, but rarely is there a definable answer as to why someone would commit such a heinous act. Instead, it is a combination of inexplicable factors in a disturbed mind that may quietly lead to violence.

The terrifying part to me is how the loving parents unknowingly invited a madwoman into their home. She appeared to them to be an angel, an actual Mary Poppins. Until, the unraveling began. And then it was too late.

“She has the keys to their apartment; she knows everything; she has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.”

The writing is smooth, yet spare. Leila Slimani has won many writing awards in her home country of France and it is easy to see why. I love this style of writing with one omniscient narrator telling the story in a simple, almost hypnotic manner. The short book is absolutely riveting and compulsively readable.

This is for readers that loved Unraveling Oliver or We Need to Talk About Kevin. However, this novel feels completely fresh and is a much faster read than either of these. Truly, one of my new favorites.

LYING IN WAIT

FIVE PERFECT STARS

Go ahead, add this book to your TBR. Because you do want to read this. You will. You must. I insist.

I’m at a loss here. Positively verklempt. How do I tell you how perfect this book is without gushing? When other books fail to reach my expectations, I can rattle off the reasons I didn’t like it. With great ones, I just stumble all over myself. I apologize.

I knew this book would be good, I just didn’t know how good. The answer is: LYING IN WAIT is the new standard that all psychological suspense and crime fiction novels should strive for. Liz Nugent just wrote the handbook and I fear that very few writers could achieve such perfection in this genre.

The thing is, if you found Nugent’s debut UNRAVELING OLIVER too much of a slow burn –I know a ton of readers did, you will not find that with LYING IN WAIT. I read this book almost in one day. It is utterly addicting and you will be hooked at the very first line. The need to know what is happening becomes almost unbearable as you read.

Once again, Nugent has created an engrossing family drama that spans many years and is set in Dublin. It is simply the story of two families linked inexplicably by a murder. At the heart of the novel is a morbidly unhealthy, but completely fascinating, connection between a mother and son. There are only a few characters in this book and each one is fully dissected for the reader to analyze. Each character has a chance to tell their part in the story side by side with the others. I am in awe of how Nugent was able to superbly structure this story in such a natural flowing way. There is no flipping back and forth between timelines (ugh, I’m so over that).

Nugent is a master at pushing the uncomfortable envelope towards the reader, without going over the top. The story is tense and exciting, full of twists and unexpected turns. It’s dark and dramatic. Gothic feeling and weird! That ending – all I can say is GENIUS. I can’t stop gushing, please forgive me.

Now, mark your calendar for June 12 or just go ahead and pre-order it. Place a hold or get in line at the library. You will not want to miss this one!

Thank you to Netgalley! I was given the galley to read and review, all opinions are my own.