Friday, January 22, 2021

Last Ones Left Alive - Sarah Davis-Goff

I am inevitably drawn to apocalyptic and post apocalyptic fiction, fascinated by what an author imagines our future might hold. And more than a little bit frightened, given the times we're living in.

I read the premise of Sarah Davis-Goff's novel, Last Ones Left Alive, and knew it was one I wanted to read. I picked it up on a snowy Sunday and literally couldn't put it down. Yes, it's that good!

Orpen has been raised by her Mam and Maeve on a deserted island off the coast of Ireland. When she turned seven she started her training. Training to defend herself against the skrake - a threat she's never seen. But as the years pass, Orpen wants to know more. More than the edited version that her Mam and Maeve provide. What's on the mainland? Are there others left? 

Davis-Goff tells her story from Orpen's point of view. We meet her in the first chapter, finally on the mainland, pushing Maeve in a wheelbarrow. What led to this point? Where is she going? What will she find? The answers to those questions and more are provided in a past and present narrative. This is a writing device that I really enjoy. Although, it does keep me up very late as I simply can't stop turning pages. I simply need to know what happened and what is happening.

The skrake are the dead, incredibly fast and their bite will kill you. But, there are indeed other humans still left on the mainland. And yes, you guessed it. Their paths will cross with Orpen's. Those scenes, the danger and the uncertainty all make for an action packed read. Davis-Goff has done a fantastic job - the tension is palpable as we travel alongside of Orpen. (And the urge to flip ahead to see if things 'work out' is very hard to deny.) 

But along with this, Last Ones Left Alive is a coming of age story, a story of mothers and daughters, a finding of ones own self and purpose. Emotions, interactions, loss, desire and more are woven into Orpen's story and journey. 

I mentioned enjoying the imaginings of an author's take on our future. I really enjoyed Davis-Goff's take on what might be left. And how a young woman might find herself and her place in such a world. An excellent, five star read for me. Read an excerpt of Last Ones Left Alive

"Remember your just-in-cases. Beware tall buildings. Always have your knives."

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Giveaway - The Merciful - Jon Sealy

Jon Sealy's new novel, The Merciful, has just released and I have a Kindle e-book copy to give away to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From Haywire Books:

"A lonesome highway. A hit and run. A coastal town in turmoil
In the vein of Russell Banks’s The Sweet Hereafter and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Jon Sealy’s The Merciful explores a hit and run in a coastal South Carolina tourist town and the subsequent trial, providing both a gripping courtroom drama and a probing look at questions of justice and mercy in our era of social media, fake news, and online outrage.

When 19-year-old Samantha James is killed by a driver while riding her bike home from work one night, the town sets out to crucify the alleged culprit, Daniel Hayward. The headlines tell a compelling story, but the truth is much less clear. As in the film Rashomon, everyone has a “story” about what happened: the media, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Daniel, and Samantha’s family.

As the book examines these myriad perspectives, The Merciful’s stunning scope ranges from characters striving for a kind of American success that’s just out of reach, to questions of data analytics, brain emulations, and the very survival of humanity. Ultimately, however, the novel is a morality play about one moment, one accident, one decision, and the way an instant can change the course of a life forever."

"Jon Sealy is the author of The Whiskey Baron (Hub City Press, 2014) and The Edge of America (Haywire Books, 2019). An upstate South Carolina native, he has a degree in English from the College of Charleston and an MFA in fiction writing from Purdue University. His short fiction has appeared in The Normal School, PANK, and The Sun, among other venues, and his nonfiction has appeared in The Rumpus, The Millions, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He currently is a freelance writer and the publisher of Haywire Books, which has published Patricia Henley, Heather Bell Adams, and Mark Powell. He lives with his family in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia.." Find him online at jonsealy.com and on Twitter at @jonsealyfacebook.com/jon.sealy.

Sealy keeps the narrative running smoothly throughout….A thought-provoking volume about how a wrong choice can have huge repercussions.”—Kirkus Reviews

If The Merciful sounds like a book you'd like to read, enter using the Rafflecopter below for a chance at a Kindle e-book. Ends February 4/21. Open to US only. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Moonflower Murders - Anthony Horowitz

I'm a big fan of Anthony Horowitz's writing. His latest is Moonflower Murders, the second in his Susan Ryeland series.

Susan Ryeland returns as the 'detective'. She's a retired book editor and now runs a hotel in Crete with her boyfriend. I quite liked her from the first book and was happy to see her again. She's incredibly smart and dogged in her search for the final 'whodunit'.

The Treahornes are guests at Susan's hotel, and they tell her the story of a murder at their hotel in England. A man was convicted but their daughter Cecily believes he was innocent and that the real sulprit might be in the pages of a book that Ryeland edited for now deceased author Alan Conway. (Another of his books was the basis for the first book in this series - Magpie Murders) Susan is ready for a change of scenery and agrees to travel to London, stay at their hotel and see if she can shed any light on things - especially now as Cecily has gone missing.

Okay, that a great starting point, but the plotting of Moonflower Murders is so much more involved than you can imagine. It's absolutely fantastic. There are many, many characters, so readers or listeners will want to pay close attention. 

The Treahornes and their employees all seem to be harboring secrets. Susan decides to learn what she can about them all before re-reading the book. And here's the part I love. When she does start reading the book, Horowitz takes us completely into the book. Story within a story. Hard to do well, but Horowitz does it brilliantly. The book is 'Atticus Pund Takes the Cake', a series that Conway penned. Pund brings Hercule Poirot to mind, in mannerisms and methodology. This second murder is just as well plotted as the first. How are the two related? How and what has Conway hidden in his fictional book?

Horowitz is fiendishly clever. I really enjoyed the 'recap' at the end, 'seeing' the clues that I didn't pick up on. The twists, turns, red herrings and more kept me guessing til the last final whodunit . I most certainly didn't figure it out!  

Absolutely recommended for those who love 'old school' mysteries, where the answers are in deduction, not DNA. See for yourself - here's an excerpt of Moonflower Murders.

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

The Lies You Told is Harriet Tyce's latest book. 

What's it about? From Grand Central Publishing:

"In the playground it’s the law of the jungle

But at the school gate, there are no rules at all…

When Sadie Roper moves back to London, she’s determined to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. First, she needs to get her daughter settled into a new school-one of the most exclusive in the city. Next, she’s going to get back the high-flying criminal barrister career she sacrificed for marriage ten years earlier. But nothing goes quite as planned. The school is not very welcoming newcomers, her daughter hasn’t made any friends yet and the other mothers are as fiercely competitive as their children. Sadie immediately finds herself on the outside as she navigates the fraught politics of the school gate.

But the tide starts to turn as Sadie begins to work on a scandalous, high-profile case that’s the perfect opportunity to prove herself again, even though a dangerous flirtation threatens to cloud her professional judgment. And when Julia, queen of the school moms, befriends Sadie, she draws her into the heart of the world from which she was previously excluded. Soon Sadie and her family start to thrive, but does this close new friendship prevent her from seeing the truth? Sadie may be keeping her friends close, but what she doesn’t know is that her enemies are closer still…

Dark, addictive and compelling, The Lies You Told is a compulsive psychological thriller from a master storyteller."

My Thoughts:

There's one in every organization, school, workplace and more. A bully. I do find them hard to read. And Tyce has  truly created a horrid bully in Julia. She's head of the PTA and most of the other school gate parents are her sycophants. The children's behavior is also influenced, and Sadie's daughter Robin is treated shamefully at the prestigious school. Why not leave the school? Press for change? Well, Sadie has come back to her home town and is living in her deceased mother's home. Their relationship was fractious and to own the home and fulfill the will, Robin must attend the school. Hmmm..... a bit of a stretch for me. Sadie has also left her marriage. Okay, that fits, but he makes an appearance later on that was again a bit of a stretch for me. 

I had read Tyce's debut novel Blood Orange, and my main problem was with the protagonist. I do like Sadie better, but still have issues with her choices. As in the previous book, Sadie is a barrister, one trying to get back into chambers after many years. I grew quite irritated with her when she made some questionable choices.

I don't doubt the bullying part of the plot - I can absolutely imagine it. But, the cruelty shown to both her and her daughter in the beginning doesn't seem to ring any alarm bells and again, I questioned Sadie's subsequent choices. I have to mention here that I think Robin was the character I enjoyed the most - and she seems to be the only well adjusted character.

There's a lot happening in The Lies You Told - a bit too much in my opinion. The court case, disappearing and reappearing husband and the dead, evil mother was overload. The bullying plot line was enough. Tyce comes up with a action filled run to the final pages and a nice little twist at the end. The Lies You Told was just okay for this listener.

I did choose to listen to The Lies You Told. The reader was Sarah Durham. She has a lovely voice, pleasant to listen to and well enunciated. She speaks with a British accents that is easy to understand. She uses different voices - Julia's is particularly well done. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Lies You Told.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Perfect Guests - Emma Rous

I adore twisty, turny plots that surprise me. Emma Rous's new book, The Perfect Guests releases today - and it is most definitely a twisty tale!

Rous starts us off in the past where fourteen year old Beth visits "Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens" with her aunt. (Bonus points for setting!) Beth becomes friends with the daughter, Nina. But her parents aren't quite the people they present.

Fast forward to present day and meet struggling actress Sadie. When she's booked for a murder mystery weekend, it sounds like easy money. Guess where the event is being held? Uh huh at Raven Hall. And the game isn't quite what she had expected....

Oh, Rous does a fantastic job of keeping the reader on their toes! The book flips between past and present at Raven Hall. I thought I had figured out the connection between the two time frames - but was happily wrong! Rous has penned an inventive plot line that makes for addictive reading. The Perfect Guests is reminiscent of closed room murder novels - a favorite of mine. Eight players...which one could it be?

The final answers are a bit of a stretch, but the run up to the final pages is a wonderful escapist read. Perfect for a snowy day inside. See for yourself - here's an excerpt of The Perfect Guests. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Sentinel - Lee Child and Andrew Child

I had fallen a few books behind in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, but when I read that he was passing the reins to his brother Andrew Child, I thought I would catch up with the latest (#25) - The Sentinel. Going forward it will be Andrew Child only.

Reacher does what he does best - just travelling across the country. His latest ride lets him off in Pleasantville, Tennessee. And true to form, he finds trouble when he see injustice and steps in to even the odds. Told to leave town, he digs his heels in even deeper.

I think that's what we all love about Reacher - he's the guy that will stick up for the underdog and right a wrong - in Jack Reacher style. And that style includes some great dialogue before the fists fly. "Rule one: if you don’t know the trouble you’re in, keep Reacher by your side."

This latest book has a fairly intricate plot bringing in a US Intelligence Agency, Nazis, Russians and more. Take that grain of salt and just enjoy a great escapist read.

Now, I am sure Jack Reacher purists will find some fault with someone new. Inevitable. (I noticed he talked a little more and used some technology) But for me, I was entertained and engaged with the book. And that's all I'm asking for - and The Sentinel delivered.

I chose to listen to The Sentinel. I was thrilled to see that the narrator had changed from previous novels and Scott Brick (a favorite of mine) was the new voice. He has the most expressive voice, easy to understand and great to listen to. He interprets the book very well and showcases the book fantastically. The action, tension and more are effortlessly presented for the listener. See for yourself - here's an audio excerpt of The Sentinel.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Push - Ashley Audrain

There's been a lot of buzz around Ashley Audrain's debut novel. And deservedly so. The Push is going to be 'that book' for 2021.

Blythe is happy in her marriage to Fox. Fox wants a child, but Blythe is reluctant. She has reservations based on her own childhood. When baby Violet arrives, Blythe tries so very hard to be a good mother to her. But....

And I'm going to leave it there - you really need to experience reading this book for yourself. The prologue hints at the end and I couldn't wait to delve into the book. And I literally couldn't put it down. Audrain subtly drops startling turns into her narrative that caught me off guard. Had I really read that? I was torn between stopping to go back and check or just return to frantically turning pages.

Parts of The Push are hard to read, yet it's truthful, capturing the light and dark of motherhood with no filters. Audrain explores generational motherhood with excerpts and memories from and of Blythe's mother and grandmother. Nature vs Nurture? Blythe's own inner dialogue is brutally honest. Again, many truths.

Alongside that perspective is the psychological suspense plotline that's going to leave you stunned. Audrain doesn't hit the reader with it front on. Instead, it is insidious, leaving both Blythe and the reader unsure about their suppositions.....until there is no doubt. And that ending? Perfect!

Cr: Barbara Stoneham

The Push is a great title, being open to many interpretations and applications in the plot. This was a fabulous first book for Audrain - I can't wait to read her next. Here's an excerpt of The Push.

 "Ashley Audrain previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada. Prior to Penguin, she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. The Push is her first novel." You can connect with Audrain on Twitter.