Friday, January 29, 2021

The Butterfly House - Katrine Engberg

I read (and quite enjoyed) the first book of Katrine Engberg's Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner series last year. The second book is The Butterfly House - and I have to say I enjoyed it even more than the first.

Both leads are detectives with the Copenhagen Police. Jeppe has a new partner this time round as Annette is on maternity leave. But she can't help but work the case on her own time. 

What is the case you ask? Well, more than one body, has been been found in the same outdoor fountain, marked with strange wounds. When the connection is found between the deaths, it's even more horrific - and far reaching. And what about that hospital nurse with her own definition of 'care'.

Engberg happily takes us down the garden path, with lots of red herrings and suspects along the way. The plot is well written and not easily solved by the listener. I enjoyed having more than one mystery to follow. And I actually didn't guess the final whodunit in the main storyline! 

But what I really like about this series are the characters. Engberg gives them detailed personal lives that make them easy to connect with. Mothers, motherhood, new relationships starting anew and more. Jeppe and Anette play well off each other with very different personalities. I wasn't as keen on Anette in the first book, but quite like her in this latest. The banter between the two is entertaining. And their sleuthing skills are sharp. Esther from the first book is also included and she too has a mystery on her hands.

I chose to listen to The Butterfly House. The reader was Graeme Malcolm, one of my favorites. He has an accent that works for many locales. His voice has a lovely, unique, gravelly tone to it and it's quite pleasant to listen to. He depicts the emotion and tone of both characters and plot lines easily with his voice. He also has a somewhat sardonic tone at times that perfectly suits the verbal sparring and inner thoughts of the lead characters. The speed of the reading matches what's going on in the book. He speaks clearly and is easy to understand. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Butterfly House.

I'm looking forward to the next in this series. Nordic police procedural lovers, this one's for you!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Ready Player Two - Ernest Cline

I read Ernest Cline's debut novel, Ready Player One, back in 2011. The sequel is finally here - Ready Player Two. My thoughts can be found after the description of the title from Random House Audio:

"Days after winning OASIS founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible.
With it comes a new riddle, and a new quest—a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the OASIS are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance."

My Thoughts:

I loved the first book and was quite happy to see there was at last a follow up to the adventures of the High Five. Ready Player Two again has Wade and his friends on one more epic quest - one to save millions of lives from - of course - a nefarious entity. Good vs. Evil. David vs. Goliath. Cline has the reader/listener firmly on the side of the underdogs. Can they reprise their first victory?

The Player books draw heavily on '80's references - Pac Man, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, song lyrics, film scenes and a whole lot more - as these are the clues used to solve the puzzle. Now I absolutely 'got' almost every reference and could picture the film scenes easily. Younger listeners may not relate to some of the references. Or they may now be chasing down some classic films and tunes!

I liked Wade as a lead in the first book and he still appealed to me in this second book. Cline gives him some weaknesses and some life lessons in this book that make him human and give him a personality instead of just a game player.

That being said, Ready Player Two is all about the game, the clues, the chase and the run up to a final showdown. The book is action, action and more action!

I listened to this book and the reader was Wil Wheaton, a favourite of mine and the perfect choice for a narrator. He did the first book as well and the continuity was much appreciated. He has the most expressive voice! His tone suits Wade, is believable and totally suited the mental image I had conjured up for this character. (He did well with the other players as well.) He brings the book to life with staccato sentences, inflection that matches what's going on, (a nicely sardonic tone at times) and emotion that suits the plot.  He's easy to understand and enunciates well. Hear for yourself - here's an audio excerpt of Ready Player Two.

I wonder if there will be a movie made of this book as well? And if there might be a Ready Player Three in the future?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Girls I've Been - Tess Sharpe

Tess Sharpe's new book, The Girls I've Been, releases today. If you're a teen fiction fan (*hand up*), you're going to want to pick this one up!

"A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O'Malley's been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother's protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora's been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they're all friends, Wes didn't know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It's a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora's something else entirely. They have no idea who they're really holding hostage . . ."

My Thoughts:

What an excellent premise! A bank robbery - three teens amongst the hostages - and one that has mad skills. Nora knows how to read people, how to manipulate them. She knows what needs to be done and adapts as things change. Her grifter skills are well honed.

I love kick butt female characters and Nora is most definitely one! Her background lends her to many talents, mind sets, strengths, weaknesses and more. The three supporting players are all just as well drawn, coming in with their own unique skills and histories. The relationship between the three teen characters is real and really well portrayed. The reader can't help but be on their side in all things.

"Me, I was born into the con. Came into the world with a lie on my lips and the ability to smile and dazzle, just like my mother. Charm, people call it. Useful is what it is. To see into the heart of someone and adjust accordingly, instantaneously, to mirror that heart? It's not a gift or a curse. It's just a tool."

Sharpe draws out the revelation of Nora's life (lives) in detailed chapters interspersed between the current day's events. We come to know how she became the girl she is today - and why. 

The situation in the bank is a non-stop page turner and reads like an action movie - which I loved. But amongst all that action are some weightier issues. Gentle readers, there are some triggers. 

This reader loved The Girls I've Been .... and I'd like to know what happens after the final pages. Maybe we could have another book with Nora, Wes and Iris? What do you think Tess Sharpe?

And this! "Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown is set to lead the cast in a Netflix film based on Tess Sharpe's novel, The Girls I've Been, which will be published in 2021. The 16-year-old actress is producing the project alongside Ozark actor-director Jason Bateman." Oh yeah!

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 and on Twitter at

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.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Midnight Library - Matt Haig

I loved the cover and the premise of Matt Haig's novel, The Midnight Library.

What's it about? From Viking Books:

"“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?” 

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place."

My Thoughts:

Well, Haig had me at library. And a library of an endless number of books that are alternate possible lives? That opens up so many possibilities. "Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?"

Nora Seed has lost her will to live, but she now has the opportunity to see what might have been if she'd made different choices. The reader can't help but wonder and look back at their own lives to see what difference a single choice would have made. Nora explores many lives and her thinking changes. I liked her as a lead character - her honesty, her curiousness, her exploration of what makes a good life. 

Haig's imaginings of how an alternate 'multiverse' might play out was intriguing. Dropping Nora into each new life with little or now background made for fresh reading each time she travelled. I did find that Nora's possible lives were all fairly successful. I would have liked to see possible lives that were not as fortuitous

There's lots of food for thought in The Midnight Library - Nora has a philosophy degree in her 'root life' and Haig presents much of Nora's introspection through those posits.

Which life does Nora choose? You'll have to discover that yourself - but remember.. "Never underestimate the big importance of small things." 

Read an excerpt of The Midnight Library. A New York Times bestseller | Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick.