Thursday, August 25, 2022

Girl, Forgotten - Karin Slaughter

Oh, I couldn't wait to read Karin Slaughter's new book Girl, Forgotten. I don't even bother looking at the fly leaf - I just know that I'm in for a great read! 

Remember Andrea Oliver from Pieces of Her? Well, Andrea takes the lead role in this latest as a newly minted US Marshall. (Note - this can absolutely be read as a stand alone.)

The book opens with a heartbreaking scene - the murder of a teen in 1982. And then flips to the present where Andrea arrives at her first job - protecting a judge who has been receiving death threats. Both events take place in the same town. And Andrea herself has a connection to things as well.

Slaughter employs a plot device that I love - the back and forth of a past and present narrative. Just as the reader is lost in the past putting together the clues, the timeline flips to the present. Guaranteed to keep me reading until late at night. 

Slaughter's plotting is brilliant and the journey to the final answers is a deliciously devious road to travel. (I do have to say that the past timeline broke my heart.)

I liked seeing this 'new' Andy. She's been thrown into the lion's den with this first assignment. She's also been paired up with the veteran Marshall Bible. They play off each other really well. I hope we get to see more this pair in the future.

Karin Slaughter is a brilliant crime writer and this latest is more evidence of that. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Haven - Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is a brilliant writer and I always look forward to her newest book. And that would be the just released, Haven.

I've enjoyed every book she's penned, but I find myself most drawn to the historical pieces, as they are based on or take their inspiration from fact. In this case its Skellig Michael - home to a Gaelic monastery that was founded between the 6th and 8th centuries.

Haven tells the story of three monks set out to find an isolated, never settled island to build their own monastery. Their Prior is Artt - a visitor to an established community. He has a dream and asks the monastery for two monks to accompany him - the elderly Cormac, and the younger Trian. 

Their journey is not easy and the reader can see where there be strife. They land on a rocky, barren island that seems inhospitable, but Artt has faith that God will provide for them. His goals, intents and actions are obediently taken as God's word by the other two. But, there are cracks in the foundation.

Haven is a story of faith and survival, both of which are tried many times. I found the survival thread to be fascinating. How do you survive when there's nothing there? Or is there? Cormac and Trian's skillsets were unexpected and underline what a human can and will do to survive. I very much liked these two. However, I can't say the same for Artt. His motives, his inner dialogue and his sanctimonious attitude really rubbed me the wrong way. This will be the character that will prompt readers to form their own thoughts on the theological themes and threads in Haven.

The ending was satisfying to me. I was on the fence about  a piece of the plot that I could see coming. But after letting it sit with me for awhile, I decided it fit with what had gone before. It speaks to faith, acceptance, and survival. (I know that's quite cryptic, but I don't want to provide spoilers.)

For me, Haven was another great read from Donoghue. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Tidy Ending - Joanna Cannon

Oh my gosh! Why I haven't heard of Joanna Cannon before! Her latest book, A Tidy Ending, is fabulous. (And I'll be looking up her backlist)

Linda lives a small life. But she wonders if there could be more to see, do and experience instead of a routine of cooking, cleaning and heading down to the pub on Friday nights with her husband Terry. When some catalogues addressed to the previous owner of their house, Linda devours them. And wonders if she could find this Rebecca and become her friend. Oh, and there's a murderer in their village....

A Tidy Ending is told in a stream of consciousness from Linda's point of view. Linda is a complex character that that had me delightfully flummoxed! I'd be listening away and then 'hello!' There are a number of statements that Linda makes that had me continuously changing what I thought and believed about her. There's also an event in her past that is referenced but not explained fully until later on.

Cannon is a clever, clever writer - her plotting is deviously delicious. But there are some poignant moments as well. All we all need is a friend - right? 

I chose to listen to A Tidy Ending and for me, this was the perfect way to experience and appreciate this wonderful book. The reader was Lissa Berry and she gave a fabulous performance. She has a wonderfully smoky, gravelly tone to her voice that conjured up a clear mental image of Linda for me. Her voice is clear and easy on the ear. She enunciates well and her timing is just right. She brings both plot and character to life with her emphasizing, rise and fall and tone of speaking. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of A Tidy Ending. 

A Tidy Ending is a clever title as well, but I'll leave it to you to find out why.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

With Love from Wish & Co. - Minnie Dark

I need to take a break from thrillers and mysteries every so often. My go to is rom-com woman's fiction. And Minnie Darke's new title, With Love from Wish and Co., was the perfect choice!

"Marnie Fairchild is the brains and talent behind Wish & Co., a boutique store that offers a bespoke gift-buying service to wealthy clients with complicated lives." But what happens when the wrong gift goes to the wrong person.....

I really liked Marnie as a lead character. She's someone you'd like to be friends with her in real life. (The friendships between herself and two friends is well depicted.)  I quite liked the process behind the choices of gifts, as well as the wrapping, fascinating. There's lots of food for thought there. Marnie is  driven to make her business bigger and better, but has run into more than one hurdle....

And of course there needs to be a romance (or two?). We as readers, will see the 'Prince Charming' long before Marnie does. Happy endings are usually a given, but I always enjoy the yes/no/maybe so path to the final pages. 

"With Love from Wish & Co. is a heartwarming novel about what we are prepared to give, and give up, in the name of love."

An excellent back porch read for me. See for yourself  - read an excerpt of With Love From Wish and Co.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Family Remains - Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell's new book, The Family Remains, is, to a certain degree, a follow up to her bestseller, The Family Upstairs. You could read this newest as a stand alone, but I think you'd get more out of it if you had the background from that first book. 

Quick recap:  Twenty five years ago, Libby was the baby found alive in a rundown manor, with three dead bodies in the house and two others missing. 

Present day: Rachel's husband Michael is found murdered in his house in France.

And these two disparate events will cross paths in unexpected ways. 

I think anyone who read The Family Upstairs, will be eager to find out what happened "after". I know I was!

This book is told in multiple timelines from multiple points of view. I had to refamiliarize myself with names from the past and match them up to the names they are using now.  

Jewell takes the reader on a twisty tale with a satisfying ending and closure for the players. I did find one reconciliation to be a bit of a letdown after it played such a large part in the plot. Somehow for me, it was too jolly. (Yes, an odd descriptor)

But overall, I quite enjoyed The Family Remains. Jewell always pens an addictive read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Family Remains. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Stay Awake - Megan Goldin

I've really enjoyed Megan Goldin's previous suspense titles and was quite happy to pick up her latest - Stay Awake.

Goldin has come up with some great premises and this latest is no exception! Liv wakes up in a taxi with no idea of how she got there. And why there is writing on her hands and arms. And the boldest letters spell out 'Stay Awake." I was hooked!

The reader is alongside Liv as she tries to make sense of what's happening to her. And there's much more than just writing on her arms and hands. She desperately tries to not fall asleep, but it's inevitable. And every time she wakes up, she's back to the beginning. Just imagine yourself in Liv's shoes! 

But as a reader, we can remember and start to piece together what has happened to Liv. Or can we? Goldin has woven together a devious plot that will keep the reader turning pages, changing their guess and staying awake late into the night as more and more is revealed. I appreciate not being able to guess the final 'whodunit' early on in a book. 

Yes, there's one or two things that require a grain of salt. But just go with it. Stay Awake is great escapist reading, perfect for summertime back porch reading. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Stay Awake. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Wrong Place, Wrong Time A - Gillian McAllister

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a first read/listen of Gillian McAllister for me - but it certainly won't be the last!

The premise? "You’re waiting up for your seventeen-year-old son. He’s late. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody. His future shattered."

Uh huh, I was hooked immediately. But that's just the catalyst. McAllister's plotting and execution are very, very clever. I went in blind on the full description of the plot, and I think the book was all the better for me that I did so. Some may say that one of the plot devices has has been done before. Well, yes it has, in varying forms, but I think McAllister's take on this idea was unique. And she also gives the listener/reader lots of unexpected twists and turns. (Love this!)  

The murder is a given, but finding out that 'why' is a deliciously winding, surprising path. Alongside this runs an exploration of maternal love, the inside of a marriage and the secrets we keep and the things we hide.

I chose to listen to Wrong Place, Wrong Time. The reader was Lesley Sharp and her voice absolutely suited the lead character of Jen. Her voice is low and throaty, the  kind of tone that you lean in to hear. Her British accent is lovely and pleasant to listen to. The speed of the reading is just right. Her voice rises and falls with whatever situation or emotion is taking place. She enunciates clearly. Sharp interprets and presents McAllister's work very, very well. An excellent reading of a fantastic novel. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Wrong Place, Wrong Time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Couple at Number 9 - Claire Douglas

The Couple at Number 9 is Claire Douglas's new suspense tale - and it's one you'll want to add to your 'must listen' list. 

Saffron and her boyfriend Tom are expecting their first child. Saffron's grandmother Rose has gifted a house to them as she is now in a care home. The couple decide to make a few renovations to the house. But the builders find something quite unexpected - two bodies under the back patio. The police want to question Rose of course, but she has Alzheimer's. What will she be able to add to the investigation? Saffy also thinks there's someone watching the house. Is it someone from Rose's past? The killer? 

I really like the multiple points of view used in the The Couple at Number 9. The timeline also goes from past to present. The pacing of the book is slower, which actually worked well for this book. There are clues scattered between the two that had me thinking I easily knew who was the culprit was - and why they did it. I'm happy to say that I was proven wrong! Douglas throws in a twist that you won't see coming at all. Well done! 

Relationships of all kinds are explored and are the backbone of the plot. The characters are well developed with quite a bit of detail. I liked Saffy as the lead player. She grows over the course of the book.

I chose to listen to The Couple at Number 9. The reader was Kenton Thomas. She's got a lovely British accent that is easy on the ears, clearly enunciated and a good speaking pace. Thomas does a wonderful job interpreting and presenting Douglas's story. She easily captures the emotions and situations in the book. Thomas provides different, believable voices for each characters, making it easy to know who is speaking. And like I've mentioned before - I become more drawn into a book when I listen. That was definitely the case with The Couple at Number 9. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Are You Sara? - S.C. Lalli

S.C. Lalli takes a break from writing romance and women's fiction (as Sonya Lalli), to bring us a suspense novel in Are You Sara?

I thought Lalli's premise was great, opening the door for any number of paths...

Two women each call for a rideshare home. The hook? They're both named Sara and they each get into the wrong vehicle. The leading character Sara ends up in a rich neighborhood and has to walk back home. When she finally makes it to her own home, there are flashing blue lights everywhere - and a dead girl named Sarah. Which one of them was the intended victim?

Sara sets out to answer that question for herself and Sarah. Each of the women have a voice. Sarah's starts almost three years ago as a series of journal entries. Her tone is younger and focuses on her relationships. Sara is an older law student, who also works two part time jobs - as a bartender and baby sitter. She's also held a job in the past that really stretched incredulity for this reader. Yes, I'm being a bit obtuse, but I don't want to provide spoilers. As the details of the side gig are revealed, I found it difficult to reconcile that skill set with the student who pulls pints. This was probably the biggest hurdle for me. I didn't like Sara and never became invested in her. There's a fairly larger number of supporting characters that were easy to dislike as well. 

That initial premise got lost in a myriad of sub plots. Too many in my opinion. That being said, the book did hold my attention to the final pages as I wanted to know how things ended. Lalli gives us a few gotchas in the end that were appreciated. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Are You Sara?