Update to my annual post of Five Books I'm Reading This Summer and Five You Should.Read More
First I have to fangirl squeal a little bit because I FINALLY got to meet Selena Laurence in person!.
She is sweet, funny, and genuine. Basically everything you hope the creator of some of your favorite imaginary people to be.
And she creates amazing characters, as I said in my review for Breath of Deceit—it’s like they are going to step off the page and have a cup of coffee with you!
So I knew that Brush of Despair was going to be fabulous. Selena definitely did not let me down!
Cian MacFarlane has a job to do, but it's not the one his father Robbie gave him. With dear old dad watching night and day, Cian struggles to maintain his role as a deadly mob boss. His real focus is informing to the FBI, cutting deals with the Feds to keep his brothers out of prison. Cian is walking a tightrope on the streets of Chicago, and the only thing keeping him sane is Lila Rodriguez. However, Lila may have her own issues at work when her boss is found murdered, and she's tapped to take over the dark website Rogue.
But when Cian's brother Liam, the family enforcer, gets tangled up in human trafficking things really go to hell. Now Liam's taking chances neither he nor the family can afford, and Cian's desperate to find a way to save him before it's too late. When the dangers stack up and Cian feels as though he's the only thing preventing the people he loves from dying too young, hope can be a hard thing to come by. Can Cian pull off a last minute miracle? Or will his brush with despair become something more permanent?
Cian is the focus of the series, but this is really Liam’s story. If I was ever going to get involved with an Irish Mobster and got to pick from the four MacFarlane brothers, it would be Liam.
He’s the enforcer—the muscle that keeps the men working for them in line and the family’s rivals on edge—but he isn’t the typical bad-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold. He’s living by a code that protects his family and that’s all that matters…until a decision makes him realize choice might not be an option in his life, but he might be able to make it happen for someone he believes deserves it more than he ever did.
If Dublin Devils was a Netflix show, I would binge watch the hell out of it. Expertly told in multiple POVs, every chapter ends with a breath-holding cliffhanger that means you have to keep going right then. There is just no question.
Speaking of cliffhangers, while Brush of Despair does wrap up most of the storylines, I will give forewarning that it ends with a cliffhanger…a HUGE FREAKING MOUNTAIN of a cliffhanger which has me DYING for the next book!
*A note to my romance-loving friends, this is suspense with romantic elements. It is not a traditional romantic suspense.
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*This is an advance review. The book releases on September 18, 2018*
The Rules of Blackheath
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let's begin...
Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others...
If y'all could all just go read this so we can discuss it, I'd greatly appreciate it!
I LOVED it. The atmospheric writing sucked me in. You can hear the horse hooves clopping, you can smell the damp earth, and you can feel the foreboding darkness that shrouds Blackheath.
This book is best read on a rainy day, curled in a blanket with nothing else to do and nothing to distract your focus from the story. Because you need to focus on this story. It is smartly-written. The clues are all there, but there is a large cast of characters and more than once I debated making a chart to keep track of everyone's movements.
Other than saying the writing is excellent and the premise is fascinating, I can't tell you much more without spoiling something.
It's a dark, creepy read that I have already recommended to friends who love a good mystery. If you want to know more, message me or read it for yourself and we can talk all about it!
*If you look for it on Amazon or Goodreads, it is also listed as The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I read a comment from the author that it was originally released in the UK then they ran into confusion with releasing it in the US because of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.*
I started this book in the middle of the summer and just wasn't in the right place for it. I put it down at about the 25% mark and thought, "Meh, too science-y for me."
But I'd listed it on my Five Books I'm Reading This Summer post and felt like I needed to give it a fair chance. I mean, I LOVED The Martian . Both the book (because it is awesome) and the movie (because Matt Damon.)
It has the famous line, "I'm going to have to science the sh*t out of this."
So I picked Dark Matter up again.
Once it gets going, it is a fast-paced, science-y/thriller mash-up that leaves your brain spinning.
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Without giving away much of a spoiler, I will say that Dark Matter operates on a multiverse theory—which my fifteen year-old explained to me like this:
"Every time you make a decision, the universe splits and a part of you goes on living in a reality where you decided something else and that Dawn lives like that, while this Dawn keeps living like this."
She explained this like she was telling me how to make brownies. No big deal, just millions of other YOUs living in different universes with different lives.
Thanks for making my brain explode, kid.
Here's where it really hit home: If you read my post about How I Met My Husband, you know that I've been married twenty years because I made a decision to cross a room to talk to a cute boy. What about the Dawn who decided to stay in her chair? Or the one who turned down her friend's invitation to visit her church? Where are they hanging out these days?
Dark Matter takes this idea and makes it into a twisted read of the-path-not-taken meets What-if? And since I don't do spoilers, I need some of you to read it so I can get out all my feels about the ending!
So let's talk about the idea of a multiverse. What decision did you make that split your universe? Ever wonder what if it had gone another way?
Eerie. Creepy. Oh-so-twisted.
I featured The Chalk Man on my list of Five Books I'm Reading This Summer and Five You Should, (which I will be updating soon) but I realized I hadn't fully reviewed it yet.
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
If you follow my reviews, you know that I despise URNs (UnReliable Narrators). The quickest way to make me shun a book is to tell me it is "the new Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train". Because I pretty much wanted to throat punch all those characters.
Eddie's not exactly an URN, but don't trust everything he tells you.
Told in a dual timeline, C.J. Tudor has this very lyrical writing style that lulls you into a story then throws something out as if just making sure you're paying attention. A few times I was reading along and suddenly was like, "Wait, what???" and would have to read it again.
In other books, that would probably annoy me, but it worked for this story.
Which is why at the very, very end I was rereading and rereading to make sure it really said that, then I was texting my friends: W.T.F?????
But in a good way.
The story is intriguing, twisty, and dark. It does leave you with a slightly, unfinished feeling, and questions. Lots and lots of questions.
I would absolutely recommend it to my friends who love suspense, thriller, and aren't bothered by every loose end not being tied in a neat little bow.
Two Truths and a Lie. Are you familiar with this game? I kind of suck at it because I don't lie well. I usually start laughing. I am good at picking out the other's lies...sometimes.
This is where I'd usually put in the blurb, but this book has a creepy book trailer!
Just in case you prefer the blurb:
In the latest thriller from the bestselling author of Final Girls, a young woman returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.
Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera--the only one on the property--pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.
This book kept me up until 2:00 in the morning! Then I finished it and everyone was a sleep so I didn't have anyone to discuss the O.M.G. plot twist at the end that absolutely blindsided me! But in a good way. It makes total sense when you look back, but I completely fell for all the red herrings. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.
I was texting my friend all smug-like. "So I've got it figured out. (Insert character here) did (evil thing here) because (reasons.)" She just sat back knowingly and waited for me to get to the next chapter when I changed my mind about everything.
So there is no question The Last Time I Lied has a twisty, intriguing plot. It is told in a dual timeline and the beginning takes some time to get going but then the pacing takes off and the tension takes over.
The very beginning is in second-person POV. If that's not your thing, stick it out. It doesn't stay that way.
And if you ever went to summer camp, this will take you right back there. All the memories. Good and bad. Of course, no one ever died or disappeared for longer than an hour or so at the camps I went to.
I would definitely recommend this to my mystery/suspense/thriller loving friends. There are some romantic elements, but not a romance in any sense of the word.
The author's other book Final Girls is now at the top of my To-Be-Read list.
Before you go, swing by my Facebook page and play Two Truths and Lie with us!
This book reads like a great rom-com that you watch every time it's on TV just because it makes you smile.Read More
The best word I can come up with to describe Believe Me is: Twisted. I mean that in every definition you can created.
I read most of this waiting at the airport and on the plane back from RWA. I finished it today and my brain is still working through...well, all of it.
A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.
Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions.
The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.
Then the game changes.
When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.
Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap?
But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?
I loved JP Delaney's The Girl Before (you can read that review here.) When I saw Believe Me available on Netgalley, I didn't even bother reading the blurb before I requested it. I knew it was going to be an intriguing ride, and I was not disappointed.
It is a slow-burn, who-done-it mixed with poetry from Charles Baudelaire (who I had never heard of, but WOW, dude had some issues!) as well scenes that read like a script.
I mean, Claire is an actress, after all.
Remember that. The whole time you're reading this book. Keep that in mind!
If you follow my reviews, you know that I am not a fan of the "Unreliable Narrator." In fact, I call them URNs for a reason. There was a section in Believe Me that I thought had crossed unapologetically into that territory, and I was about to be LIVID. Then it took another turn, and another, and another, until I settled back in and trusted the character again.
But should I have trusted that character? That's where my mind is still turning.
I would recommend Believe Me to my dark mystery-loving friends who love a cat-and-mouse style puzzle.
For my friends who prefer more romance than suspense, talk to me before you check this one out.
Finally, a warning that this book is very dark in some parts. Not graphically violent or overly sexual, but dark enough that certain readers would appreciate a trigger warning.
Since it is my firm policy to avoid posting spoilers, feel free to message me if you'd like a few hints to make a proper decision.
I actually read this book back in November. I read it again in one day while on vacation. It's summer. My brain is melting from the Texas heat, and I needed something fun to read. Plus, it takes place in Montana. The descriptions of snow and cold air give me just enough chill to forget I like three doors down from the gates of Hades until about November.
And descriptions of snow and cold are as close as I really want to be to it. I'll complain about my Texas heat, but I'll take 112 degrees over freezing any day!
Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream.
Between the police scanners, the coffee ladies, and the senior center, no secret is safe for long. But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar...especially the police radar.
So when her new bakery is linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can't have that.
In order to clear her good name and keep her face off the front page, this bakery owner becomes extra nosy...with a little side of breaking-and-entering. But when she comes face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can't ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find the real murderer.
Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron is a clean, cozy mystery that has kind of a Murder, She Wrote vibe. I mean that in the best possible way. I really enjoyed Vangie as a character. She is a pastor, but that doesn't make her unrelatable. She still lashes out in anger, makes mistakes, and has a physical attraction to men.
Vangie has a great wit and hilarious inner dialogue that sometimes becomes outer dialogue which gets her into trouble. I feel that on a soul-mate level. I hate it when my filter fails.
R.L. Syme's conversational style of writing feels like you're just snuggled in on a cold day, listening to her tell you how this all happened.
I loved that most of Vangie's snooping isn't without consequence. She finds herself facing off with the sheriff, the church board, and the town gossips.
She also has a cast of secondary characters that draw you into the small town of Saint Agnes. It starts to feel like a place you'd go visit a great aunt who'd sit on her floral print sofa and tell you stories about all the people she knew until you were both giggling.
I would definitely recommend Vangie to my friends who like cozies. It is very clean. There is no foul language, very little violence, and references to sex, but they are extremely mild and not described in detail at all.
What it does have is fun characters and an intriguing puzzle of a plot that keeps you (and Vangie) guessing.
And there is a recipe for Macarons! Which I'm not going to make because, well, baking and I aren't exactly friends, (I don't even own one of those big, stand-up mixer thingies) but I'm sure someone would greatly appreciate!
Side note: Months after I'd read this for the first time, my daughter's high school theatre had A Night in Paris as the theme for their annual banquet. There were macarons. Every time someone mentioned them, I thought of Vangie!
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I have no review for you today and that makes me sad.
Preparing for today, I tried to read three different books.
I walked away from each one of them.
Two of them I might go back for later.
One I declared DNF (Did Not Finish).
That's why I'm sad.
Paul Copeland, a New Jersey county prosecutor, is still grieving the loss of his sister twenty years ago—the night she walked into the woods, never to be seen again. But now, a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to the disappearance. The victim could be the boy who vanished along with Paul's sister.Read More
Time for my annual post of Five Books I'm Reading This Summer and Five You Should.Read More
Selena Laurence has quickly become an auto-buy author for me. It is all about her characters. She makes them so authentic and complex that you'd swear they were going to step out of the book and have a cup of coffee with you.
I was thrilled when I saw the blurb for Breath of Deceit. An Irish crime family? A genius hacker? I started waving my hand in the air like Hermione, begging for a chance to review it. Me! Me! Pick Me!!!!
The Departed gets a modern upgrade with the injection of cybercrime and four sexy Irish mob brothers fighting to stay alive amidst drug deals and FBI probes.
Cian MacFarlane is the oldest son of Chicago's reigning crime family. Now the defacto boss of the organization after his father's retirement, Cian is feared by his enemies and revered by his brothers. But what if Cian isn't all he seems to be? What if his end game isn't to maintain his father's empire but to topple it? As the MacFarlanes broker a deal with the owner of the world's largest dark web site, Cian brokers a deal with the FBI. But when he meets Lila Rodriguez, a genius hacker working with the dark web, his feelings for her only make life more complex.
Determined to save his brothers, even if it means sacrificing himself, Cian lives moment to moment in a deadly underworld of cybercrime, drug deals, federal agents, and a vengeful parent who won't hesitate to remind his oldest son what it means to be a MacFarlane. Through it all, Cian fights for his brothers to make it out of Chicagoland crime. But will the pieces fall into place before his breath of deceit is discovered?
Since Breath of Deceit is the start of the Dublin Devils series, the beginning has a little bit of set up and sorting of characters, but then it takes off and you can't look away.
Lila is the epitome of a strong female character that kicks ass with her brains and skills rather than Lara Croft style. She's witty, smart, and doesn't bother waiting around for the male characters to take charge. She can handle it herself.
Cian is the perfect antihero. He's doing what he has to do to protect his family and doesn't really care if that's in line with the law or not. He has his own code and part of that means doing what's necessary to protect those he loves.
This cast is round out with three of Cian's brothers and their tyrant of a father. The family dynamics are heart-wrenchingly realistic.
This book reads like Sons of Anarchy meets Road to Perdition (or maybe Casino.) It's an intriguing plot that delves the reader deep into the underworld of organized crime and even deeper into the mind of a man born to lead who only wants out.
Selena Laurence is an expert at building tension and suspense.
I actually breathed a sigh of relief at one point. Of course, that was short-lived because...well, I can't tell you. But trust me, it's intense.
Without spoilers I will say the ending leaves you satisfied but dying for the next one!
I will be recommending this to several friends and anxiously awaiting the next in the series!
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I love Jody Hedlund’s books because the writing is amazing. She takes these tiny moments in history and turns them into these epic stories. You know that feeling when you're reading, and suddenly the words aren't there anymore, it's just this movie playing in your head? That's what her books are like.
Eleanor Ames has never been what she seems. Average high school student on the outside, but reformed con artist trying to break free of her past on the inside. When Eleanor receives startling news about someone from her previous criminal life, plans for a new operation coinciding with her school’s upcoming field trip quickly consume her.Read More
I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. So I didn't think this book was for me.
Until I picked it up...and read it nonstop in three days, could not stop talking about it, and basically demanded my fourteen year-old read it immediately.Read More