Format: Hardcover

Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

Posted May 16, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 13 Comments

Review: The Echo Killing by Christi DaughertyThe Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty
Series: Harper McClain, #1
Published by Minotaur Books on March 13, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 356
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

When a murder echoing a fifteen-year-old cold case rocks the Southern town of Savannah, crime reporter Harper McClain risks everything to find the identity of this calculated killer.
A city of antebellum architecture, picturesque parks, and cobblestone streets, Savannah moves at a graceful pace. But for Harper McClain, the timeless beauty and culture that distinguishes her home’s Southern heritage vanishes during the dark and dangerous nights. She wouldn’t have it any other way. Not even finding her mother brutally murdered in their home when she was twelve has made her love Savannah any less.
Her mother’s killer was never found, and that unsolved murder left Harper with an obsession that drove her to become one of the best crime reporters in the state of Georgia. She spends her nights with the police, searching for criminals. Her latest investigation takes her to the scene of a homicide where the details are hauntingly familiar: a young girl being led from the scene by a detective, a female victim naked and stabbed multiple times in the kitchen, and no traces of any evidence pointing towards a suspect.
Harper has seen all of this before in her own life. The similarities between the murder of Marie Whitney and her own mother’s death lead her to believe they’re both victims of the same killer. At last, she has the chance to find the murderer who’s eluded justice for fifteen years and make sure another little girl isn’t forever haunted by a senseless act of violence―even if it puts Harper in the killer’s cross-hairs…

At the age of twelve, Harper McClain found her mother brutally murdered in their beautiful Savannah home. Since her killer was never found, the unsolved murder of her mother left Harper obsessed and drove her to become one of the best crime reporters in the state. Now years later, another killing occurs and Marie Whitney has echoes of Harper’s mother’s murder. There are so similar, down to the finer details that Harper is sure that it is the same killer that killed her mother years ago, surfacing after all this time. But no one seems to believe her. Now Harper is left alone trying to find the killer in a world where no one seems to believe her hunch, but her actions might leave her more alienated and losing everything in order to bring forth justice.

This book was…

Interesting. I liked it. For the most part, I thought the story was compelling for the most part. I think the set up had me very invested in finding out how all of this ties together in the end even if the killer becomes obvious halfway through.

I liked the writing. I thought Christi Daugherty’s writing is really good. My issue wasn’t with the story and the concept so much as it was with Harper. This is a very character driven book and if you don’t like the main character, it can definitely hinder how you feel about this book and it did with me. I liked Harper to begin with but then her obsession turned into recklessness and started testing her morality and it showed me that there are many lines that she is willing to cross despite who it hurts in the process. I found her reckless, impulsive, a user and morally questionable. I agreed with Luke and the other characters about their stance on her visit to the victim’s daughter. Even when the author played the outcome more subdue. I felt like this was a good example of how Harper really did not care the lengths she went to find this killer, or how her actions would affect multiple people in this book and her actions have caused a lot of consequences as a whole. That for me was just a little much, she wasn’t even a detective.

There was a bit of a push and pull romance going on here with Luke, the cop. She’s a crime reporter, his a cop, they shouldn’t have a relationship, they want a relationship, but they shouldn’t and Luke is also a casualty of how far she was willing to go. I love Luke, he was such a great character with a lot of heart, but I agree with his words in this book to her and don’t want to see this relationship work out.

Overall, I liked the writing, I liked the concept. It was a solid read, but ultimately I just did not care for Harper. I will probably continue on with the series because it left a hook interesting enough to see how it plays out, but I’ll be more cautious.

Tags:

Divider

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Posted May 3, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 19 Comments

Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall KellyLost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Series: Lilac Girls
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline's mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker's treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov's. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre's who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

The year is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so often, that most people have started to disregard it. Eliza Ferriday is happy to be traveling to St. Petersburg with her friend Sofya Streshnayva, who is the cousin of the Romanovs. As the Russian Whites and the Monarchy continue to enjoy their wealth and privilege with fancy balls, the turmoil on the streets continues to spin out of control as the red coats continue to gain power. Until the day that the Russian monarchy is overthrown finally comes, and Russia is left in peril.

The story follows three women. Eliza Ferriday, a socialite that lives in Manhattan, married to Henry Ferriday, mother of Caroline Ferriday. Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin to the Romanovs, the current reigning family of Russia and Varinka Kozlov a poor village girl that gets hired as a nanny to Max by Sofya. A decision that comes back to haunt Sofya when Varinka brings something dangerous back into her home that causes Sofya to part with Max and finds herself on the run for her life in hopes of getting her son back.

This story was, wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I adored Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I have not read the Lilac Girls and I found that it was okay. This book actually happens before Lilac Girls and to me seemed like a good place to start not only with the story but also with Martha Hall Kelly’s writing. I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and the storytelling were woven so beautifully that I found myself savoring as much of the book as I could. I didn’t want to part with it, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters that Martha Hall Kelly has managed to capture. Both compelling, strong and realistic, the three women really drove the book and I was happy for the slow pace.

The ending had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails, waiting for resolution, wanting to see how the story wraps up for these women. The author left some threads loose, making it a possible consideration for future books. The writing was really lovely, I really enjoyed the authors writing style, I thought it was just so beautiful.

The story itself seems well researched and I have to admit I don’t recall reading many historical books set during WWI in Russia. I found the story itself, the fall of the Russian monarchy fascinating and heartbreaking. It was just such a dark time during the Russian revolution and I was glad to learn a bit more about it through the eyes of these characters.

There wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy. The ending felt super fast-paced as far as how it wrapped up and despite being slow-paced, to begin with, I found I wouldn’t have minded a bit of a slower ending, yet it worked. My general nit-pickiness comes to the Russian terminology in the book, but as someone who has a general understanding of the language, some sentences with Russian words thrown into them had me pack paddling a little bit. The Russian language uses congregations and every time they appeared wrong in the book my brain automatically found it a bit awkward to read. Like for instance, the word Zala appears throughout the book, which I assume refers to like the grand ballroom type room for gatherings and I’m pretty sure it should have been Zalo. But those are just minor details and don’t affect people that wouldn’t know otherwise.

I do love that the author has made a distinction between Ukrainian people and Russian when at one point the White Russian women were told they are going to be sent back to Ukraine and Eliza acknowledged that they are Russian.

Overall. I loved this book like I knew I would the moment I saw it. With that, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the Lilac Girls because I absolutely am in love with this authors beautiful writing style, there is just something about the way she weaves her words that completely draw me in. I really enjoyed the characters and their flaws, I also enjoyed that time and place this book took place because to me it was a whole new experience that I would love to farther explore.

I will be looking forward to more works from this author in the future.

 

Tags:

Divider

Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS Harris

Posted April 15, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS HarrisWho Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr, #14
Published by Berkley Books on April 2, 2019
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The death of a fiendish nobleman strikes close to home as Sebastian St. Cyr is tasked with finding the killer to save his young cousin from persecution in this riveting new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....
When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth's complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.
Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father's Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence--ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman's silk stocking--suggests that Ashworth's killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth's life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death.

When a murder hits too close to home, Sebastian finds himself investigating the death of the man he most reviled. The difficulty is that it turns out everyone hated the man and the man’s wife, Sebastian’s niece has the most reason.

In this fourteenth installment of the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series, I found myself transported once again to Regency Era London on the eve of the Napoleonic War coming to an end when a sadistic fiend who raped and murdered young children, took advantage of every trades person and servant he encountered, and lived as the ultimate profligate turns up dead. Very dead. As in someone stabbed him so often that blood flowed everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed this series- which, incidentally, must be read in order. Watching Sebastian come to terms with his father and the secrets that hurt Sebastian deeply when they were hidden and then came out in brutal ways. In the last few years, he has happiness in his own life with his courageous and strong-willed wife and son. That said, he careful stays one step ahead of the political intrigue and danger swirling around his father in law that threatens him occasionally, and he is still determined to discover the last of the secrets surrounding his own enigmatic history. But, through it all, Sebastian has become a keen consulting detective for the London police with his military background, keen personal abilities and clever ability to not just look, but actually see when it comes to people and events. It doesn’t hurt that he has entre into places in the upper classes that the police can’t help to go.

Lord Ashworth was a repulsive, evil being. Sebastian’s need to get to the bottom of it is driven by his fear that his intrepid niece might have taken the knife herself- and many clues and facts do point her way. However, they also point toward a powerful and ruthless Russian princess whom his father in law warns him away from and also toward a despairing furniture maker who has been ruined because Ashworth wouldn’t pay a large bill. Oh, and let’s not forget the dangerous criminal hired by Ashworth as an assassin who also got angry over overdue bills. And, that is just the short list.

Meanwhile, Sebastian’s wife, Hero, is working on treatise about the poor and their lives who make their living as rag and bone men, pure pickers, and night soil men. She hopes to rouse the powers that be to social reform by exposing the lives of so many eking out their existence right under the noses of the affluent. Hero is unable to shake the worry over her distant cousin Victoria scheming with Jarvis, Hero’s father. Jarvis is the power behind the throne and will stop short of nothing to achieve the results he desires which seems to be the case with Victoria and the shadows around her past life and the significant glances she shares with Jarvis now and then.

Sebastian doesn’t even feel guilty for the relief he feels at Ashworth’s killing and no one else does either beyond the man’s father, an old family retainer, and an actual best friend. This was a case of too many suspects and too many motives. It also rounds out the story arc begun in the previous book when Sebastian solved the case, but didn’t get full satisfaction at the results. Sebastian also learns what drove Stephanie all this time (it’s been a mystery through a few books).

I am always keen on historical mysteries that provide as much authentic historical flavor as a clever well-developed mystery and engaging characters. This series continues to stand the test of time and keep me riveted with each new book released. The main mystery was good, but I also enjoy the background series-long ones as well. All historical mystery fans should try this series and join me in anticipating each new book.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

Tags:

Divider

Review Round Up #1

Posted March 14, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review Round Up #1The Perfect Alibi by Phillip Margolin
Series: Robin Lockwood #2
Published by Minotaur Books on March 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A young woman accuses a prominent local college athlete of rape. Convicted with the help of undisputable DNA evidence, the athlete swears his innocence and threatens both his lawyer and his accuser as he's sent to prison. Not long after, there's another rape and the DNA test shows that the same person committed both rapes—which is seemingly impossible since the man convicted of the first rape was in prison at the time of the second one. Now, the convicted athlete, joined by a new lawyer, is granted a new trial and bail. Shortly thereafter, his original lawyer disappears and his law partner is murdered.
Robin Lockwood is a young lawyer with a prestigious small law firm and a former MMA fighter who helped pay for Yale Law School with her bouts. She is representing the victim of the first rape for her civil lawsuit against her rapist, who is now convinced the rapist is stalking her and trying to intimidate her. At the same time, another client is up on a murder charge—one that should be dismissed as self-defense—but the D.A. trying the case is determined to bring it to trial. Now she has to mastermind two impossible cases, trying to find the hidden truth that links the two of them.

A woman brings her daughter to Robin Lockwood, accusing a college football star of raping her. With the help of DNA evidence, he is easily convicted on rape charges. But then another woman shows up, claiming she was raped and the DNA is pointing to a man already in prison. Meanwhile, someone is killing attorneys, could their murder’s be connected?

This, for me, was a fast-paced read. I found myself invested in the first case enough to be flipping through the pages in order to see how everything was going to play out. I kind of figured things out halfway through, but I still wanted to see where it was going to go. The rape case in this book is a bit of a sensitive subject and I am not at all sure if the story itself was plausible, but I do feel like it could be somewhat realistic. In which case, I don’t know how to feel about it and honestly wasn’t sure if I liked where it went in the end.

The murders kept me guessing, but in the end, I found the reasons and the outcome to be a bit far fetched.

There was nothing wrong with the lining. The story was fine. The characters were fine. The subplots that happened in this book outside of these two cases, felt irrelevant to the story and more like a filler.

Review Round Up #1Even If the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia
Series: Standalone
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 10, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

All she needs is one night to be anyone she wants.
Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever.
In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love.
But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.
Mia García’s Even If the Sky Falls is a whirlwind twenty-four-hour romance about discovering what it means to feel alive in the face of life’s greatest danger: love.

Let me start out on the positive note of this book. The author’s writing is absolutely beautiful, Mia Garcia as a writer really has her way with words and can create lively and vivid settings. I loved the setting of New Orleans as a backdrop for this book.

That being said, the rest fell a little flat for me.

I didn’t like Julie. I found her “problem” to be superficial and a bit self-centered. In all of this she never really stopped to consider that her brother was the one that has these problems and took it upon herself to try and force something that even therapists have a hard time fixing. When that did not work out in her favor she almost does something completely stupid and selfish. I hated her character, I found her annoying.

This is one of those books that instant love and takes place in one day where Julie and ‘Miles’ give each other fake names and kind of just get lost in the day. I just found that I could not connect with the characters.

The last 20% of the book thought really well written, was a bit odd. A hurricane hits and the two characters decide to be careless, despite Mile’s living in New Orleans during Katrina some of his actions really made me question his intelligence and of course because of his recklessness Julie gets hurt.

Another thing happens with a doctor at the hospital that was completely unbelievable and the storyline between Julie and Tavis one of the boys that feels irrelevant to the story was super odd and unnecessary.

Thought the writing was beautiful, the story did complete lack of depth and meaning.

 

Tags:

Divider

Sophia Rose Review: There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt

Posted March 12, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: There Will Be Sun by Dana ReinhardtTomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt
Series: standalone
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on March 12, 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A private Mexican villa is the backdrop to this smart, absorbing story of a milestone vacation in a tropical paradise gone wrong, wrong, wrong.
Two families arrive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Jenna has organized the trip to celebrate her husband's fiftieth birthday--she's been looking forward to it for months. She's sure everything is going to be just perfect--and the margarita refills delivered by the house staff certainly don't hurt, either. What could go wrong?
Yet as the families settle into their vacation routines, their best friends suddenly seem like annoying strangers, and even Jenna's reliable husband, Peter, is sharing clandestine phone calls with someone--but who? Jenna's teenage daughter, Clem, is spending an awful lot of time with Malcolm, whose questionable rep got him expelled from school. Jenna's dream of the ultimate celebration begins to crack and eventually crumbles completely, leaving her wondering whom she can trust, and whether her privileged life is about to be changed forever.
Readers of Emma Straub, Meg Wolitzer and Delia Ephron will love this sharply funny novel. Whether you're putting it in your carry-on to read on the beach or looking to escape the dead-of-winter blues, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is the perfect companion.

Once in a while, I get in the mood for something far outside my usual reading habits.  This general fiction piece about two families of friends sharing a vacation villa in Puerta Vallarta and showcases that a truly horrid vacation story might be the one you never tell and never leaves you the same.

 

Jenna is the narrator of this story and she turns out to be an everyday, average middle-aged woman who has a penchant for needing control over everything, lots of worrying, and a confidence of being settled and satisfied in her life.  Okay, so she wished her husband, Peter, would be a little more assertive when it came to Solly getting his way and she wished she had a closer relationship with her daughter in the form of friendship, but nothing really beyond what she could handle in all that.  Unlike one of her good friend’s, Solly’s first wife, her husband isn’t planning to leave her for a younger model and her daughter wasn’t caught dealing drugs in school.

 

Yep, anyone can tell that poor Jenna, who has her faults though not dastardly ones, is being set up and this vacation trip is when it all starts to unravel.

 

The blurb might make this sound like a thriller or that it might be a humorous comedy of vacation errors.  Um, no, not even. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple funny bits and there some real excitement happening that reminds me why I’ve shied away from this sort of vacation. The exciting stuff comes late and ends up in the background of what starts to happen in Jenna’s personal life.  That, my friends, is where the tension and crisis hits.

 

The reader goes through a long set up, getting to know the characters as the vacation gets rolling, and a lot of a middle-aged woman’s introspection to get there.  I won’t say its boring since the author writes in a way that kept me reading. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I wasn’t riveted, either, and I did get impatient. I was only so-so about Jenna or any of the characters for that matter.  They’re just… people. Nothing extraordinary. That is their appeal, but also not something that will keep ones interest indefinitely, as a result.

 

I think the part that struck me and probably will make this story stay in my mind longer than I thought when I was reading it, was the choice for the ending.  After all that came before it, the ending is open-ended though the reader can make an educated guess what will come after. Jenna has to decide what she wants to do with what she now knows about herself and about the others.

 

So, this was gently-paced, mostly introspective story of a middle-aged woman who goes on vacation thinking one thing about her life and comes back quite different.  An easy read with sunny setting turned out to be an engaging fiction that I can recommend to those who reach for slow and easy character-driven books.

 

My thanks to Pamela Dorman/Viking for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

Tags:

Divider

Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

Posted November 7, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Interview, Reviews / 32 Comments

Guest Review + Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa GabrieleThe Winters by Lisa Gabriele
Series: standalone
Published by Viking on October 16, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless. . . . A must read.” —Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a spellbindingly suspenseful novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can’t be escaped

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.
As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

How could I resist the lure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca revisited in an all new take on a gothic thriller that is still keeping readers riveted to the pages. Naturally, there was a great deal of curiosity to see a modern variation on the classic, a little trepidation, but also so much anticipation.

The Winters introduces a young unnamed woman, average and good, who has known poverty and her fair share of loss, working a job for a charter boat business in the Cayman Islands. She is bowled over by the older, debonair Max Winters’ charm. She’s living the fairytale until she leaves her island for his family home on a little island just off Long Island, NY. There she faces the challenge of living down his dead wife’s ghost in the lives of all who live on the estate and in the heart of the dead Rebecca’s bitter, spiteful teenage daughter who resents her mother’s replacement. But, slowly this young woman uncovers the secrets of Asherley and the Winters taking a dark twisting journey to the truth.

“Last night, Rebecca tried to murder me again.”

The opening line is as startling as the many lines after it take their time to build the story. The story is told framed by the present around the past. The narrator is telling the reader her story and she goes back to describe who she was before Max came, why she was susceptible to his charm and the safety of what he offered, and then why she was inadequately prepared to enter his world and the life at Asherley. Naive and woefully unprepared. The introductions to the main players take place including the ghostly woman who is at the heart of it all. I thought the author did an excellent job building her story and the suspense. She carried over the gothic tones that were so prevalent into this modern version well.

Now, its been many years since I read Rebecca and I’m actually thinking that is a good thing. It wasn’t fresh enough in my mind to draw as many comparisons. I felt the flavor of the classic, of course, but I’m pretty sure that this was very much the author’s original creation. I could give The Winters its due and not slighting it for not being Rebecca. I say this because I felt the connection, but really I just read and enjoyed the book for what it gave me.

I found myself considering Dani, Max and Rebecca’s teenage daughter, as someone I couldn’t pin down about how I felt, but she kept my attention the most even over the unnamed heroine. Dani was so multi-faceted and unpredictable. I loved how she was written. Actually, I was well pleased with how everyone and the background was developed. My only niggle was that this did move along ponderously for me in the first bit. That was where I think I missed the older version that got me wound up in the atmosphere a lot sooner. But, this one eventually got rolling and it had me flipping pages rapidly in the end.

So, for those who have not read Rebecca and also for those who have, I think readers will find this a worthy novel of modern gothic suspense that will leave them breathless in the end.

My thanks to Penguin Viking for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

And, now, an extra treat for our Night Owl Book Café readers!

Read on for a Q&A with the author and a giveaway hosted by the publisher, Viking.

A Conversation with Lisa Gabriele

Author of The Winters

1.       The Winters begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women—our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female relationships, power, and sexuality?

 

Yes. I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in Rebecca, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly The Winters became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. I mean, think about all the different ways patriarchy still shapes and molds our lives as women. My narrator certainly has agency, she has a job of her own that she’s quite good at, and a potential role model of a single working woman, but despite this, she’s still deeply susceptible to the lure of a “happily ever after.” And with Max’s daughter Dani, I got to play around with some of my worst fears around young women and social media, on the difficulty of getting your new boyfriend’s kid to accept you, and about feminism’s so-called generational divide. Dani is 15 going on 40, an heiress with a chauffeur, a tutor, and thirty thousand Instagram followers. She isn’t going to make life easy for her new stepmother-to-be. And what better wedge for her to use than the memory of her dead (perfect) mother, Rebekah? The relationship between her and the narrator was explosively fun to write. But this time, the primary question that hovers over the narrator’s image of the dead Rebekah isn’t about her sexuality, but rather her role as a mother—a much more loaded question these days.

 

2.      The Winters is inspired in part by Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca—an instant bestseller, first published in 1938, that has never gone out of print, reportedly selling 50,000 copies a year. And it’s obvious you’re a fan. What do you love about it, and what made you use it as the launching point for your novel?

 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Rebecca. My mother, who died almost twenty years ago, introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book,but anger drove me to write mine.

 

3.      Much of The Winters is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Why did you choose that setting?

 

I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast ofThe Great Gatsby, and the deceptively serene town in The Amityville Horror. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. However, to pull off the violent conclusion, I also needed a location that wasn’t only private, but remote. In the research stage, I visited the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead and read about Gardiner’s Island. It’s one of the biggest swaths of privately owned land in America, purchased by Lion Gardiner from the Montaukett Indians in the 1600s, in exchange for a large black dog and some Dutch blankets. Today it’s worth more than $125 million dollars so keeping the island in the family has driven generations of Gardiners to sometimes concoct nefarious plots. So Winter’s Island was born, as was a motive for murder. I changed some geographic details, but the rest of its history and topography, its dense forests, the old ruins, the private beach and thick, marshy shores, are the same. Then there’s the mansion. I love a looming turret, so I made Asherley a Queen Anne Victorian—spookier, in my opinion, than the typical center hall design from the Gilded Age. Entering the house, with its paneled walls, oak and marble floors and mullioned windows, the reader falls back in time. The only modern touch is a dramatic, star-shaped greenhouse, Rebekah’s pride and joy, lodged, incongruously and a little violently, against the house, a constant reminder that this was once her domain. 

 

4.      As our narrator spends more time at Asherley and begins to discover her new family’s dark secrets, The Winters becomes a gripping slow-burn thriller. What are your tricks for building suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat?   

 

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” With The Winters I never set out to “write a thriller.” I just metaphorically made my headlights a little dimmer and the road ahead a little snakier, but kept the speed the same, (barely) avoiding smashing through the guardrails. Also the whole story is told from one POV. The narrator’s. We are only in her head. We only know what she knows. And she’s fed different versions of the same stories. So who to trust? You can also use short staccato sentences. They ratchet up the tension. Sometimes.

 

5.      Like many fictional politicians—from House of Cards’ Frank Underwood to the Senator in Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water—Max Winter is powerful, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. Why did you choose politics for Max’s career, and what made you want to dip into that world? 

 

As I mentioned above, the 2016 U.S. election consumed me, and the subsequent presidency has upended all norms. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the controversies, the news being, for this former journalist, a constant distraction. But it’s also a source of inspiration. So I stopped fighting it. Since I couldn’t get away from the news, I folded some of my current fixations into my book. I didn’t want to date the book, or bog it down in current affairs, but divisive politics, and the corrosive effects of both social media and (questionable) Russian money on modern American life all make cameos. Presciently I finished the book at the start of the #metoo movement, which, like my book, demonstrates how important it is to believe women.

 

6.      You’ve been a journalist and an award-winning producer, in both radio and TV, for more than twenty years. When (and how) does your journalism background seep into your novels?

 

It always does, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously, but I am first and foremost a journalist. The books I write require research to get the settings, tone, and era right, but it’s my favorite part of the job. And for me it’s unavoidable. My characters tend to arrive almost fully formed. So when the unnamed narrator of The Winters insisted she worked on boats, and Max decided to run for reelection in Suffolk County, I had some research to do. Learning about politics at the state level and proper boat terminology was interesting and fun. But I also consult experts. I reached out to a PhD in mortuary archeology to confirm how many years it would take for a body buried in a shallow grave to completely turn to skin and bones. And, thankfully, one of my best friends is a family lawyer, so I ran by her all the details about conservatorships and inheritances. The hardest part was trying to understand the murderous lengths to which some people will go to maintain their wealth and privilege, but one need only turn on CNN these days for that kind of research.

 

7.      The Winters takes many of its cues from classic novels—a plain unassuming heroine; a dashing older gentleman; a lavish estate; an inconvenient first wife. But the ending is decidedly more modern—even feminist. Without giving too much away, can you speak to how you went about crafting a contemporary version of these kinds of novels?

 

Writing a modern book that that still pays tribute to a beloved classic is a tricky balancing act. I am a huge fan of the ones done well: Jane Smiley’s King Lear redux, A Thousand Acres, Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea (which is actually a prequel to Jane Eyre, which du Maurier herself retold with Rebecca), Curtis Sittenfeld’sEligible (a hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice), and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. The best ones preserve the original’s landmarks, though the terrain is completely different. They’re written in a contemporary style, though a sharp-eyed reader will spot my own iambic hexameter. And while the characters feel familiar, they’re not facsimiles. No character embodies all of these ideas more than Dani Winter, a 15-year old girl with all the traits of the average Millenial, minus any disadvantages. She has everything a girl her age could want, plus total freedom and the run of the house. She plays with her mother’s clothes and makeup, and the stories she tells about her run completely counter to her father’s. This presents a very current dilemma for our narrator. Does she believe the man she loves or his bratty kid? Dani becomes, then, a reminder that we longer live in an era where stories men tell about women take primacy over the ones they tell about themselves, as the #metoo movement is proving. Women just aren’t having that anymore. I know Dani’s generation isn’t.

 

8.      Finally, considering the evocative setting of The Winters, where do you think is the best place to read a book like this?

 

You should read The Winters at one of my favorite hotels, The Chequit Inn, on Shelter Island. You should be sitting on the deep front porch that overlooks the Peconic River, sipping sweet tea. Funny enough, in a very early draft I wrote a scene where our teary, breathless narrator, running for her life, bursts into the lobby of The Chequit Inn demanding to use their phone. They let her. They get her a glass of water and calm her down. They offer her a chair. In the end, the incredible staff at even my imaginary Chequit Inn sucked the tension right out of the scene, so I had to redirect.

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY FOR U.S. RESIDENTS

One print copy of The Winters by Lisa Gabriele will be given away to a lucky commenter on this post. The giveaway will be open for one week following postdate and the winner will be a random pick from the comments. Winner must have a US postal address and the address will be forwarded to publisher. Penguin-Viking will handle the actual giveaway. Good Luck!

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

Tags:

Divider

Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

Posted August 20, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 8 Comments

Guest Review: The House Swap by Rebecca FleetThe House Swap by Rebecca Fleet
Series: standalone
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on May 22, 2018
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 294
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Be careful who you let in . . .
When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap--from their city flat to a townhouse in a leafy, upscale London suburb--they jump at the chance for a week away from home, their son, and the tensions that have pushed their marriage to the brink.
As the couple settles in, the old problems that permeate their marriage--his unhealthy behaviors, her indiscretions--start bubbling to the surface. But while they attempt to mend their relationship, their neighbor, an intense young woman, is showing a little too much interest in their activities.
Meanwhile, Caroline slowly begins to uncover some signs of life in the stark house--signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music might seem innocent to anyone else--but to her they are clues. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone who knows her, someone who knows the secrets she's desperate to forget...

The idea of a couple swapping houses with a stranger and slowly realizing that this stranger is something more was intriguing and I was all in. I’ve noticed a few reader buddies enjoying domestic thrillers lately so thought I’d pick one up and try one out for myself.

The House Swap was a fast read and moved along at a good, steady pace. I was curious about blending the elements of a married pair along with the mystery and how I’d like that. Turns out that I found this mesh to work well. The thriller part was subtle particularly at first with the marriage issues of the pair taking the lead. The story was told in both the past and present so the reader experiences the current situation and how it got there. This worked to help with building suspense and revealing the secrets in a jaw-dropping way. I actually worked out several of the reveals before they came, but there were still a few shockers.

Now, in truth, this book was something of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the thriller aspect and a bit of how the flawed marriage was meshed with it. However, I really didn’t like Caroline, the main character. To be fair, the reader isn’t meant to like her as far as I can tell. The whole situation is pretty much her own doing. She claims she wants to renew what has been lost in her marriage, but it takes little for her to slip back into her old ways. She snarls and prods, keeps secrets that affect them both, and lies to her husband who is bending over backwards to make this house swap and vacation week work. I think what did it for me was that she wasn’t over her ex. He ended the affair and its obvious that she’d fall right back into it if she could. I really wanted to see Francis just snatch their son, walk away, and keep going.

So, my first domestic thriller was alright. It did leave me eager for more. I thought the author wrote a good twisting plot so I’ll watch for more of her work. This is for those who don’t mind flawed characters and a soft thriller paired together.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

Tags:

Divider

Review: Obscura by Joe Hart

Posted June 15, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review: Obscura by Joe HartObscura by Joe Hart
Series: standalone
Published by Thomas & Mercer on May 8, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

She’s felt it before…the fear of losing control. And it’s happening again.
In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.
Crippled by a secret addiction and suffering from creeping paranoia, Gillian finds her journey becoming a nightmare as unexplainable and violent events plague the mission. With her grip weakening on reality, she starts to doubt her own innocence. And she’s beginning to question so much more—like the true nature of the mission, the motivations of the crew, and every deadly new secret space has to offer.
Merging thrilling science-fiction adventure with mind-bending psychological suspense, Wall Street Journal bestselling author Joe Hart explores both the vast mysteries of outer space and the even darker unknown that lies within ourselves.

Phew, this book was quite the ride. Joe Hart just really throws you right into the heart of the story. We follow Dr Gillian Ryan, who has lost her husband to a new form of dementia that eats away at the memories until the person completely loses themselves and become violent and unhinged. Now, years later her daughter is suffering from the same disease and Gillian is very close to a breakthrough. Problem, is that her funding is now cut and the only person who can help her is a blast from the past that shows up on her doorsteps asking for help. Carson is now part of NASA and they need Gillian to go up to the space station with them and investigate the crew, who seem to be exhibiting similar symptoms of that dementia.

Unfortunately for Gillian nothing is as it seems and she is soon thrown into lies and deceptions as this mission is so important to NASA and they are banking on keeping it a secret.

This was a great combination of science fiction and thrilling. This book definitely kept me on the edge of my seat flipping through the pages. Joe Hart really knows how to weave a story that pulls you in and keeps you excited. It wasn’t always an easy read and at times it was a bit brutal. The characters were wonderful, but the ending was so heartbreaking.

That ending though, Joe Hart if you are listening, that was unfair. It definitely made me want more, but I don’t see this as anything but a standalone at the moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and it reminded me why I liked reading science fiction so much.

Tags:

Divider

Review: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele Hutchison

Posted June 4, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele HutchisonAn American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl, Michele Hutchison
Series: standalone
Published by AmazonCrossing on May 1, 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 234
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The true story of a girl from the wilderness settlements of a burgeoning new America who became one of the most privileged figures of the Gilded Age.
Born to a pioneering family in Upstate New York in the late 1800s, Allene Tew was beautiful, impetuous, and frustrated by the confines of her small hometown. At eighteen, she met Tod Hostetter at a local dance, having no idea that the mercurial charmer she would impulsively wed was heir to one of the wealthiest families in America. But when he died twelve years later, Allene packed her bags for New York City. Never once did she look back.
From the vantage point of the American upper class, Allene embodied the tumultuous Gilded Age. Over the course of four more marriages, she weathered personal tragedies during World War I and the catastrophic financial reversals of the crash of 1929. From the castles and châteaus of Europe, she witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a princess. And from the hopes of a young girl from Jamestown, New York, Allene Tew would become the epitome of both a pursuer and survivor of the American Dream.

An American Princess tells the story of a woman named Allene Tew and how far she had come from being a young girl from Jamestown, what she had lived through in life and her ultimate demise.

The book definitely reads more like a nonfiction, biography, so the pace of the book did vary and we were hit with a ton of historical information based on the era that Allene had lived through. There were definitely some dry areas at the beginning and it took me a while to get into the book, but I enjoyed it when the book started to pick up and become more interesting once we got to the war bits.

Allene had lived through a lot, as far as her love life went. In this book, we learn a lot about Allene love life, her husbands, what they did, and what ultimately brought an end to that relationship. Allene was married about five times, 2 times because of her looks, 2 times because of her money and 1 time due to the fact that there was actual love.

As a whole I never really felt like we got to know Allene. This book was well written, probably very historically accurate, but very much about the love life of Allene and her husband more over just Allene. I wanted to know about the woman as a person and what she had done in life to become such a historical figure over just who she married, what her husband did, and why that ended.

Despite that, I felt for Allene when she lost both of her children in World War but for some reason I never felt like her character truly grieved over losing her offsprings, or at least it was not an impression I got from the book.

But goodness this woman went through a lot when it came to husbands and she had five of them, so her marriages in general bought her some happiness, some heartache, and a lot of money. She was even pegged as a gold digger of her time.

Overall, as my second nonfiction, ever… I did enjoy this. The writing was good. But, I wish it was a bit more.

Tags:

Divider

Review: Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir by Cinelle Barnes

Posted May 28, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review: Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir by Cinelle BarnesMonsoon Mansion: A Memoir by Cinelle Barnes
Series: standalone
Published by Little A on May 1, 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 252
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.
Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.
In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.

Let me just say, I have never read a nonfiction book before, much less alone a memoir so I found myself a little hesitant when it came into dipping my toes into this book.

I liked the blurb and was pleasantly surprised that I found myself enjoying this book.

Monsoon Mansion is a memoir written by Cinelle Barnes in a form of fictional novelization. It follows Cinelle as a child living in a mansion in the Philippines and the rise and fall of her family. The writing was beautiful, the storytelling was well done and easy to follow since it read differently, I almost forgot at times that the book was based on recounts of Cinelle’s actual life. I got lost instantly and really sympathized for the little girl in the story and what she had to go through when everything around her came falling apart. Cinelle went from being rich to poor and the adjustments she had to make to her life by herself at the absents of her mother was really heartbreaking to read about. I found myself angry at her mother on many occasions, but joyful that Cinelle managed to make it out here and tell her story and share the beautiful writing with us.

Cinelle Barnes really knows how to write and I hope that one day she branches out into the world of fiction because I most definitely want to read

Tags:

Divider