Genre: Thriller

Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

Posted May 25, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 8 Comments

Review: The Night Before  by Wendy WalkerThe Night Before by Wendy Walker
Series: standalone
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 14, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
Pages: 320
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.

First dates can be murder.
Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control.

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.
Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.
When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

Laura Lochner has had her share of bad luck when it comes to love. She always seems to pick the wrong men. Men that aren’t good for her. Men that eventually leave her. Mistakes she can’t seem to shake, nor the night years ago from her teenage years. A dark past that seems to haunt her.

After her latest bad relationship, Laura finally moves back into her hometown that she hoped to stay away, to live with her sister Rosie and her husband Joe. Laura is ready to move on, ready to stop making mistakes and give dating another shot with a man she meets online, who she hopes won’t know her past history.

But when Laura fails to come home the morning after, her sister Rosie starts to wonder what happened the night before.

I thought this was an interesting read that kept me mostly guessing through half of the book. I liked the premise and I liked the writing and I was curious to see how the revelations would come to light and paint the bigger picture about what happened that one night years ago with Laura.

Though I enjoyed the book, I also found that not much happens in the middle of it. A lot of the book is focused on rehashing and Laura’s date trying to get her to reveal her past. I was curious about why this was happening and was hoping for more of a nail-biting revelation. Thought that never happened, I did find that I generally enjoyed the ending. I found the book to be misleading and entertaining. It was a solid read, but I think I wanted a little more from this book. In the end, it just felt like there was something missing to make this a great thriller, but nevertheless, it was good and I am looking forward to more of this authors writing.

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Review Round Up #7

Posted May 23, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 6 Comments

Review Round Up #7Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant, Cris Dukehart
Narrator: Cris Dukehart
Length: 3 hours and 3 minutes
Series: standalone
Published by Tantor Audio on April 30, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
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.

3 hours and 3 minutes
We live in an age of wonders.
Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.
Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.
How wrong we could be.
It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.
She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.
We live in an age of monsters.

It started with little Lisa Morris, an eight-year-old niece of Dr. Isabella Gauley as patient zero to fall to a new disease that would soon be known as the Morris disease. It didn’t take long for the disease that humankind believed to be eradicated to spread. They didn’t know that it was the first wave, or what it would do to the human body until it was too late. As Dr. Isabella Gauley scrambles to help the survivors that were left untouched, the rest of the world scrambles to beat a virus that is proving itself impossible to beat.

This was…

The concept of the book I found to be interesting. It’s a take on what could happen if people choose not to vaccinate their kids and how herd immunity as a whole helps the world. I think the concept would have been so good if the book was more developed and not a novella. It’s told in a third person and while the narrator did a good job with the story, I think maybe it was because I was listening to it, the story sounded like a preachy opinion piece. I found this style made me very disconnected with the characters because we never really get to know them or their emotions.

I thought this could have been done so much better. Instead, it was so repetitive and heavy-handed. I get that the author might have strong opinions on what’s going on in the world today and it’s fine, I just thought she could have used that idea and made this into an edge of your seat novel with stronger characters. Instead, it was subpar, preachy piece of writing with a lack of character development that leaves you kind of detached the entire time.

And the thing that pissed me off the most was the ending. What in the f- was that ending? If you’re going to go the lengths to point out how herd immunity is important to the world, why would you insert an ending like that in there? And then it ends so abruptly, it made no sense.

This was my first Mira Grant novel, and I found myself largely disappointed by lack of development, substance, and storytelling. She had something really interesting here, but the execution failed. I’d hope this is just a set up for future books.

Review Round Up #7Eighteen Below by Stefan Ahnhem
Series: Fabian Risk,
Published by Minotaur Books on December 4, 2018
Genres: Thriller, Crime
Pages: 560
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:two-flames

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 third book in the internationally bestselling Fabian Risk series, a terrifying story of stolen identity and serial murder.
ON A HOT SUMMER'S DAY
The police chase a speeding car through the streets of Helsingborg. When they reach the bridge, the driver keeps going straight into the cold, dark waters of the Öresund strait.
A TRAGIC ACCIDENT
The body recovered from the wreck is that of Peter Brise, one of the city's richest tech entrepreneurs. Fabian Risk and his team are confident this is suicide. Young, rich, successful—Brise just didn't know how to ask for help.
TURNS EVERTHING A LITTLE BIT COLDER...
But then the autopsy reveals something unexpected. Brise was already dead when his car crashed. He'd been brutally murdered two months ago. His body frozen in perfect condition, at eighteen degrees below zero...Something doesn't match up. And when a string of other odd murders and unusual behavior come to light in the area, Fabian Risk takes the case.

I don’t have a lot to say about this book. It’s a dark Nordic noir that follows an Inspector Fabian Risk. The book was a chunker with two separate mysteries that didn’t connect. I felt like there was probably enough material from both to create two separate books instead of jamming everything into one dense book.

I thought it was okay and that’s about it. The writing is good. The character development was there. Maybe it’s because I’ve started it with book three, and not one, I found myself detached from the characters and never really caring.

There are some really dark and twisted themes in this that made me cringe at times. The book meandered a bit and I found myself losing interest at times. But the dark mysterious in this book were interesting enough to hold my attention, I found them very unique.

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Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

Posted May 16, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 15 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.

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Review: Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Posted April 10, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 8 Comments

Review: Someone Knows by Lisa ScottolineSomeone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
Series: Standalone
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on April 9, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

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 New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory.
Twenty years ago, in an upscale suburb of Philadelphia, four teenagers spent a summer as closest friends: drinking, sharing secrets, testing boundaries. When a new boy looked to join them, they decided to pull a prank on him, convincing him to play Russian roulette as an initiation into their group. They secretly planned to leave the gun unloaded—but what happened next would change each of them forever.
Now three of the four reunite for the first time since that horrible summer. The guilt—and the lingering question about who loaded the gun—drove them apart. But after one of the group apparently commits suicide with a gun, their old secrets come roaring back. One of them is going to figure out if the new suicide is what it seems, and if it connects to the events of that long-ago summer. Someone knows exactly what happened—but who? And how far will they go to keep their secrets buried?

Allie is headed home for the funeral of a childhood friend when she runs into two other people that share a terrible secret that they kept for twenty years.

Twenty years ago a terrible accident happened. No one was supposed to be hurt. The gun was never supposed to be loaded. But someone died, and four other people were there to witness and each carried the secret for years

This was my first foray into Lisa Scottoline’s writing, although I have collected several books from her over the years, I picked this one because it sounded exciting.

I thought this book had a lot of potentials and I liked how it was entertaining enough to keep me flipping through the pages and engaged. Ultimately, it just missed the mark.

The book is riddled with unlikable characters and the book alternates between these characters in chapters, which to me just happened to be one of its downfalls because I really did not like or care for most of these characters. I think there were only one or two characters I really liked and they just did not have enough spotlight in the story.

Even if you skip reading the blurb, it’s easy to predict who dies in the book. The book ends up being kind of split into two sections, one before the ‘accident’ and then the after.

I wish the actual twist in the book was who dies instead of the ‘twist’ that the author decides to throw at us in the end.

The last couple of chapters in the book I think is what ultimately spoiled the book for me. I thought it was just a mess. A completely freaken mess. It was clunky, a bunch of stuff thrown together for shock value that did not make sense to the overall story.

I don’t even know how to explain the stuff that just pissed me off without spoiling the book.

One of those things is the stupid direction it goes with one of the characters that just made my head hurt and honestly felt like it was added to make this book into a thriller. I think this book would have been better off focusing on how the event that occurred shaped the character’s lives.

Then this ultimate twist occurs at the end of the book and I almost threw the damn thing out the window because I was sooooo livid. IT DID NOT MAKE SENSE. I’m sorry. If it was added for shock value. Congrats. I am shocked. Shocked that it was even put in the book.

To break it down without spoiling it to the best of my ability. Knowing what we did from the book, this character’s actions did not make sense to me, especially if the character knew what was going to already happen the following day at that moment in time. Also, the behavior of the character in the epilogue after learning this horrible twist did not coincide with the character’s behavior from just witnessing the event. How it affected the character’s life, then and how it affected life after just did not make sense to me. It felt like it would have affected them worse, instead it felt like they basically said “oh well, we know now… we move on”

It just…

No.

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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.

 

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Review: Cut and Run by Mary Burton

Posted March 1, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 9 Comments

Review: Cut and Run by Mary BurtonCut and Run by Mary Burton
Series: standalone
Published by Montlake Romance on October 9, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 321
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:three-flames

Twin sisters separated by the past are reunited by unspeakable crimes in New York Times bestselling author Mary Burton’s throat-clutching novel of suspense…
Trauma victims are not new to medical examiner Faith McIntyre, but this one is different. The unconscious woman clinging to life after a hit and run is FBI agent Macy Crow. What the woman from Quantico was doing in a dark alley after midnight is just one mystery. The other is more unsettling: Macy is Faith’s mirror image—the twin sister she never knew she had.
Faith knew that she was adopted, but now she’s finding that her childhood concealed other secrets. Following the trail of clues Macy left behind, Faith and Texas Ranger Mitchell Hayden make a shocking discovery on an isolated country ranch—a burial ground for three women who disappeared thirty years before.
They weren’t the only victims in a killer’s twisted plot. And they won’t be the last.
As the missing pieces of Faith’s and Macy’s dark lives snap into place, Faith is becoming more terrified by what she sees—and by what she must do to save her sister and herself from the past.

First time dipping my toes into Mary Burton’s world and it won’t be my last!

Cut and Run follows a medical examiner Faith McIntyre, who finds that the woman lies in critical condition is her twin sister she never knew about. Faith always knew she was adopted, but she didn’t know that her adoption would unearth a trail of deep dark secrets. Following the clues her twin left behind, Faith and Texas Ranger Mitchell Hayden will uncover shocking discoveries of the past that might help them find a new missing pregnant girl in the present.

This book was a really good thriller. Well written, with great character development. I loved that Faith and Mitchell weren’t exactly perfect, which made them easy to relate to and more human.

I love the dark atmospheric tone of the book. I really enjoyed the pace. The overall story kept me mostly guessing and gave me enough to make me want to flip through the pages. The themes were a bit dark and as a mother, hard to read at times. But overall the well-developed plot was exciting and heart pounding till the end. I liked that the authors sprinkled a little bit of romance to lighten the plot line.

I think my only gripe with all of this would be the ending. I thought it felt a bit rushed as everything fell into place and the last bit was uncovered. I would have liked the reveal to unravel a bit slower.

But I really enjoyed her style of writing and storytelling, I will be looking for more from this author.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: The Good Twin by Marti Green

Posted May 24, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review: The Good Twin by Marti GreenThe Good Twin by Marti Green
Series: standalone
Published by Thomas & Mercer on May 15, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 272
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2 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.

In Marti Green’s twisting novel of psychological suspense, twin sisters become engaged in a dangerous deception…
Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.
Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now it might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.
It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.
But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

I honestly don’t know where to start with this book, it was a bit of a mess.

Try to suspend your disbelief when reading this because this book definitely requires you to.

We have a young mother that was thrown out of the house because she was pregnant and refused to give up her baby. At the age of 16 a young girl made a hard choice when she found out that she had twins. She gave up her first born in adoption and kept the second twin to raise by herself. One grew up in a very rich family, the other grew up in poverty.

Years later, Mallory is a waitress and stumbles upon a man who confuses her for someone else. Curious, she tracks down the woman he thought she was only to discover, wow, she looks just like her. Too afraid to approach her in person, she decided to visit the woman at her house only to be greeted by her husband and spun a bunch of lies.

Now Mallory thinks her sister is heartless and that Charly (the sister) believes that Mallory only wants to meet her because she wants her money, she believes her husband Ben who is spinning these lies.

Ben offers Mallory a proposal that if all Mallory does is say yes, her life will be changed forever.

I don’t even know how to review this without spoiling everything.

All the things I found wrong and frustrating

1. I could not wrap my head around Mallory and her decision to go along with Ben’s plan and still claim that she is such a good person and is deserving of so much more because what she agreed to do wasn’t simple as blueberry picking. It’s not a decision that a “good” person would step into lightly and quiet frankly, her reasoning made me sick as well.

2. The end was just a mess piled upon a layer of another mess and turned me beyond angry. I wanted to throttle Mallory, who became the world’s BIGGEST freaking hypocrite, trust me guys, it is taking me a lot of self control here not to let out a string of curse words and how much I loathed that ending. I found it unrealistic, I found myself angry at everyone involved and in the end, I honestly just wanted to see them all burn. After everything that went down and how it went down and all the stupid lies and actions these two sisters did not deserve any kind of happiness.

The end kept kind of jumping forward in time quickly over and over again and I just could not wrap my head around who the hell did Mallory think she is, making those kind of decisions after what she herself tried to do and blah just no.

Overall, it was fast paced. Suspend your disbelief and you might enjoy it. For me? This book just made me angry beyond belief.

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