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The Paper Wasp

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “No one wants the truth. We don’t want to live with it… We long for fabrication, hallucination, false catastrophe. We hunger – all of us – for the distorted mirages…” –The Paper Wasp

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grove Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Lauren Acampora

(3.47 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: June 11, 2019, by Grove Press

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#ThePaperWasp #PaperWasp


We were fortunate to dwell in dreams as long as we did. It’s easier to linger with a partner.

There were a lot of HAGS in my high school yearbook. And just recently, I looked in my daughter’s 5th grade yearbook, and there are a lot of HAGS in there too. And, no, I’m not a mean girl because I’m not talking about anyone’s appearance, LOL. HAGS meant Have A Great Summer back in my day, and the kids are apparently still using it today.

I also saw a lot of KITs (Keep In Touch) with phone numbers scribbled in either box-graphic or bubbly numbers in my yearbook. I only thought fleetingly about what would happen if I called any of those numbers today – some umpteen years after graduation. (What? I am NOT old!!!)

Who would be on the other line? When I graduated, there weren’t any cell phones (do not say a word!), so who would pick up? And those bright-eyed, hopeful kids who artfully crafted their phone numbers onto those yearbook pages beside silk-robed pictures – who are they now?

This is the premise behind The Paper Wasp: Reconnecting. You run into an old classmate at the grocery store while visiting your parents back in your hometown. Their face may be the same but they’ve gained 30 pounds and now have 3 kids and an ex-husband. Or you may see your 10th grade crush suited up on the cover of a business magazine – all glossy and handsome – and you think, what if…

Reconnecting is an iffy prospect. You never know what you’re gonna get. It could be the most fun you’ve ever had, or it could be what happens in The Paper Wasp. Here’s the Goodreads summary:

In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.


Suddenly, amazingly, I was your closest confidante. I’d slipped back into your life as if I’d never left, as if we’d somehow awoken from a slumber party as grown women.

I went into this book thinking it would only be about an uncomfortable obsession between old friends. And it was that, at first. But then Acampora takes a swift left turn with the plot and we entered the black hole of platonic relationships – everything gets sucked inside.
With an undercurrent of Single White Female vibes, The Paper Wasp creeps slowly, but relentlessly toward a wildly obsessive and threatening middle, denouement, and epilogue.

Written in first person, there is no escaping the immersion into Abby’s steady “enlightened” decline concerning her recovered friendship and all that it means for her imagined future. These are murky waters and fans of good psych thrillers will enjoy treading them.

Who can tell what breath entered into me, after that, and told me what movements to make? I have as much a grasp of it as you do, Elise.

This book is socially awkward and satisfyingly creepy. Plus, it is a logophile’s absolute wet dream. So why only 3.5 stars? Because the story noticeably sags a bit in the middle. We leave sunny California (and most of our characters) for the relative obscurity of small-town Michigan to pick up some necessary plot points and it feels off-kilter, as if specific issues and connections are ultimately left unresolved. This action happens at a pivotal point in the story and it disrupts the forward momentum. Plus, I was looking forward to more of a tie-in with Abby’s prophetic dreams. They are often discussed, but never “explained” or explored deeply. That seems a waste.

Still, Acampora is a gifted writer and The Paper Wasp will keep you on your toes the next time you run into an old friend, classmate, or colleague. No, I’m not a famous actress, but from now on I am going to be very careful while responding to Facebook friend requests!


The Paper Wasp is available today at the following links:


Author Tour Dates

WEDNESDAY06/12New York CityThe Paper Wasp book launch
Lauren Acampora in conversation with Susan Choi
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
7pm

Lauren Acampora

Lauren graduated from Brown University, earned an MFA at Brooklyn College, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Writers OMI International Residency, and the Ragdale Foundation. Raised in Connecticut, she now lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband, artist Thomas Doyle, and their daughter.


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The Silent Patient

⇒”But why does she not speak?” -Euripides, Alcestis


Author: Alex Michaelides

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Published February 5, 2019by Celadon Books

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 323 (Hardcover)

#TheSilentPatient #SilentPatient


Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways.

-Sigmund Freud

I wanted to read this book from the moment I read the summary online just before it was released. I knew it was going to get great buzz and – if the author did right by it – it would be worth it. I was right on all counts. This is a perfect example of a book that hits all the right subtle notes and then suddenly throws you into a locked room full of crashing cymbals. And you never want to leave.

When you pick up a thriller you want just that – to be thrilled. You want some basic ingredients: Suspense, mystery, and an un-guessable ending. The Silent Patient delivers all that. The scene is set at a mental institution, which only adds to the unstable nature of all the other action. There’s an overlying air of security and structure, with little bursts of chaos here and there that let us know that nothing about this is completely under control.

Here’s the Goodreads summary: Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain. Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word. Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought. And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

I’m only going to write positive, happy, normal thoughts. No crazy thoughts allowed.

Alicia Berenson

What, exactly, is that animalistic draw toward stories involving psychosis and mental institutions? Oh, it’s just me? Maybe it’s just our attempt to understand the whys behind acts we can’t ever fathom doing ourselves. We don’t get it, and we just want to figure it all out. Whatever it is, these stories pull me in and this one was no exception.

I read this book in one day. I am not a fast reader, and I usually have multiple things that pull me away from reading at any given time. But on the day that I read this, I was uninterrupted. Maybe the book gods granted me that time because they knew exactly how this book needed to be digested – in one big gulp. It truly is a page-turner with palpable suspense that grows with each new character introduced, each new bit of the mystery revealed, and each new piece of the puzzle revealed.

But that’s what Alicia did for you. Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.

Theo Faber

Tbh, writing this review is difficult for me. There’s so much I want to just blurt out, but spoilers. So I am keeping it very basic by saying that if you like twisty suspense novels, read The Silent Patient. But don’t just read it in anticipation of a great twist. Read it for the masterful story construction, for the depth of deception, and for the silent accusation on the part of more than just the character of Alicia. It’s a thriller to not be missed.


Alex Michaelides

Born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Greek father and English mother, Alex Michaelides studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) and co-wrote The Brits are Coming (2018), THE SILENT PATIENT is his first novel. (-Macmillan)


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The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare, #6)

⇒Hijacks, hijinks, and hot stuff in Hawaii.⇐


Authors: Janet Evanovich & Peter Evanovich

(3.70 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Humor

Format: Audible Audiobook

Publish Date: May 7, 2019, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Audio)

Pages: 320 (Hardcover & Kindle Versions)

#TheBigKahuna #BigKahuna


Everyone should have one of those series on their reading lists. You know the ones, light-hearted, funny, crazy unbelievable antics, with a kooky cast of characters that immediately separate you from the real world. I never take those books for granted because, after all, that is why I read books in the first place.

The Big Kahuna is a humorous, adventurous escape from my laundry, list of chores, 9-5 (7:30-4:00), and the seemingly endless taxi-ing of my daughter to/from soccer and friends’ houses. The series is funny, smart, sexy, and a great way to spend a few hours away from the reality of adulting.

From Goodreads: A stoner, an Instagram model, a Czech oligarch, and a missing unicorn. Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare have their work cut out for them in their weirdest, wildest adventure yet in this latest entry in the New York Times bestselling series by Janet and Peter Evanovich. Straight arrow FBI Agent Kate O’Hare always plays by the rules. Charming Con Man Nicholas Fox makes them up as he goes along. She thinks he’s nothing but a scoundrel. He thinks she just needs to lighten up. They’re working together to tackle the out-of-bounds cases ordinary FBI agents can’t touch. And, their relationship? Well, there hasn’t been so much explosive chemistry since Nitro was introduced to Glycerin.
Next on the docket: The mysterious disappearance of the Silicon Valley billionaire, known as the Big Kahuna. Kate’s been assigned to find him but no one seems particularly keen on helping. His twenty-six year old adult actress wife-turned Instagram model wife and his shady Czech business partner are more interested in gaining control of his company. For that they need a dead body not a living Kahuna.
The only lead they have is the Kahuna’s drop-out son, who’s living the dream in Hawaii – if your dream is starting your day with the perfect wave and ending it with a big bowl of weed. To get close to the Kahuna’s son, Kate and Nick go undercover as a married couple in the big wave, bohemian, surfer community of Paia, Maui. Living a laid back, hippy-dippy lifestyle isn’t exactly in Kate’s wheelhouse, but the only thing more horrifying is setting up house with Nick Fox, even if he does look pretty gnarly on a longboard. If they don’t catch a break soon, waves aren’t the only thing she’s going to be shredding (or bedding).


So, we’ve established that it’s funny, its adventurous, and also more than a little kooky and unrealistic. No problem with any of those aspects. The one gripe I have with this books – and others in this series – is that, let’s be honest, isn’t it kind of aggravating when the characters spout out all this knowledge that they just have stored in their brains about the most obscure things. I mean, come on! No one just retains data about the length and width of some random canyon in the back woods of a barely pronounceable island in the most remote part of Hawaii you can find. It’s really OK just to say its long and wide; I’m not gonna test you on that later. Thanks.

Despite all the Trivial Pursuit-style fact-dropping, its an enjoyable trip (for us, maybe not so much the characters!) with 1,000 different twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout. And we even get the satisfaction of a healthy dose of romantic energy between the main characters, Kate and Nick!

Let this book wrap around all your angst and anxiety and strip them away, along with all your anger and responsibility. The Big Kahuna is a fun little book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, so neither should you!

Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg.

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Blog Tour | The Scent Keeper

⇒Blog Tour: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister – An olfactory-charged coming-of-age story that will trigger your fondest and deepest memories. ⇐


Author: Erica Bauermeister

(4.19 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publish Date: May 21, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 311

#TheScentKeeper

Many thanks to the author and St. Martin’s Press for providing a free copy of this book for my review. I received no monetary compensation and my thoughts are my own.


I inhaled, and fell into the fragrance like Alice down the rabbit hole.

Emmeline

When I was a little girl I lived in the mountains of North Carolina for a time. I thought the world was magical back then. I believed in fairies and mermaids and all types of supernatural things. It must have been that mountain air!

I remember things just smelling differently up there. The soil was blacker in the mountains than it is here in Georgia, and it had a tart, metallic smell to it; like iron. The air was less heavy, and the grass – whether cut or long – smelled tangy and sweet. I still remember all those smells so vividly in my memory.

I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of us. Certain smells trigger specific memories of places or events from our past. The smell of cinnamon and bread takes me back to my Meme’s pantry. And the smell of fried chicken makes me remember my Great Aunt’s kitchen on Friday nights. Smells are powerful that way, and The Scent Keeper is a story all about that very specific power.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination. -(from Goodreads)

I inhaled again, slow and deep, and felt the smells flood my head, so full and three-dimensional I could almost wander among them.

Emmeline

I will summarize this book first by saying that books like The Scent Keeper are why I read. They allow me to see the world through someone else’s eyes – the writer’s and his/her characters’. I experience my own world irl and then I can escape into any one of theirs at any given time.

And Emmeline’s world of scent-memory and discovery is one that I could have remained in much longer than the 311 pages allowed. This is a coming-of-age story told with an added dimension: smell. Everything in Em’s life is associated with aromas. There is a certain magical science that goes into the way her father catches the fragrances of life around him and stores them in tiny bottles in their hidden island cabin. She grows up with this magic being as normal and fantastic as the rest of the world around her.

I could feel myself turning into air. The fragrances of the scent-papers became my lungs, the blood in my veins. I found it easier and easier to lose myself in them.

Emmeline

If you are a fan of lyrical writing and story lines that drag you deep into other worlds, then this book will not disappoint. This is a fairy tale told for a modern age – complete with Google searches and skyscrapers. I went from not knowing what to expect in the first few chapters to expecting everything under the sun in the final ones.

It is a tale of adventure, a family drama, and a love story all wrapped into one. There is mystery and suspense, danger and violence, victory and celebration, but there is also tragedy and loss. My biggest takeaway from The Scent Keeper is that people are inherently both good and bad. Just when we think we have them all figured out, they show us something new.

Out there, in the midst of all that air, our scents wove together and had their own conversations. It was as if the more space we had, the less we needed it between each other.

Emmeline

I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. I don’t give 5 stars lightly or regularly. But I meant this one. I really appreciate this book for its poetry, its scenery, and its ability to transport me into a different space among strangers that became friends. And then to not only hear and see them, but to smell what they saw, held, ate, and touched too. It takes a certain talent to pull a reader into a story like that; Erica Bauermeister has that talent.


***I am so embarrassed that my blog tour is a full week LATE! Guess my new-school attempt at keeping an electronic calendar isn’t the best method after all. Sheesh. But I had to go ahead and post my review because this is a book that needs to be touched by many hands and read by many eyes. It is a quick read and is one of the few that I couldn’t drag myself away from. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and I hope the kind folks at St. Martin’s Press forgive me for missing my tour date. 🙂 ***


BUY IT HERE:


Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of four novels — The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, The Lost Art of Mixing, and The Scent Keeper. Her memoir, House Lessons, will be published by Sasquatch in the spring of 2020. She is also the co-author of 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She currently lives in Port Townsend, Wa with her husband and 238 wild deer.


Closer Than You Think (Broken Minds Thriller #1)

⇒Can Bryce handle his high-pressure job and his high-pressure life?⇐


Author: Lee Maguire

(3.71 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Published October 21, 2018by TCK Publishing

Format: Paperback

Pages: 314 (Paperback)

#Closerthanyouthink


What happens when a psychologist is stalked? Does he or she react differently than a member of the gen pop would? Bryce Davison shows us that, in fact, they would. Or, at least, he did. Threatening emails, cryptic notes, and obvious home invasions seem to have only a momentary effect on our guy. Then it’s business as usual – conquering the mental challenges of today’s youth. He’s a machine.

OK, let me pause for a moment and say that whenever I am reviewing a book, I am honest. If I love it, I try to convey that without gushing. If it was just OK, I point out the good and bad. And if it wasn’t good, I point out that it just wasn’t the book for me. This especially goes for books that have been sent to me for review. I’m never going to say that a book is good just because I got it for free. Never, ever, ever. But constructive criticism is… well, constructive.

A simple, one-line message sent a shiver through me: Closer than you think.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Meet Bryce Davison, a gifted psychologist who can heal any troubled mind-except his own. You see, Bryce’s life is falling apart. His marriage is crumbling. His insomnia brings only half-sleep and troubled dreams-visions of dark and buried memories he’d rather forget or ignore completely. And the new female patient in his psych ward just might be more trouble than he’s able to cope with… and now he has a stalker. Somebody’s been watching Bryce for a long time. Somebody who knows his life inside and out-his fears, his regrets, his greatest longings and deepest despairs. Somebody with access to his most private places-his workplace, his home, his family…anywhere Bryce might have felt safe. They do their dirty work in the shadows… and they want Bryce Davison dead. So Bryce has got to get his life together. To save his patients. To save his family. To save his marriage…and his life. Because no matter how close Bryce gets to the deadly truth, the enigmatic stalker is always closer than he thinks.


Closer Than You Think was just OK. It took me a LONG time to make it through this book. Not totally the book’s fault; but it’s kind of repetitive, so that makes it easy to set down arbitrarily. The story’s premise was promising: a straight-laced, good guy pestered by a malicious mystery stalker who slowly ramps up the threat level. Captivating, right? Meh. I wanted to be sucked into the action, to feel the escalating drama, to be pushed into a proverbial corner by this secretive stalker. But the highs and lows of this book didn’t allow it. And in the end, it just felt… clinical.

…an olfactory memory stirred deep inside, teasing me. It was a peculiar sensation, like having someone’s name on the tip of your tongue.

It was also difficult to connect Bryce’s underlying backstory to the current action. Is that what makes him a good psychologist? A survivor? A victim? It’s unclear. I just ended up feeling sorry for the guy and thinking a little less of him as a hero, if I’m being honest.

Good points: Even though the antagonist was entirely predictable, there’s a perfect little twist added in that I applaud the author for. A good twist always makes mystery/thrillers rate a little higher! Another plus point is for writing in a pet that is totally believable. Max doesn’t have super powers, isn’t dynamically intelligent, or brutally vicious. She’s just a dog, but her role in the story is just as important as any of the human characters (and at least she has a different voice). Too harsh? Maybe.

To sleep, perchance to dream. Or to slip deeper into the nightmare.

Readers should be aware of some intense triggers including suicide, domestic abuse, rape, assault. The book treats these subjects delicately, but sensitive readers should be aware.

As I always say, writing a book is not an easy task. It’s a very personal process, and anyone who manages to pull it off, kudos to you! Here’s my advice to readers, try the indie authors. Pick up the paperbacks distributed by pub houses you’ve never heard of before. Explore new voices. Give debut authors a chance. You never know when you will find a favorite among them, and then you will be able to lend them support and help them develop their craft. And isn’t that what we, as readers, really want – more books to read?


Lee Maguire has practiced as a psychotherapist, behavioral health consultant, and taught master’s and doctoral level psychology. A focus of his practice was clinical hypnosis. Lee resides in central Pennsylvania with his wife and their basset hound.


The Bone Farm (and some series spotlights)

⇒This week I review Dean Koontz’s The Bone Farm and shine a spotlight on some of the other book series I’m addicted to.⇐


Author: Dean Koontz

(3.76 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Published April 25, 2018by Brilliance Audio

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers

Pages: 100

#TheBoneFarm #JaneHawk


Let me say first that if you are looking for a series to get invested in, Dean Koontz has some wonderful, easy reads that will keep you on a series train for a nice, pleasant (tense, suspenseful, thrilling, sometimes scary) ride. The Bone Farm is book #0.5 (a case file that precedes the events of the Jane Hawk series), and is every bit as engaging as its older, bigger siblings. But if death-defying females aren’t your thing (hmm, who are you?), then you could try any of Koontz’s other appealing series: Odd Thomas, 9 books that will have you seeing death in a whole new light; Frankenstein, a new look at an old monster in 6 books; or Moonlight Bay, 3 books (2 pub & 1 on the way) that will test if you can survive the darkness of night. I’ve read all of Odd Thomas (love, love, love) and Moonlight Bay (well, not book 3 because it isn’t out yet (and may actually never happen). And I read Prodigal Son of his Frankenstein series last year (sooooo good). Dean Koontz has yet to disappoint me.

But let me back up a little and give you the Goodreads blurb on The Bone Farm:

Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the “Mother Hater.” He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them. Katherine is missing, but she’s not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer’s mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is – will they both get out alive?

This novella is presented as a case file which only hypes me up that there will be more of these – oh book gods, please don’t fail us on this one. The bad guy is bat$&!# cuckoo, Jane is smart and ruthless, there’s a controlling mother, and an old creepy farm house – I’m here for ALL of it!!!! I almost wrote a spoiler right there because I got excited, but stopped myself right in time. Y’all lucked out. But just know, it gets twisty and good!

The Bone Farm is part of the Jane Hawk series, which includes 6 other books to date. The series features a strong heroine in an all-out battle against a new world order. The books are suspenseful, thrilling, and addictive. In a word, readthem. (I know, I know. Just do it.)


So since we’re talking about series, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the other series that I have followed unfailingly over the years. Most of them are in my preferred genre of mystery/thrillers, but there are a few deviants in the bunch. And you might be surprised by what you won’t find on my list: namely, Harry Potter. (No shade! I just haven’t read them!)

Pendergast Series

One of my longest-standing series, I got hooked on Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s series featuring the enigmatic Aloysius X.L. Pendergast from the very first book, Relic (read the book, skip the movie) – even though he was only a supporting character way back then. The authors obviously saw something in him and took off running with his story, and it has been a favorite ever since.


Stephanie Plum Series

Many readers will own up to the fact that they have at least one numbered (or alphabetical) series on their reading list. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is mine. She just released book #25 last year and Twisted Twenty-Six is expected in November 2019. These books are cozy crime fiction with hilarious characters that become as familiar as your own family members. I don’t care if this series goes to 200, I am never not going to read a Stephanie Plum book. And oh, by the way, #teamRanger.


Jack Reacher Series

Please, please, please do me a favor and tell me that you did not watch the movies that were supposed to depict this character. And if you did, just forget all that you saw. This Jack Reacher – The REAL Jack Reacher (yes, he’s real to me) – is bigger than life and yet can disappear at a moment’s notice (just thought about that – Sasquatch tendencies? Hmmm…). He is such a fascinating personality with such an amazing skill set (think Taken, but with a brilliant, powerful, Matrix-like Army drifter). Reacher is BIG and BRAWNY, but he is not beautiful. He’s a brawler that doesn’t want to fight unless he has to. And then he’s deadly.


Crazy Rich Asians is a new series for me. I only started reading it because I saw that the movie was releasing soon and I happened to find the first book on the shelf at my neighborhood Goodwill store (where I buy most of my books). After I read it, I went back and found the other two there as well (I have some very generous, good-taste readers in my area, apparently)! I love the humor of this series, as well as the way they sneak social commentary into the text without being preachy or judgy. (It’s a word!)


OTHER SERIES I LOVE:

4MK Thriller series by J.D. Barker

(The 3rd book may release in 2019 – fingers crossed)

Illuminae Files series by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

(I’ve reviewed all of these and I wish it wasn’t over!)

Archie Seridan & Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain

(A sadistic female serial killer. Nuff said.)

Court series by Sarah J. Maas

(YA romance with faeries. Yep.)

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

(Seriously, these are as good as – or even better than – the HBO show)

So if you’re a dedicated series reader, stick with it because series = goals! And if you haven’t found a series you love yet, keep looking – there’s a perfect succession of books out there just waiting to be discovered. Happy Reading!


The 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club #18)

⇒New Release Review: The 18th release in the Women’s Murder Club series has its share of heroes and monsters and the women work together to solve the most gruesome of murders.⇐


Authors: James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Published April 29, 2019by Little Brown & Company (Hachette Audio)

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

#18thAbduction #WomensMurderClub


A lot of people have a lot to say about how James Patterson writes books, but when you find a good series you stick with it. I’ve found such a series in The Women’s Murder Club, and The 18th Abduction hasn’t swayed me from that decision.

While reliably clever crime fiction and smart procedurals will always be a big draw for me, this book also has another great attraction: strong female leads. The Club is packed with clever thinkers, strategic go-getters, and passionate right-the-wrongers. And there’s enough variety between these four women and their partners to keep the interest level for their stories high enough for at least 18 more book releases.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Three female schoolteachers go missing in San Francisco, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is on the case-which quickly escalates from missing person to murder.Under pressure at work, Lindsay needs support at home. But her husband Joe is drawn into an encounter with a woman who’s seen a ghost–a notorious war criminal from her Eastern European home country, walking the streets of San Francisco.As Lindsay digs deeper, with help from intrepid journalist Cindy Thomas, there are revelations about the victims. The implications are shocking. And when Joe’s mystery informant disappears, joining the ranks of missing women in grave danger, all evidence points to a sordid international crime operation. It will take the combined skills of Lindsay, Joe, and the entire Women’s Murder Club to protect their city, and themselves, from a monster.


One thing that’s different about this addition of The Murder Club series is that the story line lacks most of the Murder Club members. Sure, they’re all mentioned and enter scenes cameo-style, but the events of this book mainly involve Lindsay, her husband Joe, and her partner Rich. At first I missed the constant back-and-forth between all the ladies that makes for such colorful action (narrator January LaVoy does such a great job of bringing each of them to life). However, once the story gets established, it doesn’t suffer from their absence at all.

This crime-riddled mystery is based five years in the past, so it doesn’t follow chronologically from the events in book #17. We are introduced to Anna – a spirited informant who drags Joe into tracking a tyrant whose war crimes have followed him into his sanctuary in the US. As Joe struggles to toe the line and cut red tape, Lindsay has a more “balls to the wall” approach in tracking the perpetrator of a triple abduction in the city. When the threads of these crimes tie together, the couple becomes an untouchable team.

If you are a long-time reader of this series, don’t skip The 18th Abduction. It is gritty, graphic, and tragic, but the buildup and twists make the ride truly worth the read. And even though we don’t get the full influence of all the women in this particular story, what we do get is an important account of strength and resilience in the face of horrible atrocities. And though a lot of it is hard to read (or hear), the knowledge is worth the trauma.

Readers should be aware of some intense triggers including rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and genocide. The book includes graphic descriptions of these acts, so sensitive readers should be aware.

Lovers of the series will be happy to know that we won’t have to wait a year for the next book. The 19th Christmas will be released on October 7th of 2019 and I, for one, can’t wait to learn what fresh hell Patterson and Paetro will drag us through just in time for the holidays!


James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Maxine Paetro is an American author who has been published since 1979. Paetro has collaborated with best-selling author James Patterson on the Women’s Murder Club novel series and standalone novels.


April ARCs Spotlight

⇒Shining a spotlight on just a few book requests I’ve received in 2019!⇐

When I started That New Book Smell over a year ago, one thing I didn’t count on is the amount of review requests I would receive. At first, I really did try to respond to each and every person/publisher that contacted me, I soon found that it was overwhelming. And while I am extremely flattered that authors would value my opinions about their valuable works, it would be an insurmountable task to read every book requested of me.

So, I thought it would be good to at least shine a spotlight on some of the books that have landed in my inbox. This does not mean that I will never give these books a full review, it just means that these are a few that have caught my interest and I think they deserve more exposure and more readers!


Fate Came Calling

Author: Kurt Bryan

Nonfiction / Biography / Adventure

Warren Vest was unexpectedly chosen to transport a new species of animal to a continent on the other side of the world. His remarkable journey led to a series of events that altered the course of his life from farming to becoming an incredible pilot and airline executive.

Details: 378 pgs; Published March 21, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

fatecamecalling.com #fatecamecalling #AprilARCs


Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick

Author: William Harris

Science-Fiction

A science mission to investigate the planet Sworld goes wrong and the crew are marooned with no way to get home. As they explore their new home, they meet new species, discover a sentient forest that reveals a quest, and ultimately face off against the Gliders – an ancient race who have turned to violence and aggression.

Details: 458 pgs; Published date: May 3, 2019 by Chandra Press (Available on Amazon)

#Sworld #AprilARCs Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick


A Perfect Lie

Author: L. R. Jones

Mystery / Thriller

I am Hailey Anne Monroe. I’m twenty-eight years old. An artist, who found her muse on the canvas because I wasn’t allowed to have friends or even keep a journal. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m that Hailey Anne Monroe, daughter to Thomas Frank Monroe, the man who was a half-percentage point from becoming President of the United States. If you were able to ask him, he’d probably tell you that I was the half point. But you can’t ask him, and he can’t tell you. He’s dead. They’re all dead and now I can speak.

Details: Publish date: May 14, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#theperfectlie #AprilARCs


Coda

Author: Keith Knapp

Horror

After a devastating earthquake hits Los Angeles, a group of survivors find themselves whisked away to a place known only as The Town. It is there that they will face their inner-most demons and relics of the past as they try to find a way out and back to reality. But an evil presence awaits them there. It knows their fears, their sins and their lies and will do anything to keep them right where they are.

Details: 426 pgs; Published March 13, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#Coda #AprilARCs Coda on Goodreads


Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza

Author: Kitty Felde

Middle Grade Mystery

Legend has it anyone who sees the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill will be cursed with bad luck. 10-year-old Fina Medoza just saw it. And the last thing her family needs right now is more bad luck… The only way for Fina to save her family from future “cat”astrophe? She must solve the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill.

Details: 182 pgs; Published February 28, 2019 by Black Rose Writing

#Welcometowashingtonfinamendoza #AprilARCs Website


Whether you’re a reader, a blogger, or both, I encourage you to explore books published by independent publishers. I know that books by established authors and popular publishing houses may feel new and shiny, but there are some amazing gems to be found in the indie world (and, apparently, right in my inbox)!


Ghost Busting Mystery (Shady Hoosier Detective Series, Book 1)

⇒Senior super sleuths tackle a haunting local mystery – with hilarious results! ⇐

**Many thanks to Hot Pants Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Daisy Pettles

(4.51 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: August 16, 2018, by Hot Pants Press

Pages: 244 (paperback)

#GhostBustingMystery


We police the living, not the dead. If you’re being pestered by dead people, you’re on your own. Your tax dollars don’t cover that.

Boots Gibson

If you are plugged in at all, you automatically know the answer to the question, “Who ya gonna call?” But in this case, if you answer “Ghostbusters!”, you’d be dead wrong.

Knobby Waters, Indiana has a poltergeist problem that the local sheriff isn’t equipped to handle. Enter Ruby Jane and Lavinia, two senior detectives with the Harry Shades Detective Agency. (And by “senior”, I don’t mean “experienced”!) RJ and Veenie are determined to put the kibosh on any otherworldly antics in Pawpaw County, but they’ll need help from a whole host of uncanny characters to ultimately unveil this mystery.


Here’s a portion of the Goodreads book summary… When Dode Schneider, rattle-brained Indiana farmer, insists the abandoned Wyatt mansion is haunted by ghosts with big butts who dance in the apple orchard, Pawpaw County Sheriff Boots Gibson happily off-loads the crazy complaint to Ruby Jane Waskom and Veenie Goens, senior sleuths in training with the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency. Ruby Jane and Veenie, lifelong gal pals, aren’t afraid of the haunted Wyatt mansion, built by a con artist banker who rowed out of town on the flood waters of 1919, taking the town’s assets with him. The senior crime-cracking duo set out in their smoke-belching 1960 Impala to uncover the truth behind the century-old haunting legend only to find surprise evidence of long ago murder and mayhem. Along the way, Veenie and Ruby Jane chase down a missing drunk wiener dog, earn a lifetime supply of mystery meat sandwiches from Pokey’s Tavern, recover a stolen Harley, and uncover the startling truth about a long cursed buried treasure.

I’d seen The Exorcist. No way I wanted my head to spin around. My arthritis was bad enough without some big-butted demon twisting on my neck.

RJ Waskom

April has become a bit of an ARC-reading month, unintentionally. I didn’t set out to tackle a bunch of them this month, there was no specific challenge goal I was trying to reach, but it just so happened that the ARC-review stars aligned and April became that month.

And while it’s obvious after a few chapters into each of them that they all won’t turn out to be winners, I could tell almost instantly that Ghost Busting Mystery would be one that I enjoyed. And I was right!

Squeal Daddy says you were popping wheelies out by the covered bridge. He wrote you up in his police blotter section.

Junior

RJ and Veenie’s antics had me LOL’ing for real, like out loud, in public! Yes, I got a few strange looks, but it was totally worth it. If a book can make you do that, then read more just like that one!

Read this book if you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series – you will find the characterizations familiar, but definitely not derivative. Read it if you enjoy cozy mysteries full of the hilarious and unpredictable. And then, if you enjoy it, pick up the Shady Hoosier Detective Series books 2 (Baby Daddy Mystery) and 3 (Chickenlandia Mystery), because I certainly plan to!


Daisy Pettles

Daisy Pettles is the pen name of Vicky Phillips, born in Bedford, Indiana and raised in the tiny farming community of Medora. As a child, she was fed a steady diet of books, pies, and Bible stories. A world traveler, she has raced camels in Egypt and eaten Kentucky Fried Chicken with communists in Shanghai. She was a therapist before becoming an entrepreneur and award-winning writer. (-bio adapted from the book cover)


Little Darlings

⇒”Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw… she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.”⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Melanie Golding

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Expected Publication Date: April 30, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books

Pages: 315 (Kindle version)

#LittleDarlings


She’ll have to put them in the water, if she wants her own babies back … Right under the water. Hold ’em down.

Fairy tales. As children, we love them. They’re the stories of magic and happy endings. Sometimes they can be a little twisted, but we love them for their power to convey simple messages in otherworldly ways. As an adult, I learned that most of the fairy tales I heard as a child were not how they were originally written. They were dark, scary, and didn’t always have a happy ending. And I love them!

Right now my podcast subscriptions are filled with those same types of dark stories. Podcasts like Lore and Tales entertain us with the scary side of folklore; and just like them, Little Darlings will have you guessing about what is real and what is imagined.


Here’s a portion of the book summary…. Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own… creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley- to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

A book of scary stories about twins, for a woman who’s just had twins? How inappropriate can you get?

Let me say that identical twins are creepy enough all on their own. Add in a stinky old river lady, an ancient book of unsettling tales, and a disinterested police force, and you have great ingredients for a harrowing mystery. And in Little Darlings, Golding keeps you guessing from the maternity ward to the psych ward.

The characters are unreliable; yes, nearly all of them. The story development is well-paced – going to from a banal baby birth to a creepy child abduction in short order, building from there all the way up to possible infanticide.

There was a darkness to this, something unknown, the tang of evil.

Soon to be a motion picture, I can guess that the imagery on screen will be as haunting as it is on the page: a traumatized new mom, infant twins that just may be something a little less than human, and more life and death in one town’s rivers than should legally be allowed.

Read his book if you love folklore that crosses the line into creepy. Read it if your favorite Disney characters aren’t the princesses, but the witches. Read it if you get excited just by seeing the word “changelings”. And read it if you want to see what magic one debut novel author can make with one dark little fairy tale.


Melanie Golding

Melanie Golding grew up in a village in Leicestershire. She has been employed in may occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. In 2016, she graduated from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction. Little Darlings is her first novel.