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)


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.

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.


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.


Sharp Objects

⇒When you shake the family tree and more than a few rotten apples fall out.⇐


Author: Gillian Flynn

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Psychological Thriller

Published 2006by Broadway Paperbacks

Format: Paperback

Pages: 254 (Paperback)

#SharpObjects


I like checking days off a calendar — 151 days crossed and nothing truly horrible has happened. 152 and the world isn’t ruined. 153 and I haven’t destroyed anyone.


About one fourth of the way into this book, I had parts of my review already written. In my head, it was complimentary and mostly lighthearted. Then I kept reading.

While I knew Sharp Objects would be telling a dark story (hellooo, murder), I wasn’t prepared for this next-to-hell level of depravity. Ummm, Gillian, Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects? Your therapist is working overtime, sweetie. But I’m glad for it because this book was terribly fantastic.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.


I’m almost afraid to write this review because I don’t want to give anything away. This is when I could use a little of Flynn’s skill because she gives NOTHING away. Reading Sharp Objects is like lifting off the top of the first Matryoshka doll and finding a rotten egg in there instead of another doll. And then a cockroach inside the egg. And then Ebola inside of the cockroach. Not exaggerating. This story is all kinds of messed up.

They always call depression the blues… Depression to me is urine yellow. Washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.

Our first-person perspective comes from Camille Preaker, who pretty much proves she’s unreliable and dangerously flawed before we’ve even made it out of the first chapter. But this is the ticket we paid for, so buckle up ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. As the layers of Camille’s past are peeled away during her visit home to Wind Gap, Missouri, the murders of two young girls almost take a back seat to Camille’s personal family drama. Who are these weirdly damaged people?! Once you meet her mom, stepdad, and half-sister, you start to understand why Camille did a stint in the psych ward; you really can’t blame her. After reading this book, I’m thinking that checking out the Talkspace app may not be such a bad idea.

How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky? Anything could happen.

So the book’s subject and events are dark, but I didn’t find it gloomy or depressing. Flynn wraps up all the impending danger and distress like a little present and then stands back like a sinister villain to watch us unwrap it. It’s like watching Black Mirror on Netflix when you think you know what’s going on, but then all of a sudden you’re like, “Wait, what the heck happened just now?!” Same feeling.

Readers of Gone Girl will love Sharp Objects – if they haven’t already read it (I know I’m behind the crowd on this one). It’s suspenseful, gritty, mysterious, and strange. There are almost too many triggers to list for sensitive readers, and if I did try to list them, some might spoil the cleverly crafted plot development.

There isn’t much pretty or clean about it, but it is, in fact, a masterpiece. From the first few paragraphs, I knew Flynn was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I love her now for that.

To refuse has so many more consequences than submitting.

Camille’s family portrait should be the top-right-corner graphic on the Wikipedia page for “dysfunctional”. (Is dysfunction-in-denial an entry?) As this book ended, I wanted to go hug my family and tell them thank you for always being good to me even if every single one of them is cuckoo-crazy! Oh, and I also kept touching my teeth with my tongue too. Read it, you’ll get it then.


Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

⇒And eventually there is no one left in the world except people who don’t look at each other people’s faces… and these people are all special people like me.⇐


Author: Mark Haddon

(3.87 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Paperback

Published July 31, 2003by Vintage Books

Pages: 226 (Paperback)

#CuriousIncident


This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them.


As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Please know that I have this advice in mind when I evaluate this book. I am not a patient person. I know this about myself; I own it. There are certain pet peeves I have that will immediately set me off. Becoming a parent cooled my hot temper by several hundred degrees, but impatience still lingers beneath the surface of my otherwise sunny disposition! And now I’ll pause so all my friends can write sarcastic comments refuting that last statement. I’ll wait…

OK, moving on! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was not an easy book for me to read. It was frustrating, sad, maddening, and at the same time fascinating, poetic, moving, and victorious. I have never read a book like it before, and maybe I hope to never again. Not in a bad way, but because I found it to be so eccentric that anything similar might only be seen as a copy cat.

Here is what Curious Incident is all about: “Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information…”

Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.

I left off the end of the book’s summary. I found that description on the copyright page and thought it was a perfect summary… until the last three words. Talk about a spoiler alert! I’m glad I didn’t run into that summary snippet until after I finished reading the book. In those three words is one of the best twisty plot points, and not knowing those three words going into the book makes the development of the story even better.

I haven’t done my reviews like this in a long time, but, for this book, it seems appropriate…

WHAT I LIKED: The story was entirely absorbing. You just have to know what this kid is going to do next. Christopher is quirky and unpredictable and unreliable to his core, so it’s a trippy ride to keep up with him. The humor is so subtle that it leaves you wondering if you really should be laughing (but you do anyway, and you definitely should be because it’s funny!). And finally, it’s a really fast read. Both the writing style and the under-300 page count made it possible for me to read this book in just two days, and I do not consider myself a speedy reader at all.

I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Curious Incident left me feeling like a bad person! There are people naturally gifted with patience and compassion who are brilliant at relating to and caring for relatives, students, and/or friends who are on the spectrum. That’s not me. Just reading about the way they approach life makes me frustrated and angry because of my frustration. The book is chock full of behaviors that had me screaming and groaning almost as much as Christopher did. I could not relate to him as the main character on any level, and that inability to connect made reading his story more than a little irksome.

Oh, and just one other little thing: Math! I.loathe.math. It makes me sad and confused and bitter. I see numbers in an equation and I get “brain burn”. If you enjoy math, I’m truly happy for you. No, I am, seriously. The world needs people like you because of people like me – people who despise math and wish that the whole world just worked off of words and pictures instead.

I came very close to not owning this book at all. I was browsing through books at a giant library sale and I picked up Curious Incident and glanced at the unique cover. I was about to place it back on the stack when a man beside me said, “You should buy that one. It’s good. It’s different, and weird, but it’s good.” So I bought it. And even though Christopher Boone took me on a bumpy ride through Swindon and London and back again, it was totally worth the trip.


Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English. – Bio from Goodreads


Beautiful Bad

⇒”… a beautiful marriage turns beautifully bad.”⇐

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


Author: Annie Ward

(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Psych Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Publish Date: March 5, 2019, by Park Row Books

Pages: 384 (Kindle version)

#BeautifulBad


Are you hiding something? It’s so simple. It’s so direct. It’s almost uncanny. As if someone out there knows I’m not supposed to be thinking the things I’m thinking.


One of the things that can easily ruin a suspenseful book for me is if I can figure out how the book is going to end even before I get too far into it. I’m not omniscient nor do I have any form of ESP, but sometimes plots are so cookie-cutter you can predict the conclusion long before you read the final chapter.

Thankfully, Beautiful Bad was not one of those books. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads…

Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me. Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo. From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

Ian was a damage junkie, and I was out of order in a way that got him off.

This book is ideal for lovers of suspense, drama, and twisted love triangles- it has it all, plus an underlying love story between some seriously damaged people.

It’s hard to talk about this trippy book without giving some meaty tidbits away. I refuse! I want you to have the same experience I had while reading it- picking through the landmines of drama and subterfuge that Beautiful Bad has to offer.

I adored him, as damaged as he was. I found him all the more fascinating for the chunks that had been torn out of him.

Written in a multi-perspective style that counts down to “The Day of the Killing”, readers end up jagging back and forth in time and in and out of locales foreign and domestic, including the Balkans, New York, England, and Kansas. And if the time travel and relocations don’t keep you on your toes, the messy love triangle and intense personal dramas will.

Have I said it yet? This is a good book. Almost none of its main characters are damage-free, so they’re entirely unreliable. There is no one to trust with this story, least of all the ones telling it! However, the story is only made better by all of its uncertainty.

I don’t just say whatever pops into my head. I may be glitchy, but I’m mostly in control.

Beautiful Bad is a gritty thriller that doesn’t appear that way at first. There are a few triggers that sensitive readers should be aware of: PTSD is a big one, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and miscarriage. The violence isn’t gratuitous, but there is some brutality- this ain’t a romance novel, folks.

Annie Ward, thank you for this deliciously suspenseful novel with an unpredictable ending that’s one step beyond twisted; it’s warped!


Annie Ward

During Annie’s five years in the Balkans she received a Fulbright Scholarship, taught at the University of Sofia, and script doctored eight screenplays for Nu-Image, an Israeli/American film company that produced a number of projects in Bulgaria for the SyFy Channel. She was later the recipient of an Escape to Create artist residency. –Bio adapted from Goodreads.