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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!


Featured

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.


Featured

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.


Restoration Heights

⇒He was the last person to see her alive and he has to find out what happened to her, but why doesn’t anyone else seem to care? ⇐

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


Author: Wil Medearis

(3.44 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Published January 22, 2019, by Harlequin Enterprises / Hanover Square Press

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

#RestorationHeights


Because Restoration Heights had a bottomless appetite… [it] craved, finally, a murder, if not hers then yours, anyone, a body to consecrate the ground.


I have visited New York as a tourist: wide-eyed, with a camera, trying to see everything, eat everything, and learn everything that a born-and-raised southerner should know about the Big Apple (including that it’s really lame to still call it the Big Apple). Although I left NY generally unimpressed and wondering what all the hype is about – we have great Italian restaurants in Atlanta too! – I do respect the energy of that city and of the people determined to survive there.

Main character, Reddick’s, mysterious run-in with a female stranger and how distinctly that one night changes his life and perception is one of those “New York minutes” that will drag you – willingly – into the depths of a city and lifestyle the travel agent wouldn’t dare include on the brochure.

Here’s the blurb (courtesy of Goodreads): Reddick, a young, white artist, lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically black Broooklyn neighborhood besieged by gentrification. He makes rent as an art handler hanging expensive works for Manhattan’s one percent, and spends his free time playing basketball at the local Y rather than putting energy into his stagnating career. He is also the last person to see Hannah before she disappears. When Hannah’s fiance, scion to an old-money Upper East Side family, refuses to call the police, Reddick sets out to learn for himself what happened to her. The search gives him a sense of purpose pulling him through a dramatic cross section of the city he never knew existed. The truth of Hannah’s fate is buried at the heart of a many-layered mystery that, in its unraveling, shakes Reddick’s convictions and lays bare the complicated machinations of money and power that connect the magisterial town houses of the Upper Eat Side to the unassuming brownstones of Bed-Stuy.


The truth exists, but your ability to perceive it depends upon the assumptions you begin with.

I am being totally honest when I say that this book surprised me. Frankly, I didn’t expect it to be good. That was just my first impression, “Ugh, another book about a missing girl in New York. Blah blah, blah.” Thank you for proving me wrong, Wil Medearis!

Instead of the same-old same-old, I was treated to an evenly-paced mystery that stealthily wraps commentary about gentrification, racial bias, and inexcusable economic gaps around a thrilling plot that is not a bit cookie-cutter.

The story is headlined by a likable, imperfect, and complex protagonist whose ping-ponging grit and naivete equally made me cheer and cringe throughout. And this, dear “other authors”, is how you make a character who, in general, has absolutely nothing in common with me personally, relatable in a more personal way. Take notes.

…if I didn’t think this was important that a life was at stake, I wouldn’t be here right now.

I also noticed that Wil Medearis can really write! OK, see this as a blatant generalization, but often male authors’ prose lacks poetry! There is no true rhythm to it – no ebb and flow. They state facts and describe action, but there’s often no scenery, no scene-setting, and no reference to the “emotions” of the space around the characters’ actions.

Not so with Mr. Medearis. And who would actually expect poetry in a novel based in Bed-Stuy? But check out this short excerpt – this is exactly how an artist would view his city:

He put his coat on and left. The afternoon was already darkening, the day spent before he could use it. The sky and the hardened snow were an identical humming lavender, the townhouse windows seeped orange like cracks in the shell of winter.

Just that one sentence makes my little reader’s heart all kinds of happy!

There was meaning in the contours, the outlines a unity of shape and intent, facts that could be shimmied into being by proximity, by the tug of two-dimensional gravity. If he could just get the shapes right he could find her.

Thank you, Wil Medearis, for writing this book, for making it a captivating read, for not being preachy while you taught me about gentrification, and for naming your main character Reddick (enough Jacks and Maxs and Duncans, thank you). And for giving me a story that I can both rate and recommend highly to all of my reader friends and family.


Preview this book here: Restoration Heights (courtesy of Google Books)

Wil Medearis

Wil Medearis holds an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. His artwork has been featured in galleries in Richmond, Philadelphia and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He has worked as an adjunct professor, tended bar at a country club, refinished furniture for an antiques dealer and hung art inside the homes of some of the wealthiest art collectors in Manhattan. Restoration Heights is his first novel. –Bio from Google Books


The Clockmaker’s Daughter

⇒A story spoken with multiple voices across the centuries that simultaneously warms your heart and freezes your bones. ⇐


Author: Kate Morton

(3.80 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery

Format: Audiobook

Published October 9, 2018, by Atria Books (Bolinda Audio)

Pages: 485 (Hardcover) ; Audio: 14 discs (17:03 hrs)

#TheClockmakersDaughter #ClockmakersDaughter


Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favoured memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. 


I have other hobbies besides reading. GASP! What?! No, I really do. One of them just happens to be putting puzzles together. I like the challenge, the repetitive motions, the feeling of satisfied accomplishment once it’s completed. A challenging puzzle soothes my anxiety and clears my headspace.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is like a 485-page puzzle. It has characters coming at you from the left and right – from different centuries, in fact – and more than one mystery needs to made clear before the book can successfully end. It is a challenge. But if you’re up for it, Kate Morton rewards you with a rich story and a heady feeling of accomplishment once you’re done. Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?


…the truth depends on who it is that’s telling the story.

There are a lot of moving parts to this book; the timeline jumps around from the 19th century to the 21st. Plus, it is told from multiple perspectives and in first and third person depending on whose side of the story you’re exploring in each chapter. That’s a lot to keep track of.

Reading a book that has a large cast and an equally large timeline can be a daunting task. An author can either do it successfully or botch it up miserably. Botching it isn’t hard to do, but getting it right is infinitely harder. Morton got it right. It is a puzzle, make no mistake, but in the end, the pieces fit so well together that you have to just sit back and appreciate the symmetry.

I think it would be a mistake (and terribly confusing) to discuss all the characters and their motivations here – plus, it would take up too much of your time because there are a lot of them. A lot. But the main protagonists are worth a mention: Elodie, who is an archivist in London, discovers the sketch of Birchwood Manor – the house that becomes a character all unto itself – and goes in search of the answers to why that house seems so familiar to her. Elodie, besides having an annoying name, is like a dog with a bone – she just won’t let it go, and that type of personality always makes for a good mystery-seeker.

Edward Radcliffe also deserves a mention because he’s definitely a linchpin to all the happenings. He’s passionate and headstrong, a character to be envied and pitied all at the same time. It is because of Edward that the story has as many players as it does, and because of him, too, that it is equally tragic and beautiful.

And now we come to Birdie Bell, the actual Clockmaker’s Daughter for whom the book is named. It is her part of the story that Morton chooses to relay in first person. It is her point of view that looms over several of the other characters’ tales. She is the one who knows the most because she has seen the most, but she still does not know everything – there are mysteries waiting to be revealed to her as well.

One generation passes to the next a suitcase filled with jumbled jigsaw pieces from countless puzzles collected over time and says, “See what you can make out of these.

So I’ve told you that this book is long, it has a huge cast of characters, and that it jumps around in time. So, why should you read it? Read it because it’s a love story. The deepest kind of love. The kind that takes over your whole life and ends up affecting everyone around you. Without Edward’s falling in love, there would have been no story.

You should also read it because it’s not just a love story. It’s a story of war and loss. Survival and fortitude. Music and artistry. Abuse and neglect that is conquered by strong wills and lively spirits. Good and evil. Plus, there are ghosts and fairies, magic, demons, treasure-hunters and princesses. No, really. I’m not kidding. It’s all in there!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a well-written book, with rich imagery and masterfully fleshed-out characters that will each draw you into their stories as easily as picking up one more piece to place into a puzzle.

Did I have questions at the end? Yes. Did I have to go back and re-read (replay) some parts? Yes. Was it worth it? Oh, yes. This wasn’t my first Kate Morton book, but so far it is her most memorable.


Kate Morton

Kate Morton is the author of five novels, all of which have been New York Times bestsellers, Sunday Times bestsellers, and #1 bestsellers around the world. Kate’s books are published in 42 countries, in 34 languages. – Bio adapted from katemorton.com


An Anonymous Girl

⇒Knowing whom you can trust is a valuable life skill – because “uncertainty is an excruciating state in which to exist.” ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the authors for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Authors: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

(4.15 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Published January 8, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 375 (Hardcover)

#AnAnonymousGirl


Every lifetime contains pivot points — sometimes flukes of destiny, sometimes seemingly preordained — that shape and eventually cement one’s path.


You’ve probably heard of the philosophy of eating your dessert first. The premise behind that is that life is unpredictable, so make sure you’re enjoying as much of it as you can, while you can. And while I certainly agree with that idea, I have never really put it into practice with my dinner.

However, as a younger person, I did employ that philosophy in my reading. If I was reading a book that was particularly suspenseful or scary, I would skip to the end of the chapter or to the end of the book to make sure that my beloved characters survived whatever current crisis the author was subjecting them to. I had no qualms with “skipping ahead” in my books or even skipping entire chapters if the writing started to drag. It never came back to haunt me and I never felt like I missed out.

So why is it that, as an adult, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt if I even consider not finishing a book or skipping ahead in it if it starts to become dull or disengaging? I’m not sure why I imagine the book police coming for me if I don’t force myself to slog through even the worst plots and excruciatingly banal writing styles in order to say that I, in fact, did read the whole book.

I should take advice from my younger self and erase the guilt because this was a book that I think I could have enjoyed more if I had skipped ahead.

Sometimes an impulsive decision can change the course of your life.

I was convinced that An Anonymous Girl was going to be a great book because of this line in the summary: “Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.” You know what that means to me? Secrets!!! And who doesn’t love a good mystery book involving a secret psychological study? It guarantees that somebody is going to be crazy – usually, the one hosting the study – and that some young innocent is going to find themselves in danger pretty quickly. True and true.

Here’s the Goodreads summary to get you acquainted with the story:
“When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Sometimes a test is so small and quiet you don’t even notice it’s a test.

So I was set up to love this book, I was all set to love it, but after I got about 40% into it, I knew that it wouldn’t be a 5-star read for me. That was disappointing for me – especially after seeing so many 5-star reviews for it. And although I never let other readers’ reviews sway my own opinions, I wonder what the 5-star raters interpreted in this book that was the exact opposite from what I experienced while reading it.

Let’s look at the good first: The book is engaging. The premise immediately draws you in, and almost from the first chapter you’re off and running with Jess, the main character, headlong into uncertainty and sketchy adventures. Readers who enjoy this book will appreciate the underlying current of danger at every turn, and the authors did a good job with that sense of impending danger.

Another good: At first the character of Dr. Lydia Shields is masterfully creepy and commanding. Readers get the sense that she is powerful and manipulative – both of which are valid assumptions made stronger by the authors’ use of dual perspectives (Jess’s and Dr. Shields’) to control the tone of the story and build it to its ultimate denouement.

Sometimes a therapist who coaxes out all of your secrets is holding the biggest one in the room.

OK, now on to the bad – or should I say instead, what could have made the book better for me. I didn’t feel connected to any of the main characters. Jess seems too gullible and moon-eyed over the specter of Dr. Shields, without sufficient evidence as to why she should be so enamored.

Plus, maybe it’s just part of my innately distrustful personality, but almost immediately my hackles were raised at how much information Jess gives away so freely within the study. Hasn’t she ever heard of holding something back?! I blame her friends because it seems like she just needs someone to talk to other than Leo, her dog.

Another that felt like it was missing was that I needed the book to be a little more layered. We were exposed only to the basic information about each character and then only given additional information that related only to the action at hand.Was Jess really isolated? Other than her family did she only have 1 or 2 other friends? Did she not socialize with any of her coworkers? Neighbors? Former classmates? We’ll never know because none of those relationships was ever explored. And the second-tier characters that are included are treated more like pawns instead of people with personalities and backstories.

A secret is only a secret if one person holds it.

But the main point that could have made this book a bit more thrilling for me is that Dr. Shields should have remained more of a mystery for a longer period of time. The authors did a great job initially of setting her up to be enigmatic and influential. However, once we “see” who she is, her mystery-quotient is diminished significantly and she just appears more desperate instead of cunning. Dr. Shields as “The Great and Powerful Oz”.

Although I do like how readers are not sure about whether or not to trust Thomas – without spoiling anything – I can say that the authors could have used his character to much better advantage, especially at the end.

Self-preservation is a powerful motivator, more reliably so than money or empathy or love.

The best parts of An Anonymous Girl are the opening and closing chapters. And although the middle is necessary for the plot and all the pertinent details, I felt best served by the first and last.

I have The Wife Between Us by these same authors as a TBR waiting on my bookshelf, but after reading An Anonymous Girl, that book can wait a while longer.

Greer & Sarah

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are the co-authors of the blockbuster New York Times bestseller, THE WIFE BETWEEN US, as well as just-released, AN ANONYMOUS GIRL.

-Bio adapted from Goodreads