October #SpookyReads

⇒It may be the falling leaves, or it may be the cooler weather, but October is my favorite reading time of the year! But what if a spooky TBR just isn’t your thing?⇐

Every October (really, I start in September), I line up a stack of books for my #spookyreads list. Usually they’re a good mix of creepy mystery/thrillers with one or two true horror stories thrown in to really give me a good fright. This year, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is honestly giving me a good scare and became a “freezer book” for me more than once! (“Freezer book” – on Friends, when a book becomes too scary for Joey, he puts it in the freezer!)

But what if you’re just not that into being scared out of your wits, but still want to add books to your October TBR that will give you a little thrill and add some suspense to your reading without leaving you wimpering in a corner crying for your mommy. What? I totally did not do that – it’s just an example!

So I thought I’d chat about not one specific book today, but several that may help you celebrate the season in a less horrific way.

The most frightening monsters are the ones that exist in our minds.

MYSTERIES

A good juicy complex mystery can be a nice filler for an October TBR. It’s the element of suspense that will put you on the edge of your seat. And – if the author is good at what he/she does – the effect will be the same as reading a good horror novel: nail-biting, lip-pursing, eye-bulging, and the urge to read “just one more chapter”! Check out these great mysteries (classics and current) that are perfect whodunits for the season.


PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

I don’t know about you, but some of the creepiest books I’ve ever read are psychological thrillers. If an author can pen a tale that messes with my mind, it’s going to be hard to put down and even harder to forget. Like these…

CREEPY KIDS!

What is it about kids that can end up being so creepy? Think about it, the laughter of children echoing down a dark hallway, a lone little girl in an empty playground swinging on a squeaky swing set. OK, let me stop – I’m spooking myself! But seriously, sometimes just writing about a child with odd behavior can give you all the chills you need.

Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.

Clive Barker

SERIAL KILLERS

OK, OK, murder is one of horrific things that can happen in life so how am I OK with including this category in the not-so-scary list? Well, it all depends on how it’s written. Shout out to all the murderinos who can handle gore and a high body count better than ghosts and ghoulies!

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Sometimes the best Halloween stories are those that are written for kids. No joke, authors often weave the best tales for the younger generations – and they’re not scary enough to send you running to the freezer with the book!


Whatever reads ultimately end up filling your October reading list, I hope you find them perfect for the season and for your bookshelf. If you know of some spooky books that I should be reading, let me know. Happy not-so spooky reading!


Lock Every Door

⇒A thrilling illustration of the age-old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”⇐


Lock Every Door is my third #Julybrary book this month. I’m celebrating libraries by challenging myself to only read books either checked out or purchased from the library for a full month. I appreciate my local libraries, so I want to show a little library love in July by supporting them and reading some really good books while doing it!


Author: Riley Sager

(4.15 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery

Published July 2, 2019by Dutton Books

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 371

#LockEveryDoor #Julybrary


This place is haunted. By its past. So many bad things have happened there. So much dark history. It fills the place.

When you think of scary stories, one classic image usually comes to mind: a haunted house. Dark, solitary, two elongated windows in the front with eerie candles glowing inside. You know the one.

But in Lock Every Door, Riley Sager introduces us to a building not haunted by spectral malevolence, but by bad memories and living nightmares.

Here’s the synopsis: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

BE CAREFUL

There’s not a lot that most of us wouldn’t do for $12,000 – especially if it’s something as seemingly benign as apartment-sitting for a few weeks. Sign me up! I mean, it’s better than eating bugs, or hosting a backyard cockfight, or selling a kidney. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to my point, the lure of making easy money would have put me in the same vulnerable position as Jules finds herself within the walls of the luxurious Bartholomew.

This place isn’t kind to gentle souls. It chews them up and shoots then out.

So let’s check off all the things that make this book a great mystery/ thriller: 1. A creepy setting – check. The Bart is old and has a lot of bad juju associated with it. It’s also dark and creaky at night. 2. Creepy characters – check. Everyone at the Bart has secrets, and they aren’t telling. Old or young, all the inhabitants have something to hide and secrets make for a truly seductive mystery. 3. Tragic backstory – check. From Jules to the rest of the apartment-sitters, to the Bart itself, there’s enough tragedy to rival Shakespeare. And 4. Monsters! – check. Not kidding. There are gargoyles in this story. Big, scary, winged ones. Oh, and there are some smaller, more sinister monsters too.

It is indeed a strange, alternate universe I’ve stumbled into.

Sager has a knack for taking you to the brink, flipping everything around, and then yanking you back out to the brink all over again. (What exactly is a brick anyway?) Anyway, he takes you all the way there and you’ll be glad you went.


Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED.


The Paper Wasp

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

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


Author: Lauren Acampora

(3.47 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: June 11, 2019, by Grove Press

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#ThePaperWasp #PaperWasp


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The Paper Wasp is available today at the following links:


Author Tour Dates

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

Lauren Acampora

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


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 Forbidden Door (Jane Hawk, #4)

⇒Jane Hawk’s adventures continue in Book 4, The Forbidden Door. When Jane’s son’s safety is threatened, she pulls out all the stops to keep him safe.⇐


Author: Dean Koontz

Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers

(4.19 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Thriller

Format: Audiobook (CDs)

Published September 11, 2018by Bantam (Brilliance Audio)

Pages: 480 (Hardcover) ; Audible Audio (14:57)

#TheForbiddenDoor #JaneHawk


This is a world of lies and always has been. We live in a time of even greater deceptions than in centuries past.


You’ve read the books where the hero – and even the bad guy – is highly motivated to do what they do because of their love for their kids. This is that, but on steroids.

This is a gritty story with some really brutal and insane bad guys, some intensely damaged victims, and a “she-ro” who has to be really tired by now.

Not familiar with this series? Here’s a blurb of this book: She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills- and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice- Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal. But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. Jane knows there’s no underestimating their capabilities, but she must battle her way back across the country to the remote shelter where her boy is safely hidden… for now.

We’re rewriting the play, and the play is this country, the world, the future. We break Jane’s heart, we’ll also break her will.

OK, in this one, lots of people are crazy. And I don’t say that word lightly. I mean, certifiable. Book #4 has a lot going on: chases, subterfuge, tech-talk, nano bites, hand-to-hand battles, and… oh yeah, zombies. Yes, you read that correctly. Zombies.

The bad guys are worse and they seem to have even more resources. However, Jane isn’t lacking in that department either, and when the battle comes to a head with Jane’s son in the cross hairs, all her friends and supporters (those who are still alive, that is) come together to help her save yet another day.

Beware actors who can be anyone they wish to be; they are in fact no one at all, cold and empty, though they can be pied pipers to the masses.

This series feels a little different from your standard Dean Koontz fare, even though it is still action-centered, has that other-worldly element, and – oh yes – it has dogs. So if you’re a Koontz purist, this isn’t a departure by any means. And with a more satisfying “ending” than book #3, The Forbidden Door still leaves readers waiting with baited breath for Book #5, The Night Window (releasing May 14, 2019).

Readers should be aware, though, that there is gratuitous violence of several types, discussion of rape, murder, etc. Sensitive readers won’t get a reprieve until the last page. Fair warning.

Other books in the series include The Silent Corner, The Whispering Room, and The Crooked Staircase.

Dean Koontz

Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human. -Bio from Goodreads


Not Her Daughter

⇒What would make you do the unthinkable? Sarah Walker finds out in this gripping thriller that will suck you into an emotional whirlwind!⇐

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

by Rea Frey

SmellRating4.5

(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: August 21, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Thriller

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 352 pages (Paperback)

#NotHerDaughter  #NetGalley

Not Her Daughter: A NovelI had a choice to make, a bluff to call, and a girl to protect. I had no idea what to do next.

I don’t know if you believe in astrology at all. Usually, I only give it the faintest corner of my attention. But, as a designated Libra (October 13th), I found my scales woefully unbalanced and wobbling all over the place as I read this book about a kidnapper, a mother, and the grey-eyed girl that comes between them.

As a mother myself, I automatically know which side of that battle I’m supporting, right? Not necessarily. And that’s only one reason why this book had me on the edge of my seat and at the border of my morals with every chapter.

That’s what I’m going with: my intention to keep her safe. In spite of the facts, in spite of what I’ve done. Because it feels right. Being with Emma feels right.

Here’s the gist: Sarah Walker is really minding her own business, waiting for a flight, when she witnesses something that she hasn’t been able to shake: a mother being physically and verbally abusive to her young daughter. Sarah, young and successful, but childless and just recently single again, can’t seem to forget about the beautiful grey-eyed girl with the red dress and red hairbow that seemed to desperately need someone’s help. Days later, when their paths randomly cross again, Sarah knows what she has to do, but that one decision will change everything about her life forever.

Amy Townsend is tired. She has two kids, a job, and a husband who is more like a milquetoast roommate. She’s overweight, overloaded, and just over all of it. Sure she loses her temper sometimes, what tired mother with the strain of kids and career doesn’t? Sure she lashes out at life – and her obnoxious daughter – sometimes. Does that make her a bad parent? There’s just something about Emma that just pulls the anger out of her. It’s like she’s asking for it. So Amy gives it to her.

Emma just wants to play and have fun. Hey, she’s five!

Emma was the chaos, and now, in her absence, there was even more. She was like a tiny wrecking ball, knocking down everything in her path just to see how much damage she could get away with.

Not Her Daughter had me in my emotions from the very first chapter. I am constantly concerned with where my daughter is and making sure she’s safe and happy. So, it was hard for me to (1) initially connect with what Sarah wanted to do, and (2) feel any sympathy whatsoever for Emma’s parents and their collective lack of care for their daughter. While reading, I battled with questions like: As a reader how am I supposed to feel about Sarah’s intentions? What about as a parent? Or as a moral, ethical human being? And once you read this book, you may find that, like me, those questions came with three totally different answers.

As the book progressed, I found myself flip-flopping over whether or not Sarah was a hero or a villain. I settled on Antihero. There’s no way in the world her actions could be justified, and yet…

Just for the record, I never sided with Amy, Emma’s mom. She’s a nasty piece of work and I wanted to smack her with a jelly roll every time she spoke. Mean old bat.

Written in multiple POVs, across four different timelines (“before”, “during”, “after”, and “now” – all in relation to the kidnapping), and in both first and third person, Not Her Daughter could have been quite confusing if not for Frey’s careful and patient story and character development. There’s a lot of jumping around from past to near past to present to an even more present present, but trust me, you’ll get it. It flows.

I initially liked the same characters that I ended up criticizing later, and vice versa. There are no guarantees in this book, and that makes for great storytelling. If I had any reservations, it would be that a couple of strings were left hanging for me: What happens with the relationship between Sarah and her mom? In this day and age, where was any mention of video surveillance of Sarah and Emma as they shopped or stopped for gas or ate in restaurants? Isn’t that how many kidnappers get caught? And another string that I can’t really mention because it would be a spoiler, but it left me with some questions.

4.5 well-earned stars for this wonderful read that left me battling both my ethics and my morals and still coming up with question marks. What would I have done? Would I have been as brave? As stupid? I love the books that make you question life choices this way!


About the Author

IMG_2050 copy.jpgREA FREY

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Rea Frey is the author of four nonfiction books. Her debut novel, NOT HER DAUGHTER, will be released by St. Martin’s Press August 21, 2018.

When she’s not exercising, mothering, adulting, wifing, eating, or writing about herself in the third person, you can find her hard at work on her next book and ghostwriting for other people.

(Bio taken from Goodreads)



 

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The Chalk Man

by C.J. Tudor
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.85 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 9, 2018, by Crown Publishing Group (NY)

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 280

chalk manHistory itself is only ever a story, told by the ones who survive it.

Last night I had a bad dream. Yes, even adults have them at times. It left me dazed and wary – like my space had been invaded. Like I wasn’t quite safe. It was still early, around 5:30 AM, so it was quiet and dark and I just lay still for several more minutes trying to shake that ominous feeling the dream had left with me.

We’re used to them – the scary bedtime stories of boogeymen and monsters under the bed. As you grow, you become less afraid. Or, at least, that’s supposed to be the case. Right? I mean, when you’re little, vampires and goblins could easily ruin your night; but now Hollywood has made them glittery and fluffy and no longer so scary. But what if your childhood nightmares don’t quite go away?

That was the premise (sort of) for The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor. Eddie and his friends are just average American pre-teen boys riding bikes, building forts, and avoiding bullies. On the advice of an enigmatic teacher who was new in town, they began leaving codes in the form of little stick figures drawn on one another’s driveways in sidewalk chalk. The chalk men were messages to each other: meet me in the park, go to the playground, etc. These were the games of children before the events that corrupted their fun and took them – quite literally – down a horrifying path.

…I understood how things can change in an instant. All the stuff we take for granted can just be ripped away.

C.J. Tudor takes us on a thrilling ride, deftly transitioning through Eddie’s past and present to tell the secrets of his youth that resulted in one dead girl, accidents and incidents, and one well-planted accusation that would change Eddie’s future forever. We walk with him through every frightening flashback and feel his present paranoia seep through the pages as the chalk outline begin to reveal the dark story that has been living in Eddie’s subconscious for all this time.

A very well-told, well-paced, and thrilling story, The Chalk Man left me off-kilter and questioning everything at every chapter. Nothing was quite what it seemed to be. It is a great whodunit. Anytime I read a book and I waffle three or more times over who I think the ultimate antagonist is, I consider that a triumph.

This book carries with it that same feeling that I had this morning after my bad dream – that something was not-quite-right. Like the universe had tilted slightly and let something bad come in. That, even at the end of the book when “the lights are on” (so to speak), you still get that inkling at the back of your neck that something is still amiss. So, children, hold your teddy bears tight and always remember to watch for the chalk men. They will point the way.



About the Author

IRcjtudorGoodreads

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C.J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)

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Final Girls

by Riley Sager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.8 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 11, 2017, by Dutton

Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Horror

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 342

final girls“Final Girl is film-geek speak for the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie.” We were, for whatever reason, the lucky ones who survived when no one else had. Pretty girls covered in blood.

It hadn’t all started with blood and horror. It had started with six college friends on an exciting trip to Pine Cottage. There was the usual: drinking and dancing and, oh yes, a little debauchery. But by the end of the night, Quincy was alone in the darkness of the woods, bleeding and running for her life.

Quincy Carpenter survived a bloody massacre. She’d had her 15 minutes of fame for it, and she’d survived that too. Now she was all about being “normal” again, whatever that meant.
But when an unexpected visitor shows up to remind her of a past she has spent a decade trying to forget, can anything ever be normal again?

Nothing is wrong. I’m completely normal. If I believe it enough, it’ll come true.

Final Girls is a taut crime thriller about one survivor’s reluctant journey into the truth of the tragedy that she refused to let define her. She is all but forced to face the past she’d been successfully able to forget about by a surprise visit from another sole-survivor: Sam, another final girl.
When Sam infiltrates Quincy’s life and guilts her into embracing that night’s horrific events, Quincy must decide if it’s the truth or a bed of lies that’s motivating Sam’s sudden friendship.

With an unreliable narrator and increasingly suspicious circumstances in every chapter, the reader is unsure about who to trust just as much as the main character is. Everyone seems to be under suspicion just as much as no one is.
This was my first book by this author, and it was a mighty fine introduction. It will hook you and keep you guessing – and second-guessing. Apparently Hollywood agrees as the book has been picked up by Universal Pictures in conjunction with Anonymous Content and Sugar23 for a motion picture adaptation.


About the Author

Riley SagerWebsite

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Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, “Final Girls,” was a national and international bestseller that has been sold in 25 languages. A film version is being developed by Anonymous Content and Universal Pictures. His next book, “The Last Time I Lied,” will be published July 10, 2018.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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The Missing Hours

by Emma Kavanagh
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.74 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Re-Published February 27, 2018, by Kensington Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: EBook

Page Count: 320

#themissinghours #netgalley

missing hoursWe rarely know the people around us, only what they show us of themselves.

When Dr. Selena Cole mysteriously vanishes from a playground leaving her daughters stranded, DC Leah Mackay takes the case but struggles to find any clues to help solve it. Twenty hours later, Selena is found alive but has no memory of where she was or how she got back home.

…whatever filled in those missing hours, at the end of them is a mother kissing her cildren. And so everything is well. Right?

That same day, Leah’s brother, DS Finley Hale, is assigned the murder case of an associate who has been dumped unceremoniously on a mountain lane. Finn, too, finds any clues hard to come by.

What follows is a procedural whodunit with ping-ponging points of view between the brother and sister detectives who learn that more than one of the suspects in each case have crisscrossing ties to each other.

What at first appears to be just a creepy missing-persons case ends up dragging us into the shadowy world of kidnapping for ransom with each character becoming a suspect in crimes that are as much of a mystery as the perpetrators.

There are always cases that speak to you, pulling themselves out of the pile and grabbing hold of your consciousness.

Kavanagh does a great job of revealing the truth in bite-sized morsels as we read along – totally caught up in the secrets of each person we meet. However, at times it was hard to follow the characters’ awkward trains of thought as they shifted from past to present and back again in the same unbroken paragraph.

However, as any novel reader will tell you (especially connoisseurs of mysteries and thrillers), if your pulse starts to quicken as the action begins to climax, then you’ve got to give the author kudos for that. And mine did (Hint: Great “chase” scene!).

I enjoyed this book and did not find it predictable or overly familiar. Kavanagh’s placement of the Cole Group’s case files helped with that. The individual kidnapping cases kept us wondering about their relevance and about a possible next victim. The ending felt a bit unsatisfyingly abrupt – even after the surprising resolution, but it did not take away from my overall appreciation of this well-written crime fiction novel.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books


About the Author

Emma KavanaghGoodreads

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Emma K. & Kensington Books

Emma Kavanagh is the acclaimed UK bestselling author of Falling and Hidden. Born and raised in South Wales, she is a former police and military psychologist. After completing her PhD, Emma began her own consultancy business, providing training to police and military across the UK and Europe. She taught police officers and NATO personnel about the psychology of critical incidents, terrorism, body recovery and hostage negotiation. She has run around muddy fields taking part in tactical exercises, has designed live fire training events, has been a VIP under bodyguard protection and has fired more than her fair share of weapons. She is married with two small sons and considers herself incredibly privileged to get to make up stories for a living.

(Bio from Kensington Publishing Corp.)

 

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The Child Finder

by Rene Denfeld
Rating: 
(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 5th, 2017 by Harper

Genre: Fiction – Mystery/Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 274


TCF
Have you ever been lost? ❞ ❝Oh yes, she answered… Once upon a time, before I can remember.

Naomi is an investigator who has found over 30 missing and/or abducted children and she is working on locating two more. At the same time, she is also piecing together the missing parts of her own mysterious discovery in the frozen woods of Oregon.

What I Liked: 
– The underlying mystery. This was a deceptively simple story, but the “creep” factor was boosted up to triple digits. The atmosphere of the book is about as potentially terrifying as the antagonist ultimately turns out to be.
– Naomi. The main character wasn’t anything cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill, or typical. At times, you wonder if you can even trust her. But you want to stick in there with her. You want to see her succeed – not just in her job – but in her life. Plus, you get the sense that the answers to her personal mystery are locked up inside her and you want to stay around to witness when it all unfolds.
– The supporting characters. Denfeld does a great job of placing a full cast of eccentric people around our main character, and she makes us care about all of them. Q: How is that possible in a book that is less than 300 pages? A: Skilled writing.

This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.

What I Didn’t Like 
– I didn’t like the uncomfortable feeling that I felt as “Snow Girl” told her story. No spoilers, it’s just that portions were very hard to read even though much of it was left to the imagination. And, apparently, my imagination went to some very dark places. I was sickened, angry, and distraught. BUT that’s exactly how I was supposed to feel. So, yeah, I didn’t like that feeling; however, it was necessary and Denfeld did an amazing job at conveying the disturbing mood present during those parts of the book.

What I Wanted More Of: 
– I wasn’t ready for the story to end. I, like one of the characters in the book, wanted to know what happens to everyone after the mystery is solved. I want that story too. Could this possibly become the first book in a series for Denfeld? Well… she’s very enigmatic about her writing plans so we may not know that until a release date is announced. Denfeld does have a new book scheduled for release on or around October 15, 2018 called The Strawberry Palace, but that one is categorized as a romance, so it’s probably not the sequel I’m hoping for. However, I sure would love to spend more time with Naomi and her friends.

**Triggers for sensitive readers include allusions to sexual abuse and violence against children. However, Denfeld is very sensitive to these subjects and doesn’t exploit them just for the sake of a good story.

In the years since, she had discovered the sacrament of life did not demand memory. Like a leaf that drank from the morning dew, you didn’t question the morning sunrise or the sweet taste on your mouth. You just drank.


Get it here: Amazon ; Kindle ; Barnes and Noble