2017 BUZZ BOOK REVIEW: THE GIRL BEFORE By JP Delaney

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To Be Published Jan 24, 2017 by Ballantine Books

From Goodreads

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before

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I almost didn’t add the Goodreads Blurb because I think it’s misleading in a couple different ways but nothing I can really address without giving away spoilers; suffice it to say I don’t find the blurb totally accurate. Also, this might be the hardest review I’ve wrote since I started blogging as my feelings are just very mixed. There are things I really liked and some that just don’t sit well with me.

I’ll start with what worked for me. The story is told in short, quick chapters that alternate between the viewpoints of Emma and Jane. This technique worked brilliantly for keeping the pace fast and the pages turning quickly. It was like consecutive mini cliffhangers because just when I got to a certain point with Emma it switched to Jane. And let me tell you, I stayed up late Saturday as I kept telling myself I’d stop when I got to Jane’s chapter but then I’d have to keep going because Emma’s life seemed to be unraveling and I had to find out why. A big reason this was so intriguing is because Emma and her boyfriend Simon moved into the house on Folger Street a year before Jane so you’re left wondering what happened to Emma? Little by little we get to know the train-wreck that is Emma and her life of dysfunction. Jane, on the other hand, seems to be an intelligent woman who’s still grieving after a very traumatic loss in her life. She’s looking for a change of scenery, has a tight budget and along comes One Folger Street which I have to say was really too good to be true and you know how the saying goes about that!

Let me back up a bit. One Folger street is a modern, technologically advanced house built by Edward , an aloof, handsome architect with control issues. He has many, many rules for whomever rents One Folger Street such as: No pets, no children, no rugs, no photos, etc and a very lengthy contract that the renter must follow. The women find all this out after they have submitted photos of themselves and filled out long, ridiculous questionnaires riddled with inappropriate personal questions in the hopes of possibly being asked in for an interview. And this is all just to rent a house. I found it to be unbelievable that neither of the women were bothered by this, saw no red flags and were willing to go along with living like that. Especially for Jane’s character who I thought was intelligent and level-headed. The character motivations were just off for me. On another note, is Edward reminding you of anyone? (umm..Christian Gray?) I would’ve preferred a more original main character.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I could’ve kept turning the pages so fast, finishing it within a day but then feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. One thing I can say is that I really liked Jane and almost think the book could’ve went in a different direction with her and her story. I was rooting for her even though it didn’t make sense that she agreed to those terms of living and then continued staying in that house, especially after she started questioning Edward’s possible (criminal) past and his current motivations.  There were a couple twists at the end, one I wasn’t surprised by and the other I was and thought was a good way to end that particular storyline. Overall, I think the ending was just a little too neat and tidy with things falling into place too easily. All that being said, I think this is going to be a big hit in 2017 as it has already been optioned for a movie by Ron Howard.

3.5/5 Stars 

REVIEW: THE 4TH MAN By Lisa Gardner

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From Goodreads

To be published Jan 3, 2017 by Dutton

A young woman is found strangled in the stairwell of a college library, only her sneakers missing. With no physical evidence, no signs of sexual assault, and no witnesses, all the police have to go on are the three men who were in the library with her: her boyfriend and two campus security guards . . . all of whom have secrets, none of whom can be proven guilty.

Five years later, ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife, former police officer Rainie Conner, agree to consult on the still-unsolved case, delving into deep background to comb for any clue that will lead to the woman’s murderer. But with no leads and the case colder than the body, will they be able to build a case against one of the three suspects, or is there a fourth man out there? And if the killer has eluded the police this long, how far will he go to ensure justice is never served?

With Gardner’s singular ability to delve into the minds of criminals and law enforcement alike, The 4th Man is a shocking look at the reasons for taking a life . . . and just how far profilers need to go to learn them.

******

Detective Sergent D D Warren is back in this intriguing, no frills short story by Lisa Gardner.  This time D D is working a ten year old cold case and she’s joined by FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner/wife Rainie Connor. The victim, college student Jaylin Banks, was last seen studying by herself in the computer lab at the campus library. According to her boyfriend, James Duchovny, a local thug who was known for hard partying and violence toward women, he was with her at the library but got tired of waiting, left and arranged to meet her at a local bar when she finished. A short time later, she was found dead in a back stairwell of the library.

I have to say, when I requested this on Netgalley, I didn’t realize it was a short story. I saw it was a new release by one of my very favorite authors and hit request. It really doesn’t matter what Lisa writes, I’ll read it. I have read EVERY book she’s written to date and I can’t say that about any other author out there! So for D D Warren to be working with my old favorite, profiler Pierce Quincey, well that’s just a real treat. And in this instance, the blurb above is accurate and telling. There are several suspects, suspicious timelines , no evidence left at the scene, and a contained, secure murder location as everyone entering the library had to do so with an ID. As Pierce Quincy puts it…“this is the classic closed-room murder.”  In my opinion, no one writes about crime and law enforcement like Lisa Gardner and this short story proves it. Not only is this a mysterious ‘whodunit,’ it’s a ‘whydunit’ and I didn’t have either figured out!

If you love mysteries and crime thrillers and haven’t yet read Lisa Gardner, you really are missing out on fantastic writing, intricate plots, and characters you’ll love. If you’re hesitant about starting a new series, I should note that although I’ve read all her books, I didn’t always read them in order as far as the series go and this worked out fine for me. This short story will be released Jan 3, 2017 and is a prelude to her upcoming full length novel Right Behind You, featuring Pierce Quincy and Rainie Connor as they travel to the wilds of Oregon to catch a killer.

4/5 Stars

STANDALONE SUNDAY: LITTLE BLACK LIES By Sharon Bolton

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Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick is:

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From Goodreads

Published May, 2015 from Minotaur Books

My Rating: 5 Stars

In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely…

When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation.

And suddenly, in this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.

But three islanders—Catrin, her childhood best friend, Rachel, and her ex-lover Callum—are hiding terrible secrets. And they have two things in common: all three of them are grieving, and none of them trust anyone, not even themselves.

If you’ve visited my blog much since I started at the end of Sept., you may have noticed that I love Sharon Bolton‘s books! I’ve reviewed Daisy in Chains and highlighted her Lacey Flint series in one of my tags and here I go again with Little Black Lies🙂 This book has all the makings that I look for in a must-read…intriguing characters with secrets, an atmospheric setting, a mystery that even using my best detective skills I couldn’t figure out, and the topper of all  – a twist that I didn’t see coming from 5 miles away! Seriously, I had to go back a couple pages and keep re-reading the passage because it just blew me away. If you love mysteries filled with suspense and twists, you really need to give this fantastic standalone a try

FRIDAY FINDS

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 Friday Finds is a meme hosted by Jenn at Booksandabeat which gives us a chance to share recent books we’ve added to our never-ending TBR pile. I have to say I continue to add A LOT of books and I really need to declare a moratorium but there’s just so many books that sound too good to let pass by:) Here are some of my most recent additions….

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And this is just the tip of my TBR iceberg!! As you can see, I’ve added some really great picks and I have a feeling my TBR will continue to grow:)

Has anyone added these to your own TBR? 

If you’ve already read any of these, leave me a quick comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY:THE STRANGER ON THE TRAIN By Abbie Taylor

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I’m really liking the idea of continuing on with this Throwback Thursday theme every week. I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. My pick this week is:

 

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Published May 27th, 2014 by Atria Books

My Rating: 4 Stars

From Goodreads

Your baby has been stolen by a stranger. The police won’t listen. What would you do?

Abbie Taylor shows remarkable flair in this involving and intriguing debut novel.
A young mother’s nightmare comes true… the tube doors close with her baby still on the train. Struggling as a single mother, Emma sometimes wishes that her thirteen-month-old son Ritchie would just disappear. But when, one quiet Sunday evening, Ritchie is abducted by a stranger on the London Underground, Emma is thrown into a situation worse than she could have ever imagined.
But why don’t the police seem to fully believe her story? Why would they think that she would want to hurt her own baby?
If Emma wants Richie back, it looks like she’ll have to find him herself. With the help of a stranger called Rafe, the one person who seems to believe her, she goes in search of her son. And she is determined to get him back… no matter what it takes. 

If you like psychological thrillers and mysteries I really think you’ll enjoy this book. The writing is great and there’s a pervasive feeling of dread throughout as you’re  not quite sure who’s telling the truth and how it all plays out.

Has anyone read this one? Feel free to share your thoughts and your own Throwback recommendation in the comment section:)

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: YOU By Caroline Kepnes. Narrated By Santino Fontana

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FROM GOODREADS

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

******

To just read the above blurb you might think this is your typical crazy guy stalks girl novel and you might decide to pass it by, saying to yourself ‘I don’t really want to read an entire book about a stalker.’  I know this because it’s what I did when this novel was first released and I’m completely kicking myself for the fact that I could’ve been reading this 2 years ago!! It was the through the power of social media ( I sound like Joe:) that made me decide to listen to this last week when my friend Sam of Cluesandreviews.com  told me to get off the fence about this book and read it! And off the fence I jumped.  As I was in need of an audiobook for my drives, dog walking, etc I downloaded YOU and I can’t possibly express how outstanding the writing and narration of this book is…you just HAVE to read and/or listen for yourself.

As the story begins, we are introduced to Joe Goldberg, bookseller extraordinaire.  Joe manages a bookstore in New York City and one day meets the lovely Guinevere Beck, “Beck” to her friends, and he’s immediately smitten with her. So instead of asking her to have coffee or something remotely normal like that, he gets her name off her credit card and sets about to googling her and just like that, he’s privy to her address, phone number, Twitter and Instagram which of course gives him a wealth of info about her habits and whereabouts. First of all, I’m now going to think twice every time I use my credit card! Second, Caroline Kepnes has hit on the very terrifying consequences of putting all your “stuff” on social media. Now, I know I just said terrifying and it is, but on the other side of this crazy coin we have Joe.  Believe me when I say I’ve NEVER encountered a fictional character quite like Joe before. His continuous  monologue to Beck, who’s the YOU of this story,  shifts between being funny, witty, and charming one moment to intense, crude and oftentimes downright scary the next. Through Joe, Caroline Kepnes brilliantly skewers social media…the good, bad and ugly of a  hashtag here I am way of life.

Let me just sum up my top reasons for loving this story and audiobook:

Characterization – as I said Joe will get inside your head while he slowly and unknowingly (to her) infiltrates Beck’s life and you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough or in my case, remove my headphones for hours at a time

Pacing – The story starts with an immediacy of action between the characters and doesn’t let up until the dysfunctional ties of Joe and Beck have either been firmly established or spectacularly broken.

The Writing – Caroline Kepnes has wrote a book that left me speechless at times. Her writing flows in a way I don’t often come across. And her creative ability to write a character like Joe, who, let’s face it is a sociopath like none other, but one who I LIKED and thought was spot on in some of his ways of thinking and observations….what that says about me I’m still trying to figure out:)

The Narration – I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I have never heard a narrator capture the intensity, nuances, and downright scariness of a character like Santino Fontana does as Joe. Everything about his narration was perfect and let me tell you…for better or worse, he brings Joe ALIVE!  **One note to let readers and/or listeners know,  Joe often expresses himself using some very harsh and explicit language**

This book is the first in the series and, in my opinion, you absolutely MUST read this before Hidden Bodies.      

5/5 Stars

REVIEW: TALL OAKS By Chris Whitaker

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For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful and sad.

Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

 

******

Sometimes when a blurb says “Everyone is a suspect” I tend to think that’s highly unlikely and there often ends up being only about two suspects. In the case of Tall Oaks, the wonderful debut novel by Chris Whitaker, just about everyone actually is a suspect and that’s just how I like my mysteries! Time to put on my biggest detective hat and figure out what happened to three-year-old Harry…and what’s Jared..and Henrietta.. and Jerry (just to name a few) hiding? See…secrets.

The book is set in a small California town where everyone knows everyone and a crime like the kidnapping of a small child had previously been unheard of. Needless to say, the close knit town is rocked when three year old Harry is taken from his bed one night. His mother, Jessica, a single mom whose no good husband Michael had left her and Harry, is home at the time and what she sees on the baby monitor when Harry goes missing has left her a terrified, unstable basket case.   Luckily, she has the support of Jim who’s not only the dogged police detective working tirelessly to find Harry, he’s also a friend from high school who, perhaps, would like to be more than friends.

The plot weaves between the downward spiral of Jessica, her hunt for Harry, and the happenings between many others in the small town. We meet Manny, a high schooler who, along with his friend Abe, wants to be the “gangsters” in town and plays the part accordingly with his language ,outfits and “shakedowns” of places like Pizza Hut. Too funny! I have to say, Manny steals the show in this book.  He’s not your typical teenager by any means, I mean his language is atrocious (i.e. liberal use of the F word) and his goals include being a gangster, but Manny makes no excuses for himself, he loves his mom and his little sister and he’d do anything for them. And then he meets Furat and young love is in store for Manny:)

I’d love to go on and on about all the wonderful unique characters in this book but in the interests of keeping this review manageable I’ll give you a condensed lowdown. There’s Jerry who’s got a soul crushing mother and life, Henrietta, who’s married to Roger and let’s just say there’s something quite off about that marriage, Jared, the newcomer to town who’s definitely running from something…and that’s just a few of the characters you’ll get to know and question! I have to mention another of my very favorite characters…French John. He’s a baker in town and friends with Manny’s mom and I thought his character was extremely witty and funny. See, that’s the thing about this book. You would think that an author writing a  mystery novel about a missing child couldn’t also write characters who were quirky, funny, and endearing and I admit to being skeptical about it myself but Chris Whitaker has done just that and done it in a way that’s true to the story. This book really is a ‘whodunit’ that’s at times sad, funny, and endearing.

As you can see, I really enjoyed this story. If there’s one critique I have it’s that within the chapters , perspectives change abruptly from one person to another with only a small space break and at first I had a hard time keeping the differing perspectives straight as there’s many characters and storylines introduced but after the first several chapters when we’ve met all the characters  and gotten a feel for their storylines, I followed everything perfectly fine and didn’t notice the quick shifts anymore. As far as what happened to Harry, I thought I had put all my detective skills to use on this one and had it all figured out but it turns out I’m not as good as I thought I was at being a detective.  Well done Chris Whitaker!

4.5/5 Stars

**Many thanks to Chris Whitaker,  Twenty7 Books, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this fantastic debut novel**

***This book is currently only available to purchase in the US through Amazon third party sellers. Let’s hope US rights get sold quickly so others here can enjoy this story!!***

STANDALONE SUNDAY: JOYLAND by Stephen King

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Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick is:

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From Goodreads

My Rating 4.5 Stars

College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart. But he wound up facing something far more terrible: the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life—and what comes after—that would change his world forever.

A riveting story about love and loss, about growing up and growing old—and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time—Joyland is Stephen King at the peak of his storytelling powers. With all of the emotional impact of King masterpieces such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, Joyland is at once a mystery, a horror story, and a bittersweet coming-of-age novel, one that will leave even the most hard-boiled reader profoundly moved.

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I really want to do a post soon that centers on books I have loved that I almost didn’t read because of the title and/or cover; Joyland would be included on that post. Even though I really like Stephen King, I passed by this book for so long when it first came out because it reminded me of a comic book with that cover and title. When I finally opened it and started reading…I can only let a Stephen King pass by me for so long without at least giving it a try…I was VERY pleasantly surprised!  This is most definitely a mystery and coming-of-age story. The setting is a coastal North Carolina town and Joyland is an amusement park from days gone by. Things happen at Joyland for sure but not in a gory horror way.  This really is an emotional mystery story, and highlights one of the things I love about Stephen King…he can truly write unexpected stories in a multitude of genres.

 

THE GOODREADS BOOK TAG

I was tagged by Debby at Alwaysbooking.com for this Goodreads tag. If you haven’t visited Debby’s blog, be sure to check it out. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve “met” since I started blogging,  plus she reviews a nice variety of books and does an awesome weekly post called New Friend Friday where she profiles other great blogs for us to follow. So let’s get started…

What is the last book you marked as READ?

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I just finished this last night and WOW, I can’t believe this is a debut novel!! Review will be coming soon, but take note…this is a must read

 

 

 

 

What are you currently reading? 

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I’ve been listening to this audiobook the last couple days and if you haven’t already heard me gushing on Twitter over the narrator Santino Fontana, let me share with you again my complete love for his narration of Joe and this completely addicting story. This is outstanding writing guys. Trust me when I say you have to listen to this audiobook! Or read it if you prefer:) I’ve already got Hidden Bodies (sequel) lined up and ready to go

 

What was the last book you marked as “To-Read?” 

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I picked this up at the library yesterday based solely on that cover and title! Lucky for me the synopsis sounds great so it’s the newest addition to my TBR pile

 

 

 

Do you use star ratings?     Yes and while I sometimes struggle with a star rating here and there, overall I like using them

What book do you plan on reading next?  

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I’m really looking forward to this book. This book releases December 27th and my review will be up when my stop for this blog tour arrives on December 28th!

 

 

 

 

Are you doing the 2016 Goodreads Challenge?   No, I’ve never done a challenge and don’t set reading goals for myself.

What book do you plan on buying next? 

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I just realized when I was voting for the Goodreads favorite memoir of 2016 that I need to buy this 5 star read to add to my shelf at home. I read it in January and it’s such a fantastic, moving book.

 

 

Do you have a wish list?   My To-Read shelf at Goodreads is pretty much my wish list of books I want to read. I’m currently on the wish list at Netgalley for Her Every Fear so fingers crossed for that one and for Sophie Kinsella’s upcoming new one My Not So Perfect Life

What is your favorite quote?

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Who are your favorite authors?

I really enjoy a lot of authors but I’ll pick a few I’d put at the very top…Sharon Bolton, Dennis Lehane, Sophie Kinsella (her standalones), Lisa Jewell, Beatriz Williams, Lisa Gardner, David Nicholls, Stephen King, Emily Giffin

Have you joined any groups?   Just the Mystery and Thriller group at Goodreads but I haven’t participated too much

I tag…Sam at Cluesandreviews.com  and Wendy at Littlebooknesslane.com

THROWBACK THURSDAY: LIVE BY NIGHT By Dennis Lehane

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I’m really liking the idea of continuing on with this Throwback Thursday theme every week. I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. My pick this week is:

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FROM GOODREADS

Published Oct 2012 by William Morrow 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.

Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw.

But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one–neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover–can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.

Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa’s Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue

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I’ve needed to find a spot for Dennis Lehane’s books on my blog and today’s the day! He’s at the very top of my favorite authors list. I love his writing, characters, settings, everything. I chose Live By Night this week because it’s part of one of my very favorite series. It actually starts with The Given Day which I haven’t read (it’s mammoth) and continues with Live By Night and World Gone By. I don’t feel that you have to read The Given Day first as I jumped right in with this title and was completely immersed. You may have also gotten a glimpse of the upcoming movie starring Ben Affleck!! I can’t wait , I think it releases this spring and I’m sure it will be as good as the book.

Feel free to leave jump on board with your own Throwback Thursday title. If you do, leave me a comment with a link so I can check it out. Otherwise, feel free to just comment with your favorite throwback titles so we can all add to our infinite TBR piles!