MY TOP READS OF 2016

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This year I’ve read some truly outstanding books! For my top choices, I chose many of my 5 star reads with the exception of one 4 1/2 star read which I just had to include. Also, these are books I’ve read in 2016, and that were published this year or before. Since I just started blogging Oct 1 of this year, most of these reads are books I read before I started reviewing.

In no particular order…..

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I don’t think Sharon Bolton can write a bad book! I loved the premise of a possible wrongly convicted killer, I loved the characters and as always with her books, I loved that I couldn’t figure out the puzzle! I can’t ask for more from a book. You can read my review here

 

 

 

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I may have been late to the Joe Goldberg party but all I can say is better late than never that I finally got around to reading/listening to this brilliant book! This is my absolute favorite audiobook of all time thanks to the perfect narration of Santino Fontana who made sociopath Joe come alive. I can’t begin to praise the writing of Caroline Kepnes enough as I was completely addicted to this book! You can read my review here 

 

 

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I had this book sitting on my kindle for over a year and believe me, I could’ve kicked myself after I read it for having let this gem sit unread for that long. This was my first Beatriz William’s book and I loved everything about it. The historical timeframe, the shifting perspectives, the coastal setting and the memorable characters all combined to make this unputdownable! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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You’ll notice this book on many best of lists and for good reason. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction but I was so intrigued by this topic and author. His story is heartbreaking yet inspiring. His writing is outstanding. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

 

 

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The cover of this book does not do it justice! This is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve read in years. There’s a little bit of everything in this book…mystery, drama, tragedy, resilience , hope…I could go on. This is a story that will haunt you. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out the mystery surrounding the disaster and how the many characters involved were connected. A must read. 

 

 

 

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This book might stand out a little on my list of top reads! However, I love a good romantic comedy/chick-lit every now and then but I haven’t rated many of them 5 stars. Except Bet Me. This was the perfect vacation beach read for me this summer. I loved the characters, they felt real and engaging. The dialogue in this book was fantastic…realistic, witty, sarcastic, laugh out loud funny…it had everything. Such a fun read!

 

 

 

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I loved the atmospheric setting, the dialogue, the web-like puzzle that was the mystery of this latest topnotch Tana French novel. You just know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller when you open one of her books. To top it off, her books can be read as standalones, so don’t feel you have to start at book one in the series! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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The title of this book had caused me to pass it by in the past, but I’m so glad I finally picked it up. This is a true book lover’s book. The story, the characters, the bookstore setting all drew me in and I read this charming, heartfelt novel in one sitting. I read this in March last year and I still think about the bittersweet ending. 

 

 

 

 

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Once I got past that cover (which is awful) this book became my obsession for 3 full days and nights last New Years. In my defense, it’s 720 pages! It’s the story of four male friends who’s friendship began in college and continued on several decades. I can honestly say I’ve never read a book so devastating and tragic, yet also filled with the healing power of love and friendship. This book gets the award for causing my longest book hangover, lasting 6 weeks! Get your box of tissues ready for this one.

 

 

 

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Another cover that doesn’t at all do this book justice! A novel about the impact of war, immigration, infidelity, family, and ultimately love and hope this book weaves seemingly unconnected storylines into a beautifully told story. You won’t be able to stop reading until you find out how they all connect and what becomes of one special little boy

 

 

 

 

So those are my top 5 star reads of the year but my top reads list wouldn’t be complete without adding one very worthy 4.5 Star read that had one of my very favorite characters I read all year and still think about…..

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This book was such a pleasant surprise as I had never heard of this author or title. The plot lived up to it’s blurb…everyone really did have secrets and the ending was a shocker! What put this on my top reads list was the outstanding character of Manny. If you’ve read this you know what I’m talking about and if not, you just have to read this for yourself to experience the memorable Manny:)

 

 

 

Each of these books were so fantastic because they all, in one way or another, made me FEEL something be it good, bad or sad! That’s ultimately what I look for when I pick up a book:) I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these or would like to, so feel free to drop me a line. I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to everyone’s 2017 reads.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published June 2014 by Harper

My Rating: 4 Stars

A murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads a young defense lawyer and an NYPD homicide detective into parallel investigations with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery.

The latest story dominating the tabloids – the murder of psychotherapist Helen Brunswick-couldn’t be further from Carrie Blank’s world handling federal appeals at an elite Manhattan law firm. But then a hard-charging celebrity trial lawyer calls Carrie with an offer she can’t refuse: Anthony Amaro, the serial killer police blamed for the murder of Carrie’s older sister, Donna, has new evidence related to Brunswick’s murder that he believes can exonerate him. Determined to force the government to catch Donna’s real killer, Carrie takes on Amaro’s wrongful conviction claim.

On the other side of Amaro’s case is NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, who, along with her partner, JJ Rogan, is tapped as the “fresh look” team to reassess the investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case is personal for them, too: Ellie wonders whether they got the assignment because of her relationship with the lead prosecutor, and Rogan has his own reasons to distrust Amaro’s defense team.

As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among years of conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown and secrets left behind there. And when Carrie falls victim to a brutal attack, it becomes clear that the young attorney got too close to the truth. 

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When I read the blurb for this a couple summers ago, I thought it sounded right up my alley, so when I started reading I didn’t even realize it was actually the fifth book in the Ellie Hatcher series. Oops! I have to say I didn’t have any problem getting to know Ellie or following the story threads as Alafair Burke did a great job providing adequate backstory. I loved the wrongful conviction storyline, I always find those so fascinating as it really adds another dimension of did-he/didn’t-he. I also really enjoyed Ellie’s character. If you’re in the mood to put together an intriguing puzzle give this page turner a try!

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: SMALL ADMISSIONS By Amy Poeppel

I’m so happy to be a stop today on the Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s  entertaining debut novel Small Admissions, published December 27th by Atria Books

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From the Publisher 

In SMALL ADMISSIONS, despite Kate Pearson’s innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, she has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

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When we first meet Kate, she is living in a depressed limbo as a result of being recently dumped by her French boyfriend Robert. Not only is she depressed and unemployed, she’s also been crashing at her sister Angela’s who’d really like her to find her own place ASAP.  You see, Angela has went into hyperactive helicopter mode, trying in vain and to no avail, to “snap” Kate out of her funk. To top it all off, their parents, being hippie academics,  have decided to skip town and take an elongated sabbatical “living in the field.” Kate’s good friend Chloe and supposed good friend Vicki seem to be currently on the sidelines, with Chloe trying to (secretly) scout out a new man for Kate, and Vicki working through her underlying hostility towards Kate surrounding her breakup with Robert. Question is, why is she so hostile?

After a very cringeworthy, albeit pretty amusing interview with the head of Hudson, a private school in Manhattan, Kate somehow manages to secure a position as an assistant of admissions. It’s through this position that Kate begins to slowly put her life back together. At the Hudson school, we meet Henry who runs the school and Maureen who helps with Admissions. Kate’s interactions with both Maureen and Henry were some of my favorite in the whole book! I loved Maureen and thought Poeppel did a fantastic job bringing her character to life with her sarcastic , yet witty conversations with Kate.

Through Kate’s job at the Hudson school, we are treated to some fascinating (in ways both good and bad) kids and their crazy parents, all trying to gain admission with resumes that would make most adults exhausted. I thought Kate’s interviews with the students were some of the funniest parts of the book, mainly because she was usually completely inappropriate, veering into her personal life and asking the kids what they thought about her breakup. What?? Her write ups of the students also made me laugh. I actually wish we could’ve had MORE scenes between Kate and the students and parents as I imagine the author, having worked in private school admissions in NYC,  had more stories up her sleeve.

The narrative structure of the novel centers on shifting perspectives, allowing us to hear from Chloe, Angela ,Vicki, and Kate at different times throughout the book. Overall, this technique worked for me, although I’m not sure I needed all the extraneous details about the parents in the beginning. There’s also an interlude in the middle of the novel where letters between different characters are going back and forth, and I have to say, I found that technique unnecessary and slightly confusing. In the end, I most enjoyed Kate’s perspective and watching her grow from being a pouting slacker who let a jerk of a man disrupt her life so completely to a confident, independent, happy woman.  Is there a possible new love interest you ask? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

There was a lot that worked for me in this debut novel: the dialogue was top notch and realistic; the overall pace minus the letters; strong, well-developed characters with Kate, Henry, and Maureen getting my “favorites” vote, and the ending, while somewhat predictable, fit with the story.  If you like chick-lit/women’s fiction I think you’ll enjoy this entertaining debut by Amy Poeppel. I look forward to reading whatever Amy sends our way in the future! Check out additional info, book trailer,  Rafflecopter giveaway , and buying sites below

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. She lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of a prestigious independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into this novel.

Amy began writing SMALL ADMISSIONS as a series of comedic dialogues after she and her husband went through the nerve-wrecking experience of interviewing at private schools for their sons. “I was convinced we were spectacularly bad at it,” she explains, “and I couldn’t stop thinking about how strangely we seemed to behave as soon as we sat down in front of an admissions officer. Sometimes I thought my husband bragged too much about our kids, other times I thought he was overly critical of them, and throughout the interviews, I felt like I was running interference, and I hated the impression we were making.” Soon after, she began working as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a prestigious day school in Manhattan. From the other side of the desk, as she interviewed parents, interacted with student applicants and participated in the banter of the admissions staff, she developed an appreciation for the nuanced drama and the pervasive humor of admissions, compounded by her previous experiences as a nervous parent facing an admissions officer. With these dual perspectives in mind, Poeppel set out to explore the absurd world of admissions with warmth, humor and above all, a deep appreciation for devoted, anxious parents and their dedicated admissions department counterparts, all through the eyes of a clever, yet flailing young woman trying her best to make sense of the acceptance and rejections in her own life.

Find Amy Online:

Order

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!! Click here for a chance to win your very own signed copy of Small Admissions

Click on this link to watch the humorous book trailer!

 

REVIEW: SALT TO THE SEA By Ruta Sepetys & MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

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This story is based on a maritime tragedy of epic proportions. While reading, I felt in awe of the fact that I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I’m not sure how that’s possible. What initially drew me to this book was the cover; that has to be one of the most  ‘indicative of the story’ covers I’ve come across! It’s haunting , yet intriguing at the same time because I wanted to find out what led to that picture.

I really don’t want to give anything away plot wise; you already know there’s a maritime tragedy involved so the beauty of this story is finding out what led to it and who are the characters involved that we are inevitably going to get attached to, worry about, and hope for their survival.

The story is told from four alternating viewpoints with very short chapters which led me to quickly keep turning the pages . There’s Joana, a fleeing Lithuanian who’s guilt over her past threatens to engulf her; Florian, a handsome wounded Prussian who’s carrying many secrets; Emilia, a young Polish girl who’s seen and experienced great tragedy but sadly feels the heaviness of shame and grief; and Alfred, a very odd German sailor who seems to live in an alternate reality most of the time. Somehow, their paths will collide and each will have to decide how much of their secrets they are willing to expose to the others. Along the way, we meet several other characters who will pull at your heartstrings…the wandering boy, the shoe poet and Eva were my favorite. I think the author’s writing shines with her ability to bring all these characters to life with their unique quirks, knowledge and personalities. They became real people who’s plights I felt and worried about; there was an underlying tension and dread I experienced while reading as I wondered if everyone I had grown to care about would live and if not who would die? That’s suspenseful reading don’t you think?

If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Book Thief and/or All the Light We Cannot See as I have, I think you’ll also enjoy this story. Not only did I find this to be a riveting, fast-paced page turner, it taught me about a little known tragedy in our history.

5/5 Stars

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and read my posts these last couple months, I so appreciate it and as this is my last post until after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays to you! I’ll be back next week with my first Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions as well as my top 10 (or so) reads of 2016!! 

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: LIVE TO TELL By Lisa Gardner

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.  If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

In honor of her upcoming January new release, my pick this week is:

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Published January 2010 by Bantam

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

He knows everything about you—including the first place you’ll hide.

On a warm summer night in one of Boston’s working-class neighborhoods, an unthinkable crime has been committed: Four members of a family have been brutally murdered. The father—and possible suspect—now lies clinging to life in the ICU. Murder-suicide? Or something worse? Veteran police detective D. D. Warren is certain of only one thing: There’s more to this case than meets the eye.

Danielle Burton is a survivor, a dedicated nurse whose passion is to help children at a locked-down pediatric psych ward. But she remains haunted by a family tragedy that shattered her life nearly twenty-five years ago. The dark anniversary is approaching, and when D. D. Warren and her partner show up at the facility, Danielle immediately realizes: It has started again.

A devoted mother, Victoria Oliver has a hard time remembering what normalcy is like. But she will do anything to ensure that her troubled son has some semblance of a childhood. She will love him no matter what. Nurture him. Keep him safe. Protect him. Even when the threat comes from within her own house.

The lives of these three women unfold and connect in unexpected ways, as sins from the past emerge—and stunning secrets reveal just how tightly blood ties can bind. Sometimes the most devastating crimes are the ones closest to home.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Lisa Gardner holds a special place for me as one of my favorite authors because I’ve actually read EVERY book she’s published!! I can’t say that about another author (sorry Sharon Bolton & Dennis Lehane:) This book is one of my favorites of hers, between the setting of the locked down children’s psych ward and what goes on at Victoria’s house, I was thoroughly tense and on edge the entire book…just how I like my suspense thrillers! I know many will see that this is book 4 in the DD Warren series and may shy away from picking it up but Lisa Gardner does a great job in her books of giving you enough background info so you’ll have a good feel for DD in this novel. You’ll most likely WANT to go back and read the others in this series just because DD is one of the very best female protagonists I’ve read…she’s smart, witty, and independent and she becomes a character you look forward to visiting every couple years!

Stay Tuned in January for my review of Lisa’s new novel, RIGHT BEHIND YOU, releasing Jan 31, 2017

FIRST CHAPTER FIRST PARAGRAPH TUESDAY INTRO: SALT TO THE SEA By Ruta Sepetys

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I thought I’d try something new today as my reviews have become sporadic due to the busyness of the holidays although I promise to get back on track with reading and reviewing very soon:) In the meantime, Tuesday First Chapter/First paragraph is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea and highlights the first paragraph (or 2) of a current or future read that she decided to read based on the opening.

The opener I’ve chosen is from a book that’s been on my want to read list for quite awhile based only on the cover, which to me looks intriguing, yet tragic.

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Published Feb 2016 by Philomel Books

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Guilt is a hunter.

My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child. It’s all your fault, the voice whispered. I quickened my pace and caught up with our small group. The Germans would march us off the road if they found us. Roads were reserved for the military. Evacuation orders hadn’t been issued and anyone fleeing East Prussia was branded a deserter. But what did that matter? I became a deserter four years ago, when I fled from Lithuania. I had left in 1941. What was happening at home? Were the dreadful things whispered in the streets true?

We approached a mound on the side of the road. The small boy in front of me whimpered and pointed. He had joined us two days prior, just wandered out of the forest alone and quietly began following us.

“Hello, little one. How old are you?” I had asked.

“Six,” he replied.

“Who are you traveling with?” He paused and dropped his head. “My Omi.”

I turned toward the woods to see if his grandmother had emerged. “Where is your Omi now?” I asked.

The wandering boy looked up at me, his pale eyes wide. “She didn’t wake up.”

So, what do you think? Would you keep reading based on this intro or pass? I most definitely have kept reading (I’m halfway through) and I can tell you, this book’s not only well-written, but I’m invested in the characters, they have become real…the book’s cover is really haunting me now!

Check back soon….maybe even tomorrow for my full review!

STANDALONE SUNDAY: THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU By Jonathan Tropper

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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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Published August 2009 by Orion

My Rating: 5 Stars

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.

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This book gets the award for the only book I’ve ever read that made me laugh so hard I cried! There’s lots of hysterical movies out there that have made me laugh that hard but for a BOOK to do that, that’s some outstanding writing in my opinion. I’ve already re-read this book once and probably will again in the future when I need a good pick me up. In regards to the movie based on this book, while I loved Jason Bateman as Judd, I don’t think the movie came close to being as good as the book. Isn’t that usually the case though? If you’re in the mood to laugh but also be touched by this crazy family, give this book a try.

Has anyone else read this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as any books you’ve all read that made you laugh 

REVIEW: THE ICE PRINCESS By Camilla Lackberg

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Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life.

Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their own shared past. While her interest grows into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past. 

 

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Camilla Lackberg has been high on my list of authors I need to read. After discovering I needed to start at the beginning and read the series in order (thanks Chelsea at TheSuspenseisThrillingMe & Abby at CrimeBytheBook 🙂 I was happy I was able to snag this at my local library! The story begins with the discovery of Alex Wijkner’s dead body which is found frozen in her bathtub and at first glance looks to be suicide. Questions about whether it was suicide or murder, however, quickly arise. Writer Erica Falck , who was a childhood friend of Alex and also found her body, is pulled deeper into the mystery of Alex’s death when she is asked by Alex’s parents to write about her life. As she delves deeper into Alex’s past, she begins to realize her childhood friend harbored many secrets.

In the course of her “investigation” Alex runs into another childhood friend, Patrik Hedstrom, who’s now a detective and running the official police investigation into Alex’s death. It seems Patrik had a crush on Erica when they were growing up, and now recently divorced, his interest in her is immediately rekindled and the two begin to share information on Alex’s death. I have to say, I thought Patrik was the most well-developed character in the book. I liked him right away and really hoped his feelings for Erica would be reciprocated. I did, however, wonder about him sharing details of the police investigation with Erica…I’m not convinced a police detective in the real world would do that.

Along with the main storyline of Alex’s death, there were threads of other subplots weaved throughout the story, some relevant and at least one not so much. I thought the subplot involving Erica’s sister Anna actually broke up the narrative flow of the story when it was brought in. The other subplots I found intriguing and wondered how they would end up being tied to the resolution of the mystery. Then, when another person with key ties to Alex’s death is also found dead, things began to get very interesting.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying the set up of the mysteries and the key players, right up until about the halfway mark and then, for me, the pace seemed to slow down and I felt there was quite a bit of extraneous details about the characters personal feelings and emotional states which often left me feeling pretty bored. The ending was somewhat of a disappointment as I had most of the mystery figured out. I also thought the way those who were guilty was revealed was extremely neat and tidy; thorough confessions by the guilty come across as very unrealistic to me. That being said, I’m very interested in seeing where the author takes Patrik in the future so I do plan on picking up the next installment in the series sometime in the near future.

3/5 Stars

THROWBACK THURSDAY: SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS By Peter Blauner

 

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Throwback Thursday continues as I scour my shelf for old favorites . 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 January 2006 by Little, Brown and Company

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

When a twenty-year-old murder case comes back to life, a detective must race against his failing sight to unravel the mystery

When Allison Wallis was beaten to death, Detective Francis X. Loughlin found the killer—Julian Vega, a teenager with a crush on the murdered girl. Using his natural sense of empathy, he cozied up to young Julian, convincing him to give a confession that would put him away until he was thirty-six.

Twenty years later, Julian is finally out of jail, attempting to remember how to live in a world without bars, and Detective Loughlin is still on the job, his sight fading, though his instincts are still sharp. But when Allison’s blood appears at a new crime scene, everything he thought he knew about that long-ago murder is called into question. Was it really Allison they buried? Was Julian actually the killer? And if he wasn’t, who else is in danger now?

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Although this book was published many years ago, I just read it in 2014 when a good reading friend passed it along to me. I have a strong interest in stories where teenagers under 18 are pitted against our criminal justice system. In light of the recent success of Making a Murderer and Serial Season 1 with Adnan Syad, this book explores many of the same legal, ethical, and moral issues highlighted in those stories. It’s also a fantastic mystery with some of the best characterization I’ve read in recent years. These characters are flawed; they feel real. And if you can figure out the answers to the above questions at the end of the blurb, you’re a better detective than me because I didn’t have this puzzle figured out! If you like mysteries with flawed characters that pull your emotional strings, I think you’ll love this book.

If you’ve already read this one, drop me a quick comment, I’d love to hear what you thought of it:)

REVIEW: THE RIVER AT NIGHT By Erica Ferencik

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From Goodreads

A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare

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 First things first..that is the perfect cover and title for this pulse pounding, can’t put it down thriller.  I went into this read not knowing anything about this story except that it was an adventure thriller in which some friends decide to go white water rafting but things end up going very wrong. I didn’t read the Goodreads or Amazon blurbs and I urge you to do the same! I’ve only included about a third of the Goodreads blurb above just to give those of you who haven’t heard of this book an idea of what it’s about because, in my opinion ,the entire Goodread’s blurb gives away too much of the story. This book is a thriller! It’s about being surprised and not knowing what’s going to happen on the river or what lurks in the wilderness so you’re along for the ride with the ladies. And what a ride it will be.

Here’s a question to ask yourself…would you choose to go white water rafting in the remote Maine wilderness for  your girls-getaway-trip, tackling a river that most people don’t even have access to? My answer was a very loud no, never, not in a million years could you pay me to go white water rafting anywhere , let alone on a remote stretch of river that’s not open to the public.  And for this very reason, of being scared at just the thought of rafting down any river, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to these four friends when they decide to brave the very adventure that sounds terrifying to me.

It all begins with the “leader”, Pia, talking her three good friends, Rachel, Sandra and Wini into going white water rafting for their annual girls trip. Apparently, Pia is into extreme living and she has, in the past, talked the ladies into other adventure type vacations. Wini,  however, isn’t super keen on this one as they are all nearing forty and she’d rather hit a beach and relax on a chaise with some cocktails. I have to say I totally agreed with that vacation choice. She was basically strong-armed into going on the rafting trip and reluctantly headed to REI to stock up. You see, none of them except perhaps Pia had any idea what was involved, what to buy, etc. They’d never been white water rafting before! They did all have some things in common in that they were each slightly damaged from events in their lives and were looking to escape even if it was just for 5 days and even if that meant driving 9 hours, camping, being wet, and braving a raging river.  And oh, by the way , NO cell signal for the whole 5 days. Can’t you just feel that something is bound to go wrong?

I thought the author did a wonderful job of setting the story up in the first few chapters. It is told from Wini’s perspective and we get important details about the struggles each of the friends have been dealing with in their own lives as well as a good indication of their friendship ties over the years. So, by the time they hit the river, I was very invested in each lady and I especially liked Rachel, Wini, and Sandra. I even liked Rory the guide. The characters became real which just points to brilliant writing. And I was extremely worried about them because you know what else became real…the river! I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough once the action began and for the rest of the book I’d catch myself holding my breath. With her breathtaking, detailed writing Erica Ferencik put me right in the river as well as smack in the middle of the woods at night with them. And there are bad things looming in both places you can count on that! And the twists…I literally gasped out loud at one of them and had to re-read the section to be sure that what I had just read was true.  Upon finishing this tension filled read my first thought was…now THAT’s how you write a thriller!!

5/5 Stars

**Releasing Jan 10, 2017

**Thanks to Simon & Schuster, Jellybooks, and Erica Ferencik for providing my copy of this highly enjoyable novel