REVIEW: SIRENS By Joseph Knox

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Sirens is the brooding and assured debut from Joseph Knox, the next big name in crime fiction.

Set in a sprawling, twilight northern city, Sirens introduces Aidan Waits, a disgraced young detective caught stealing drugs from evidence and subsequently blackmailed into going undercover. When an MP’s daughter runs away from home, Waits is sent to track her down and finds himself at the centre of a maelstrom of drugs, blackmail and deception.

Uncovering the motives of those involved, he’s thrown forwards through politicians, police and drug lords – towards a conclusion and a truth he really doesn’t want to know. 

******

Like the cover, the story within the pages of Sirens is edgy, realistic and full of dark, descending clouds of corruption, murder, and lies. This is a truly commanding and dynamic work of crime fiction like nothing I’ve read in a very, very long time. The story is told from the perspective of Aidan Waits, a down and out detective who’s managed to get himself into some serious hot water after he’s caught stealing drugs from the evidence locker. To say he’s flawed doesn’t really do him justice because he’s quite aware of the demons that follow him and more often than not he seems to encourage them. I absolutely love the first few sentences of the book which immediately set the tone and show us just a sliver of Aidan’s psyche….

       Afterwards I went back on to the night shift. They’d never trust me in the daylight again. I spent my time responding to 4 a.m. emergency calls, walking up and down dead escalators and trying not to think. I’d been good at that once…

Doesn’t that leave you wondering what happened that he’s back on shift night? Why will they never trust him again? Of course, those questions are just a tiny thread of the larger criminal web that Aidan finds himself entangled in. From dirty politicians to corrupt police to warring drug lords, the webs that were spun in this book left me feeling tense and off balance much of the time. I found myself wondering so often who was telling the truth, who could be trusted, was Aidan truly undercover or had the boundaries between his undercover life converged with his real one to become the same? With his continued drug and alcohol use, it was easy to see how Aidan could have crossed the undercover line to the criminal one with no chance of return.

The author does a brilliant job of creating a connection between the reader and Aidan by using flashbacks of Aidan’s childhood…where and how he grew up and what his heart is missing as a result. The social worker in me understood how his childhood had led him to his current dark place in life…the drugs, the alcohol, the dangerous situations that led to violence…but I also wondered if there could be redemption for Aidan in the end.

I’ve digressed a little in this review with my discussion of Aidan because he was one of the strongest protagonists I’ve rooted for in such a long time! I do, however, really want make sure I discuss some of the other amazing parts of this book. The setting of Manchester in the winter and the taut, detailed descriptions of everything from the weather to the club scenes to deserted buildings on the edge of town were written to perfection. I felt like I was there and it often made me feel very anxious and on edge.  What’s also at the core of this story is a couple extremely well plotted mysteries that had my head spinning with possibilities. Let me tell you, I in no way had anything figured out and I’m completely happy with that. In the end,  I was just holding out hope that Aidan could/would be saved… from corrupt police, psychopathic drug dealers…but most of all from himself.

5/5 Stars 

*Many thanks to Amy at NovelGossip.com for sending me her copy of this gem. You’re the best Amy!!

You can purchase Sirens at Amazon and Book Depository

REVIEW: RIGHT BEHIND YOU By Lisa Gardner

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To be Published January 31 by Dutton

Is he a hero?

Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.

Is he a killer?

Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.

All she knows for sure: He’s back.

******

I’ve got great news …Lisa Gardner is back. Where did she go you might be saying? Well, for me, a long time reader and lover of all books by Lisa EXCEPT Find Her and Crash and Burn…I thought she was lost. I have read every single book Lisa Gardner has wrote…every series…every standalone…and I just didn’t enjoy Find Her or Crash and Burn which were her last two releases. It pains me to say that believe me. I wasn’t ready to give up on her books or writing though, especially since I always enjoyed Quincy and Rainie from years past. I’m so happy to report I felt like this book was very reminiscent of her earlier works which, for me, is a strong selling point.

The prologue starts this story off with a complete bang! You are there with poor Telly and Sharlah as they have to do the unthinkable in order to survive being killed by their own parent. Heartbreaking! What’s to become of nine year old Telly and four year old Sharlah after such trauma? We find out as the story jumps ahead several years and both kids are living completely new lives. The question soon becomes, has one (Telly) resurfaced and gone completely off the deep end with a major killing spree? Or is someone else pulling the strings?

One of the best things about this book is the return of Quincy and Rainie who feel like old friends I hadn’t seen in so long but who I was eager to catch up with. They are in a quiet, peaceful place in their lives, settling down in the small coastal Oregon town of Bakersville with their foster daughter Sharlah and dog Luka. Soon, however, their lives are in chaos when a double murder at the local gas station points very clearly to Sharlah’s brother Telly. When another murder scene is discovered, it becomes an all out manhunt to track down Telly and bring his killing spree to a close. But did he really kill all those people and if so, was he acting alone?

The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Telly, Sharlah, and various law enforcement including Quincy and Rainie which I have to say worked perfectly to give each person’s perspective and create enough tension and suspense that I just kept turning the pages at lightning pace. That’s what I love about Lisa Gardner’s books…she writes in such a conversational style but at a breakneck pace so that when you finally look up, 2 or 3 hours have gone by. The only thing that somewhat slowed my pace down in a couple sections was the detailed descriptions of certain types of crime and criminal personalities. Lisa Gardner does her research, no doubt about it, but (for me) there were times the sharing of the research weighed down the plot.

I’m very happy to report that I put my detective skills to serious work on this book and while my initial instinct about what was really happening proved correct, my theories about who, what, and why were completely wrong and that’s just how I like it! If you like your thrillers with a dose of good police procedural, along with likable characters you’ll root for, this book’s for you.

4/5 Stars

**Although this is part of a series, it absolutely can be read as a standalone!

Many thanks to Dutton Books, Netgalley, and Lisa Gardner for my copy of Right Behind You. I’m happy to provide an honest review

THROWBACK THURSDAY: MY MOST MEMORABLE TEARJERKERS PART II

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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

Last week I decided to change things up and have a Throwback topic that features some of the most memorable books that have made me cry over the years. It’s not often that I come across a book that moves me to tears (or sobs) so when I do those tend to stay with me. I think it takes something special on the part of an author to be able to evoke such strong emotions in a reader.

I’ve listed my picks this week in order, starting with light tears shed and increasing to a book that left me completely sobbing…ugly crying to the max in other words! Here we go..

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Published January 2016 by Random House

My Rating 5/5 Stars  sob rating 😢😢

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

If you haven’t yet read this profoundly moving memoir, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy soon! This might be the best written memoir I’ve ever read. Paul Kalanithi clearly had a future as an author which is what he planned on doing in the second half of his life after he was done being a surgeon. Sadly, we’ll never get a chance to read any more books by him but this one is a treasure.

 

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Published February 2008 by St.Martin’s Press

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob rating 😢😢😢

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable. For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals.

You guys…this book!! I read this almost 6 years ago and I still remember the story as well as the fact I had to put it down when my kids were around so they wouldn’t ask why mom was crying so much over a book:)  I just loved this story about a friendship that spanned decades.

 

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Published March 2006 By Knopf Books for Young Readers

My Rating: 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating: 😢😢😢😢

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. 

Do I really need to say anything about this book…over 1,000,000 ratings and almost 90,000 reviews on Goodreads with a 4.36 ratings average…that’s just amazing! This book probably gets the award for the book I most resisted reading for YEARS! Friends recommended, reviews were excellent and still I didn’t want to read it. Finally , two years ago when my son was in 8th grade he was assigned this book to read for English and I decided to read it as well so we could discuss it together (I’ll do anything if my kids will read!). Needless to say, I loved it so much that I’d say it’s one of my top 5 reads ever.

 

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Published June 2016 by Simon & Schuster

My Rating: 5/5 Stars   Sob Rating:😢😢😢😢

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

 

 

This book is witty, original, sarcastic in places and laugh out funny in others. I’m a current dog owner and I totally got Ted’s devotion and attachment to Lily. That’s all I’ll say about the story but by the end of the book I was crying so much my dog came from another room and sat by me, which honestly made me cry more. I wish this book was getting more love I thought it was fantastic!

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST…The book that caused me to hide in the bathroom to finish it because I was literally sobbing so much…for over an hour…and then had a book hangover lasting about 6 weeks….is

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Published March 2015 By Doubleday

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating 😢😢😢😢😢

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

This book is also in my top 5 reads ever and one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s a haunting story about trauma, friendship and love and by far one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It will seep into your soul and you will be changed after reading this book, I guarantee it. This book isn’t going to be for everyone as it has some of the most disturbing subject matter I’ve read and there were many times the darkness became too much and I had to put it down for a few hours and then come back to it. To say this is powerful writing and storytelling doesn’t seem to do it justice but that’s how I feel about this novel. All the sobs and ugly crying for this one!

Have you read any of these or like to? Have your own tearjerker recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy Reading!

 

If you’d like to check out another Throwback Thursday recommendation , check out The Book Whisperer Rebecca’s site here

REVIEW: KILL THE FATHER By Sandrone Dazieri

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In this fascinatingly complex thriller, two people, each shattered by their past, team to solve a series of killings and abductions…

When a woman is beheaded in a park outside Rome and her six-year-old son goes missing, the police unit assigned to the case sees an easy solution: they arrest the woman’s husband and await his confession. But the Chief of Rome’s Major Crimes unit doubts things are so simple. Secretly, he lures to the case two of Italy’s top analytical minds: Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, and Dante Torre, a man who spent his childhood trapped inside a concrete silo. Fed through the gloved hand of a masked kidnapper who called himself “The Father,” Dante emerged from his ordeal with crippling claustrophobia but, also, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and hyper-observant capacities.

All evidence suggests that the Father is back and active after being dormant for decades. Indeed, he has left tell-tale signs that signal he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante. But when Columba and Dante begin following the ever-more-bizarre trail of clues, they grasp that what’s really going on is darker than they ever imagined. 

******

Kill The Father drew me in from the opening pages with writing so detailed and expressive I  didn’t have a choice but to keep turning the pages as fast as possible. I was immediately  immersed in the life of Dante from “before” when he was the kid being held captive in the silo by a man known as The Father;  the author brilliantly gives just enough info (not graphic though) so I felt disturbed, yet also connected to Dante before he ends the prologue with a doozy of a cliffhanger. This technique of ending the fairly short chapters with cliffhangers continues throughout the book and I have to say it worked to keep me bargaining with myself late into the night for just one more chapter.

We soon meet detective Columba Caselli and get to know her after her survival of what she calls the Disaster. Her PTSD is frightening and disabling for her and she has yet to return to duty. When the murder described in the blurb occurs and the young son goes missing, Columba is called in by her boss Rovere to work discreetly under the radar to find out what the investigating detectives, who’re only focused on the husband, may be missing. He suggests she seek the help of a “consultant” named Dante Torre and from there the story is off and rolling.

Columba and Dante hit it off and despite the issues of each of them they quickly form an alliance and their back and forth banter is THE BEST! It really endeared them both to me and I kept thinking I haven’t enjoyed a partnership so much since reading The Lacey Flint series by Sharon Bolton. The quick dialogue between the two of them and actually between all the characters was SPOT ON! It read like a movie and I quickly became attached to both Columba and Dante as their hunt for The Father intensified.

The novel continues at a fairly quick pace and as the complex puzzle of a plot pulled me deeper and deeper into the fray, I started to realize that this story had way more layers than I initially thought. This book requires close attention to detail. The plot is complex to say the least. The narrative is structured in such a way that we are occasionally taken back in time to “Before” which, for me, didn’t interrupt the flow until I got to the last 35% of the book. At this time, I felt things shifted for me and I was finding myself confused and turning back a few pages to re-read what had happened. This happened several times along with what I felt was a slowing of the narrative. This book is what I would call dense which isn’t a bad thing by any means but with all the threads and the complexity of the plot, I really think it could’ve been trimmed by about 100 pages and not lost any of the suspense or thrills. I’ll finish by saying the ending had a twist that I didn’t see coming. Loved it!! I really enjoyed this American debut and I’ll be waiting with fingers crossed that we haven’t seen the last of Dante and Columba!

4.5/5 Stars

***Update Alert…if you browse through my comments you’ll see that Denise who represents the author confirms that there is definitely going to be a sequel and it sounds like at least one more after that!! So now you all really have to read this one and jump on board NOW, at the start of what promises to be a thrilling series. Can’t wait!***

STANDALONE SUNDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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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 this week is:

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Published January 2016 by Harper

My Rating 3.5/5 Stars

In this breakout standalone novel of suspense in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train, a woman agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene ever since the shooting of his wife Molly by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman in last night’s party dress, barefoot, enjoying a champagne picnic alone, reading his favorite novel. Everything about her reminds him of what he used to have with Molly. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a message on a popular website after he mentions the encounter. Days later, that same beautiful stranger responds and invites Jack to meet her in person at the waterfront. That’s when Jack’s world falls apart.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is who would go to such great lengths to frame him —and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him? 

******

I almost didn’t read this book because of the worn out marketing ploy comparing it to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, only one of which (Gone Girl) I really liked. For more on the topic of books being overly hyped check out Jen’s post yesterday at jenmedsbookreviews.comI tend to be disappointed in every book that’s compared to either of those. However, I really like Alafair Burke so my enjoyment of her other books (All Day and A Night for one) won out for this read.

Overall, I really liked this book. The premise is great, as well as the setting and the narrative structure. It all worked. You might be wondering why I didn’t give this book 4 or 5 stars then? Well, it was a solid 4 star book until the resolution and I realized I had it  figured out….correctly. That almost never happens and I may be being too harsh in my rating, but if I have theories woven together in my head as to the who, how, why of the mystery and I end up being correct, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed. You see, I don’t really want to be correct, at least not fully; I want the author to pull the rug out from under me and/or throw in a twist that leads somewhere I wasn’t expecting. Too high of expectations? Possibly. But most of the time in the mysteries and thrillers I read this is exactly what happens. All in all, I know I really don’t have that good of detective skills, I think I just got lucky on this one.  Hopefully you’ll decide to give this a try, it’s a great book to put your own detective skills to work.  And you really can’t go wrong when Alafair Burke’s the author. Happy Reading!

THROWBACK THURSDAY: MY MOST MEMORABLE TEARJERKERS…PART I

throwbackthursday

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

This week I decided to change things up and have a Throwback topic that features some of the most memorable books that have made me cry over the years.  It’s not often that I come across a book that moves me to tears (or sobs) so when I do those tend to stay with me. I think it takes something special on the part of an author to be able to evoke such strong emotions in a reader.

My crying picks for this week: 

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Published 2005 by Hatchette Books

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed.

The kind of enchanting novel with cross-generational appeal that comes along once in a great while, PS, I Love You is a captivating love letter to the world!

**I just loved Holly and her love story…and this is one case where I thought the movie was just as good as the book**

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Published 2012 by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. 

**Funny, witty, charming, and heartbreaking…if you haven’t met Lou you’re missing out on such a well-written character**

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Published 2009 by Hodder & Stoughton

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another.
Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Twenty years, two people, one day. 

**Oh this book…what a phenomenal love story and with a twist I never saw coming that literally shocked me and made me a little mad at the author…I recovered and have since forgiven David Nicholls:)**

 

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Published 2008 by Harper Collins

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life…as only a dog could tell it. 

**You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate the message that sweet Enzo has to share. Of course, if you are a dog lover and/or owner as I am, you’ll most likely put this book at the top of your favorites pile!**

Well that’s a good start to some of my most memorable tearjerkers, stop back next Thurs for Part II, including the book that led to my biggest sob-fest EVER! 

What books have reduced you to tears? Please share in my comments! I’m always looking for more tearjerkers to add to my TBR:)

REVIEW: IN HER WAKE By Amanda Jennings

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Published April 2016 by Orenda Books

*My Book Club’s January Pick*

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home. 

******

I’ve been thinking about how best to write this review without giving away any parts of the plot because as we bloggers so often say, this book is best read without knowing anything other than what’s in the blurb above. So, how to discuss what I feel is a quintessential psychological suspense novel?  I’ll start by tossing out some adjectives that have been circling around in my head since I finished this book…compelling, haunting, atmospheric, heart wrenching, captivating…I’ll start with these. Any one of those (or all) can be used to describe this story. What begins as Bella’s search for identity after her devastating losses and betrayals soon becomes a journey of self discovery for many characters.  As their lives connect, their stories will intertwine and I think you’ll be hard pressed to put this book down until you know if, when,  and how they will all be resolved.

Bella’s journey takes us to Cornwall, a place I’ve never been but could vividly picture in my head thanks to the exquisite writing of Amanda Jennings. I can’t emphasize enough how the details of her writing will take you to the cliff’s edge with Bella as soon as she arrives, where you’ll smell the sea and feel the depth of her longing for answers as she looks down at the jagged rocks and breaking waves below and contemplates how it would feel to fall down into the water. What?! It was at this point I began to feel tense and started to worry…I feared that this was foreshadowing what Bella might return to do if her emotional turmoil became too great. As I was so invested in her journey by this time, I could only hope this didn’t turn out to be true.

To me, this is just one of the many facets of psychological suspense the author manages to create with her characterizations and setting details. In fact, there wasn’t any of the reader manipulations that seem to be present in other psychological thrillers lately , where it seems every character knows what’s going on and talks in circles so the reader (me) is left feeling like I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. In this story, I was there with Bella as she sought answers and struggled with knowing who to trust and how to move on.  I was there when she meets Dawn, Alice, Mark, Greg, and even Phil the barista who quickly became one of my favorite characters. Side note: when an author can make you care about a secondary character like Phil you know you’ve struck gold. I have to say that while I truly felt for Bella, in the end , I found I was most connected to Dawn which was surprising because she’s rather unlikeable when you first meet her. Her story, however, is heart breaking and I wanted her to feel some measure of happiness. Will she? Will anyone in this saga achieve peace? Of course, you’ll have to read to find out.

If you’re looking for what I would call a classic tale of psychological suspense that pulls you in with captivating writing and characters you will care about then this book is for you. And for those of you needing a good twist to make your psychological thriller complete, the author delivers on that as well.  I can’t wait to see what Amanda Jennings has in store for us with her next novel…I’ll be impatiently waiting!

5/5 STARS

Many, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of In Her Wake. I’m happy to provide an honest review. 

STANDALONE SUNDAY: PICK OF THE WEEK

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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 this week is:

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Published June 2014 by Little Brown 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind. 

******

If you’re looking for an unputdownable thriller, look no further than Those Who Wish Me Dead! From the engaging, dread -filled first pages until the heartstopping ending, you will most likely be holding your breath and flipping the pages at lightning speed. I know I was! Most of the story takes place in the remote Montana mountains and it’s the PERFECT setting for an enticing game of cat and mouse. You’ll be hard pressed not to become completely attached to Jace and Ethan as they fight to outwit and outpace the very creepy Blackwell Brothers. Add to that mix a forest fire and you’ve got yourself a first rate thriller.  Overall, I was so connected with the characters in this book that the ending literally brought me to tears…(read full on crying)…I can’t remember another THRILLER that’s been able to do that. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already read this one or feel compelled to increase your TBR by adding it. Happy Sunday Reading!!

REVIEW: FATAL By John Lescroart

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From New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart, a riveting standalone novel about the unexpected, shattering, and lethal consequences of a one-night stand on a seemingly happily married couple.

Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.

What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.

******

What drew me to this book was that awesome cover and title. It just seems to scream doom and gloom and the possibility of creepiness. Based on the blurb, which is enticing although somewhat misleading , and my past enjoyment of stories centered around the consequences of infidelity…think Presumed Innocent, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful, The Kind Worth Killing…I was excited to give this one a go. I have to say, for the first 30 percent (kindle reading:) I was engaged with the story and feeling that there was definitely a set up of dire consequences coming for Kate and Peter. A possible Fatal Attraction type of scenario felt imminent and I was excited. I was, however, also ignoring my small reading voice that said there are parts here that don’t add up and the motivations of Kate and Peter’s characters aren’t really making sense. I won’t give away any of the plot but I will say my hopes for where the story might be going didn’t pan out. In fact, for me it took some odd turns.

As the story progresses and we get to know a rather large cast of unlikeable characters, there was one character I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and that was Beth, Kate’s good friend and walking buddy. Beth is also a cop and will come to feature prominently in the mystery that ensues. Beth and her partner Ike were (thankfully) two people I could root for. As I said,  Beth plays a large role in the story as there occurs a particular crime where the list of possible suspects is endless. I always enjoy a good crime puzzle with lots of potential suspects so that part of the story worked for me. I had many theories as to who the guilty party was and they kept changing as new evidence came to light. Although the story didn’t at all go where I thought and hoped it was going to, I managed to stay engaged with the narrative but the farther along the plot progressed, the harder it became to do so. It felt like there were too many threads that didn’t connect or if they did they felt forced for the sake of trying to make parts “fit.”  In addition, there were a couple subplots that I just didn’t care about and I was left wondering how they contributed to the overall plot. I’m still not sure.

Overall, what really worked for me was Beth’s character and the fact that the narrative was told in a linear framework; there were no back and forth perspectives or past/present switchbacks which I appreciated. I also thought the setting was perfect for the story and the dialogue was top notch. Unfortunately, too many other parts just didn’t work for me including the ending which I will let you all judge for yourself.

2.5/5 Stars

This book will be published January 24 by Atria Books

Many thanks to Atria Books via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

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 2011 by Mulholland Books

My Rating: 4 Stars

An international thriller based on one of the biggest bank heists in history.

Billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi banks, and journalist Luca Terracini will risk everything to discover where it is. His Iraqi-American background has made it easier for him to infiltrate the darkest corners of the war, but death of his beloved Nicola in a suicide bombing has made him reckless. He has nothing left to lose.

In pursuit of the money, he meets UN representative Daniela Garner, who seems to know more about the heist than anyone else. She’s a valuable asset in Baghdad where the possibility of an explosion lurks at every checkpoint. Luca’s investigation proves volatile as well, and as he gets closer to the missing money, his actions begin to reverberate around the world.

In London, Richard North, a top-tier international banker and the one person who might be able to explain where the money has gone, vanishes. The manhunt for him will get Luca evicted from Iraq, separated from Daniela, and possibly end both his investigation and his life.

As usual, it’s all about the money: who has it, who’s lost it, and who’s ultimately going to pay, as clandestine agents emerge from the shadows and powerful nations seek to control information and bury secrets, whatever the cost.

******

If you read my blog on a consistent basis or check out my Goodreads “Read” shelf (link below) you’ll notice that I’m no stranger to jumping into a series at various points when a book just sounds too good to pass up and I don’t have time or a desire to start at book one. This is no exception as it’s book 5 in the Joseph O’Loughlin series. Funny thing is, I started with Say Your Sorry which is book 6, then read this one after enjoying book 6 so much. Sometimes, it works for me to jump into a series at different points and sometimes it doesn’t but this is one time it worked. I thoroughly enjoyed Robothan’s writing! He provides enough backstory about Joseph O’Loughlin that you won’t feel lost. Actually, Joseph doesn’t really play that much of a role in this one. For me, the setting and action of the narrative drew me in as well as the mystery of ‘where’s the money?’ I love a good bank heist! If you’re in the mood for an action packed thriller with a mystery at it’s core I think you’ll find The Wreckage a good pick. Happy Reading!

If you have your own favorite Throwback Thursday recommendation leave a comment, I’d love to increase my TBR even more:)