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 2012 By Harper

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Catherine has been enjoying the single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic, spontaneous – Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell. But there is a darker side to Lee.

His erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, and trusting no one, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything.

This is an edgy and powerful first novel, utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, and a tour de force of suspense.

******

This isn’t your typical obsessive love/stalker book…this book is downright terrifying in places! I remember how well the author created tension, suspense and fear. I liked Catherine which made it all the more worrisome because she ends up in constant danger. And Lee…he’s one scary guy! If you’re in the mood for an edge-of-yourseat, bite your fingernails kind of read give this debut novel a try, I think you’ll be in for a one-sit read:)

🌸Happy Reading🌸

More Throwback Thursday Recommendations around the Blogosphere:

Deanna at DeesRadReadsandReviews

Rebecca at Boofsbooks

Claire at I’m A Coffeholic Bookworm

Ashley at The Bookish Mommy

Abby at Crime By the Book

Ann Marie at LitWitWineandDine

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Nicola at Short Book and Scribes

Cathy at Between the Lines

Susan at Susan Loves Books

 

 

REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU By Jessica Strawser

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To be Published March 28, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

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I want to start by saying I LOVE that cover! That’s what drew me to this book several months ago when it popped up on Netgalley. This is Jessica Strawser’s debut novel and what a debut it is. I had this novel, along with several other upcoming new releases, on my radar and being the mood reader that I am, I decided to read the first few chapters of each and see what hit me the most. I was on vacation last week so I NEEDED something to really catch my interest. After reading the first few pages of Almost Missed You I had a winner!

The novel begins with Violet, mom to 3 year old Bear (ok I’ll admit his name really bugged me…it’s not a nickname) and wife to Finn. She’s relaxing by the pool on vacation and enjoying a rare few moments to herself to read and enjoy a drink as Finn has volunteered for nap duty. I think all moms can appreciate this set up! Violet is pondering the idea of fate and all the instances life had to add up just right for she and Finn to end up where they are…she loves her life and appreciates how the stars have seemed to align to bring her to this place of happiness. Can you just feel the coming of catastrophe??

I was immediately drawn in with the author’s writing style in this opening scene. It was engaging and I felt a connection to Violet right away. For me, a connection is a must to get me to continue reading! It really is interesting to think about all the ways life could’ve turned out differently if just one thing hadn’t happened or happened in a different way…and that’s where the author really captured my attention from the get go.

Needless to say, when Violet gets up to their hotel room her life effectively implodes and she’s left shocked and at a loss to figure out where it all went wrong. Where is her husband and child? It doesn’t take long for her to then ask herself… how is it she never really knew her husband?  More importantly, what is he hiding from his past that has led him to kidnap their child and basically drop a bomb on their happy life??

There is so much to like about this book. The characterization is strong in that I knew I had to find out what led to Violet and Finn’s downfall. The secondary characters…Violet’s “Gram,” their best friends George and Caitlin were also fairly multidimensional. Now, that being said, that doesn’t mean I liked all of these characters or really understood a lot of their motivations. In fact, I really only liked Violet and Gram. I thought Caitlin was probably the worst best friend anyone could’ve asked for and her decision making abilities and complete lack of common sense grated on my nerves. I should probably back up a little and say that the story is narrated from the alternating perspectives of Violet, Finn, and Caitlin…that’s how I got to know (and not like) Caitlin and Finn. The narration also flips back and forth between time periods from past (many years ago) to present. I thought this method worked very well for this story.

I don’t want to discuss any more of the plot because I think you should read this without any hints as to what went wrong or what ends up happening. I will tell you,  I stayed up SUPER late reading the first half of this book, the pace was spot on and I just had to KNOW more. The second half, however, began to unravel for me and I found myself skimming to get to dialogue. There was a lot of character introspection and descriptive details of events that I just didn’t care about or think added to the plot. Basically, I wanted more dialogue and less introspection. Also, I just expected more when it came to the resolution of “why” Finn did what he did.  I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give anything away.  In addition, the final scenes seemed somewhat implausible to me and a little too ‘over the top’.  I honestly don’t know how I feel about that ending and would LOVE to discuss it with others after you read this book.  For the ending alone, I think this would make a great selection for book clubs! Overall, this is a well-written debut and I will definitely be reading Jessica Strawser’s next novel!!

Many thanks to St Martin’s Press & Netgalley for my copy of Almost Missed You, I’m happy to provide an honest review

REVIEW: NEVER LET YOU GO By Chevy Stevens

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Published March 14, 2017 by St Martin’s Press

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? 

 

**I’ve got a super busy family week ahead this week so I apologize in advance if I miss sharing reviews and/or commenting on posts, I’ll catch up at the end of the week! **

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This review has been somewhat tough for me to write. You see, I’ve read most of Chevy Steven’s books (except Those Girls) and have massive love for Still Missing which I regularly recommend to those looking for a thrilling mystery. That Night is another favorite. So you could say I was pretty excited when I got my hands on this one. I went into this with a vague idea of the fact that it’s about an abusive marriage in which the wife manages to escape and then the husband gets out of prison and things start to go downhill for her.

If this sounds like a familiar storyline it’s because it is of course. Domestic thrillers have been taking over the psychological thriller genre for quite some time and in terms of movies, there’s the hugely popular Sleeping with the Enemy. I was convinced Chevy would bring something new to the table, something that might make me hold my breath and feel tense throughout. Unfortunately, for me, that just didn’t happen. I’ve thought for the last 4 days about why this book didn’t grab me and I can’t come up with one specific reason. I think, maybe, it’s a combination of factors, including a lack of character connection on my part and a dislike of the narrative structure.

The story starts off from Lindsey’s perspective in 2005 and we are immediately submersed in the dance of destruction and manipulation that is her and Andrew’s marriage. To make matters worse, their young daughter Sophie is witness to it. I wondered if I would’ve felt differently had she chosen to start the story in the past when they first met which is where it eventually jumps to. So while I’m on the subject, if you’re a fan of frequently alternating perspectives and multiple jumping timelines then you’ll probably really like this narrative structure. I’m not and I think that’s another reason I wasn’t engaged with the story. The novel goes back and forth between Lindsey’s perspective and her teenage daughter Sophie’s, as well as shifting time perspectives from the past when they met to the past during their marriage to present day. There is LOTS of jumping around which, for me, led to a lack of feeling connected and engaged with the plot and characters. Also, I’m not sure I completely bought into Sophie’s motivations of totally disregarding everything her mother said about her violent dad. This and the rest of the teenage angst storyline fell flat for me.

So, here’s the interesting part about my reading experience with this book….I read it in about 4 hours…that’s how incredibly “readable” it is. Chevy Steven’s writing just flows, there’s something about the way she writes that makes you stay glued to the pages and turning them as quickly as possible.  In terms of the mystery, there isn’t a lot of possibilities as to the who so you very well may figure that out (as I did) but the why and how played out in an interesting fashion. I was very impressed with how the author pulled together all the loose threads into a tight conclusion! Overall though, I just felt underwhelmed with this one but it very well may be a case of wrong book wrong time for me as the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are excellent. Give this a try if you like fast paced psychological thrillers with alternating timelines and perspectives.

3/5 Stars

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review 

REVIEW:DISTRESS SIGNALS By Catherine Ryan Howard

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Published Feb 2 by Blackstone Publishing 

The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads “I’m sorry–S” sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate–and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable.  

******

Distress Signals is a debut novel that packs a wallop of a punch! What starts off as a seemingly perfect, easy going relationship between Sarah and Adam turns into something else entirely. For ten years, Sarah has stuck by Adam while he pursued his dreams of becoming a writer. Finally, he seems to have struck gold, selling his screenplay to Hollywood. Things are looking up for him financially and he just might be ready to pop the question to Sarah…see things are going well, right?

When Sarah takes a business trip to Barcelona, Adam doesn’t think too much of the fact that he has only received a quick text from her right after she landed. Then silence. After a couple days of not being able to get ahold of her, Adam starts to feel that niggling worry that something’s most definitely off. When her parents get involved, things go from bad to worse, especially after Sarah doesn’t return on her scheduled return day. The note Adam soon receives in the mail from Sarah is pretty cryptic and he sets off on a one man mission to find out what happened to the love of his life. Did she leave him of her own free will or did something much more sinister happen to her? How big is the rabbit hole Adam is venturing down as he sets off to get these questions answered and how much did he really know Sarah? For that matter, how much do we really know Adam? 

Those questions and many more kept swirling around in my head as we follow Adam as he painstakingly recreates Sarah’s movements after she went to Barcelona. And actually, he’s a pretty good detective because little by little he narrows down Sarah’s destination after Barcelona to a cruise ship called the Celebrate.  Questions arise…what was she doing on a cruise ship? Was she alone and if not who was she with? What happened after she boarded the ship is where things get very interesting and all I’m going to say about the plot! While most of the story is told from Adam’s perspective, there are a couple subplots that prove to spin an even bigger web for the story.  One is Corinne’s, a cruise ship staff member who seems very on edge and to be hiding something most of the time. Another is Romain’s, a man who seems just not quite right and who’s story is told in flashbacks to his childhood. How these threads tie together had me questioning and second guessing myself so much my head was spinning. They also had me staying up SO late one night, quickly turning the pages in an effort to figure out how it all tied together and what happened to Sarah.

The way the author let this complex plot unfold…layer by layer…was perfectly executed. In addition, the details she incorporated surrounding cruise ships and maritime laws was fascinating to say the least. I found this story to be page turning and twisty with characters that may not be who we thought they were, a setting that invites suspense and mystery and an ending that proved my detective skills are subpar at best! This is one debut novel I highly recommend, but get ready to stay up late because you won’t want to put this down.

4.5/5 Stars

Many thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for my copy of this book. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

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. 

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.

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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.