AUDIOBOOK REVIEW:GETTING LIFE:AN INNOCENT MAN’S 25-YEAR JOURNEY FROM PRISON TO PEACE by Michael Morton. Narrated by Roger Wayne

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GOODREADS BLURB

He spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He lost his wife, his son, and his freedom. This is the story of how Michael Morton finally got justice—and a second chance at life.

On August 13, 1986, just one day after his thirty-second birthday, Michael Morton went to work at his usual time. By the end of the day, his wife Christine had been savagely bludgeoned to death in the couple’s bed—and the Williamson County Sherriff’s office in Texas wasted no time in pinning her murder on Michael, despite an absolute lack of physical evidence. Michael was swiftly sentenced to life in prison for a crime he had not committed.

My Review

This story is haunting to say the least. Michael Morton went to work one morning and by the afternoon his life, as he knew it, was over. When and how he finds out that his wife Chris has been murdered in their bed, with their three year old son home , is heartbreaking. It’s hard to attribute positive words like fascinating and page turning to such a tragic story but that’s how I would describe the complete railroading and injustice that took place when the local sheriff’s department immediately zeroed in on Michael as the killer. How he was treated, questioned, and then arrested was mind boggling and I listened in a state of bewilderment.

I know I’m being somewhat vague but I don’t want to give away important plot details about the case because there’s so much that happens over the 25 years it took Michael Morton to get justice that you really need to listen, or read, for yourself. This being a memoir we get in depth, first hand accounts from Michael about what happened the day his wife was murdered,  how he felt, and what he was thinking and feeling. We also get his first hand account of life in prison for 25 years and his pursuit of and determination to get to the truth of who really murdered his wife Chris.

While this is a memoir, it’s also a real life mystery because there are questions about the case that the sheriff’s office completely ignored such as: what did Michael’s son who was 3 at the time, and home with his mom, actually see and hear? What about other physical evidence that was found on the property? Will these unanswered questions lead to the real killer? You’ll have to listen or read to find out!

This story caused me to feel so many things while listening…anger, sadness, confusion…it’s all there.  Sometimes, even if the story sounds interesting ,  I’ve found it hard to listen to a book because the narrator’s voice just didn’t work for me. That wasn’t the case with this audiobook, however, because the narrator, Roger Wayne, was fantastic. I recommended this book to my book club and they all read the print version and also loved it,  so either way you “get” this incredible true crime story you won’t be disappointed.

5/5 Stars 

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REVIEW:A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams

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GOODREADS BLURB

Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until the Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

My Thoughts

This was my first Beatriz Williams book as well as one of the only historical fiction books I’ve read in years. I came across it this summer going through my very long list of books I’d bought when they were on sale for Kindle but which had gotten lost in my never ending TBR pile. I bought it at the time (last year) because the premise sounded interesting and I love a good romantic triangle drama.

The book begins in 1931 when Lily and Budgie are in college and attending a football game at a nearby school where Lily sees Nick for the first time. It’s definitely infatuation at first sight on Lily’s part. As we become interested and invested in seeing the evolving love relationship between Lily and Nick, the author switches time frames and bumps us to early summer 1938 and Lily is back at her parent’s beach house in Seaview, Rhode Island, alone and seemingly trying to get out of a “funk” due to what happened with Nick and Budgie. Here, we’re introduced to Kiki (Lily’s six year old sister?) as well as her Aunt Julie who’s quite the outspoken, brash one of the family.   When Budgie shows up in Seaview to open up her parent’s beach house for the summer, things get VERY interesting! You see Budgie is married to Nick now, and well…you just have to read this to find out how THAT  happened and how it all plays out. Hint: dramatically!

I actually loved the structure of the story and how it’s told with the alternating time frames which culminated when the Hurricane of 1938 hits Seaview. No one and nothing will be the same. I was very invested and connected with all these characters who I thought the author made multidimensional. And I say this even though I didn’t LIKE all the characters. Beatriz William’s writing is so atmospheric that I could picture the club’s veranda at dusk, see Lily relaxing and sipping her gin while the waves crashed on the shore in the background and feel her shock and panic when Budgie and Nick show up out of the blue at that exact moment. So yes there’s excellent writing going on here.

If you can’t already tell, I loved this book! Not only will I be reading Beatriz William’s other books as fast as I can, I’ll be first in line for her future novels as well. For those of you who, like me, don’t typically read historical fiction you just might be pleasantly surprised if you give this one a try. If you like drama, suspense, and well-developed characters this may be the book for you.

5/5 STARS  

LIBRARY GRABS

I’m very excited about my library finds yesterday! Has anyone read and liked any of these? Very excited to get reading…biggest dilemma is which to start first?? The Risen came highly recommend by a fellow book reviewing friend so that’s leading the way so far.

REVIEW:BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A.Paris

 

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GOODREADS BLURB

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

 

To me, this is a case of the blurb giving away too much information because you can pretty much decipher the situation given what’s described above. Jack and Grace get married after a whirlwind romance in which Grace really should’ve heeded the old advice of ‘if something seems too good to be true it usually is’ and asked just a few more questions about Jack. But I could buy the fact that she fell in love and he was so nice to her sister Millie, who had Downs Syndrome. Grace basically lived for her sister and Jack was promising to take care of them both.

Immediately upon getting married,  things take a turn for the worse and this is where I started having trouble suspending my disbelief. I don’t want to give much away but I had a hard time believing Grace wouldn’t or couldn’t have made some different choices to help herself or call attention to what was going on.   As frustrated as  I was with her character’s motivations, the pace, action and structure of past and present narration did help to create a feeling of ‘I need to keep reading to see how this plays out and how Grace does or doesn’t get out of this situation.’ However,  for me,  there weren’t any ‘wow I didn’t see that coming’ twists that some blurbs have led us to believe. I thought the author’s writing style and use of dialogue was engaging though and made for a fast-paced read.

What I really liked about the book was the character of Millie, who seemed the smartest of them all, and the pacing of action which kept me turning the pages.  A major thing that bothered me was I felt I was being explained and “told” a lot of information when showing would have created much more suspense and fear. For example, Jack neatly explained to Grace his history with his parents and then told us what his motivation for his actions was when I for one would have liked to have seen any of that played out in actual action or situations in the book. That would’ve been scary. Overall, I don’t mind suspending disbelief but I felt I had to do that way too much throughout this story. If you like domestic dramas with a thriller feel, this book may appeal to you.

3/5 Stars

THROWBACK THURSDAY:THE LAST CHILD By John Hart

 

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Courtesy of Fabonlinemagazine.com

I wanted to do a weekly post to share a book from the past…either one I’ve read and loved or one that I still want to read that’s gotten lost in my TBR pile…so I thought Throwback Thursday would be a good day to do it!

 

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Published: 2009

Read & My Rating: 5/5 Stars  

GOODREADS BLURB

Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is—confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing…

If you like extremely well-written and plotted mysteries then this book is for you. John Hart’s writing is top notch as he draws you into these characters lives, especially Johnny’s, and you won’t want to stop turning the pages until you, like Johnny, find out what happened to his sister. Highly recommended!

 

REVIEW:RISE THE DARK by Michael Koryta

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GOODREADS BLURB

Mark Novak’s greatest mystery may be his own…

Rise the dark. These were the last words written in Lauren Novak’s notebook before she was murdered in a strange Florida village. They’ve never meant anything to the police or to her husband, investigator Markus Novak. Now the man he believes killed her is out of prison, and draws Markus to the place he’s avoided for so long: the lonely road where his wife was shot to death beneath the cypress trees and Spanish moss in a town called Cassadaga.

Review

The above is just part of the story in this suspenseful new novel by Michael Koryta. The other part takes place in Red Lodge, Montana where Sabrina Baldwin and her husband Jay have recently moved into their new home in the mountains. The setting is perfect for what takes place next. As a sweeping snowstorm enters the area, power is lost to hundreds of people and Jay, a previous high voltage linesman (can you imagine that job?) who’s now a foreman who oversees the local power grid, gets called out to investigate and restore power. What Jay discovers as to the source of the downed power lines is quite shocking and draws him deeper into the mountains. By the time Jay finally returns home, he’s in for another shock because something has happened to Sabrina that will catapult Jay into a nightmare he didn’t see coming.

Koryta does an good job shifting from Markus’s storyline to Jay’s,  all the while keeping the reader in suspense for Jay’s situation and intrigued over Markus’s journey throughout Florida in his search to get answers about his wife’s murder. *I should note, Markus is first introduced to us in Koryta’s novel, Last Words, published last year BUT you don’t have to have already read that one to enjoy this book*.

I have to say, I was somewhat more invested in Markus’s journey and investigation and felt that there were some drawn out scenes involving Jay’s part of the story and I found myself doing some skimming towards the middle of the book. However, as the novel progresses, these storylines will connect leading to some shocking revelations. I don’t want to give anything away but I was surprised at the ending and will be VERY impatiently waiting for the next book!

3.5/5 STARS

***If you haven’t read THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD by Michael Koryta and you enjoy  action-packed thrillers you won’t be able to put down, go grab this one! It’s one of my favorite reads

 

RECOMMENDATION: WE ARE CALLED TO RISE by Laura McBride

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GOODREADS BLURB

An immigrant boy whose family is struggling to assimilate. A middle-aged housewife coping with an imploding marriage and a troubled son. A social worker at home in the darker corners of Las Vegas. A wounded soldier recovering from an injury he can’t remember getting. By the time we realize how these voices will connect, the impossible and perhaps the unbearable has already happened.

I read this back in July and it will be in my top 10 of 2016 for sure. The writing is so top notch it’s really hard to believe this is Laura McBride’s debut novel! The story is told from different perspectives and at first I wasn’t sure if everything would tie together but it does and it was such a great read with characters that will cause you to feel a wide range of emotions. Strong emotions. Have some kleenex handy.

5/5 STARS

 

 

 

REVIEW: DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch

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Goodreads Blurb

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

Oh this book! I’m not even including all of the Goodread’s blurb on this one because what you read above is all you need and should know before jumping into this unique crazy story. This book recommendation came to me by way of a very trusted fellow book reviewer who knows what I typically like to read and said to me “I recently read a fantastic book but it’s science fiction so I don’t know if you’d like it.But it’s also a love story.” I agreed it might not be my typical reading choice but this book was popping up on all the must-read lists and, honestly, the ‘it’s a love story’ teaser had me intrigued.

Jason Dessen is a typical guy living a regular life as a college professor with his wife and son. When he goes out one evening to meet an old friend for a drink, his life takes a dramatic turn when he’s abducted on the way home. This set up was reminescent to me of some of Dean Koontz’s earlier books as far as your average everyday person’s life being unexpectedly turned upside down and they must risk death, violence, etc trying to get back to their life before. Jason wants nothing more than to get back to his wife and son but his world, when he wakes up, is quite literally not the same. Here’s where some interesting words come into play that might turn a lot of people off…quantum physics, alternate universe, post-apocalyptic…I could go on but you get the idea. All of those are part of this story but only add to the exciting premise; you don’t have to understand any of it to immerse yourself in Jason’s journey . In fact, when I stopped trying to wrap my head around quantum physics and just went with it, my enjoyment of the story increased.

Jason gets into some pretty harrowing situations trying to get back to his wife and son that were quite action filled and nail-biting. Post-apocolypic Chicago was, for me, so descriptive that I could picture everything as if I was right there. That’s just excellent storytelling. The only issue I had came toward the very end where things seemed to get really over the top and seemed to interrupt the flow of action for me.  So, don’t read too much about this book before starting it, just know this…it really is a love story.

4/5 Stars 

 

 

REVIEW: DAISY IN CHAINS by Sharon Bolton

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Sun. October 2

   Happy Fall Reading

Fall is my favorite season for reading! The air gets crisp (where I live:) and the days get shorter which means more time wrapped in a blanket or sweater with a hot coffee or chocolate and a really good book. This weekend I continued to think about what I really want this blog to look like, as I intend to review all of the books I finish and also want to provide quick recommendations for books I’ve read in the past. For me, the bottom line when it comes to book reviews and what I always find myself skimming for is—what do you THINK about the book or how did it make you FEEL? That,  and I don’t want to read any spoilers in reviews.   For these reasons, you won’t find lengthy book summaries here and you’ll never get any spoilers!! To me, the fun of reading is starting a book with as little information as possible. Please keep checking back as I will be adding little things here and there, as I’d like visitors to be able find a new review or book recommendation on a daily basis.

I continue to find so many awesome book blogs out there to follow and to “meet” so many new friends on Goodreads that I just wish I’d started this blog sooner:)

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Goodreads Blurb

Famous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.

Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .

REVIEW

I love this blurb because it teases just enough of the story to draw you in but really gives nothing away as there’s so much more to this puzzle of a story. This is my second stand alone Sharon Bolton book after reading all the books in the Lacey Flint series and I have to say she keeps getting better. I started this book in the morning and finished that night pretty much neglecting everything else for the entire day. The characters, plot and pacing were top notch. To give a short synopsis, Hamish Wolfe, charismatic and handsome surgeon is in prison for the murder of 3 women who he has denied killing. Maggie Rose is a somewhat unique lawyer and true crime author who becomes increasingly involved with Hamish’s case. She’s helped other murderers get their convictions overturned, the question becomes will she help Hamish? And if she does can she keep her objectivity despite his charm and good looks? To add more conflict to the mix, Maggie is becoming friends with Detective Pete Weston, the man who broke the case against Hamish and who’s still convinced of his guilt. Add to this mix the groupies who are obsessed with the case and with Hammish himself , and you’ve got even more questionable characters . If it sounds like an intriguing puzzle, it is. Well done Sharon Bolton!!

5/5 STARS

***Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and Sharon Bolton for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review***

If you like this book, run out and grab her Lacey Flint series starting with Now You See Me as well as her stand alone Little Black Lies!!

 

REVIEW: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Goodreads Blurb
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.

We can tell you that 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.

Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Lily and the Octopus is one of those books that the less you know before reading it the better so my review may seem a little vague. That being said,  I picked this book as my first book to review for a couple of reasons. One, I read it about a month ago AND I still think about this book! I know it’s being compared to The Art of Racing in the Rain which in some ways it’s similar but it really deserves to stand on its own because not only will this book cause some tears (or in my case many) but it’s FUNNY! The banter between Ted and Lily is so endearing and witty…yes Lily talks..and for those of us with dogs (mine’s a lab) we know what it’s like to carry on conversations with our dogs…right? It’s not just me I hope:) In terms of Ted himself, we find out pretty quickly that he’s a lonely guy trying to cope after a  breakup with his partner so he’s seeing a (bad) therapist named Jenny. His thoughts about and interactions with Jenny were some of the best written, most sarcastic, wittiest parts of the book. Again, you will laugh!

Ok, the other reason I chose this book is I feel it’s a VERY big word-of-mouth book and I want to try to get the word out that I think everyone–not just dog lovers–would enjoy this book. It literally showed up on my porch after my fellow book loving friend called me to ask if I had read it which I hadn’t because I had never heard of it! She dropped it off that day, I read a few pages, and promptly neglected everything else and by 1:00am I was drying my eyes and wishing I hadn’t read it so fast.  All this isn’t to say I had no issues with the book. There is a section involving an octopus hunt that is filled with magical realism that I have to say just didn’t work for me. In my opinion, that all could’ve been left out and the story would’ve been just as good. But that’s a minor issue. If you enjoy original books with endearing characters that stay with you, you’ll love this.

5/5 stars