REVIEW: TALL OAKS By Chris Whitaker

28933003

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

Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .

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

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

 

******

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

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

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

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

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

4.5/5 Stars

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

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

STANDALONE SUNDAY: THE GOOD HOUSE by Ann Leary

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan at  Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you can 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! Be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick is:

15793186

 

My Rating: 4. Stars

From Goodreads

A funny, poignant and revealing novel that’s become a huge word-of-mouth hit in the US.

How do you prove you’re not an alcoholic?

Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman’s life – middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town. But Hildy isn’t one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir. When her two earnest grown-up children stage ‘an intervention’ and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn’t Hildy enjoy a drink now and then?

But as the story progresses, we start to see another side to Hildy Good, and to her life’s greatest passion – the lies and self deceptions needed to support her drinking, and the damage she causes to those she loves. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behaviour of one threatens to expose the other, with devastating consequences

I just read this book in the spring and there’s so many reasons I loved it but one of the biggest is Hildy.  Her character is funny, witty and very charming,  yet while getting to know her and being privy to her slow unraveling, you begin to feel that Hildy’s life is a train that’s quite possibly nearing the point of derailment. And here’s what that blurb above is missing…this story has a fantastic mystery at it’s heart, one I couldn’t figure out until the author skillfully revealed the answer. Although the story centers on Hildy, there’s a great cast of supporting characters that will intrigue you and keep you turning the pages until you find out how they all intertwine…cue the derailment image!

REVIEW:THE TRESPASSER by Tana French

28273664

“Atmospheric and unputdownable.” – People

From the hardcover edition

In bestselling Tana French’s newest “tour de force,”* being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

***

Enough said! That is literally all you need and should know before starting this stellar read by Tana French. And you might also find this advice helpful…If you start this book in the evening, be prepared to be up until all hours of the night because you won’t be able to put it down.

The Trespasser is Tana French’s sixth novel, coming after The Secret Place in 2014, and continues on with the Dublin Murder Squad. This time, the focus is on its two newer detectives,  Antoinette Conway and Stephan Moran. I have to say I didn’t read The Secret Place so I was coming in with no idea about the two detectives but I really don’t think that hindered my enjoyment in any way. This is a whole new story and it starts off with a bang.

We are immediately immersed in the goings on of Antoinette as she is the narrator of this story. And boy does she have her hands full. She’s the only female on the Murder Squad and suffice it to say not that well liked. Her only “friend” is her partner, Stephen, and they soon get called out on a seemingly slam dunk domestic murder case.  When they arrive at the scene, however, things quickly become murky; suspicions arise and people associated with the case seem to be holding things back or outright lying. Question is: WHY??

Of the many things I liked about this book, two things kept me turning the pages as fast as possible…the dialogue and the layered plotting. I can’t remember the last time I was so immersed in the dialogue of a book! I felt like I was sitting in on the conversations of all the characters…just like a fly on the wall. It was dynamic yet nuanced, sometimes sarcastic and snappy but always entertaining. I didn’t want to miss a single conversation for fear of someone letting a clue slip!

As far as plotting goes, can I just say the web that Tana French has spun is genius. We are presented fairly quickly with Aislinn’s new boyfriend as the go to suspect but is he too perfect a suspect? And why is her supposed best friend being cagey with the detectives? That’s just the tip of the questioning ,who’s lying, who’s telling the truth iceberg.

In a 2014  interview, Tana French talks about wanting to offer readers both gripping plots and good writing and questions whether she has managed to offer readers both. I say hands down, no doubt she has managed to give readers both and I for one can’t wait for the next stand alone or installment in the Dublin Murder Squad.

5/5 Stars   

Other Recommendation

10805160

 

RECOMMENDATION: BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley

26245850

FROM GOODREADS

On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the tragedy and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the crash heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy: Was it merely dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations–all while the reader draws closer and closer to uncovering the truth.

This was an excellent summer read for me so if you’re looking for a great weekend book pick give this one a try. It grabs you immediately and throws you smack into the action and you won’t be able to flip the pages fast enough to find out what happened…Before the Fall.

4/5Stars

THROWBACK THURSDAY: STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens

7159515

Published: July, 2010

Publisher: St.Martins Press

My Rating: 5 Stars

GOODREADS BLURB

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she’s about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Still Missing interweaves the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfold through sessions with her psychiatrist, with a second narrative following the events after her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

Still Missing is a shocking, visceral, brutal and beautifully crafted novel. (less)

If you’re a fan of thrillers with shocking endings, this book is for you. It’s original, nail-biting and disturbing with an ending I never saw coming. The way the story unfolds creates so much suspense that you’ll want to read this book in one sitting so be prepared to clear your calendar for the day!!

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

19302626

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 

REVIEW:A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams

16158535

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  

REVIEW: DAISY IN CHAINS by Sharon Bolton

140595-fall-reading

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:)

27418655

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!!