REVIEW: SUNBURN By Laura Lippman

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Published Feb 20, 2018 by William Morrow 

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

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Isn’t that cover fantastic?! It’s what drew me to take a closer look at this one and then to go against my self-imposed ban on psychological suspense/thrillers. I’ve been wanting to read Laura Lippman for a few years so this seemed like the perfect time to give her a try.

From the opening pages I was very taken with the whole cat and mouse vibe this story has going on! Within the first 50 pages I realized it reminded me of the tone of The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson (loved). That is, no one was especially likable or trustworthy but I couldn’t stop reading . In Sunburn, you have Polly AKA Pauline and Adam, both with rather shady pasts and even murkier intentions in their current situations. In an effort to be concise and quick I’ll sum up my main points about what I really enjoyed…

  • The web of deceit playing out between Polly and Adam left me off balance with not knowing who to trust
  • The story is told in alternating perspectives (POVs) between Polly and Adam with a sprinkling of other POVs which surprisingly didn’t bother me
  • The instability of the characters….who was playing who?
  • Lippman’s ability to tease the reader with tidbits thrown here and there, creating heightened confusion and layers of questions
  • Small town setting
  • This story felt original and had me guessing about everyone’s motives and end games
  • The ending…loved it and NOT what I expected.

What you should know before diving into this one is, it’s a SLOW BURN of the highest level. I’m not saying that in a negative way, only that if you’re looking for a fast paced thriller this isn’t it. This novel is high on introspection depending on the POV and Lippman takes her time peeling away the layers of the characters and story. It works. I think many readers are going to love this and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for  psychological suspense with an underlying mystery and an intriguing game of cat and mouse

Many thanks to William Morrow via Edelweiss for my copy

 

 

IT’S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING?

cheers!

Hosted by Kathryn at Bookdate

I was making pretty good progress on my end of summer reading until the end of last week when life outside of blogging became very hectic. I continue to have quite a bit going on so things on the blog and social media may slow down over the next couple weeks. I’m hoping to at least keep up by doing some mini-reviews of these books as well as Throwback Thursday. I have high hopes I can get my reading back on track this week as well.

RECENTLY READ…

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Camino Island is my book club’s Sept pick and while I really loved the Florida setting and the heist theme with books as a backdrop, I thought there was quite a bit of fluff and filler in the story.

Castle of Water was a book I was seeing REPEATEDLY raved about on #bookstagram so of course I had to try it and what a fabulous story it ended up being. At under 300 pages I flew through this in one sitting. Don’t pass this by…review coming soon!

Lie to Me almost didn’t even make it onto my radar due to it being a psychological thriller which would’ve been a HUGE mistake on my part. This was one fun, twisty puzzle that I half listened to and half read. The audio narrator is fantastic so if you decide to listen to this one I think you’ll be happy. Yes, it’s being compared to Gone Girl and while very similar in tone I enjoyed this one more! Review coming soon

 

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO…

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The Mothers I know this book was very popular last year but I was never inclined to pick it up until the other day when I heard it talked about on the podcast Recommended. I’m about 30% into it and I love the narrator and the story so far.

READING NEXT….

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Lightning Men I’m hoping to start this one today as it releases tomorrow! Early reviews are saying this is amazing so I can’t wait to jump in!

What’s on your reading agendas for this week? I hope everyone has a great reading week!

 

 

REVIEW: THE SALT HOUSE By Lisa Duffy

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Publication Date June 13, 2017 by Touchstone 

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.
When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

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I was completely taken in by this cover and title, it was just perfect for my summer tbr.  When I read the description I was even more intrigued. While I’m a die hard mystery lover, some of my all time favorite books have been drama filled, character driven novels, so I was excited to give this one a go. It’s really no spoiler in the blurb that the family is dealing with the aftermath of the grief involved with losing one of their children…you find that out basically on page 1 and the novel begins a year after her death. I think it’s pretty accurate to say this is an in-depth look at grief and how it effects each member of a family.

I want to focus first on what worked for me. First and foremost, the setting was fantastic! The author did a wonderful job of bringing this small coastal town to life. I could picture the boats, marina, and most importantly The Salt House…the view sounded phenomenal. Speaking of The Salt House, this was the family’s dream house and renovations were almost complete when their daughter died. Hope and Jack had poured their love and time into getting the house ready for their family to move into when tragedy struck with Maddie’s death. Now, it literally stands at a crossroads along with each member of the family. Will they be able to move past their grief and continue on with their dreams of living in The Salt House or will Hope and Jack self-destruct bringing their daughters down with them? This central premise is what intrigued me initially and kept me reading after the fifty percent mark where I feel the plot started to meander and the pace somewhat lulled for me.

In terms of the narrative structure, the novel alternates between each family member’s perspective so we get an up close look at what Jack, Hope, Jess and Kat are all thinking and feeling. On one hand, this worked for me because surprisingly (to me) the character I most connected with was sixteen year old Jess. Initially, I thought it would be Hope but I really thought Jess’s voice came across better to me. I may be in the minority when I say this but I couldn’t connect at all with Jack. I understood him channeling his grief in a different way than Hope but there were so many parts that I just felt fed up with him. He often completely seemed to be lacking common sense and his withdrawal from the family somehow made me feel unsympathetic to him. Finally, the drama with Ryland Finn left me feeling underwhelmed; whereas when I started, I expected the second half to be drama FILLED. Not the case for me. I do want to say I think the author’s writing is top of the line and I’ll gladly read whatever she publishes next, this one just missed the mark overall for me. If you enjoy alternating perspectives without the flashback factor, an amazing setting, and can hang in there with characters feeling, at times, heavy grief I think you should definitely give this a try.

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

 

 

 

REVIEW: SHADOW MAN By Alan Drew

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Published May 23, 2017 by Random House

What Dennis Lehane does for Boston, Alan Drew does for Southern California in this gritty thriller about an idyllic community rocked by a serial killer—and a dark secret.

Detective Ben Wade has returned to his California hometown of Rancho Santa Elena for a quieter life. Suddenly the town, with its peaceful streets and excellent public schools, finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the killer, Ben’s own world is rocked again by a teen’s suicide. Ben must decide how far he is willing to go, and how much he will risk, to rescue the town from a long-buried secret, as well as from a psychotic murderer.
With eerie, chilling, fine prose, Alan Drew brings us into the treacherous underbelly of a suburban California town in this brilliant novel of suspense about a man, and a community, confronted with the heart of human darkness.

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So I literally didn’t make it past the first paragraph of the blurb before I was hitting the request button on netgalley….Dennis Lehane (love him), gritty thriller, serial killer and a dark secret…done, done, and done… I needed this book. Also, what the blurb doesn’t tell you is that it’s set in the 80’s which is another must read factor for me so I was all about this book needless to say. After the first forty pages or so I began to realize something, however…this really wasn’t a thriller in the sense that I expected it to be. After an interesting prologue which is wrote from the serial killer’s perspective the pace of the book slowed WAY down. We meet Ben, his daughter Emma, his ex-wife and Natasha and little by little, piece by piece, we get to know each of them as well as the small town of Santa Elena. The author did a wonderful job of fleshing out each of these characters along with creating a duel storyline with the serial killer. Along with realistic characters I also enjoyed the powerful sense of time and place Drew created with his use of strong, descriptive prose. I could easily visual this small Southern California town.

I have to say I really liked Alan Drew’s writing style although I would compare it more to John Hart than Dennis Lehane, in my opinion. Lehane creates a sense of tension or menace in his writing that I didn’t find here. What I did find was very likable characters in Ben and Natasha. I appreciated her confidence and intelligence and while I thought her use of technical medical terms for body parts was over the top, I did find her to be spunky and wondered if Ben would ever pick up on her attraction to him! Let’s talk about Ben because when I started this book I really thought it was going to be focused on the serial killer mystery but what it seemed to be focused on was Ben…his demons, secrets, and extreme desire to avoid something from his past. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Ben…alot…but I wanted and expected a faster paced thriller as well as the mystery to be a little more intricate. The narrative does include shifts to the serial killer’s perspective detailing his childhood which, while awful and heartbreaking, I found myself not really caring too much about that aspect of the story. It seemed to lack that edge of your seat something. I’m not sure if it was the slower pace, the focus on the killer’s past or something else but I wasn’t as invested in that part of the story and in the end it seemed pretty straightforward and underwhelming. What did work extremely well, however, was the “dark secrets” aspect which, although I did figure one out before the end, I found to be compelling and worked to keep the narrative flowing.

Overall, if you’re in the mood for an atmospheric, character driven mystery that slowly evolves I think you might really enjoy this one. Those looking for a fast paced thriller may be disappointed.

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