Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson: Book Review

Before She Knew Him  by Peter Swanson
Published March 5, 2019 by William Morrow
320 Pages

From Publisher: an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

My Thoughts: I should probably apologize in advance for this extremely vague review BUT this is most definitely a book you don’t want to know much about going in. Trust me. Also, I loved/hated this book so rather than be super confusing with my details as to why I’ll just give you a quick overview.

As I said, I loved this book so much…up until I didn’t.  For much of the book,  I couldn’t wait to pick this back up when life intervened. But then a plot development happened and I’ll admit, I got pretty mad.

Hen and her husband Lloyd are new in the neighborhood and have been invited to their neighbor’s house for a party. When Hen notices a statue on the shelf in their den, she’s convinced it belonged to a boy who was murdered years ago. A case Hen had previously been completely obsessed with. You see, Hen has her own mental health issues but she’s determined to find out if her neighbor Matthew is a killer. 

I absolutely love how Swanson writes in your face psychopaths and mentally unstable people who may or may not be reliable. Truly, he’s brilliant at it. I found the fact that he shined a bright light on these characters and put the crazy front and center so  refreshing. There’s no beating around the bush about who’s not playing with a full deck. And I was totally happy about that.  In fact, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see how it all played out. Until one major plot point left me feeling manipulated on such a level that rather than feeling like oh you totally got me I felt angry about what I believed to be pure gimmick. This had been such an intricate, interesting story up until that point. When I read thrillers I don’t mind being kept in the dark and being surprised by the resolution (in fact I prefer it) but I don’t want to feel tricked by the author’s use of a gimmick and that’s how this one left me feeling. I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give a single detail away. Read this for yourself and see what you think, then message me to discuss. Overall,  this was an addictive, page turning read but I was disappointed in the end. 

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review 

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Monday Reading Update

 

Hi All! Hope you had a good weekend. We’re still waiting for warmer weather here in Ohio, so in the meantime I’ve been taking advantage of reading under my favorite cozy blanket. I had a SUPER productive reading week last week, finishing 3 books, 2 of which I really liked although none were 5 star reads…close but not quite.

RECENTLY READ…

The River   was way more literary than I expected. I don’t mean that in a bad way because the writing was excellent but I thought it would be more thriller like and it really wasn’t. I appreciated the author’s obvious knowledge of canoeing on a river and wilderness survival along with his ability to create extremely realistic scenes. I wanted to read this book because I love nature and stories about wilderness survival because I would never ever want to go camping or rafting on a river…ever. I felt like I was there while reading this story though. However, I thought there was something lacking. I’m not sure if it was the third person narration which made me feel less connected to either Wynn or Jack but I was left feeling underwhelmed when I should’ve felt several other emotions.

Before She Knew Him was one of my most anticipated winter reads and it definitely ended up being addictive reading. I love how Swanson writes characters who are wacky and completely in your face about it! BUT, I ended up having thoughts…many thoughts…I’ll have a review up soon.

The Last Act was a such a fast paced, action filled read. The blurb for this contained so many of my favorite buzz words (FBI, prison, undercover, ) I knew I would love it…and I did. Review up (hopefully) tomorrow for pub day

 

TRIED BUT WASN’T FEELING…

American Spy also had so many of my favorite buzz words in the publisher blurb…espionage, spy thriller, FBI, passionate romance and betrayal…yes please! After the opening scene, however, the plot quickly fizzled for me with WAY too much telling and a second person narrative structure I didn’t like.

 

CURRENTLY READING…

The Devil Aspect  came on my radar after I saw Katie’s review at Basicbsguide  on Instagram. This creepy story centering around the “criminally insane” sounds like something I’ll love. I’ve just started it but I can say it’s drawn me in from the first page. Let’s hope my luck with quality thriller reads continues!

POSSIBLE NEXT READS…

    OR  

I think I’m about ready for a thriller break before I start having nightmares about all the psychopaths I’ve been reading about! Both of these sound promising and would be much lighter reads.

Did you read anything great last week? Have anything that sounds amazing coming up? Let me know in the comments!

Have a Great Week!!

Mini Review Tuesday: Never Tell, Stalker & The Last Romantics

Hi Everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts these past couple weeks. I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the blog as well as social media and reading on top of life! It’s a lot and I’m trying to figure out what the best platform is for me to share my reviews and still be able to connect and interact with other readers which has been my main purpose all along. Lately, I’m finding that it’s super fast for me to get a review posted quickly on my Instagram which you can find (here). and/or my Goodreads (here).  I’m regularly posting my current reads on both as well as quick thoughts and book recommendations in my Instagram stories. I tend to post all my audiobook recommendations there right as I’m listening to them. All this is to say, if you aren’t seeing posts from me here as regularly as before and you’re interested in what I’m reading and reviewing, try those platforms – I hope you’ll follow me at one or both! Now, on to some amazing reads…

 

Never Tell  by Lisa Gardner
Published: Feb 19 by Dutton
419 Pages

From Publisher: A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

My Thoughts: Friends, Lisa Gardner just keeps getting better and better. I’ve been a loyal reader of her DD Warren series for years but I’ve also read every standalone book she’s ever wrote and I have to say, there’s NO author out there writing at this high a level book after book. Never Tell has continuing characters DD Warren, her husband Alex, partners Phil and Neil and her new protege/confidential informant Flora Dane. Despite this being part of a series, I do think you could read this as a standalone and be perfectly happy. 

The story is told in alternating perspectives from Flora, DD, and Evie. Evie starts off the story when she enters her home and finds her husband shot to death and she proceeds to take the gun. Why? You’ll have to read because that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg. DD is the investigating detective and she enlists Flora’s help. Flora’s perspective gives us a much more in depth look at her past time with her kidnapper Jacob Ness and we get to understand so much more about why she is the way she is. The pace is fast, the chapters short, and the plot intricate. There are webs upon webs upon webs to be untangled and deciphered and I loved every minute of trying…to no avail. This one’s so well plotted my advice is just sit back and enjoy the read. If you enjoy thrillers with intricately plotted mysteries this book’s for you! You really can’t go wrong with any of Lisa’s books but a few of my past favorites are Gone, Love You More, The Perfect Husband and Catch Me

Thanks to Dutton via Netgalley for my copy

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Stalker  by Lars Kepler
Published Feb 5, 2019 by Knopf
560 Pages
From Publisher: Detective Joona Linna — recently returned from compassionate leave — reunites with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark in a search for a seemingly unassailable sadistic killer.
My Thoughts: This was such a fantastic thriller! The opening scenes are chilling to say the least. Someone is stalking women from afar, video taping them as they go about their lives in their homes and then sending the video to police minutes before the each woman is murdered. Needless to say, the police don’t have time to figure out who the women are before they’re killed. This storyline runs parallel to another involving Joona Linna, the main detective from the series. Joona is not at his best but he’s called in to assist the new detective in charge, Margot, who’s very pregnant and very dedicated to stopping this killer. Joona also reconnects with his friend, the hypnotist Erik, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Everything about this story worked for me, the pace was excellent, the characterization strong, and the mystery a top notch whodunit. I didn’t have it figured out that’s for sure. I can’t wait for the next installment in this series!
Thanks to Knopf via Netgalley for my copy
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The Last Romantics  by Tara Conklin
Published Feb 5, 2019 by William Morrow
368 Pages

From Publisher: When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

My Thoughts: I really loved this book! This family saga that centered on 4 siblings who were left to fend for themselves during what they called “the pause” after their father dies and their mother retreats to her bedroom for several years was so well written. We follow siblings Renee, Joe, Caroline and Fiona from childhood through old age which gave me the feeling that I truly knew these characters as real people. I love stories set over decades!

I flew through the first half, finding Fiona’s narration interesting yet with a melancholy flow. I did find that the middle dragged for me with a few too many shifts in time and perspectives that felt abrupt at times. The final third was fantastic and left me in tears. Ultimately, this story was, for me, a meditation on love, despair, resilience, family, and forgiveness.

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy 

2 Backlist Bingeworthy Books for Your 2019 TBR’s

The Idea of You  by Robinne Lee
Published: June 13, 2017 By St Martin’s Griffin
368 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things

 

My Thoughts: Ok, so I read this blurb when the book first came out and I was seeing it everywhere and I thought it wasn’t for me because of the large age difference. Earlier this week, however, I saw this on someone’s Instagram top 2018 books of the year post and decided to take a closer look after reading that she had had the same reservations but then loved it. Well, this effectively busted me out of my DNF pattern and I read it in one day! This story was such a fun surprise. There’s some serious globetrotting travel going on which I loved as well as a high level of cultural detail into the art world as the main character Solene owns her own gallery. I found her to be very likable although she made some  questionable parenting decisions along the way. I also really liked Hayes who was levels above his age, maturity wise.

There are SO many themes explored in this book….love of course, ageism, sexism, the downside of fame, our society’s obsession with celebrities, women & aging, double standards, etc. I think this would make a great book club pick because there’s quite a lot to discuss but know that the romance is often quite steamy and explicit so…know your book club is what I’m saying. I’m dying to discuss this – especially that ending which I’m still thinking about days later –  so if you’ve read it and want to chat send me an email or DM me on Twitter or Instagram. Ultimately, I loved this and found it to be a smart, sophisticated love story. Bingeworthy indeed!

 

 

Forever is the Worst Long Time  by Camille Pagan
Published: Feb 7, 2017 by Lake Union
284 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon 

From Publisher: When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

My Thoughts: My 2019 has started with a bang with this couldn’t-put-it-down story. One of my favorite storylines is a love triangle so right off the bat I had high hopes for this book. The story is narrated by James from a time in the future which I thought was a perfect way to not only get to know (and like) him but to also get to know Lou and Rob through his eyes. James and Rob had been friends since they were kids and I loved how Pagan incorporated the sentimentality of that type of friendship along with growing up in a small town. If you’re James, what do you DO when you’ve fallen in love with your best friend’s fiancé?

What I especially loved about the way Pagan told the story is that everyone felt like real people making what often ended up being stupid decisions. They were flawed in just the right ways that what they did or didn’t do made sense even if I didn’t agree with them.  I have to say, throughout the story, I had no idea what was going to happen with these characters because twists happened early on.  Plus, it takes place over a time period of about 18 years so we really get involved and invested in the drama of their lives. And the drama was good! And perfectly paced. In the end, things happened I never anticipated and there may have been crying on my part. Seriously, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional this story ended up being and I loved every bit of this surprising one sit read! This is my first book by this author but it definitely won’t be my last.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this or want to!

2 Must Read October Releases: One Day in December by Josie Silver & The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Publication: October 16, 2018 by Broadway Books
416 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon

Short Summary: Laurie has a case of insta-love through a bus window, spends close to a year trying to find him, only to have him show up one day as her best friend’s new boyfriend

My Thoughts: I know a lot of people hear instant-love and automatically write a book off but I really hope you’ll give this one a chance. Whereas another recent love story, Ghosted (My review) didn’t work for me, this one completely did. I would describe the initial “love at first sight” as more of a “wow, I feel an attraction/connection with you” but they can’t even speak to each other because one is on a bus and the other is outside at the stop. Then, just as quickly, the bus is gone, resulting in a missed opportunity for both Laurie and Jack. To me, this was believable.

Time goes by and despite Laurie’s attempts, she’s never able to track down her mystery bus man. During this initial set up we get to know Laurie and her best friend Sarah and I immediately loved both of them and their friendship. You see, the author deftly explores female friendship along with the story’s inherent dilemma of what happens if the love of your life shows up as your very best friend’s new boyfriend. I know this may sound similar to Something Borrowed  by Emily Giffin but it’s really nothing like it. Silver has put her own spin on a familiar storyline, taking me down so many unexpected paths that I couldn’t stop reading! And I didn’t.  I read this in one sitting, laughing, crying and in the end slowing down because I didn’t want it to end. I have a feeling you might be seeing this on my top 10 books of 2018 list.  Yes, it was that good!

Thanks to Broadway Books via Netgalley for my copy 

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The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton
Publication: Oct 16, 2018 by Minotaur Books
432 Pages
Affiliate LinkThe Craftsman

From Publisher: Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. But now, decades later, he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

My Thoughts: Sharon Bolton is an auto-buy author for me, I don’t care what she writes, I’m buying and reading! That being said, I was a smidge hesitant about this one only because I knew it contained a hint of the supernatural and witches. Trust in Sharon Bolton, that’s all I can say because I loved this story.

One thing that really made this story for me was the fact that Bolton has created a multidimensional character with Florence Lovelady. We first meet her in 1999 when she’s returned for the funeral of Larry, the serial killer/creepy coffin maker whom she arrested and had convicted of the murders of 3 young kids in 1969. Can I just say, the scene involving one of these kids being buried alive was not only heartbreaking, but also one of the most uncomfortable, claustrophobic feeling scenes I’ve ever read. Luckily, Bolton doesn’t drag it out but it was enough to cause me to hold my breath.

The story continues by going back to 1969, allowing us to get to know Florence as she faces the many difficulties of being a female detective in the good old boys network of the police. The puzzle is intricate, the suspects many, and I was right there rooting for Florence as she sorted through the intricate web of layers to these crimes. I’ll be honest, the further I got in the story the more I had myself convinced I knew what had happened and I was a little disappointed that this was going to be the first Bolton story I had figured out. Yes, I was feeling smug. Then came some stuff…some happenings… and by the end I wasn’t so smug anymore. Sharon Bolton fooled me again and I’m SO happy she did. Seriously, if you enjoy mysteries, you have to read this book! Then go check out her backlist. You won’t regret it.

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: A Must Read Summer Debut

Where The Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens
Published August 14, 2018 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
384 Pages
Buy From Amazon

From the Publisher: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, aka the “Marsh Girl”

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My Overall ThoughtsWhere the Crawdads Sing is a book you’ve probably been seeing everywhere lately whether it’s been blowing up your Instagram feed, hitting some of the late summer must read lists and recently making People Magazine’s Best Book Of the Week pick! If you’ve wondered if it’s possibly as good as everyone is making it out to be I’m here to give my two cents worth and say yes it is, so run, don’t walk, to buy or borrow it now.

What Initially Drew Me In
I was intrigued by the fact that the storyline involved a possible murder, an isolated “marsh girl” and the two men who get wrapped up in her world. Could this also be a love story? (hint: yes!) Funny thing was, when I really got into the story which alternates between 1969 and the 1950s, I almost forgot about the murder mystery part as I was so invested in Kya’s story.

Atmospheric Writing
Owen’s writing created a feeling of actually being in the marsh which truly became its own character . I felt the suspense of wondering how this little girl, abandoned by her entire family, was going to survive on her own. The townspeople saw her as “white trash” and, not surprisingly, did little to help her. There was, however, bright spots amongst the cruelty, one of them being a local man named Jumpin who was my favorite character after Kya. Speaking of Kya, if you’re at all worried that she’s a “weird” character who doesn’t want to connect with others, don’t be as her desire for companionship and to be cared about by others came through so clearly.

“The lonely became larger than she could hold. She wished for someone’s voice, presence, touch, but wished more to protect her heart.”

And possibly my favorite passage in the book…

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

This is debut writing! Amazing!

A Flawless Second Half
I loved how Owens clearly combined her love of nature writing with her exploration of a little girl coming-of-age within the natural world. As for the mystery, I found it to be perfectly paced. The author hands us bits and pieces slowly, allowing this storyline to eventually merge with the past one and then really pick up speed. I found the last third of the book especially riveting as I couldn’t wait to find out if my theories were correct. They weren’t which I loved. As for the ending, I can honestly say I didn’t see one part coming and it left me a little stunned. 

You’ll be seeing this one on my top 10 reads of the year list, it’s just that good. I can’t wait for Delia Owen’s next book, I hope she writes fast! 

Thanks to G. P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley for my copy

 

 

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger: book review

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Published July 3, 2018 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
341 Pages
Affiliate Link : Buy From Amazon

From PublisherOn an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind. Ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau is engaged to Grant Ellis whose father is set to run for President of the US. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including some who are too close to home…

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I’ll admit, when I first came across this title I assumed it was another domestic psychological “wife” thriller (although one with a great cover). The Banker’s Wife , however, was not at all what I expected. I knew from the opening scene in the London airport that this financial thriller was not only going to keep me on my toes, but it had such an international flair and hint of conspiracy and secrets to come that I couldn’t wait to find out more. 

We first meet Marina, an investigative journalist for Press magazine, whose fiancé’s father is close to securing the bid for the next US Presidential election. Although she’s been contemplating quitting the further immersed she gets in the upper echelon of New York society, she’s enticed by her editor to help gather secret evidence from a source in Paris. What follows propels Marina into an investigation of a top Swiss Bank, Swiss United, which may or may not have close US ties. From there we get to be flies on the wall, immersed in the secrets and scandals that cross the globe.

The story alternates perspectives between Marina and Annabel, whose husband Matthew is missing after his plane goes down in the Swiss Alps. Matthew is a banking executive with Swiss United (can you start to see the threads?) and it’s not long before Annabel is questioning not only what happened to her husband’s plane but also if she really knew her husband. 

I was equally invested in both these smart, sophisticated, take control women and the way Alger structured the novel, with lightening paced chapters that combined phenomenal dialogue with increasing tension, was just brilliant. Seriously, I felt like I was watching a movie while reading this book, if that makes sense? It is one of the most cinematic, globe trotting novels I’ve ever read, taking us to Switzerland, Paris, London, and New York.  I could picture each place and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how all the little threads were connected…or not. Some advice though, this is a close reading type of story where details can be missed, especially in the second half where a few more characters were introduced. I had to really pay attention so as to not feel confused. I highly recommend this intelligent, tightly plotted thriller if you’re looking for something original and fast paced. 

Many thanks to G. P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley for my copy

 

 

Throwback Thursday Book of the Week

Throwback Thursday book of the week is a fun way to share a book I’ve loved that was published in the past and somehow either wasn’t on my radar or I chose to pass it by. These books are usually much easier to get ahold of at the library or usually sold at a lower price in paperback or ebook. This week I’m sharing a book I read in the spring and have been recommending to everyone ever since!

One True Loves  By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published June 7, 2016 By Simon & Schuster
352 pages
Affiliate link: Buy on Amazon

From Publisher: A breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

My Thoughts: Last year I think I was one of the last people to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (my review) which ended up being one of my favorite books in 2017! It wasn’t until this past spring that I decided to try Reid’s backlist books.  Once I dived into this one I was -again- kicking myself for waiting so long to read this book!  It’s the story of Emma and Jesse and Emma and Sam. Yes, a love triangle, but it felt very original.

The book is structured in a way that we get to know how both love stories develop over the first half of the book and then what happens when they are all brought together for the second half. It may sound a little clunky but believe me the structure and the concept work. I was completely sucked into the story after the drama filled opening pages.  I did, however, feel a little loss of momentum when she takes us back in time to their high school lives but this was necessary to truly get a feel for each of them and how they fell in love. I flew through the second half of this book because what a complicated, truly gut punching position for Emma to be in…I had to know who she would choose and what happened after she made her choice. Reid writes in such a realistic, propulsive way that the people and their complicated situations feel real and it’s just SO hard to put her books down. I read this in one sitting and really loved it so even if you think you’re not in the mood for a love triangle, I say give this a try,  you just might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Have you read and enjoyed this or other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid? 

Happy Thursday Reading! 

 

Chatting with Ruth Emmie Lang, author of the excellent debut Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance

I love talking with authors, so I was thrilled when Ruth Emmie Lang so generously agreed to do a Q & A for my blog. I loved her debut, Beasts of Extraordinary Experience, (Nov, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press) which featured a character (Weylyn) who I won’t soon forget. Read on to find out her inspiration for Weylyn as well as how she wrote such an imaginative, unputdownable book…

 

How did you develop Weylyn’s character? Inspiration, motivations for him?

I knew I wanted my main character to be someone who lived with wolves. Weylyn’s personality came about naturally as I considered what a person living in the woods and cut off from society would act like. To me, that meant someone who was warm and open and not-yet-cynical. I could have gone the opposite route and made Weylyn someone who is scared of other people simply because of his lack of exposure, but I decided to go with the former because the latter was more expected.

I read that you wanted readers to empathize with him, what was the most important facet of his character that helped ensure we would love him because of course we did and I immediately felt a connection with him so you nailed the empathy part

I think his openness is what draws the other characters in the book to him. This borders on naïve sometimes, but it gives him a childlike sense of wonder that adults are too often in short supply of. I wanted my readers to be able image themselves as any one of these narrators, sharing in an adventure with someone who knows how to find beauty in places they maybe hadn’t thought to look.

What is it about nature that inspires you? Animals?

Everything about nature inspires me: forests, mountains, oceans, you name it! If I could spend all day outside, I would (except that I’m a redhead, so that would probably be ill-advised). I’m also an animal-lover (particularly dogs), so that heavily influences my writing.

Can you tell us a little about how you write, do you outline ahead of time or did you write Beast’s free flow as you went along?

No outlines. I’m a figure-it-out-as-I-go-along kind of writer, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going (most of the time). There was a period of a couple of months where I had to completely shelf Beasts because I had no idea where the story was going next.

For me, Beast’s had so many interesting facets, it’s coming of age, magical, a love story, a friendship story, a story about fate…What facet did you most want readers to take away from your book?

I’d like to think that my book would inspire someone to have an adventure of their own, or to simply go outside and appreciate the world around them. Also, Weylyn demonstrates that you can live simply and still be happy, and that meaningful relationships are more important that material possessions.

What was your biggest fear in writing this story?

That is was too weird to get published! I knew I was taking a risk, but I’m glad I did. It was the story I wanted to tell, and I think if I had played it safe, I wouldn’t have put the same time and care into it.

What did this story teach you about yourself and the writing process?

It taught me that I am still able to write even under difficult circumstances. I was having a very rough year when parts of this story were written, but it doesn’t show on the page. Writing Beasts was like therapy for me during that time.

For would be writers, what was the best and worst part about the whole writing and publishing process? Was Beast’s bought immediately or did you receive initial rejection letters?

The best part is when you finally land a book deal. Beasts did receive rejections, so I was trying not to get my hopes up, but when my agent called me with the offer, I was over the moon. The worst part of the publishing process is querying agents, because that’s the first real hurdle you have to clear to get your book published. It can be hard to hear that someone doesn’t want to rep you, but ultimately, it’s about finding the right fit.

Your writing is just gorgeous, can you tell us about your background? Have you always been a writer, do you have a writing degree or a background in literature?

Thank you! I was an English major in college and took several creative writing classes during my time there, but I started writing when I was 9 or 10. I don’t think you need a degree to become a writer, but I do think you need to read a lot of books to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Which authors inspire you and why?

The Lord of the Rings made me want to become a writer. I loved them so much that I knew I wanted to tell stories in some form or another. As far as writing style, I love Karen Russell. Her prose is concise and whimsical, and her stories have just the right amount of weirdness.

Do you have any favorite books you’d like to share?

Other than the work I discussed above, it’s constantly changing. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction. American Fire and Wild are two of my recent favorite reads.

Do you have any current reads sitting on your nightstand?

I just started The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

I for one will be waiting somewhat impatiently for your next book, can you share any info about it?

Not yet 😉 But I am currently working on something I think has potential.

Do you have a favorite quote about writing and/or books?

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

 

Many, many thanks to Ruth Emmie Lang for taking the time to answer these questions! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit more about her writing process and her wonderful debut book, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

 

REVIEW: AMERICAN RADICAL By Tamer Elnoury with Kevin Maurer

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Published Oct 23, 2017 by Dutton Books 

It’s no secret that federal agencies are waging a broad, global war against terror. But for the first time in this memoir, an active Muslim American federal agent reveals his experience infiltrating and bringing down a terror cell in North America.

Due to his ongoing work for the FBI, Elnoury writes under a pseudonym. An Arabic-speaking Muslim American, a patriot, a hero: To many Americans, it will be a revelation that he and his team even exist, let alone the vital and dangerous work they do keeping all Americans safe

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This is one of those books that happened to catch my eye when I was recently Christmas shopping for my dad who only reads nonfiction. It has two of my favorite buzzwords in it…Undercover and FBI….so I couldn’t resist reading it when it arrived. I’m so glad I did because I loved it! Not only is it the most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time, it’s also a very uniquely written memoir in that it reads like a page turning novel. In fact, as I mentioned in my Monday post, it very much reads like an episode of Homeland. There were times I had to remind myself the difference is that this story is actually true which in my opinion made it all the more terrifying.

As stated in the blurb, Tamer is a pseudonym for an undercover counterterrorism agent in the FBI. I thought he did a fantastic job sharing as many details as he could about the world of an undercover agent, how they train, how they live their “legends,” and the extreme emotional/psychological stress it takes on their psyches. Especially when dealing with the warped and twisted minds of the radical Islamic terrorists he worked to bring down in this story. I appreciated how well he explained who these terrorists were, where they came from and how they came to believe what they do. I hung on every word as he described conversations in which the terrorists laid out detailed plans to kill as many Americans as possible…it was scary to read and I don’t think most of us understand what is happening in our own country on a daily basis.

The first person narrative structure of the story worked brilliantly in that I felt like I was a fly on the wall watching each scene unfold. The pace was steady although I will say I thought it dragged a little in the middle but the last third made up for it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how it was all going to unfold. I love the way the authors created such a suspenseful storyline while also providing behind the scenes details of the operations. I’ve been recommending this book all week to people, especially to my friends who love Homeland so if you enjoy page turners that are timely, current, and so relevant to our world right now I encourage you to give this a try!