Book Review: The Art of Fear (Pamela Crane)

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 9.06.18 PM.pngI am always on the hunt for a new crime read. I spend a lot of time scoping out book lists on the Internet, browsing Pinterest and asking other bloggers for book recommendations. So, when I discovered The Art of Fear, the first in a series by Pamela Crane, I was intrigued.

Centering on Ari Wilburn, a guilt-ridden woman struggling with sins of her past joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a woman who was trafficked and suspects foul play in the death of her father. Ari and Tina team up to try and figure out the truth and find themselves in danger.

I found this one very easy to get into. Dark and a bit brooding, after reading the first chapter, I found it difficult to put down.  Crane did not mess around with her opening page, that’s for sure!!   Although I didn’t find myself relating to the characters at all, I did find myself feeling a lot of empathy towards them and that compelled me to continue reading on. Ari is completely damaged by the death of her sister but watching her grow throughout the chapters and become more confident as she helped someone else gave me that “phoenix rising from the ashes” vibe.

One of the interesting features of the writing was the countdown to Ari’s death. The chapters are labelled this way and it really did keep my attention and drove my need to read the story. I knew the outcome but I desperately needed to know how she met that fate. I felt like this was a smart choice by the author.

Although I really loved the beginning and some of the small details that Crane added into the text, I did find the pacing to be a little bit slower than what I usually like when reading a mystery/thriller. I thought maybe the story would focus more on Tina’s past and go into a bit more detail about her time being trafficked but instead, it was more character centered and focused on Ari. This does make sense, as the series focuses on her, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting completely.

Overall, I loved the general vibe of this story and loved how it ended! I cannot wait to read more in the series!

Thanks to the author (Pamela Crane), the publisher (Tabella House) and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Book Review: The Broken Girls (Simone St. James)

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 8.39.54 PM.pngI know what you are thinking. “Seriously…Another book with “girl” in the title?!” But fear not! The Broken Girls, the recently released novel by Simone St. James, stood out for me!   From the beautifully blended narratives to the small details, St. James creates a novel that is hard to put down. In fact, I found myself reading this one late into the night.

The novel opens with the introduction of Fiona, a reporter with a haunted past. After the death of her sister, things have never been the same and even though the man responsible has been put in prison, Fiona (and her family) have never really been able to move past it. So, when she finds out there are plans to restore the building (an old school for girls) where her sister’s body was found, Fiona cannot help but dig around. And, in doing so, she quickly finds out that the past never really stays buried.

Told in alternating time periods and alternating perspectives, I loved the way St. James chooses to tell this story.  I loved the moments that flashed back to the girl’s school in the 40s and how each member of their group of friends had an individual chapter to voice.   I found each character likeable and I was interested in each of their stories and was truly concerned about their plights. I also found that Fiona, in the present storyline, was a well-developed character.

I think that St. James did a brilliant job incorporating a bit of historical fiction; it didn’t feel distracting. I felt like it really added another layer to the story.

One thing I didn’t care for with The Broken Girls was the paranormal storyline. The ghost at the school felt like it really didn’t belong and was sort of a side-plot. I felt like it wasn’t needed.

Overall, I was a huge fan of The Broken Girls and I think that fans of Fiona Barton or Fiona Davis will enjoy this one.

Thanks to the author (Simone St. James) and the publisher (Berkley) for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought about this one?  Keep reading to find out what they thought!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Broken Girls (Simone St. James)”

Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 4.21.33 PM.pngIt is no secret that I am a huge fan of the domestic thriller genre.  Give me an unreliable narrator and an up-to-no-good husband and I am hooked.  So, when #cjsreads decided to read Poison by Galt Niederhoffer, I was thrilled.  It seemed like the exact type of book that would keep me up late into the night.

The novel surrounds a picturesque family and their suburban life.  Cass and Ryan make up a newly blended family with their three children.  However, Ryan has a dark side, one that keeps Cass looking over her shoulder, and when she confronts Ryan about his fidelity, Cass begins to wonder if her life is at stake.  As tensions rise, Cass’s sanity is questioned and she begins to worry her children are at risk.

As I began my reading, one of the things that stood out the most for me was the style of Niederhoffer’s writing.  I was drawn in immediately, almost as if I was connecting with old friends.  The prose was familiar and inviting.  It had me turning the pages.

One of the cleverest things about this novel was the use of the title and the ties to the plot; the jealous nature of Cass is poisoning her relationship and Cass believes that Ryan is literally poisoning her.  I loved this play and exploration into literal and psychological poison.  I felt captivated as I watched the story unfold.  Is she actually crazy?  Is she correct?  Who do I believe?

I really like novels with strong characters and Poison fit this bill.  Ryan was incredibly creepy and I found Cass to be very unreliable.    I also loved how Niederhoffer constantly called into question the idea of the unreliable female and the doubt that those in the legal system have with women as the victim.  I felt like this is extremely prevalent in today’s society and I found myself questioning my own judgments and assessment of Cass throughout my reading.

However, I did have a few issues with this novel towards the end.  About 40% of the way into the novel, I did find parts of the novel beginning to drag quite a bit.  The idea of the poison is brought to light very early in the novel and teased in the synopsis, so it was very clear that Cass believed she was being poisoned.  However, this was constantly drilled home for the next 30% of the book.  It felt very redundant.  Also, although I loved the little twist in the end, the final resolution left me feeling as if it had come out of left field.

Regardless of this, I did enjoy the easy prose and the compelling plot enough to finish this book over the course of a few sittings.  This novel really gave me a B.A Paris vibe and I feel like fans of this author will really enjoy PoisonPoison is published today!  Be sure to add it to your TBR pile if you are a fan of the domestic genre!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, the author and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

I mentioned this was a #cjsreads pick; want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of Poison? Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress”

Buzzworthy Book of 2018: The Chalk Man (C.J Tudor) @cjtudor @CrownPublishing

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Now that the end of the year is quickly approaching (like really quickly…what in the world is happening??!! How is time moving this fast??!) I have been gearing up to read all of my most anticipated 2018 titles. One of the titles I had been most eagerly awaiting was the highly talked about, psychological suspense novel, The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor.   Now that I have finished this novel, I can understand why there has been so much buzz surrounding it. Fast-paced, completely compelling and bingeable, I sat down and read this book in an entire sitting #sorrynotsorry. From the core mystery to the intricately woven characters, I am calling this one of my favourites of 2018, already!

The novel is told in two alternating time periods in the life of our protagonist, Ed. In the present, the loner high school English teacher lives with a lodger and keeps to himself, but, in the past, Ed, known as Eddie back then, was a part of a gang of kids whose lives changed forever after a summer of chalk men and a dismembered body in the woods. As past and present collide, Ed must confront his past and through several twists and turns, the truth of what happened in 1986 will be revealed.

So, first thing is first, I am shocked that this book is a debut. HOW?? HOW?? I can not get over the perfectly fleshed out characters, the timing of the plot and the sheer genius of the prose. The plot is perfectly rolled out, building suspense and leading the reader to its perfect resolution.   There were no muddled bits or confusing characters; everything felt like it fit and were equally important. This is so rare in any book, let alone a thriller! What. A. Debut.

My favourite thing about this book, by a landslide, was the characterization.  This book, from the opening of the first flashback chapters, had a dark “Goonies’ vibe to it.   I have seen the 80s revival thing done well with popular Netflix shows like Stranger Things but had never seen in accomplished in a novel. Tudor manages to do it expertly. The flashback chapters felt nostalgic and realistic; almost like it could have happened to any kid, in any place, over the course of any summer. This familiarity brought something chilling to the text and I was hooked.   Each character is so perfectly developed, from the protagonist down to the bullies; even the secondary characters had a clear image within the text. I was completely invested in them. Truthfully, the plot became secondary to me because I was so wrapped up in the characters.

This will be a book that I will be thinking about for a long time. If you want a book for the top of your TBR in 2018, make it this one. You won’t regret it.

Can I give a book 6 stars?

Thanks to the author, Netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

We made this a #cjsreads pick; keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one (SPOILER ALERT: they loved it too)

Continue reading “Buzzworthy Book of 2018: The Chalk Man (C.J Tudor) @cjtudor @CrownPublishing”

Book Review: I Am Watching You (Teresa Driscoll) @TeresaDriscoll

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 9.48.35 PM.pngI first stumbled across I Am Watching You, the newest release by Teresa Driscoll, in a co-worker’s Goodreads newsletter.   After reading the synopsis, I was captivated by the idea of this story and I knew I would have to add this one to my TBR pile. After binge reading it for a couple of hours, I am pleased to say that I Am Watching You is absolutely worth your time, folks!

The novel opens with Ella, a woman riding the train, overhearing two young men flirting with a couple of teenage girls on the train. Listening in to their conversation, her maternal instinct is put on high alert after one of the men reveals they are fresh out of prison. However, she decides, against her better judgment, not to say anything. After all, it is none of her business.   The next day, she is horrified to find out that one of the girls, Anna, has disappeared. A year later, Ella is still wracked with guilt over what she should have done and, as the anniversary of Anna’s disappearance approaches, Ella begins to receive threatening letters. Someone is coming after her.

Continue reading “Book Review: I Am Watching You (Teresa Driscoll) @TeresaDriscoll”

Book Review: Night Film (Marisha Pessl)

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.57.14 PM.pngNight Film, by Marisha Pessl, has been on my shelf for several years; I purchased it the year it came out and completely forgot about it until I started talking with Chelsea (my friend from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me) and she demanded I read it. As one of her favourite books of all time, I knew that I had to add this one to the top of my TBR pile. Chelsea has some fantastic choices in novels and we are usually in sync when it comes to our feelings about books.

We also decided to give this book a read as part of our Suspenseful Clues and Thrilling Reviews book club for October.

Now that I have finished reading it, I am kicking myself for waiting for so long. What in the world was I thinking??!!! This book was a completely engaging wild ride that had me holding on tight and binge reading late into the night. Once I started this book, I could not put it down. Pessl brings a completely original voice to the mystery/thriller/horror genre and will have you holding your breath as she weaves her narrative.

Ah! The twists, the turns, the non-stop action; without providing any spoilers, it will be hard to discuss the book fully, but I will do my best!
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Throwback Thursday: Blindsighted (Karin Slaughter)

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme created by book blogger extraordinaire, Renee at It’s Book Talk. She started this weekly feature as a way to highlight old favourites and read books that have already been published.

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I have been making my way through Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series ever since I read Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter earlier this month.  Needless to say, I have become pretty much Slaughter obsessed.  Chelsea, my good pal over at The Suspense Is Thrilling Me, suggested I go way back and start with the first book in the Grant County series, Blindsighted and, man oh man, am I happy I decided to do that.

The first novel introduces us to the characters in the small Georgia town of Grant County where a professor is found brutally murdered and defiled in a publish washroom. Found by town pediatrician and medical examiner, Sara Linton, upon further investigation into the corpse it is discovered how sick and twisted this case truly is. Sara’s ex-husband, police chief Jeffery Tolliver is leading the case and, when another local woman is found crucified days later, the entire town is on edge.

Slaughter brilliantly is able to weave a tale that is gruesome, macabre and completely entertaining. Once I started reading this book, I found that I could not put it down. I was entranced with her writing and completely caught up with the happenings in Grant County.

I loved the characters in this one; the tangled romantic relationship between Jeffery and Sara added another level of interest to the plot and the added character of Lena, the town’s first female detective and also the first victim’s sister, on her own vigilante mission added yet another layer. Slaughter’s characterization is clearly her strong suit and I cannot wait to see how these characters will develop in the upcoming novels to this series.

I have already picked up the second book in the series, Kisscut, which from my understanding, is even better!

5/5 stars. I absolutely believe any thriller fan would love this book.

Book Review: The Blackbird Season (Kate Moretti) @KateMoretti1 @AtriaMysteryBus

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 10.17.53 PM.pngLast year, I read (and loved!) The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti, so I was thrilled to find out that #cjsreads had obtained copies of her sophomore novel, The Blackbird Season as one of our September picks!    I had absolutely no expectations going into this book; truthfully, I loved The Vanishing Year so much that I didn’t even read the synopsis of this book.  I figured that if Moretti wrote it, I would be interested.  I was right!  Moretti was able to weave a pretty stellar, mysterious novel within these pages.  One that left me binge reading late into the night.

This story surrounds high school teacher, Nate Winters as he is accused of having an affair with a female student, Lucia Hamm.  As Nate’s life spirals and Lucia goes missing, Nate is the only suspect.  As his wife, Alecia begins to question his situation, his only ally comes in the form of co-worker and creative writing teacher, Bridget, who realizes the only way to save Nate’s reputation could be using Lucia’s journals.

Though marketed as a psychological thriller, I didn’t find that this one fit that bill in the traditional sense.  When I think of psychological thriller, I think of a fast-paced, on the edge of your seat, mind-bending plot filled with unreliable narration and lots of “WHOA” moments.  In this case, I felt Moretti created more of a slow-burning mystery.  What happened to Lucia?  Who is telling the truth?  What is the deal with all these birds?  For me, this absolutely worked.

Generally speaking, choppy and disjointed narration usually gets on my nerves, but, somehow, Moretti manages to make this style of narration easy to follow and completely addictive throughout the plot of this tale.  I was on the edge of my seat as I devoured each chapter (both and back and forth in time) and tried to figure out what the true happenings were and what motives the characters were acting with.   Each character gets a distinct POV and I loved hearing the story from each of their perspectives.  I found this to be incredibly interesting.

One of my largest gripes to this story was the situation with the birds.  At the beginning of the story, we are told that thousands (hundreds?  millions?  Who knows) of blackbirds have fallen out of the sky and into the town.  People are horrified by this phenomenon and experts are called into the test the town’s water and air, looking for reasons and possible side effects of this occurrence.   I waited for the entirety of the book for this to be made clear.  And, alas, there was never really an explanation. The birds were more of a metaphor or a representation and I just wasn’t about that.  Personally, I felt like I needed an explanation.

Overall, if you enjoy a tightly woven plot with multiple characters and a compelling mystery, I think you will enjoy this book.  It really reminded me of Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia.  They both had that small town mystery vibe.

Thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of The Blackbird Season; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Blackbird Season (Kate Moretti) @KateMoretti1 @AtriaMysteryBus”

Mini Review Monday: The Rizzoli and Isles Edition

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Remember that one time where I was obsessed with the Rizzoli and Isles series by my favourite author of all time Tess Gerritsen?

I know you do because I talk about them ALL. THE. TIME.

Sorry not sorry.

After hoarding them on my bookshelf for nearly a year, I was able to binge read all remaining books in the series last month in preparation for the newest release, I Know A Secret (which I reviewed here with my CJS reads counterparts).

I don’t even need to go over the fact that I believe this fast-paced stories are well written and filled with twists and turns because that is a given.   And, I will say one thing for sure, I feel like this series is getting better and better. Each installment is better than the last.

Keep reading to see my mini-review thoughts on Last to Die, John Doe and Die Again.

Continue reading “Mini Review Monday: The Rizzoli and Isles Edition”