Book Review: Under My Skin (Lisa Unger)

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What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts–there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My Thoughts: 

I  have been a huge fan of Lisa Unger for YEARS!   Give me a psychological thriller with a relatable character, and I am a happy camper!

Unfortunately, this one didn’t do it for me.

For the majority of the book, I found myself confused.  I was switching back and forth, checking dates and trying to organize the plot in my head.  I felt like a detective myself putting a red string on a board trying to connect my theories.   Is this okay?  Sure.  Sometimes I really like to be challenged while I read, but, honestly, sometimes I just want to escape and don’t want to have to piece things together.

Sometimes I want a straight forward thrill.

Did this put me off of Lisa Unger?  Absolutely not. Her talent is clearly apparent and this woman can WEAVE a story.  I will absolutely read more by her, but, this one wasn’t for me.


Book Review: The Fifth to Die (J.D Barker)

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In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

My Thoughts: 

When I read The Fourth Monkey, I was obsessed.

I lent it to all my friends.

I made my boss at work read it.

I was a woman on a mission.

After a long wait, I finally read The Fifth to Die, and, while I loved the pacing and the dark vibes, I really struggled to STAY engrossed in the sequel. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was just as brilliantly written, and I still love some Sam Porter, but there was a lot going on!  Almost too much going on.   Many more perspectives, many more storylines and, just as I thought I was getting everything straight, it was over!

I do think this one is worth the read; however, I think I’d read them back to back so I could follow along.

This isn’t one to go into blindly!

Thanks for Netgalley for the digital copy. 

Book Review: Recursion (Blake Crouch)

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Way back when I first started blogging, I read and reviewed Dark Matter which quickly became one of my favourites! As a person who rarely reads novels with a science fiction vibe, I was shocked by how much I loved it.  I raved about it.  I shouted from the rooftops. I reread it.

So, at the end of my school year, when I realized that Blake Crouch was releasing Recursion, I rushed to add this one to my summer TBR and I dove in.

Like Dark Matter, Recursion is a novel that bent the line between reality and fiction leaving me uneasy…and I loved it!  Essentially looking at the idea of memory and recalling memories, Recursion follows a scientist, Helena, and a cop, Barry, as they navigate lives, past lives and memories.  Fast paced and thrilling, the novel moves back and forth through narrative view and time.  As their stories collide (along with their past and present memories), I found myself flipping through the pages and completely hooked!

My one complaint with this work is that I felt like it was about 100 pages too long.  I loved the pacing at the beginning, and I found that I needed all the explanations; however, by the end, I felt the story dragging and stalling without reason.   I was frustrated with the continuous repetition by the main characters, and, even though I understand the plot relied on this repetition, I felt like I could have done without a few of the minor story arcs.

Regardless of my length issue, I did feel like this one would be a great read for summer.  I lounged around my patio for countless hours devoured by this storyline.

4 stars.

Would I want this as a series on Netflix?  ABSOLUTELY!  Give me this story a hundred times over in a mini-series.  I want this explained in flashbacks.  I want this story developed by actors.  Someone breakdown this science!

Books The Spark Joy: The Marie Kondo Tag

I, like many other people, spent the week after New Years binge-watching the Marie Kondo special on Netflix and folding my clothes into teeny-tiny squares.  As far as I am concerned, the Kondo method is pretty solid.  However, I did have a major issue with her stance on books.


Nope. No, thanks.  But, then again, I do realize that a healthy tidy is always a good thing.

Her method really did get me thinking about the books that “spark joy for me”.  The books that make me want to squeal with delight and then immediately force everyone around me (mostly against their will) to read them and discuss plot points with me.

So, I have begun to tidy my books and make a donate pile As I am tidying my books, I’ll be adding to my list.

First up in my pile:

Harry Potter

Okay.  Fine, I cheated a little bit here.  I included an entire series; how could I not?  Harry Potter is one of those things that spark so much joy that I find myself overwhelmed! Truly I find re-reading these books to sort of be “the solution” to everything.  Feeling sad?  Read Harry Potter.  Feeling nostalgic?  Cuddle up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  Feeling like life has you down?  Read some HP and realize that your luck could be WAY worse; I mean all my problems seem small when I take into account that an evil wizard is not my arch nemesis and constantly trying to destroy me.


I just can’t quit Joe.  I know I should.  I know it’s wrong.  I know it’s bad.  Whenever someone tells me they haven’t read this book, I find myself internally screaming and trying to keep my cool.  I usually force them immediately to borrow my copy and then message them every few days so I can experience it again for the first time.  So creepy; so good.   Joy sparked.

Flowers in the Attic

Love. Love. Love.  Not only was this one of the first books I distinctly remember reading as a preteen but it was also one of the first books my mom remembers reading as a teen.  I guess this one feels like one of the OG creepy novels; one of the first novels that had me looking over my shoulder and reading late into the night.  Definitely feel like doing a Kondo-coo when I hold this one.

The Great Gatsby

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.  I have multiple copies.  I remember the exact place I was when I opened this book for the first time.  Oh, old sport, what a spark of joy you give me!

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Which books “spark joy” for you?  Which ones would stay on your shelves no matter what?

Let me know!




Book Review: Her Pretty Face (Robyn Harding) @SimonSchusterCA

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Anyone still out there?!

I’m alive and well over here after a very extended blogging break.  Between a new position at school, adjusting to married life and general life, I found myself in one of the biggest book slumps that I have ever had!   However, this past week, I felt the urge to read and found myself completely drawn to one of my favourite authors, Robyn Harding, and her sophomore novel Her Pretty Face.

Now, a little back story here, I have been listening to the My Favourite Murder podcast on my 45-minute commute pretty much daily and I recently listened to a live episode that talked about killer couples (specifically a Canadian couple who were active near my hometown!).  As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that I had to read it ASAP!

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

I binge read this one in a single evening and, days later, found myself thinking about it still!  I love the writing style of Robyn Harding; she has the uncanny ability to captivate her reader with quick prose and eloquent storytelling.  This novel is NOT a traditional domestic thriller and if you are expecting Gone Girl-esque thrills, you are opening the wrong book.  However, if you are after complex characters, strong plot, and realism, then this is the book for you!

Essentially, the story unfolds through multiple narrators and throughout varying time periods.  In the present, as Kate’s present unravels and mixes with her past, I found myself torn with a moral dilemma.  Can someone change?  Should people be judged based on their past?  In true Robyn Harding style, like The Party, the chapters were short and sweet.

I am absolutely floored with some of the negative comments that I was reading about this book on Goodreads.  I didn’t feel like this novel was even supposed to be a domestic thriller, instead, I found it to be a character study, a domestic drama and a snapshot of a psychopath.

I’d recommend this one, it got me out of my slump!

Discussion Post: “Damaged” Characters. What’s Up With That?

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 7.15.36 AMI have been finding a very distinct thread moving throughout the books I am reading lately.  I begin reading a book, get into the plot and, inevitably, there comes the time when I am hit with a backstory of my protagonist.

An orphan at birth they grew up in foster care.

Their father was killed by a psychopath.

Their was/is a psychopath.

Their fiance was murdered days leading up to their wedding.

They had a child but they passed away.

I am finding that these dramatically damaged characters are popping up in everything single book I am reading lately.  Every. Single. One.  So, this got me thinking, why are all these protagonists so damaged.

I know, in theory, that I am supposed to connect to these types of characters faster and forge a bond as they fight crime and overcome evil.  I mean, they have already been through so much!  But, instead, I am finding myself a little irritated as I read.  Obviously you cannot have a relationship with a woman Lead Detective 43!  Your mother was a murderer who tried to sell you on the blackmarket and you have spent your life avoiding your aunt who you lived with after because you could never trust anyone.

It truly is starting to make me feel a little coocoobananas.  I mean, we complain about unrealistic plots all the time.   How about unrealistic tragedies?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that people can be hit hard in life but surely there is a story to be told about a detective who is just a regular guy with regular problems who fights crime.

If anyone knows one, please let me know!


Book Review: Caged (Ellison Cooper) @ECooperAuthor @MinotaurBooks

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If you have been a long term reader of Clues and Reviews, you will know that I have a very strange love/hate relationship with police procedural novels.  I always struggle with the pacing, the characters, and the same storylines.  So, when I picked up Caged, by Ellison Cooper, from the library, I was shocked to find out that a book I had waited for for so long was a police procedural.


Needless to say, I dragged my feet a bit before I started and decided I would read a chapter, to be fair, before I returned the book.

Well, joke is on me!  The second I opened the first page, I was completely hooked.  I read late into the night; the kind of reading night that leaves your eyes burning because you cannot put down the book.  I was obsessed.

The novel opens with the discovery of a body.  A deceased female, held in a cage, is found by police and FBI agent Sayer is notified to take lead on the case.    I loved this character.  She is sort of the no-holds-bar type of personality that makes her strong enough to hang with the “big boys”.  Intimidating, talented and strong, she makes her mark early on in the book.  She has a typical “team” that works alongside her and I found each of these secondary characters extremely likeable.

As the book moved on, I found that the twists and turns were very steady and I was unable to guess what was happening next.  In fact, I made several wrong assumptions and was impressed with how Cooper truly decided to roll out the story.  From each small detail, I found myself more invested in the plot and speeding through the pages.

I am thrilled that this is the start of a new series (the next novel releasing sometime next year) and would highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy the Brigid Quinn series by Becky Masterman or even The Fourth Monkey books by J.D Barker.

Loved.  Read this book!

Book Review: Our Kind of Cruelty (Araminta Hall)

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It is no secret that I am a fan of novels where narrators are extremely disturbed and living in complete delusions.  In fact, a few of my favourite books, You by Caroline Kepnes and Perfect Days by Rapheal Montes, featured characters with these exact characteristics.   I spent copious amounts of time raving about both of these books so, when I read the back cover of Our Kind of Cruelty, I felt like this one would be right up my alley!

The first line of the synopsis stated, “This is a love story. Mike’s love story.”  If that doesn’t sound like the hint of someone living in a complete delusion, I don’t know what is!

The novel essentially follows Mike, a guy who came from a brutal childhood, and his obsession with Verity. He has dedicated his life to her and has moulded himself to be her perfect mate.  Too bad she’s engaged to another man. Told in three parts, the reader sees Mike’s descent into obsession and the tricky line between truth and perception.

Now, I read this one as a buddy read with my pal Janel (the blogger between Keeper of Pages) and we both seemed to feel pretty conflicted about this book.

The beginning was great.  I loved watching the insanity unfold and I was hooked to see how everything would pan out.  However, as the novel continued I felt like it was “missing something”.  I wanted the perspective from Verity.  I wanted to understand more exactly which perception was correct and I wanted it to be crystal clear who the “bad guy” was.  I felt like Hall left room for a lot of interpretation, which is fine, but I wanted the same direct vibe I felt when I read You or Perfect Days.

Overall, a nice, quick read and I would recommend this novel; however, if you like something a little more finite then this one will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth.


Book Review: Foe (Iain Reid)

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 6.28.17 PM.pngLately, I have really be interested in novels with a science fiction/dystopian type of spin, so, when I read the back of Foe, the newest release by Iain Reid, I decided to dive in immediately.  Luckily for me, Chelsea, from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me, was reading this one too!

The novel opens with the introduction of Junior and Hen, a quiet married couple, who are thrown for a loop when Junior is approached by a man who tells him he has been randomly selected to travel to space.

Random, right?

I had read this author’s previous novel was, truth be told, I wasn’t a huge fan.  I found the plot to be little bit confusing but, at the same time, I was unable to put it down.   Reid has a timeless effect to his writing and it reminds me of William Faulker or Flannery O’Conner; it reminds me of the classic gothic authors that I teach my classes.  His voice is strong and distinct and, regardless of how confusing I find some of the plot to be in his work, I really do find myself unable to put it down.

Worth the read?  I think so.  Especially if you are looking for a straightforward type of read.  It is written beautifully.