2015 Book 388: PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
ISBN: 9780062429056 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062430878 (HarperLuxe)
ISBN: 9780062429063 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VES8D6K (Kindle version)
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.  

Claire Scott is the perfect wife and is married to the perfect husband. At least she thought she was married to the perfect husband until he was murdered and she finds he was keeping plenty of secrets from her. Lydia Delgado is far from perfect, but she has turned her life around and continues to struggle to do the best for herself and her daughter. These two sisters come together to search for the truth in Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.

Claire Scott and Lydia Delgado are sisters that have already lived through one tragedy. Their oldest sister, Julia, disappeared twenty-four years ago and that disappearance ripped their family apart. Lydia was already on her way to becoming a wild child, experimenting with drugs before succumbing to addiction. Claire was the quiet, perfect child that grew into the quiet, unassuming, perfect adult. Claire’s life is torn apart when her husband is killed at the hands of a mugger. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she arrives back at her home after her husband’s funeral to find out there was a burglary attempt. While trying to find documentation on the valuables in the home, she uncovers some truly nasty porn on her husband’s computer. Shocked and shamed, she does the only thing she can think of and turns it over to the police. But the local police chief tells her it is only a “snuff” film and not a very good one at that. Claire doesn’t quite believe him and turns to her sister Lydia for assistance. What they discover leads them to believe these “films” are linked to current and possibly past abductions/disappearances. Why is the FBI involved in a local murder case? What exactly was Paul Scott involved in before he was murdered? Can Claire and Lydia find out the truth before it is too late?

I found Pretty Girls to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The story is just as much about the abduction/disappearance of Julia and how a family survives without closure, as it is the present murder of Claire’s husband and the current abduction/disappearances. Ms. Slaughter has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story about family, secrets, betrayal, and survival. The characters are realistic and well-developed. The storylines (and there are stories within stories within stories presented) are wholly believable. There are good guys, not-so-good guys, and really bad guys, and times when it is difficult to determine who the really bad guys are from the not-so-good guys (much like life). Claire is presented as “perfect,” but she is just as flawed as Lydia. I liked that they were able to overcome their past and come together as sisters in the present. Obviously, there’s a lot more going on in this story, and no I’m not going to reveal everything (buy the book!). Just in case you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Pretty Girls and can highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys reading suspense-thrillers. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Slaughter, Pretty Girls is an excellent place to start.

Read an excerpt from Pretty Girls here .

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy via BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2015 Book 385: THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
ISBN: 9781492623441 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781492623458 (ebook)
ASIN: B0108GOL9Q (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 19, 2016 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love. 

Sara, a Swedish bookseller, has been pen pals with Amy, an American from Broken Wheel, Iowa for two years. Now that Sara is unemployed, she has decided to take a vacation to the US and accept the invitation to stay with Amy for a few months. Sara’s plans change when she arrives in Broken Wheel and finds out that Amy has died. Faced with a two-month vacation in Iowa and a non-refundable plane ticket, Sara decides to make the best of a bad situation and pays homage to her love of books and attempts to repay a town’s kindness in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

Sara Lindqvist has never been a spontaneous person, but since becoming unemployed in Sweden, she decided to take her pen pal Amy up on her offer to stay with her in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Sara is looking forward to two months with her friend, spending time discussing books rather than writing about books, and reading. Her family doesn’t understand why she’s going to Iowa rather than New York or California and when they’re told that her friend has died their limited ability to understand Sara and her choices disappears completely. Sara is now in a foreign land without her friend Amy as a buffer, but she has come to know the residents of Broken Wheel through Amy’s letters. The only thing she can think of doing in order to repay the kindness of the town’s residents is to open a bookstore and share Amy’s books and Sara’s love of books and reading. Sara only has two months to make readers of the residents of Broken Wheel and her efforts are met with suspicion, laughter, and awe. Sara’s efforts quickly bring the town’s residents together and before you know it, the residents have fallen in love with Sara just as she has fallen in love with them. No one wants Sara to leave, but can a mutual love-fest built on books be enough to keep Sara in the US legally?

I enjoyed The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. (What’s not to love about a story dealing with books and reading?) Sara isn’t your typical heroine, as she is somewhat shy and reserved, except when it’s time to talk books. Sara and Amy had a special friendship built on their mutual love of books, and Sara is spreading the joy. This story is a romance (between Sara and the town’s residents as well as one particular resident…read the story to find out more) and is filled with humor and touches of sadness. The characters are wholly believable with their quirks and antics to help Sara out upon her arrival and then to keep Sara in the US. Yes, there’s a lot more going on in this story such as the survival of a small town despite all the economic hardships it faces, residents struggling with love lost and love found, and more. I found this to be a fast-paced read and one that I can heartily recommend to anyone that enjoys romance or simply reading about books and reading. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Bivald in the future. Make sure you put The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend on your TBR list, you won’t regret it.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Showcase and Giveaway: THE VICTIM by Eric Matheny

The Victim by Eric Matheny
ISBN: 9781943549115 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781943549115 (ebook)
ASIN: B011LM9X4Y (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: August 17, 2015
Publisher: Zharmae

Anton Mackey is a man with everything. At least, he seems to be on the surface. He has a rising career as a private attorney, a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter; he and his family live in an idyllic neighborhood that most people dream about. Sure, there are troubles that plague this family, the same as any other, but all in all things are looking up. Life is good, and the future is better. 

Except Anton has a past, too, and something has been looming, bearing down on him from that history, just waiting for the chance to strike. Soon, everything will change, and the life he’s struggled so hard to build will come crashing down around him. 

And the worst part of it all: Anton Mackey has no one to blame but himself.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

March 16, 2003

Payson, Arizona

He thought he was dead.

Steam hissed from the crumpled front end of the RV that had folded accordion-style against the guardrail. His face stung from the punch of the airbag. His lungs burned from that awful talcum powder that drifted through the cabin as the bag deflated. The chemical dust, suspended in the air, seemed to be frozen in time. 

His nose was numb and swollen. He tasted blood trickling down the back of his throat like a cocaine drip. He peered through the cracked windshield, his eyes adjusting to the reddish glow of a desert sunrise. The crushed-in hood had jarred upward. The chassis was off balance. The whole vehicle wobbled as he shifted his weight in his seat.

Oh my God.

He cranked the door handle and heaved his shoulder into it to pop it off the jamb. He hopped down onto the highway. The winds were heavy and dry, rustling the sage and scrub oaks that dotted the rugged landscape along the Beeline Highway. A sliver of fiery light barely illuminated the peaks of the Mazatal Mountains, which rose and fell against the horizon. Giant saguaros stood like sentries. 

The back half of a red two-door sedan lay beneath the shredded front tires of the RV. Flattened like an aluminum can. On impact the RV must have bucked forward, rolling up onto the rear bumper of the smaller car, coming to rest on its roof. The significant weight of the RV crushed the sedan into something you might see stacked in a junkyard.

The highway was quiet. Just the rush of hot wind crackling the delicate spines of the sagebrush. He got his bearings quickly, the initial shock of the crash having passed. A sobering experience. Literally. Half a handle of Jack Daniels coursing through his veins had been replaced by something stronger. 


He saw long hair, a young female’s. How he could tell her age by the back of her head, he would never know. Maybe by its length and sheen—bright, yellow-blond. Slick with blood. Her forehead propped on the steering wheel. The driver-side window blown out. The windshield was a shattered web. 

The man beside her—or boy, he was arguably young—was out cold, his body positioned in the passenger’s seat in a gimpy, off-kilter fashion. The passenger side had been thrust into the guardrail, which molded itself to the frame of the car. His head lolled against the door. Blood leaked from his ear and ran down his neck. 

“Are you okay?” he screamed, although he knew he would get no reply. His voice resonated throughout the valley. “Hello?” 

He braced himself against the ruined front end of the RV. He felt a surge of bile and whiskey come up in the back of his throat. He heaved forward but held it in. He was lightheaded.

Oh God, please let this be a dream. Oh God, please…this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening…

Meet the author:

Eric Matheny was born in Los Angeles, California, where he lived until he went away to college at Arizona State University. At ASU he was president of Theta Chi Fraternity. He graduated with a degree in political science and moved to Miami, Florida, to attend law school at St. Thomas University. During his third year of law school, he interned for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, where he worked as a prosecutor upon graduation. In 2009, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. He is a solo practitioner representing clients in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Broward County, Florida. He has handled everything from DUI to murder. 

In his free time, Eric enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He published his debut novel Home in 2004, which centers around a successful drug dealer catering to the rich in Orange County. His second novel Lockdown, published in 2005, follows a law student trying to prove that an inmate serving a life sentence in one of California’s toughest prisons might actually be innocent. Eric’s latest novel The Victim, is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. 

Eric lives outside of Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two young sons.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter 


This giveaway is for one digital copy (Kindle version) of The Victim by Eric Matheny. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, December 22nd, and the winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on Wednesday, December 23rd. Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Giveaway is open to residents of the United States only (sorry). 

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2015 Book 373: PATTERNS OF CHANGE by Terri DuLong

Patterns of Change by Terri DuLong 
ISBN: 9781601835529 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781601835512 (ebook)
ASIN: B00V3JWOH4 (Kindle edition)

Publication date: November 24, 2015 

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Chloe Radcliffe was ready to shake the dust of Cedar Key off her feet and sink her toes into the warm sands of Ormond Beach with her soon-to-be husband. But when tragedy struck, she found herself alone, unraveled—and unsure where she belonged… A series of vivid dreams of a Victorian house with a beautiful fishpond convince Chloe to take a leap of faith and rent a condo in Ormond Beach. There, she makes fast friends with a group of knitters and the owner of a tea shop, who also happens to have a house nearly identical to the one in Chloe’s dreams—and she’s willing to rent her the property. Just as Chloe begins casting on her grand plans for the home, her tangled past comes back to haunt her—but her dreams and newfound friends just might point her toward the love she’s been missing all along… 

Chloe Radcliffe is no stranger to making fresh starts in life. After being married for close to thirty years and then getting divorced she began a new life for herself in Cedar Key, Florida. She was ready to begin a new chapter in her life and relocate to Ormond Beach with her new partner Gabe until tragedy struck and he dies suddenly. Now that her aunt has died and her sister is contemplating relocating to France with her husband and daughter, Chloe must once again think about where to go and what to do in Patterns of Change by Terri DuLong.

Chloe has had to make a lot of changes in her life over the past few years due to divorce and death. Now that the business she works for on a part-time basis is about to close, it might be the right time to begin again somewhere new, and that somewhere new is Ormond Beach, a few hours away from Cedar Key. Before Chloe sets off to explore Ormond Beach, she has a vivid dream about a beautiful house and a koi pond. Imagine her surprise when she arrives in Ormond Beach and finds the house of her dreams. The surprises keep coming when she meets the owner of the house, Mavis Anne Overby, and her niece, Yarrow Overby. Before she knows it, Chloe is set to go into business with Mavis Anne and is moving into her dream house. She’s even met a man, not to mention developed a phone friendship with the owner of the condo she initially rented in Ormond Beach. Just when she thinks things are too good to be true, Chloe is forced to confront a secret from her past. Will she be able to overcome her feelings of anger and fear or will she continue to allow the past to dictate her future?

Patterns of Change is a fast-paced read about friendship and new beginnings and the first book in the new Ormond Beach series (looking forward to the next book in this series). I found this to be an enjoyable read and was pleased to get reacquainted with so many familiar characters from the Cedar Key series by Ms. DuLong (Spinning Forward, Casting About, Holiday Magic – A Cedar Key Christmas, Sunrise on Cedar Key, Postcards from Cedar Key, Secrets on Cedar Key, and Farewell to Cedar Key). Ms. DuLong has a gift for portraying women and their friendships, not to mention adding just a bit of spice with some romance. The following quote from Patterns of Change seems to sum up the knowledge of these female get-togethers and friendships best: 

“Gatherings of women have been occurring since the beginning of time. Whether it was a sewing circle popular in the eighteen hundreds, a knitting group during the war years of the forties, a coffee klatch in the fifties and sixties–women had been drawing together to socialize and bond. It was universal and it didn’t matter where the location was. Women gravitated together to form connections.”

Chloe and her family and friends might only be characters on a page, but it is easy to feel, as a reader, that you’ve connected with them in some way. For those of you that knit, you’ll probably enjoy the free knitting pattern that Ms. DuLong includes with the story. I’m not a knitter, but even I was tempted by the knitting and yarn discussions in this book. If you enjoy reading feel-good stories, then you’ll want to read Patterns of Change. If you’ve read and enjoyed the Cedar Key series, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Patterns of Change and read it. 

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Excerpt: MARTIN DASH by Andy Bailey

Martin Dash by Andy Bailey
ISBN: 9780993296505 (paperback)
ASIN: B0104DKIL8 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: June 20, 2015
Publisher: Bonja Books

What would it be like to have no feelings? No desire, no anger, no pleasure? Behold Martin Dash. A man who possesses stunning features that captivate all who encounter him but is also cursed with a medical condition that means he has no emotion to give in return. But one woman is convinced that there is something behind the apparently blank façade and sets out on a dark trail to uncover the haunted past that holds the key to the mystery; a journey that takes in politics, criminal finance, London’s neo-burlesque scene and, finally . . . murder. 

Martin Dash is the first book of a trilogy that relates the bizarre experiences of a young man whose life was always destined to be terrifying as well as exceptional. 

Read an excerpt:

They had only just arrived at the club, having spent a couple of hours in the bars around Soho first by way of a warm-up. Evidently they had just missed an act as the stage hands were clearing away the detritus: various lurid-coloured items of women’s underwear, feather boas, and what looked to Susan suspiciously like dildos – several large ones – again of lurid colours. There was also a reddish liquid splashed about the stage, which was now being cleared and dried up. Susan thought that must have been a hell of warm-up act – the crowd was still buzzing and there was a crackling atmosphere in the room.

The audience was an unholy mix of young professionals, out for some deviant kicks to leaven their otherwise dully shiny careers – sorry, lives; bohemian types with long ringlet hair and multi-coloured waistcoats; leather and denim-clad bikers trying to out-mean each other; genuine freaks of all shapes and sizes (the noisiest group); and a general morass of hard-core, seasoned Soho dwellers identifiable from their black clothes, white pallor and studied nonchalance.

The one thing common to all was that they were, to a man/woman/in-between, heavily drunk.

Everyone was nominally at one of the small circular tables that arced in rows around the stage and terraced back towards the bar and side walls, the last two rows being at slightly higher elevations. But the tables weren’t holding them as many were up on their feet, moving from table to table, or simply meandering about the place, entirely without purpose.

There was a heavy disco track bumping away in the background and some were swaying along; others were simply hollering and screaming randomly; and amorous couples were pawing at each other, obviously over-stimulated by what they had already seen. The whole scene pulsed with a throw-caution-to-the-wind, end-of-the-century, wild abandonment that was itself intoxicating. The numerous drinks already downed by Susan and Carol were, in any event, doing their remorseless damage but the two adventurers were also being carried along by this heady atmosphere.

They looked at each other again and simultaneously burst out laughing together.

“Wow, what a place!” shouted Susan above the din.

“It’s awesome!” shouted Carol, happily.

They clinked their glasses together and took another ill-judged glug.

Their table was a couple of rows back from the front of the stage, not centre but more towards the wall on their right as they faced the stage. As Susan’s eyes tracked along the row of tables up against the wall, she noticed that there was a larger table at the end nearest the stage that was empty (in fact, it must have been the only empty table in the place) but it was roped off with the red tasselled rope beloved of egotistical club owners the world over.

She presumed, matter-of-factly, that this must be Michael Green’s table but he didn’t appear to be in the house this evening. Through the alcoholic haze, the common sense voice told her it was obviously naïve to assume that she only had to turn up at one of his many business ventures and expect him to be sat waiting for her. But still, she was disappointed.

However, that disappointment didn’t have time to linger for, at that moment, the swell of noise suddenly increased to a roar of approbation and she spun her head towards the stage just in time to see the entrance of a sparkling, throbbing vision in a full-length red sequined fishtail dress, bare shoulders, huge cleavage, full length black satin gloves, big blond hair, stacked black eyelashes and pouting fire engine red lips – a picture of voluptuousness. 

This was The World Famous *BOB*.

Meet the author:

Andy Bailey is a British writer residing in deepest Staffordshire (‘the Creative County’ . . .) His principal claim to fame as an author (so far) is the creation of Martin Dash and his recurring theme is the absurdity and futility of human endeavour (unless you’re on double time) and his writing seeks to explore the strange motivations that drive the endlessly entertaining members of the species, homo sapiens.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter 

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2015 Book 370: THE WORD GAME by Steena Holmes

The Word Game by Steena Holmes 
ISBN: 9781503947139 (paperback)

ISBN: 9781503949430 (hardcover)

ASIN: B00V1YIYF2 (Kindle edition)

Publication date: November 3, 2015 
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

For overprotective parent Alyson Ward, any time her daughter, Lyla, is out of sight is reason to panic. So it’s a big step for her when she lets Lyla attend a sleepover at her cousin’s house. Comforted by the knowledge that her sister, Tricia, is the chaperone, Alyson does the one thing she never thought possible: she lets go and trusts that her daughter will be safe.

But Alyson’s sense of peace is short lived. When Lyla comes home the next morning, she reveals something that could tear apart not only their family but also the entire community. Now, Alyson and Tricia must confront their painful shared past as they come together to help a little girl who they fear might be harboring terrible secrets similar to their own. Will the sisters be strong enough to face their demons in order to protect the child, even if it means telling their most private truths? 

Alyson “Aly” Ward is the quintessential helicopter mom. She’s not overbearing, but she is overly protective and hyper-vigilant about her daughter and her daughter’s activities. Aly’s behavior stems from a childhood incident involving a neighbor and an attempted molestation. In Aly’s mind, this event was made even worse because her mother didn’t really believe her accusations. Now Aly must decide whether to err on the side of caution or do what must be done to protect another child in The Word Game by Steena Holmes.

Although Aly is considered a helicopter mom, she isn’t a tiger mom always making excuses for her child no matter the occasion. Aly trusts her daughter and knows that she wouldn’t lie about events that took place at her sister’s house during a sleep over. When Aly seeks to gain more insight from her sister, Tricia, and niece, Katy, she’s immediately placed on the offensive. Aly’s only recourse is to ask for advice from her friend, Rachel, who just happens to be the principal at the elementary school. What happens next is much more than a she-said versus she-said event or one person rushing to judgment; it is the emotional and physical health and well-being of a young child at stake. Has Aly jumped to conclusions? How far is too far when a child’s safety is a stake? Will her efforts to protect a child from a potentially abusive relationship cause irreparable harm to not only the family of the child in question but to her family as well? 

The Word Game is a touching story about one community and child molestation. Aly is an overprotective mom, but she has good cause to be concerned as she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. Yes, she may have leaped to conclusions in the past about certain situations, but she’s always done what she feels is the right thing to do in order to protect children that might be in a harmful situation. Aly is not only fighting against her family in order to protect a possibly endangered girl, but she’s also fighting against her memories of the past. The Word Game deals with some harsh topics, namely child molestation, but it does so in a respectful manner without providing graphic details. This in no way lessens the emotional horror felt on behalf of a young child dealing with sexual abuse. Ms. Holmes has once again provided a stirring story that packs an emotional wallop without detracting from its readability. Is it possible to enjoy reading a story that deals with such a horrific topic? Yes, it is, especially when it is done tastefully and Ms. Holmes has done just that with The Word Game.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2015 Book 369: ASHLEY BELL by Dean Koontz

Ashley Bell (Ashley Bell #1) by Dean Koontz
ISBN: 9780345545961 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345545978 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VCZOKM6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 8, 2015 
Publisher: Bantam

THE MUST-READ THRILLER OF THE YEAR: Featuring the most exhilarating heroine in memory and a sophisticated, endlessly ingenious, brilliantly paced narrative through dark territory and deep mystery, this is a new milestone in literary suspense and a major new breakout book from the long acclaimed master.

At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

Unprecedented in scope, infinite in heart, Ashley Bell is a magnificent achievement that will capture lovers of dark psychological suspense, literary thrillers, and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Beautifully written, at once lyrical and as fast as a bullet, here is the most irresistible novel of the decade.  

Bibi Blair is a young, vibrant, and highly imaginative young woman. Her imagination is one of the things that is of great assistance with her writing. The one thing Bibi could never have imagined was dealing with a death sentence due to an inoperable brain tumor. Now she’s in the fight of her life in Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz. What, if anything, does Bibi’s imagination have to do with her present predicament? Can she find and save Ashley Bell before it’s too late?

Bibi has always had an active imagination, and sometimes she’s felt like her imagination has become her reality. At the age of five she wasn’t afraid of the dark, but afraid of the shadows and what hides there only to find a shadow monster creeping into her bed and touching her feet and legs. At the age of ten she wrote a series of stories about a dog seeking the perfect home and lo and behold a lost dog finds Bibi and a home. In college, her imagination lands her in hot water with a college professor and forces her to leave college behind. To this day, Bibi isn’t quite sure why the professor was so upset over her short story. As an only child, Bibi has always had the love and support of her parents, Nancy and Murphy Blair, and she has it now while dealing with this medical catastrophe. Even with parental support, Bibi longs for her fiancé, Navy SEAL Paxton Thorpe to be by her side. Fortunately, Bibi receives a reprieve and a miraculous cure occurs. All Bibi knows is that she has been saved in order to save the mysterious Ashley Bell and she must do so before evil destroys them both.

Although Ashley Bell has more than 500 pages, I found this to be a captivating and fast-paced read (even with a moderately-severe migraine I finished reading this in one day). Mr. Koontz combines elements of suspense and thriller genres with the paranormal. He then mixes a little bit of a quest element with the occult, fantastical, and horrific for one truly amazing story. Bibi isn’t a typical heroine, but she perseveres throughout the story in order to do the right thing for the right reasons no matter what. I thought I knew where the story was headed and then a major twist occurred and the story took off in an entirely new direction (no, I won’t tell you what happened . . . read the book!). We learn just enough (or so we think) about Bibi, her parents, her fiancé Paxton, and her friend Pogo (a nickname), that they become quite realistic over the course of the story. The good guys are true white hats and the bad guys are the blackest hats around. It’s a little difficult to describe Ashley Bell without giving too much away, so I’ll just say read this book (I’m serious, read this book)! I’ve never read anything by Dean Koontz before (I don’t know why), but I do know that I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in this series. While I’m waiting, I’ll simply have to read some of Mr. Koontz’s previous writings to tide me over.

Watch the book trailer:

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley; I also received a print copy of this book for review purposes from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ program. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2015 Book 365: THE SEAFRONT TEAROOM by Vanessa Greene

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene 
ISBN: 9780425281260 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780698195790 (ebook)
ASIN: B00U5L7T9E (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 1, 2015 
Publisher: Berkley

The first rule of afternoon tea: never rush. Take time to savor it. Just like friendship…

The Seafront Tearoom is an insider secret in small-town Scarborough – a beachfront haven with the best tea and cakes in town – and  journalist Charlie Harrison would love to put it on the map with a feature in her magazine. But single mom Kat Murray doesn’t want to see her favorite sanctuary overrun by tourists and begs Charlie to seek out other options. She offers her help, as a “tea obsessive,” and so does French au pair Séraphine Moreau, whose upbringing makes her a connoisseur of everything sweet and indulgent.

Together the three women will scour the countryside for quaint hideaways and hidden gems, sharing along the way their secrets, disappointments, and dreams – and discovering that friendship, like tea, takes time to steep. But learning too that once you open your heart, the possibilities are endless.  

Charlie Harrison is a single woman, content with her job as a journalist, and still getting used to the idea that her wedding is off. Kat Murray is a single mother trying to find a job to support her small family. Seraphine Moreau is an au pair striving to reconcile her feelings for her lover against her family’s possible objections. All three women are brought together in The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear that Charlie, Kat, and Seraphine have a lot in common. Charlie has a fantastic career and is in line for a promotion she has worked hard for, editor of a food magazine. Kat is a struggling single mother with deep ties to the local Scarborough community through her family. Seraphine is living in Scarborough temporarily as an au pair and struggling to make the right decision in her love life. Charlie has a struggling relationship with her sister, Pippa, primarily because she feels that Pippa is constantly judging her and finding her lacking. The thing that brings these women together initially is the joy of food, especially tea, and good company. What is a chance encounter between Kat, Seraphine, and Charlie becomes a deep friendship built around tea and coastal tearooms.

The Seafront Tearoom is a quick and engaging read. I enjoyed reading about the intrapersonal and interpersonal struggles of each character. Kat has to deal with the estranged father of her child and her growing attraction to the local veterinarian. Charlie grows closer to her sister when Pippa’s marriage is floundering and learns that appearances can be deceiving in all manner of things. Seraphine must decide if she’ll be true to herself and her lover Carla despite any familial backlash. A chance encounter in a tearoom provides deep friendship and leads to second chances for love. Obviously there’s a lot more going on in this story, but the main points to the story for me where the friendship between Charlie, Kat, and Seraphine and the joy they find in sharing a cup of tea. I’ve got to admit, that one of the things that initially drew me to this story was the idea of tea and friendship. I’m just as obsessed about tea as I am about books and the only thing I found lacking in this story was the lack of descriptions and/or histories of the teas mentioned…but that’s just me. So, grab a cup of tea (coffee, hot chocolate, or beverage of your choice), relax, and enjoy The Seafront Tearoom.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2015 Book 366: WHAT SHE KNEW by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
ISBN: 9780062413864 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062413871 (ebook)
ASIN: B00WR12MEC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 1, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.  

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking…  

Rachel Jenner is dealing with every parent’s nightmare, the disappearance and possible abduction of her eight-year-old-son, Ben. As the hours tick by, the police and the public begin to suspect Rachel, her ex-husband, her sister, and more without any real leads. Rachel’s despair mounts in What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan.

Rachel Jenner is a divorced single mother. She has been forced to make a new life for herself and her son Ben since her ex-husband, John Finch, walked out after last Christmas. Rachel didn’t handle the separation and divorce well, but the only shining light in her life has been Ben. She blames herself for allowing Ben to run ahead into the forest towards the swing. She feels guilty, not because she did anything to Ben to cause him harm, but because she didn’t protect him the way a parent should. As the days pass, Rachel is at her wit’s end and only wants her son to be found. The police aren’t really providing any information to her or to John. The online world has eviscerated her as a bad mother and her sense of failure mounts. The detective in charge of the case, DI James Clemo, is very close-mouthed about the investigation and the tension and emotions explode when he confronts Rachel’s sister Nicky with their family’s past. It’s been seven days and it doesn’t seem like the police are any closer to finding Ben then they were hours after he disappeared. Could Nicky have had something to do with Ben’s disappearance? If not, who took Ben and is it possible he’s still alive?

I found What She Knew to be a fast-paced and engaging read, as well as one that was difficult to put down. I enjoyed the alternating narratives of Rachel and DI James “Jim” Clemo, as it made it feel as if I were being presented with both perspectives of a missing child story — the investigative and the family’s sides. Both Rachel and Jim are well-developed and realistic characters with plenty of flaws. There are many facets to a police investigation that the public never gets a chance to see, despite the plethora of television shows about police and their investigations. This story provided some insight into the emotional impact this type of investigation has on police officers. Ms. Macmillan takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride with this story, as there are numerous twists and turns and we think we’re heading in one direction only to be led in another direction. No, this isn’t a police procedural. What She Knew is a taut, psychological thriller that does not disappoint (note: What She Knew was originally published in the United Kingdom as Burnt Paper Sky). No, I’m not going to tell you if Ben is found safely or not…read the book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading What She Knew and look forward to reading more from Ms. Macmillan in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and Partners In Crime Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Enter the giveaway:

Enter to win 1 of 5 copies of What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan. This giveaway is hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gilly Macmillan & William Morrow Books. The giveaway begins on December 1st, 2015 and runs through January 3rd, 2016. For US residents only.

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Book Showcase and Excerpt: THE TOWN DANCE by Nikki Skies

The Town Dance by Nikki Skies
ISBN: 9781514385906 (paperback)
ASIN: B010VLRZYG (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: July 2, 2015

Lorna Simon has plans to diminish her resume of safe journalism and be known for reporting trendsetting stories. Certain she can persevere and protect her impressive family lineage, despite her carefree lifestyle as a social butterfly, this notion is put under fire after a night of partying thrusts Lorna into being a newsmaker instead of a news writer. Lorna alleges she has become the victim of a sexual assault crime committed against her by a woman, Trista, who is a promising event planner and an associate of Lorna’s mother. 

Paralyzed with the humiliation of having to publically defend her sexuality as a heterosexual, Lorna must decide to believe in her bouts of memory loss and forego the incident or rekindle her passion for journalism to protect her livelihood and uphold the integrity of her family.

Read an excerpt:

  Lorna had neatly placed the toilet seat cover and sat down just as someone else walked into the restroom. When the person walked past her stall she could identify through the cracks of the door that it was Trista. Trista stepped into the stall next to Lorna. Usually people look under the stalls as they walk past to check occupancy but not Trista. She seemed to be distracted.  

  The sensation to urinate left Lorna’s body as she sat paralyzed on the toilet not wanting to breathe or move. She moved her legs in closer together so Trista could not look under the stall wall and notice her shoes. Lorna’s thoughts were torn between the decision to run out of the restroom or wait until after Trista left.  

  Trista wasted no time relieving her bladder. She had been containing her composure and bodily functions for the majority of the day. She leaned her head against the stall wall and punched it with the sides of her fist. Trista let out a slow deep shriek of a cry, something else she had wanted to do all day.  

  Despite this restroom being across from the courtroom her proceedings were taking place, people opted to walk down the hall and use another restroom. For that reason, Trista used this one because it was quiet and she hallowed the same stall every day with morning prayers and affirmations. She had started morning affirmations at the request of members from one of her support groups.

  Even though Trista had looked forward to telling her side of the story for months now, today was a rough day in court. Having been advised against giving interviews or talking to the media, Trista felt as if she had been victimized every day by local and national news. She had mixed support from the LGBT community and some members of her family back in Kentucky had even been harassed.  

  The defense team prepped Trista as much as possible but everyone knew with Lorna being the hometown princess, Trista’s gratification would be short lived due to the cross-examination from the prosecution. And Uncle Adam came after her with a vicious resolve!  

  Trista needed to call someone because the blood in her left arm was beginning to burn. She needed to release it so it wouldn’t hurt.  

  Trista let out another long, mellow-toned shriek and dialed a number on her cell phone.

  “Hi, it’s me… I feel like I can’t breathe. I called my mom again this morning and she hasn’t called me back yet. What if she never calls me?”

  Trista began to bang her fists on the walls again.

  Balls of perspiration beaded Lorna’s face as her heartbeat pounded in her throat. She wasn’t sure how much time had lapsed but she knew if she didn’t come out soon, Uncle Adam would call her cell phone to look for her.  

  “Today was hard. It was so hard, so hard…my arms feel heavy. My left arm looks swollen…”

  Even though the phone was not on the speaker function, Lorna could hear the person on the other end yell.

  “No, seriously it does! And it burns, it hurts so bad!”

  Lorna learned about Trista being a “cutter” when Uncle Adam shared the police report with the court. Until all this happened, Lorna thought she was a good judge of character. But in hindsight of becoming friends with someone who intentionally hurt themselves and her father advising her of the potential dangers one night stands can bear after this part of her social life was embarrassingly shared in the courtroom, Lorna knew she needed to re-evaluate some aspects of her lifestyle.  Lorna decided that during Trista’s next cry outburst, she would make a quiet yet swift run for the restroom door.

  “I spoke up for myself and then, he humiliated me… I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Trista banged her head against the wall and then pounded her fist again.

  Lorna quickly stood and pulled her skirt up. As she cautiously slide the lock, the automatic flusher activated on the toilet.  

  Trista stopped her pounding and crying.


  Lorna rushed out of the stall and to the door of the restroom. When she heard the automatic flusher go off from Trista’s stall she turned around.  

  Trista opened her stall door and locked eyes with Lorna. One of Trista’s shirt sleeves was rolled up and showed fresh cut lines on her forearm.  

  Trista still had her cell phone to her ear. Her mascara was smeared around her eyes and her chest and neck were drenched in sweat. Lorna reached to push the door open but it didn’t budge.  

  The person on the other end of the phone could be heard yelling.

  “I’m still here… it’s her. She’s in the restroom with me,” Trista softly said into the phone. “The bitch who’s trying to kill me. Who turned my world upside down!  But me, I wouldn’t hurt a fly, I wouldn’t hurt a fly, I wouldn’t hurt a fly…”

  The restroom temperature felt like it had risen at least 20 degrees. Lorna could feel anxiety forming knots in her chest and her throat began to close up. She closed her eyes to stop the room from spinning but even with her eyes closed, she saw Trista’s face.  

  “She won’t even look at me she’s such a coward,” Trista continued.

  Lorna opened her eyes to see Trista walk towards her. Lorna pushed at the door again but to no avail, it would not open!

Meet the author:

Nikki Skies is an accomplished poet, author, and playwright living in Atlanta, GA.  Skies is the author of the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks and the published collection of poetry and  prose, Pocket Honey, Wind & Hips. A firm believer in the power of education, Skies studied for her BA and MFA in Theatre and Screenplay Writing and uses her art as a teaching tool to encourage an interest in literacy. The Town Dance is the dramatic debut novel from Skies. 

Connect with the author:

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