With so many fun book challenges to participate in, I could no longer be without a blog. I intend for the blog to help me keep track of my reading for the year as well as my progress on the challenges I choose to join.
Published: July 2, 2019
From the celebrated and bestselling author of The Banker’s Wife, worlds collide when an FBI agent investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raises the impossible question: What happens when the primary suspect is your father?
FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in ten years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.
When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father’s ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father’s partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect–and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother’s murder–and her own role in exonerating her father in that case–Nell can’t help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds–not just about those she loves, but about herself.
“After scattering the ashes of her father, Martin, Nell Flynn heads to his South Fork home to sift through his possessions after a motorcycle crash took his life. Nell is on leave from her job in D.C. as a member of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit after she killed a member of the Russian Mafia in the line of duty and got a bullet to the shoulder for her trouble. Nell mourns her father but also looks forward to moving on and never looking back at a town that holds nothing but bad memories, including the brutal murder of her mother, Marisol, when she was only 7. But getting out of town soon isn’t in the cards for Nell. When her old friend Lee Davis, a newly minted homicide detective, asks for her help solving a series of gruesome murders, Nell is intrigued. A young girl, shot, dismembered, and wrapped in burlap, has been found buried in a local park, and she bears a striking resemblance to a young Latina found the previous summer. Nell soon learns that a mansion near the burial is the site of lavish parties attended by Washington elites, where possibly underage girls are provided for entertainment. Nell’s digging leads to young Latina escorts afraid to come forward for fear of deportation and the wrath of their pimp, who is working with some of the most powerful men in New York. When a local landscaper is arrested, Nell isn’t convinced he’s the killer, and disturbing secrets about the local police—even her father—are rising to the surface. Nell carries a palpable sadness and is still haunted by her mother’s murder and her complicated relationship with her father. She has a vulnerable, empathetic core that will pull readers in, and Alger has a feel for small-town dynamics. The tension becomes nearly unbearable as Nell realizes she truly can’t trust anyone. Readers can expect a few genuine surprises, and the light Alger shines on society’s most vulnerable members is an important one.” Kirkus Review
Loved this book and it’s perfect for a hot Summer afternoon .
Published: October 2019
This audio novella is a stand-alone prequel to the Cormac Reilly series
Twenty-two year old Niamh Turley thought she had problems, dealing with the obnoxious principal of the school she’s teaching in as well as the anxious parents of her little charges, but when she wakes one morning to a missing roommate and a garda knocking on her door, her life spirals out of control fast…
Garda Cormac Reilly is still in the early stages of his career when this story takes place.
A young woman has been found murdered in the lobby of a Black Rock apartment building early one morning just before Christmas, and primary school teacher Niamh Turley opens the door to Garda Reilly during the very initial investigation. She’d been fast asleep so there was little she could tell him. Unsettled but safe, she burrows in for a quiet day at home while the investigation unfolds. Later in the day, when she finds Garda Reilly at her door once again, she realises the crime is much closer to home than she’d thought – the young woman who lost her life was Niamh’s roommate, Maya.
The two women had been friendly but not really close, so although Niamh is horrified by the crime and sad for Maya’s family, she also has some pressing practical matters to consider – like how she’s going to pay the rent on her own. A potential solution presents itself, and then Niamh’s own life begins to spiral out of control.
While this story is part of the series due to the presence of Cormac Reilly, it really has no connection to either of the full-length novels published to date, so it probably doesn’t matter in what order it is read. But do read it! McTiernan really knows how to build the tension, even in this shorter form. I could feel myself getting agitated as Niamh’s poor choices led her into a difficult position.
It is short but it packs a punch and gets quite tense at times! I wanted to tell Niamh not to be an ‘eejit’ several times but she was anyway. The narrator is Irish which is nice because the accent is real, and she has a very pleasing voice.
I highly recommend this short book to everyone and it is a reminder to ask for references before letting a stranger move in with you!
Published: June 9, 2020
When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.
At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.
As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.
Charlotte, the narrator of this well-paced novel set in Lake Crosby, N.C., from author, Kimberly Belle, was raised in poverty, but she has achieved her dream of a better life by marrying Paul Keller, the richest man in the Appalachian tourist town of Lake Crosby, N.C., despite the local gossip that Paul drowned his first wife four years earlier.
Then one day she’s disturbed to spot a nervous-looking Paul talking to a strange woman. The next day, Charlotte finds the woman’s body floating under their lakefront dock, just like Paul’s first wife. When shown the body, Paul tells the police he’s never seen the woman. He later takes off without telling anyone where he’s going. Frightened and confused, Charlotte turns to Paul’s two best friends for support, one the town crazy, the other the police chief’s son, both with dark secrets of their own. Belle weaves an intricate web of connections among the characters as the action moves toward the surprising ending.
This story had intrigue and mystery from the start. I loved the instant suspense of the gossip-inducing relationship and then the first crime right off the top. While Charlotte’s character is not universally loved in their small town, I happened to like her. She handled herself very well with all the drama and her character was one that was inspiring on how she tried to be loyal to those around her and strong willed to get through everything.
While I did guess the killer about two thirds through the listen, how it all played out was very exciting and shocking with each turn. The author sure knows how to write a story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I loved the main characters. I loved the little side characters who helped fill the gaps in this story and shape it into its most interesting parts.
If you love a good mystery, this is it. Thrills, suspense, mystery… Stranger in the Lake has it all.
Published: April 21, 2020
Amos Decker — the FBI consultant with a perfect memory — returns to solve a gruesome murder in a booming North Dakota oil town in the newest thriller in David Baldacci’s #1 New York Times bestselling Memory Man series.
When Amos Decker and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are called to London, North Dakota, they instantly sense that the thriving fracking town is ripe for trouble. The promise of a second gold rush has attracted an onslaught of newcomers all hoping for a windfall, and the community is growing faster than houses can be built. The sudden boom has also brought a slew of problems with it, including drugs, property crimes, prostitution — and now murder.
Decker and Jamison are ordered to investigate the death of a young woman named Irene Cramer, whose body was expertly autopsied and then dumped in the open — which is only the beginning of the oddities surrounding the case. As Decker and Jamison dig into Irene’s life, they are shocked to discover that the woman who walked the streets by night as a prostitute was a teacher for a local religious sect by day — a sect operating on land once owned by a mysterious government facility that looms over the entire community.
London is a town replete with ruthless business owners, shady government officials, and religious outsiders, all determined to keep their secrets from coming out. When other murders occur, Decker will need all of his extraordinary memory and detective skills, and the assistance of a surprising ally, to root out a killer and the forces behind Cramer’s death. . . before the boom town explodes.
FBI consultant Amos Decker and his colleague, Alex Jamison, are summoned to the remote North Dakota Badlands when a hunter discovers the remains of a woman out on the Great Plains.
She appears to have had a post-mortem performed on her, reminiscent of those seen on TV cop shows – but this time, there was no slab, morgue or camera in sight. The reason why Irene Cramer’s murder merits an FBI investigation becomes rapidly clear when key questions surface about the woman’s mysterious past. As a teacher at a school managed by a local male-run sect, the Anabaptists, little is known about who she really was or where she came from.
Seeking information from the local community, Decker and Jamison observe the local town of London, North Dakota, which sits at the very heart of the fracking industry. Enriched with oil money, jealousy and a deep-set rivalry between its richest investors lie beneath a veneer of glitz and opulence.
But it is the nearby ‘eye in the sky’, the London Air Force Station, which may hold the answers. Acting as an early warning system, it can detect a nuclear threat to the US. Was Irene Cramer’s death connected in some way to the highly classified facility? When a mysterious government contact reaches out to assist their investigation, Decker realizes that this town holds secrets so explosive that their implications could destabilize the entire country .
I loved that Alex plays a key role here as well as Decker. She’s sometimes AWOL allowing Baldacci to bring in a few other regulars but this time the pair are partnered up the whole way.
Readers of Baldacci’s other work will be happy to see a bit of a crossover here, featuring a character (or two) from another series. I won’t say more as it was a bit of a surprise, but well done and their presence doesn’t diminish the achievements of Decker and Alex.
There’s A LOT happening in this book. It’s a three-for-the-price of one kinda book. Or maybe more. And it’s unfortunate for some involved in nefarious dealings that they get tangled up in something bigger that might have otherwise seen them escape scott-free.
Decker and Alex are ostensibly there because a woman’s been killed. Kinda savagely but they’re not quite sure of the reasoning behind their involvement. Until they realise there’s a Department of Defence base nearby.
And then there’s the town of London which felt a bit like a character itself. It’s run by two families – the fathers arch-rivals of sorts, though reliant on each other for business. We meet the next generation of both families and there’s a clash between the old school vs new school way of doing things.
Baldacci’s inclusion of mining / fracking and its impacts on communities is also timely given it’s the subject of debate in many countries. (Along with the economic benefits to towns and its people vs environmental and long term impacts.)
In all honesty I could have done without one of the threads of this mystery. I can’t reveal too much but it overcomplicates things and (in many ways) felt redundant. Although having said that, I was able to follow what was happening; and it does give Baldacci the opportunity to mislead we readers—on several occasions—as we assume we’ve got it all solved.
There’s less reliance on Decker’s abilities here – though his impressive memory does come through when he needs it. I actually kinda like his superpower but it’s a reminder that he was (and is) a good investigator either way.
I also continue to really like Alex, and we actually get a little more insight into both of their personal lives here.
We know about the murder of Decker’s wife and daughter that led him to crash and burn, but here we learn he’s cut off other family since and been reticent to re-establish contact. And I wasn’t sure I’d remembered (or knew) Alex had been married and there’s certainly a (back)story there!
I really enjoyed this book – the sixth in the series. It probably didn’t need to be as convoluted as it was, but Baldacci always manages to keep all of the balls in the air and doesn’t give us plot holes that cause us sleepless nights (or am I the only one who struggles if there’s a lack of closure?!).
Another excellent Amos Decker novel.
Published: June 16, 2015
If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
Touching tale of girl with OCD finding love through poetry.
Everyone has something they want to hide, even from their closest friends, and I empathized with her desire to keep her secret from her glittery, popular clique. She also just wants to feel “normal,” something that I think everyone struggles with in high school.
I loved her new-found friends in Poet’s Corner. Every one was so unique and yet they all shared these secret poetry sessions that made them into a family. Poet’s Corner is an escape, but it’s also where you find your true self, and I wish we had had something similar in my school. Hell, even now I would want to join a secret poetry club!
I think it’s so important that stories like Sam’s are given a bigger place in mainstream media. Every Last Word is a story about living with a mental illness. Sam has a therapist, she takes medication, and her parents are trained on how to handle situations when Sam feels overwhelmed or out of control. She has a set treatment plan that works (and that she and her therapist worked on together and continue to develop as Sam grows), and a therapist who is portrayed in a positive light and I think that all of that is so important. Sam struggles throughout the book with the idea of “normal.” She wants to feel that way and doesn’t see herself as such. But by the end, she realizes that there are all kinds of “normal.”
The most unique aspect of Every Last Word is how Stone weaves poetry into the storyline. The poetry opens the windows to the characters’ hearts and gives a depth to characters that you just can’t get with simple characterization. I felt every emotion with this book!
There is a pivotal point in the book (no spoilers) that changes the trajectory of Sam’s life. It gave me goose bumps and I cried ugly tears.
Though this is a young adult book, I highly recommend it to everyone!
Published: January 13, 2015
A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.
Photographer Clare Porterfield’s once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn’t seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family’s complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.
Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family’s house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare’s family’s involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.
Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, The Drowning House portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.
First off, I rarely rate three stars (I always feel bad when I rate below a four) but this book could have been a five if it had lived up to it’s blurb and hype.
Here’s what the author of The Drowning House wished to do: write the story of a grief-stricken, headstrong woman, Clare Porterfield, who returns to her island hometown and gets wrapped up in the mysteries of her past, and those of Galveston’s wealthiest family. These mysteries dovetail, stretching back to the Hurricane of 1900, and Clare hopes that solving them will bring her peace.
It’s a premise with potential. What reader doesn’t enjoy a strong-willed narrator? Who doesn’t like the slow unpeeling of mysteries, or the moody atmospherics of a disaster that continues to inform a community ninety years later? (The story is set in 1990.) The author’s debut offers the ravages of water, fire and wind, and a portrait of Galveston struggling to disentangle itself from a romanticized past.
But the book falls flat.
Claire Porterfield is a photographer, a snoop. She left her native Galveston under a cloud when she was fourteen. Fifteen years later, at a loss for how to live since the death of her six year old daughter, Claire is invited to come home and put her expertise to work creating a photographic exhibit of Galveston’s colorful past.
Lots of personal history awaits her discovery. Her best friend from childhood, Patrick Carraday, still lives on the Island (as the natives call it), working for his rich father, unmarried, going nowhere. Almost accidentally, Claire discovers one tawdry secret after another. But are they really secrets? Is she the only person who thinks so? And why does her mother dance so perfectly with Patrick’s father?
Galveston plays a major role in this novel: steaming, smoldering, blooming outrageously, earning its money by flaunting its seedy, honky-tonk history. People born on the Island (BOI) seem to understand the world, its foibles, and social obligations in an entirely different way than other folk do. The Island has always made its own rules about issues like Prohibition, gambling and prostitution and prides itself on being a place where a visitor can have experiences not available at home.
In the end, I think that’s the problem. Galveston dominates and overshadows the characters. I didn’t care about Clare’s journey or her past. Her loss and her crumbled marriage are so abstract as to almost not be believed. The writing in this is lovely, truly, but somehow the humanity got lost in it.
Published: October 16, 2018
Format: Audio/Audiobook Sync
Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number—and private photos—with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally there’s Jenna, a good girl turned rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice. All three deny leaking the photos, but someone has to take the fall. This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip and will have readers tearing through the pages to reach the final reveal.
Sexting, lies, and consequences.
Jenna, Drew, and Mouse(Matthew) are thrown together for their senior law final project. Instead of being the easy “A” Drew expected, the class ignites controversy about dangerous social media issues. Jenna hasn’t spoken to her ex-boyfriend Troy since the day he publicly tweeted topless pictures of her. She has since cut her hair short, dyed it jet black, cut up her girly wardrobe and set his truck on fire, exchanging ballet shoes for a court-mandated anger management class. Drew is an unapologetic player on and off the basketball court but finds himself drawn to Jenna’s newfound strength. Uber-intelligent Mouse is bound for MIT and painfully in love with Jenna. He stands to lose everything if anyone finds out that the basketball team hired him to build a database to house photos of naked girls. What all three students have in common are grievances against their law teacher, Mrs. Bailey. When shocking photos of Mrs. Bailey are posted on the internet, the threesome begin to suspect each other while confronting their own moral transgressions. The author creates realistic, multidimensional characters while exploring the legal and ethical ramifications of privacy as it plays out in a hormonally charged high school environment. Drew and Jenna are white, and Mouse and Troy are black.
I thought I knew where this book was going and BOOM, a twist I didn’t see coming. Fantastic and well deserved ending.
A provocative story about the consequences of poor decisions in our digital world.
I highly recommend it to all young adults who have ever thought about posting something they shouldn’t on social media!
Published: July 12, 2016
Expect the unexpected. That’s what they say, but it’s easier said than done.
How do you expect a change so huge it rocks you to your core?
How do you prepare yourself for an event that will alter your life forever?
One day at a time, you learn to live with your unexpected reality.
This book is really special because it captures Ridge and Kendall building a friendship to eventually falling head over heels for one another. I loved the humor and I really felt the connection between not just Ridge and Kendall but also Ridge and Melissa (NOT a love triangle!!).
The story is heartwarming, and heartbreaking in equal measures. I was completely immersed in Ridge and Kendall’s struggle to overcome the past and make a life for themselves. Ridge is a gorgeous, single dad. He may be a complete player but his son is his number one priority. Ridge finds out the hard way that life can always be unexpected and sometimes heartbreak is in the shadows. Ridge and Kendall’s relationship slowly starts to build and I love how it played out. I love that they did not just jump into bed with each other from the beginning. There are some ups and downs throughout but it builds to the story as well.
The storyline is well thought out and unique and the cover is beyond words. This is an incredibly beautiful character building romance that will grab you from the beginning and not let go until you finish the last page. I highly recommend this to everyone!
Published: June 18, 2013
Ryan Adler and his twin sister, Jane, spent their happiest childhood days at their parents’ mountain Colorado cabin — until divorce tore their family apart. Now, with the house about to be sold, the Adler twins gather with their closest friends for one last snowboarding-filled holiday. While commitment-phobic Ryan gazes longingly at Lauren, wondering if his playboy days are over, Jane’s hopes of reconciling with her old boyfriend evaporate when he brings along his new fiancée. As drama builds among the friends, something lurks in the forest, watching the cabin, growing ever bolder as the snow falls — and hunger rises. After a blizzard leaves the group stranded, the true test of their love and loyalty begins as the hideous creatures outside close in, one bloody attack at a time. Now Ryan, Jane, and their friends must fight — tooth and nail, bullet and blade — for their lives. Or else surrender to unspeakable deaths in the darkened woods.
This book could be described as an old-school creature feature in novel form. When a host of sarcastic twenty-somethings stage a reunion at a secluded winter cabin, a devastating blizzard traps them indoors, forcing them to circle the wagons against an onslaught of attacks from ashen, long-limbed monsters that legend has it only come out when it snows.
The creatures are introduced in a riveting prologue, but once the author establishes her mundane characters, winter woods setting, the plot devolves into a slow plod toward a final confrontation. We know the monsters are there, we know our heroes will be forced to fight them, but Ahlborn insists on saving the good stuff until the finale.
Essentially, there are no twists or turns just very predictable actions by the cabin dwellers. For the first half of The Shuddering, tension and suspense are clearly lacking. Though a peripheral character does become the first to “bite the dust” (or should I say snow).
But then, suddenly, things start getting good. Once the characters are fully aware of their plight and begin to mount a defense, The Shuddering magically transforms from rich boy melodrama into a stark, unsettling tale of snowbound survival. Things get dirty, things get nasty, and when the author finally forces her twenty-somethings to knuckle up, the book really delivers. It’s a few chapters of good old-fashioned monster magic tacked onto the back end of some super predictable happenings.
The ending is right out of Twilight Zone or a Stephen King novel and you can see it coming a mile away. Is the book good? I gave it four stars just because I love a good spooky story and I don’t care how predictable it was!
I wish I had waited and read it in the winter instead of a hundred degree Spring day.
Published: May 21, 2019
A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.
Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.
With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country.
In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison—and the entire Crimes Against Children team—since its inception.
This is the fourth book in The Collector series by Dot Hutchison, which began with The Butterfly Garden.