Unmasked, Volume One (Unmasked #1) by Cassia Leo

Book Description:

Published: June 10, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

I was born into this world unwanted.

I spent the first hours of my life unloved.

I spent the first eighteen years of my life with the parents who tried to shelter me from the harsh reality of my existence.

But you can’t un-write a sad story if the ending is literally written all over your face.

So I moved out and now I hide. I have a night job that pays the bills. Every night, I put on my mask and walk to work.

Then one night, I hear and see something that will change my purpose in life… forever: a murder that will bring him to me.

He says he wants to protect me. And, through a series of events I can’t fully make sense of, I find myself believing him.

But our nightly visits are always cloaked in darkness. I don’t know his face and he will never know mine.

I was born into this world unwanted. I will leave this world unmasked.

Review –

WTH !!!

This has to be the strangest book that I have listened/read in a very long time, I mean my mouth was agape at the end. I couldn’t believe it!  Still can’t.

This series has three parts or volumes and this first installment explores Alex’s past, the notion of beauty, the necessity of hiding, the consequences of secrets and betrayals. You can easily devour this first volume in one sitting  Enlivened by the author’s expert writing, you’ll be lured in by this sinister tale and fascinated by this 19-year-old girl whose actions are so unexpected that it keeps you guessing at what will surprise you next. Certainly the end was shocking in more ways than one!

A chilling mystery where desire, deception, secrets and betrayal mix in a deadly combination that leaves you wanting more.

Five stars.

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Unbeloved (Undeniable #4) by Madeline Sheehan

Book Description:

Published: June 23, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

Dorothy Kelley is a born romantic, searching for her prince. Instead she finds herself pregnant at fifteen, and in a loveless marriage by the tender age of eighteen.

Then hope comes riding into her life on a motorcycle and within weeks, Jason “Jase” Brady, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club, sweeps Dorothy off her feet.

But nothing is ever simple for Dorothy. Jase is married with children. And as Dorothy patiently waits for Jase to give her the happily-ever-after she’s been dreaming about, James “Hawk” Young, a member of the Hell’s Horsemen with secrets of his own, sees an opening into Dorothy’s life and takes it.

Carrying on two secret affairs is no easy feat. As Dorothy tries to dig herself out of the mess she’s created, covering one mistake with another, tragedy strikes, nearly costing Dorothy her life and that of her unborn son.

What follows is a long and painful journey of self-discovery and forgiveness, as Dorothy comes to realize that home was exactly where she’d left it, and the love she’d forever craved had always been within her reach.

This is the story of Dorothy, Jase, and Hawk.

We are all born pure; it is our journey that burdens us and leads us astray. Our mistakes that beat us down and cover us in guilt and shame, burying us a little more with each passing hardship. It is up to us to dig ourselves out, to come to terms with our faults, to embrace not only our imperfections but those of the ones we love, and to once again find the path we strayed from.

Warning: This is not a conventional or predictable love story. It involves one woman and two men bound by a love so destructive it spans two decades, pitting brother against brother, and shattering the lives of those touched by it.

Review –

This book is such an emotional ride about so many broken individuals that it left me feeling a bit sad about the hardships they faced, the things they missed, the bumps they hit.  No, some things may not seem fair.  Love isn’t easy for them.  But true love stayed true ’til the end.  Through the good and the bad.  Dorothy’s story is not the same as the others in the series.  And I was perfectly ok with that.

As much as I cared for Dorothy before, I truly came to understand her and feel for her in this book.  Her life, her emotions, her wants and needs.  What a life she’s had!  Then there’s Jace who might’ve broken my heart too.  And lastly there’s Hawk.  Who stole my heart!

Another job very well done for Madeline Sheehan who manages to suck me into her world with every installment in new ways.  And what about the CLIFFHANGER ending!!!!!!!!    OMG! No spoilers, but I can’t find the next book FREE so I’ll have to wait awhile, but no matter how long it takes I will not forget any of the characters that I have met in this series.

 

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

Book Description:

Published: May 19, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

Review –

This is the story of Erin, partly written in first person and told over a dual timeline. Sixteen year old Erin is in love, pregnant and being told what is best for her by adults. They all make sense but she doesn’t want to hear it.

Present day, ten years later, Erin is living in London working at a beauty salon when she receives a blast from the past phone call from her old school friend, Roisin, in Ireland. The call is disturbing and unsettling for Erin and within hours she receives another urgent call from her sister, Fiona, informing her that their father is in intensive care with a serious head injury. From here Erin is forced back to Ireland to be with her family and knows she will also have to face the dreaded Roisin who she knows she will bump into in the small village they live in.

Sue Fortin writes beautifully and competently with unease and tense moments at each chapter ending. Her characters are realistic and visual with enough description to make them authentic without becoming mundane or boring. There is just the right amount of teasing romance to add to the suspense but without distracting from the gripping storyline. The text is rich and written with depth and meaning, and several times I thought I’d guessed what was coming, sometimes I did guess correctly but it didn’t spoil the outcome at all because there was twist and revelation, one on top of another. I found the book totally compelling and couldn’t put it down.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who likes psychological suspense.

My first five-star book of the year!

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Book Description:

Published: March 13, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean—or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Review –

This novel is not fast-paced or edge of your seat, but chock full of mystery and intrigue with an intricate plot, boasting some HUGE surprises! Such a talented author , I will be reading more from him very soon! Highly recommend to fans of character driven mysteries with some unpredictable twists!

Loved it!

The Hanging Girl (Department Q #6) by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Description:

Published: September 8, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose, and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything—or anyone—get in the way.

Review –

This is by far my least favorite book of the Department Q series and I hoping it’s just a problem with the translation because I really do enjoy this series.

Presumably Carl Mørck, head of the Q Department, is the protagonist, but he comes across as lazy and disagreeable. Perhaps that is how he is supposed to be portrayed, but there is very little reason to cheer for him. Adler-Olsen’s other characters have little, if any, dimension; visualizing them is difficult, (not usual for this series).

There is some description given of Mørck’s assistants Assad and Rose and she has some job responsibilities with her computer knowledge and organizational skills. Assad appears to be the comic sidekick who can’t seem to get the words right: strawstack instead of haystack. Considering that both of these characters have appeared in previous Department Q stories, it must be assumed that the author’s fans are already familiar with them and details are not needed. The other characters in the story all seem to be angry or manipulative—it’s hard to find anyone likable.

The premise of the story—a cold case file that has driven a police officer to suicide, but not until he has left clues for Mørck and his assistants to find in order to keep the cold case alive—would be workable if the story followed that line with fewer diversions.

The Department Q gathering of the mountain of information from the deceased police officer’s home is a little hard to fathom. With the information described as boxes and boxes of papers, magazines, books, letters, photos, etc., all neatly organized by Rose in an extremely short time span, it’s hard to believe that any organization could suddenly reveal the small clues and evidence needed to solve this crime.

Initially, the story does little to encourage the reader to continue listening. The storyline jumps forward and backward in time, and it almost seems that at the beginning of the story there is another storyline with no connection. This is a side story that starts at an earlier time and involves an alternative religious (cult) group. The scenes around this group are more interesting than those about the cold case file, and one must trudge through half of the book before the two issues begin to knit together in the story.

Although Adler-Olsen does a satisfactory job of tying up loose ends, the whole purpose of the story remains elusive. It’s hard to understand why a policeman would gather this large amount of information and leave it behind for others to explore, when the reality is that the police officer already knew the sad answer.

One interesting turn that is difficult to understand is what the author  does with Mørck’s assistant Rose at the end of the book. She has appeared in previous Department Q books, and if his purpose was to write her out of the series, presumably he has succeeded, and she may not be returning in any subsequent Q Department tales. Of course, fiction being what it is, she might come around again. . . . and I hope she does, because I don’t know what Carl and Assad will do without her.

Considering Adler-Olsen is a popular crime writer in Denmark one can only hope that with The Hanging Girl the translation to English is faulty, and in his own language he has painted a much more interesting and vivid picture.

 

 

The Hidden Child (Patrik Hedstrom #5) by Camilla Lackberg

Book Description:

Published: June 20, 2011

Format: Audio/Audible

Crime writer Erica Falck is shocked to discover a Nazi medal among her late mother’s possessions. Haunted by a childhood of neglect, she resolves to dig deep into her family’s past and finally uncover the reasons why. Her enquiries lead her to the home of a retired history teacher. He was among her mother’s circle of friends during the Second World War but her questions are met with bizarre and evasive answers. Two days later he meets a violent death.

Detective Patrik Hedström, Erica’s husband, is on paternity leave but soon becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. Who would kill so ruthlessly to bury secrets so old? Reluctantly Erica must read her mother’s wartime diaries. But within the pages is a painful revelation about Erica’s past. Could what little knowledge she has be enough to endanger her husband and newborn baby? The dark past is coming to light, and no one will escape the truth of how they came to be . . .

Review –

“Three months ago, Erica Falck asked a collector of Nazi memorabilia about a medal she found among her mother’s effects. Now he’s discovered dead from a blow to the head, and the question of who killed him is only the first of many mysteries.

Best-selling Swedish author Läckberg (The Stranger, 2013, etc.) returns with her fourth novel about the crime-solving team of Erica Falck and her husband, detective Patrik Hedström. Their adorable daughter, Maja, has just turned one, Erica’s ready to return to her work writing novels (though she won’t be going far—just to the upstairs study), and Patrik’s embarking on four months of paternity leave. But Erica can’t concentrate, because Patrik keeps interrupting her with parenting questions and her mother’s diaries tempt her like a siren’s call. Maybe the diaries will explain why her mother was so emotionally distant. They’re filled with stories about her friends back in the 1940s, including Erik, the historian recently found dead; Axel, who joined the resistance during World War II, running dangerous missions; Frans, who grew up to be a politically active neo-Nazi; and Britta, a foolish girl who adored Frans. When Patrik takes Maja out for a walk one afternoon, he stumbles upon his colleagues and joins them in examining the crime scene at Erik’s home. Patrik and Erica are pulled deeply into the developing investigation. Soon the line between good and evil blurs as they delve into the complicated history of Swedish involvement in the war. Meanwhile, Erica’s sister Anna tries to broker peace between her new husband and stepdaughter, and Patrik’s gruff boss, Mellberg, adopts a dog and takes up salsa dancing. Läckberg deftly layers the dark details of the crime upon the disturbing seeds of its origin.

Fans of Nordic noir will appreciate this taut, twisty mystery enriched with historical detail.” Kirkus Review

Love this series and looking forward to reading or listening to more installments next year.

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: November 27, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will.

Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional – until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into the events that led to his suspension has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions. As he does, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots – and the terrible things hiding there.

Review –

“The Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec finds himself in a unique position: He’s tangled up in the life of a recently deceased woman, and it doesn’t involve her murder.

As the first snowflakes of a major storm start to fall, Chief Superintendent Gamache is standing in front of a crooked house in the middle of the woods, unsure of whom he will find inside. Curiosity is what brings him here after receiving a vague invitation in the mail. But is there danger waiting beyond the door? It’s what Gamache has been trained to anticipate. Currently suspended from his Sûreté post during the investigation into the controversial events of Glass Houses (2017), Gamache must remember he’s here on unofficial business. He and two others who arrive at the house learn that they’ve been named executors of a will belonging to a woman they never knew in life. Stranger still, the woman, who called herself the Baroness, has left millions to her three children, money everyone is shocked to hear about. Her secretiveness was fueled by generations of family bitterness and resentment. And though it may seem like Gamache has all the time in the world to dive into this dark history, his attention is in fact divided: The deadly opioid that slipped untraced into Montreal under Gamache’s watch is expected to hit the streets any day—a most unsettling thought. The author reveals a deeper vulnerability in the introspective Gamache; is it possible he’s not quite sure of himself anymore? A theme of desperation plays out in both story arcs, as characters from all walks of life move between hope and despair and traverse the fine line that separates them. The main mystery pales in comparison to Gamache’s interior story, and the decisions he makes are sure to raise a few eyebrows. Moral duty has been synonymous with our hero, but Penny seems to be pushing her characters in new directions with this installment: “[Gamache] considered his options and the atrocity he was about to commit.” The ending is adrenaline-filled but, no, not because of the mysterious will.”

Five Stars!!!!!!!

This series ranks Number One on my list of Favorite Foreign Crime Fiction Series.

Because of the decision Chief Inspector Gamache made in the previous book, Glass Houses, he has willingly resigned  from his beloved post and his son-in-law and right hand man has decided to quit the force also. He is taking a safer job and moving his family to Paris.

While the author has tied up some continuing story lines, she also  sends recurring characters in surprising directions in this riveting installment.

Can’t wait for the next book which should be released next August.

 

The purity of Vengeance (Department Q #4) by Jussi Alder-Olsen

Book Description:

Published: December 31, 2013

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In 1987, Nete Hermansen plans revenge on those who abused her in her youth, including Curt Wad, a charismatic surgeon who was part of a movement to sterilize wayward girls in 1950s Denmark.

More than twenty years later, Detective Carl Mørck already has plenty on his mind when he is presented with the case of a brothel owner, a woman named Rita, who went missing in the eighties: New evidence has emerged in the case that destroyed the lives of his two partners—the case that sent Carl to Department Q.

But when Carl’s assistants, Assad and Rose, learn that numerous other people disappeared around the same weekend as Rita, Carl takes notice. As they sift through the disappearances, they get closer and closer to Curt Wad, who is more determined than ever to see the vision of his youth take hold and whose brutal treatment of Nete and others like her is only one small part of his capacity for evil.

With The Purity of Vengeance, Jussi Adler-Olsen delivers a thrilling and shocking addition to his bestselling Department Q series.

Review –

Another cold case for the odd team of Copenhagen’s Department Q, together with two more incomplete blasts from the past for Detective Carl Mørck.

Except for the prostitute who reported her missing, no one much cared when brothel keeper Rita Nielsen vanished back in 1987, and it’s no wonder the case languished. Now, however, the mystery assumes new urgency with the news that she wasn’t the only one to disappear. The very same day, attorney Philip Nørvig, fisherman Viggo Mogensen, womens asylum guard Gitte Charles and do-nothing Tage Hermansen also went AWOL. Furthermore—though it takes Carl, his assistant, Hafez el-Assad, and his secretary, Rose Knudsen, quite a while to work this out—they all had links to Tage’s cousin Nete Hermansen, long immured in a Sprogø home for fallen women, whose second chance at a respectable life was dashed when Dr. Curt Wad, a stalwart of the Purity Party, confronted her and her businessman husband publicly with some sordid details of her past. The author cuts back and forth between the fatal day in 1987 when Nete decided to avenge herself on the people who had ruined her life and the present day, when Carl’s investigation of both Nete and Wad is complicated by rumors that Carl helped his cousin Ronny kill Ronny’s father many years ago and further hints of the horrific fatality that first sent Carl to Department Q. Fans of this series can rest assured that neither of these lesser subplots comes anywhere near closure.

There is a surprise twist at the very end that, I dare say, no one saw coming. (I love it when that happens!)

Fantastic read!

 

Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Book Description:

Published: May 29, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.

Review –

The author returns to the world of bestseller Caraval , this time with the focus on younger, more daring sister Donatella.

Valenda, capital of the empire, is host to the second of Legend’s magical games in a single year, and while Scarlett doesn’t want to play again, blonde Tella is eager for a chance to prove herself. She is haunted by the memory of her death in the last game and by the cursed Deck of Destiny she used as a child which foretold her loveless future. Garber has changed many of the rules of her expanding world, which now appears to be infused with magic and evil Fates. Despite a weak plot and ultraviolet prose (“He tasted like exquisite nightmares and stolen dreams, like the wings of fallen angels, and bottles of fresh moonlight.”), this is a tour de force of imagination. Themes of love, betrayal, and the price of magic (and desire) swirl like Caraval’s enchantments, and Dante’s sensuous kisses will thrill readers as much as they do Tella. The convoluted machinations of the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates), Legend, and even the empress serve as the inspiration for Tella’s story and set up  the future volumes, which promises to go bigger. 

I didn’t care for this installment of the Caraval series because the focus wasn’t really the game, like the first one. There were many players, who weren’t really players and goals that were seemingly impossible. But, it’s only a book and the author can write it any way she chooses. My favorite part was the last few chapters where things really start to happen and we find out the identity of Legend.

Can’t wait for the third and final book which comes out next year.

 

Closed Circles (Sandhamn Murders #2) by Viveca Sten

Book Description:

Published: March 29, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

It’s a beautiful day for a regatta—until one of Sandhamn Island’s most prestigious residents is killed aboard his sailing yacht.

Oscar Juliander was a rich lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. While at first his death seems like a tragic accident, there is evidence of foul play. Police detective Thomas Andreasson teams up with local lawyer Nora Linde to investigate. As they work to uncover clues, they face resistance from an elite world where nothing but appearance matters.

When the rich and powerful inhabitants of Sweden’s idyllic island getaway come under scrutiny, Thomas and Nora must work closely and secretively to seek justice.

Review –

The murders destroy the island’s calm and make the resident’s anxious.  Last’s summers murder were, they were sure, an anomaly.  Now there are more.  And worse, respected members of the community.  It is also a closed community, one with plenty of secrets that they don’t want to share with the detective in charge, Thomas.

Thankfully, he’s dedicated and dogged and unlikely to give up.  He’s also really likeable and pretty well balanced, avoiding the many stereotypes of dysfunctional police officers with family issues and drinking problems.  Whilst not everything in his life is perfect, he handles it like a grown up – and manages to set it aside when working on the case.  

His best childhood friend, Nora ,a lawyer at a bank, she spends her summers on Sandhamn so it makes perfect sense for Thomas to ask for her help on the case.  They don’t team up, she is on the periphery of the investigation – though does help it come to it’s conclusion. I could have felt cheated by this if I hadn’t been so caught up in Nora’s own story, which runs parallel to the investigation and isn’t crime related at all but very personal.

This might have been a distraction but wasn’t at all,  and is a testament to how well both characters were developed and how well written (and translated) the book was.  It had a good pace and a good plot – simple but with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing until close to the end. And, speaking of the end, it was a total surprise and added a bit of “well, there you go” to the book. 

Fantastic series!!!