Category Archives: review

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

The Boy at the Keyhole

by Stephen Giles

Mystery

Book Description

Nine-year-old Samuel lives alone in a once-great estate in Surrey with the family’s housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother has been abroad for months, purportedly tending to her late husband’s faltering business. She left in a hurry one night while Samuel was sleeping and did not say goodbye.

Beyond her sporadic postcards, Samuel hears nothing from his mother. He misses her dearly and maps her journey in an atlas he finds in her study. Samuel’s life is otherwise regulated by Ruth, who runs the house with an iron fist. Only she and Samuel know how brutally she enforces order.

As rumors in town begin to swirl, Samuel wonders whether something more sinister is afoot. Perhaps his mother did not leave but was murdered—by Ruth.

Artful, haunting and hurtling toward a psychological showdown, The Boy at the Keyhole is an incandescent debut about the precarious dance between truth and perception, and the shocking acts that occur behind closed doors.

MY THOUGHTS:

3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

Young Samuel Clay has recently lost his father. They were once a family with a great name, a grand estate, and money and status to go with it. But now, since the death of his father, Samuel’s mother has been abroad, leaving Samuel in the care of the strict housekeeper Ruth.

With a little suggestion from his friend and a lot of help from his imagination, it doesn’t take long before Samuel starts thinking that maybe his mother isn’t just away in America searching for business opportunities. He starts thinking that maybe something more sinister has happened to her–and that the person who did it is the one who’s been trusted with his care now.

The tension is very palpable in this novel, which kept me turning the pages waiting for something big to happen. There were very good moments here and there, but overall I felt there was a ton of buildup to a very unspectacular ending.

As with most Gothic type novels, the house itself plays a role in the story; the Clay manor is large and its’ rooms are full of dark secrets. As we join Samuel going in and out of these rooms trying to discover what really happened to his mother, we can see how he might have started thinking some unsavory things were going on in his home.

I’m still not sure about the ending. Ambiguity is one thing, but I felt totally confused when it was all said and done. I didn’t understand the character’s motives or what exactly happened and why. Maybe some people enjoy that type of ending, but I don’t.

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About the Author

Stephen Giles is the Australian author behind the lauded children’s series “Anyone But Ivy Pocket”, penned under the pseudonym Caleb Krisp. The series, published in the US by HarperCollins/Greenwillow and the UK by Bloomsbury, appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, has been translated into 25 different languages and was optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Prior to selling his first book, Stephen worked in a variety of jobs to supplement his writing including market research, film classification and media monitoring. “The Boy at the Keyhole” is Giles’ first work for adults and the film rights for this book have been acquired by New Regency.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: After Nightfall by AJ Banner

After Nightfall

by AJ Banner

Mystery

Book Description

Beware of friends with secrets…

Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.

MY THOUGHTS:

3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 
After Nightfall
by A.J. Banner

If you like a story where absolutely everybody is a suspect, then this is the novel for you. Even the narrator thinks she herself is to blame at some point.

The morning after Marissa and Nate’s dinner/engagement party, Marissa wakes up to find that her best frenemy and next door neighbor Lauren is dead. Did she fall or was she pushed from the cliff down to the rocks below? Marissa does her best to investigate who might have had a reason to want Lauren dead–and before ling she finds out there are plenty of potential killers.

Marissa is a likable enough main character, though she makes some decisions that left me scratching my head. There is a wide cast in this novel, and it seems all of them have something to hide, even down to Nate’s 9 year old daughter.

At times I might have felt the author was throwing in TOO many red herrings; it’s a bit tiring trying to keep up with every side character’s personal problems. Most questions do get answered by the end, but it felt more like tying up loose ends than integrating their plot lines into the story.

When the killer was revealed, I was definitely surprised, although the climax fell a little flat for me. I wish we would have gotten to see a bit more of the culprit throughout the whole of the book.

This is another good thriller offering, and you will devour it quickly just like I did.

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About the Author

Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats.

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One commenter will win a copy of After Nightfall. US/CAN only.  Leave me a comment telling me your best friend’s name! Ends 9/7/18.

 

 

BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Fresh Ink Anthology

Fresh Ink

An Anthology by Various Young Adult Authors

YA Short Stories

Book Description

In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors come together in this remarkable YA anthology featuring ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print.

All it takes to rewrite the rules is a little fresh ink in this remarkable YA anthology from thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors writing today including Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Melissa de la Cruz, and many more, and published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. This collection features ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. It will give readers the opportunity to discover how the next chapter is up to them.

Careful–you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written–whose next chapters are up to you.

Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.

Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.

MY THOUGHTS:

4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Fresh Ink: An Anthology by Lamar Giles

Featuring a collection of short stories written by diverse authors and about characters that seem to be rarely featured in the majority of YA books, Fresh Ink offers something for everyone.

A couple of standout stories were: “Don’t Pass Me By” by Eric Gainsworth. In this tale, a Native American boy celebrates his background in a time where most like him seemed to be trying to hide it. It was beautiful to see him claim himself and stand up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything. “Meet Cute” by Malinda Lo–a love story, or a beginning of one. This was exactly as its’ title suggests. Two girls meet at a convention and get to know each other through unconventional means. The dialogue felt real and appropriate for the age of the characters. “Catch, Pull, Drive” is about a transgender swimmer, and how just one person standing up for what’s right can really make a difference in a life.

This anthology is perfect for this point in time, where more and more teens are feeling free to be who they really are and express it to the world. Inclusion is important, and no matter your race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, you will find a story you like in Fresh Ink.

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AUTHORS INCLUDE:

Lamar Giles, Nicola Yoon, Malinda Lo, Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Eric Gansworth, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Sharon G. Flake, Schuyler Bailar, Aminah Mae Safi

“I absolutely love this mix of established and newer talents, and I’m really intrigued and excited by the mixed formats.” –BookRiot

“A powerful and varied collection…”—Booklist, starred review

“The stories are distinct in themes, subjects, genres, and formats, creating an inclusive, authentic, and incredible collection”—School Library Journal, starred review

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3 winners will win a finished copy of FRESH INK US Only.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

Jane Doe

by Victoria Helen Stone

Thriller

Book Description

A double life with a single purpose: revenge.

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

3 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS


Jane Doe
by Victoria Helen Stone

Jane has learned from a young age not to rely on anybody. So when she finally does find her person, her best friend, they become close as sisters. And then Jane loses her to suicide. So Jane decides to make someone pay.

Her target is pastor’s son Steven Hepsworth. Steven is as white bread as it gets–working in an office, single, preys on women. Steven had a relationship with Jane’s friend, and treated her horribly, which Jane thinks is to blame for her suicide. Jane gets to work seducing him, and she’s fun to watch.

It’s always interesting to me when the narrator of a story knows exactly what kind of person they are, but they embrace it instead of trying to change. Jane is not a good person, in fact she is a self described sociopath. She uses her lack of emotions to her benefit, and it has seemed to work for her in her life so far.

I wish there would have been a bit more thrill in this book. I didn’t feel much of a sense of danger or suspense–the mystery basically lies around finding out the truth about Steven. Jane knows what she is doing, she plans meticulously, and therefore there is never a point where the reader thinks she might fail or get caught.

One issue I had with this book is that at times, it seemed like the author was going out of her way to make sure that the reader knew how bad of a guy Steven was. So much of the stuff he says and does is excessive, to the point where it felt like it was being forced.

I liked the end of this book, if only because it was unexpected. From the way Jane was talking throughout the whole rest of the book, I would have thought she would have taken a different course of action. Jane Doe was a quick read, and Jane is an interesting character, but the rest of the book didn’t have the depth I hoped for.

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About the Author

Victoria Helen Stone is the nom de plume for USA Today bestselling author Victoria Dahl. After publishing more than twenty-five novels, she is now taking a turn toward the darker side of genre fiction. Born and educated in the Midwest, she finished her first manuscript just after college. In 2016, the American Library Association awarded her the prestigious Reading List Award for outstanding genre fiction. Having escaped the plains of her youth, she now resides with her family in a small town high in the Rocky Mountains, where she enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and not skiing (too dangerous).

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One commenter will win a copy of the book (US/CAN).

Please let me know your favorite thriller you’ve read. Ends 8/15.

 

 

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: What Blooms from Dust by James Markert

What Blooms from Dust

by James Markert

Historical Fiction

Book Description

Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, a tornado tears down the prison walls, and he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.

After one jolt in Old Sparky, Jeremiah sees things more clearly and begins to question the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders he was accused of. On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy who follows him the rest of the way, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by fearful townspeople. When the Black Sunday storm hits the very next day, the residents of Nowhere finally begin to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust.

Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the townspeople from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of flipping the coin on those men who died.

Filled with mystery and magic, What Blooms from Dust is the story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

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MY THOUGHTS:

4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS


What Blooms from Dust
by James Markert

It’s best to dive into this novel without any preconceived notions, because it’s unlike anything I have ever read. I hesitated to even assign it to one specific genre, because it encompasses more than just simple historical fiction. There are many elements which come together to make this tale wonderful.

It’s 1935 in the middle of Dust Bowl America: specifically, a tiny town called Nowhere, Oklahoma. The story of how the town got its’ name is interesting in itself and a big part of the background, but the people of the town are its’ heart and soul. Twins Josiah and Jeremiah Goodbye parted ways when Josiah called the police to report his twin for murder. Through a twist of fate or luck, Jeremiah was able to break out of jail while in the electric chair, and make his way back to Nowhere.

But the town has more problems than an escaped convict; dust storms have been blowing through daily, the people are starving, and there seems to be no end to the despair everyone feels. Through the return of Jeremiah and the strange, quiet boy he adopted along his journey, the citizens of Nowhere begin to see that there might just be some point to this life.

I can’t say enough about the characterization of this novel. The town features a wide, offbeat collection of residents, but through the author’s fantastically descriptive language, the reader comes to know and form a creative picture in the mind for each one. Jeremiah Goodbye and his family are the main characters, and we get to form a bond with every one of them.

It’s hard to say what I like about this novel so much without giving away the plot points. The story is at times a tough one to read; you can’t help but think about how helpless you would feel if you and your own children were stuck in the same situation. You can’t fight the climate, after all. Though the suffering the characters are going through never gets any easier, you can at least tell that they have a sense of hope by the end. And hope is what got so many people through those difficult times.

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About the Author

James Markert lives with his wife and two children in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville and won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, which was later published as A White Wind Blew, a story of redemption in a 1929 tuberculosis sanatorium, where a faith-tested doctor uses music therapy to heal the patients. The Angels’ Share is his second novel, and he is currently working on his next historical, All Things Bright and Strange. James is also a USPTA tennis pro, and has coached dozens of kids who’ve gone on to play college tennis in top conferences like the BIG 10, the Big East, and the ACC.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied

by Riley Sager

Mystery

Book Description

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

MY THOUGHTS:

4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS


The Last Time I Lied
by Riley Sager

This novel kind of blurs the line between YA and adult. There are alternating sections between the current life of 28 year old Emma Davis, and the summer 15 years ago when she was a witness to her 3 summer camp bunk mates vanishing without a trace. Against her better judgment, Emma returns to the newly reopened camp as an instructor. She hopes to find some closure to the event that’s been haunting her, and to find out the truth.

I was hooked from the beginning chapter, and I knew I had to find out the truth about what happened to the missing girls. Emma has not been coping well with the night from 15 years ago; she did a stint in a psychiatric facility, she sees the faces of the girls in random places, and she’s been painting them over and over again, trying to clear herself of the blame she feels for their disappearance.

Emma is haunted, and it’s the defining aspect of her personality. The most interesting character in this book though is only seen through Emma’s memories of the past. Vivian, one of the 16 year olds who went missing, was a whirlwind of charm and bite, a girl who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Viv was the queen bee, and Emma felt pleased to be taken under the wing of a girl three years older. The relationship between them was complicated though, and helped shape the events of the night of the disappearances.

The final chapters of this book are fantastic; there are twists I definitely didn’t see coming and the action felt believable. The end left me wanting more, but I think the way things played out was perfect. I would absolutely read more books by this author.

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About the Author

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.

Riley’s next book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, will be published in July. It was inspired by the classic novel and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

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Let me know if you have ever been to summer camp!

 

The Fantastic Flying Book Club

REVIEW: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth

by Zoje Stage

Thriller

Book Description

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

MY THOUGHTS:

4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS


Baby Teeth
by Zoje Stage

I haven’t really read a book with homicidal children, but now that I have I understand that it’s kind of a subgenre in horror. Baby Teeth was certainly enough to give me a few chills here and there.

This story is told in alternating points of view between a mother and daughter who cannot get along, and each has their own reasons for having a difficult time dealing with one another. Suzette is a mother who’s been forced to stay at home the past few years because she and her husband have not been able to find a school that can handle her defiant and behaviorally complex daughter. Though she has the support of her husband, he dotes on Hanna and does not see the abhorrent way she treats her mother. At times this makes Suzette feel like an outsider in her own home. Hanna is 7 years old. She’s nonverbal, and the only person she even remotely cooperates with is her father. Hanna has been ejected from every school she’s been sent to, and it’s clear she wants her mother out of the picture. What’s scary is how far she’s willing to go to accomplish that.

Absolutely the most amazing part about this book is seeing just how Hanna thinks, and how cold and calculating she is. I think some might say the way she plans things is very much above the level of a typical child her age, but she’s not typical and I believe some of her strategies could not be out of the realm of possibility for a highly intelligent child.

It’s also interesting to see how much Suzette is truly struggling with whether or not she loves her daughter the way she should, and how she can’t stop obsessing about where she might have gone wrong. We are given some background on Suzette’s life as well, which helps build up the basis that the way you parent is really decided years before you become a parent.

At its’ core, the book is about recognizing that something might be wrong with your child and how long it takes you to figure out that you cannot deal with their behavior on your own. Almost every parent I know prides themselves on how they’ve raised their child, but when you’ve done the best you possibly can and things still haven’t turned out normally, where do you go from there? I kept waiting for a happy, concrete ending to Baby Teeth, but just like real life, the future of this child is uncertain.

I would recommend this book for parents and also those who like a good look into the mind of an abnormal person, no matter what the age.

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About the Author

Before turning to novels, Zoje Stage had a deep and eclectic background in film and theatre. Highlights include being a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP.org), and a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA.org). In 2009 she won the Screenplay Live! Screenwriting Competition, which afforded her the opportunity to direct a staged reading of her winning script, THE MACHINE WHO LOVED, for the High Falls Film Festival (Rochester, NY). Zoje has written-directed-produced numerous zero-budget films, including the documentary short BEST OF LUCK (“an amusing take on the travails of aspiring writers” – The New York Times). Her films have screened at venues such as Anthology Film Archives and Two Boots Pioneer Theater (both in NYC), Film Kitchen (Pittsburgh, PA), and Emerging Filmmakers (Rochester, NY). As a playwright, Zoje is most proud of her play MONSTER, which was produced in Pittsburgh by the Upstairs Theatre (“Ms. Stage now makes her own contribution to holocaust literature with a demanding and intensely felt play… a must-see for those wanting another view of why and how the holocaust happened.” – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). After living in Rochester, NY for many years, she is back in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

Twitter: @zooshka
Instagram: @zoje.stage_author
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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Widow’s Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

The Widow’s Watcher

by Eliza Maxwell

Contemporary Fiction

Book Description

From Eliza Maxwell, the bestselling author of The Unremembered Girl, comes a gripping novel about the mysteries that haunt us and the twists of fate that can unravel them…

Living in the shadow of a decades-old crime that stole his children from him, reclusive Lars Jorgensen is an unlikely savior. But when a stranger walks onto the ice of a frozen Minnesota lake, her intentions are brutally clear, and the old man isn’t about to let her follow through.

Jenna Shaw didn’t ask for Lars’s help, nor does she want it. After he pulls her from the brink, however, Jenna finds her desire to give up challenged by their unlikely friendship. In Jenna, Lars recognizes his last chance for redemption. And in her quest to solve the mysteries of Lars’s past and bring him closure, Jenna may find the way out of her own darkness.

But the truth that waits threatens to shatter it all. When secrets are surrendered and lies are laid bare, Jenna and Lars may find that accepting the past isn’t their greatest challenge. Can they afford the heartbreaking price of forgiveness?

3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Not much exciting happens in the tiny frozen town of Raven, Minnesota.  So when old man Lars Jorgensen spots a woman trying to sink herself into an icy lake, he saves her against her wishes.  Seeing a woman in distress rips him back to his own sad past.

Jenna Shaw has a death wish.  She cannot find the will to continue living after she loses her husband and three children.  Her imagination is all she has left, and her van which takes her from Houston to Minnesota where she forcefully comes together with Lars.  Jenna and Lars must face the circumstances and eventually get to know each other and just what they have that they’re hiding from.

The wintry feel of Minnesota itself seems to be a character in this novel.  You can feel the wind, ice, and snow, and the desolate nature of the place.

Are the characters kind of stereotypical? Yes.  Everyone knows the trope of the grumpy old man with loss in his past.  As the novel goes on you can predict where the relationship between Jenna and Lars will grow, through a shared sense of grief and both sharing certain characteristics such as stubbornness.  Learning exactly why each character is so sad is an emotional journey.

In my opinion the book is a little Hallmark movie-ish, but it deals with grief in a very interesting way, and shows that connections between people are not something you can substitute for.

 

About the Author

Eliza Maxwell is the author of The Unremembered Girl, The Grave Tender, and The Kinfolk. She writes fiction from her home in Texas, which she shares with her ever-patient husband, two impatient kids, a ridiculous English setter, and a bird named Sarah. An artist and writer, a dedicated introvert, and a British cop-drama addict, she enjoys nothing more than sitting on the front porch with a good cup of coffee.

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One commenter will win a copy of the book! (US/CAN) Tell me if you’ve ever been to Minnesota.

 

BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

The Garden of Blue Roses

by Michael Barsa

Mystery/Horror

Book Description

A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn’t care. For the first time in his life, he’s free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.

Or so he thinks.

Milo settles into a quiet routine—constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who’s home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There’s something odd about him—something eerily reminiscent of their father’s most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He’s not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family—and the supposed accident that claimed his parents’ lives.

MY THOUGHTS:

3.5 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

It’s been a long time since I read any gothic novels (high school probably), but I can see why The Garden of Blue Roses has been compared to some. A highly questionable narrator, a family full of secrets, a large house with lush grounds as the setting–it’s got all that. But this novel shines in its’ characterization, and yes Milo Crane is not someone I will forget soon.

Milo is the son and second child of world famous horror writer John Crane. Milo is an introvert to say the least, and he’s forced to live alone with his older sister Klara in their childhood home after the death of their parents in a winter car accident.

It’s not long before Klara takes the opportunity to make changes to the estate, starting with constructing an elaborate garden, and she receives the help of an enigmatic Frenchman named Henri Blanc. Milo has an immediate distrust in him that becomes an obsession when he discovers there are more than a few parallels between Henri and the main character/serial killer in one of his father’s books.

What conspires between these three characters is a dark, twisty psychological roller coaster ride that leads to the discovery of so many hidden truths and most definitely cannot end happily.

From the beginning of the book, when Milo describes his past encounters with people outside his own family, I knew there had to be something off about him…but is he autistic? Anti-social? A psychopath? You never truly learn and you also never truly believe anything Milo says or thinks. Not knowing whether he’s really hearing and seeing the things he reports is one of the most unnerving things about this book.

I might have thought I knew where this book was going, but I have to say that the ending was well paced and left me pleasantly surprised. Although Milo is definitely nothing close to endearing, he does draw you in, and you’re not necessarily rooting for him, but you do want him to have some sense of simple contentment in his life.

The horrors described in this book, in my opinion, are mostly the ones uncovered by learning about the family’s disturbing past as the end of the novel approaches. You can see how Klara and Milo ended up in the current life positions they are in, and you can understand some of their motivations.

If you want a slow burn novel with plenty of suspense and one that will leave you guessing until the end, give this one a try.

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About the Author

Michael Barsa grew up in a German-speaking household in New Jersey and spoke no English until he went to school. So began an epic struggle to master the American “R” and a lifelong fascination with language. He’s lived on three continents and spent many summers in southern Germany and southern Vermont.

He’s worked as an award-winning grant writer, an English teacher, and an environmental lawyer. He now teaches environmental and natural resources law. His scholarly articles have appeared in several major law reviews, and his writing on environmental policy has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. His short fiction has appeared in Sequoia.

The Garden of Blue Roses is his first novel.

Connect with Michael
Website | Facebook

Purchase Links
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

One commenter will win a copy of the book! Ends 6/15.  Tell me what your favorite ROSE is 🙂

 

REVIEW: The Wife by Alafair Burke

The Wife

by Alafair Burke

Mystery/Suspense

Book Description

His scandal. Her secret.

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

MY THOUGHTS:

3.5 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS

The Wife by Alafair Burke

I know everyone is raving about the ending of this book, and yes, it did reveal some big juicy secrets. But the problem is, it took so long to get there. Only the first half of the book held my singular interest, but then it waned as the plot started to slow.

The main character of this novel is Angela Powell, mother of one and wife to Jason Powell, a media darling and university professor. When a student, and then another woman, come forward to press sexual harassment charges on Jason, Angela’s life is rocked. She begins to wonder if her husband is the person she and everyone else who knows him believes he is.

I have read plenty of thrillers/marriage issues type books (you know the kind), so I know that the fact of the matter is, every person in the story is always hiding something. This book flips back and forth between Angela’s point of view and what the investigation into Jason is uncovering, so we get to learn details often before Angela does, and as such can see the lies begin to unravel.

It’s not that did not like Angela Powell…but she was just OK. Even when she described her tragic backstory, she did it with a kind of (understandable, I suppose) disassociation that makes it hard for the reader to feel much for her. She also seems to take a long time to make decisions, and can be annoyingly hardheaded when it comes to seeing the truth about her husband’s misdeeds. I never felt too sorry for her and by the end I didn’t truly care about what happened to her.

I wish the book had laid out its twists more evenly throughout then just piling them all on in the last couple of chapters. I had a feeling something interesting was coming at the end, and really that’s the only thing that kept me reading. I forced myself to finish this book and I’m glad I did, but in my opinion all the hype is a little overwrought.

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About the Author

Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair “is a terrific web spinner” who “knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy.”

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure. Her books have been translated into 12 languages.

Alafair’s work has been praised by some of the world’s most respected crime writers, including Gillian Flynn, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, and Nelson DeMille.

Learn more about Alafair at www.alafairburke.com