Book Review: The Survivors by Jane Harper @janeharperautho @Flatironbooks

The Survivors
Jane Harper
Flatiron Books, February 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-23242-7
Hardcover

Jane Harper, an Australian writer, has been making a name for herself in the past few years. Her first book, The Dry, received much acclaim, followed by Force of Nature, and The Lost Man. They are all stand-alones, set in Australia, and if you haven’t yet checked them out they are well worth a read.

The Survivors, her fourth Novel, is set in Tasmania, in a small coastal town called Evelyn Bay. It’s a popular summer resort favoured by divers who like to explore a shipwreck in the bay. Kieran, the protagonist, grew up in Evelyn Bay and has come home with his girlfriend Mia and their baby daughter Audrey to help his mother and father move to Hobart, where his father, Brian, who is suffering from dementia, will be admitted into a care facility.

Leaving baby Audrey with her grandmother, Kieran and Mia meet up with some friends at The Surf and Turf, a favourite watering hole they’d frequented in summer’s past.

The next morning, the body of a young woman is discovered on the beach. Shock reverberates through the small community stirring up memories of the time twelve years ago when a local girl had gone missing during a violent storm that hit the shores of Evelyn Bay, resulting in the drownings of several young men.

As snippets of information, together with secrets from the past, are slowly revealed the tension mounts, until it reaches its exciting conclusion.

Tasmania is a beautiful island and Evelyn Bay is a beautiful setting for this tangled but engrossing story. Past friendships are tested and as a parent now himself Kieran learns the truth of a past he’d never before come to terms with. Savour and enjoy this heart-wrenching story. You won’t regret it!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, March 2021.

Book Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing @smariedowning @BerkleyPub

He Started It
Samantha Downing
Berkley, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-451-49176-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

From the twisted mind behind mega hit My Lovely Wife comes the story of a family—not unlike your own—just with a few more violent tendencies thrown in….

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory, a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

Road trip! Those two words have differing connotations to many people but, to most of us, road trips from our past bring good memories, memories we like to savor. For me, they represent family vacations and occasional outings with college friends. There were also a few day trips with my best friend, sort of a high school Thelma and Louise kind of a thing…but without the cliff 😂

Such pleasant meanings don’t hold true for Beth, Portia and Eddie, though, as they’ve been coerced to take this particular road trip by greed and a demand from their deceased grandfather that they recreate a trek from years before. Trouble is, that long-ago journey wasn’t the nicest thing that ever happened to those kids and dear old Grandpa was the guy behind some very creepy pit stops. Now, if they want his millions, they have to recreate it and scatter his ashes but there are rules that have to be followed.

And then the REAL creepiness begins.

There are stories full of dark family secrets but Ms. Downing takes He Started It to a new level and I couldn’t help feeling truly sorry for the two spouses who had no idea what they were about to find out about the siblings and, of course, none of them could have expected the new craziness that was coming. I found myself enthralled with characters that I didn’t even like and had to keep reading to see what levels of awfulness they’d reach next. “Entertaining” is almost too mild a word to be used for this and, yet, it kind of fits if you’re entertained, as I am, by weirdly harrowing tales. If I have any quibbles at all, it’s because there’s more telling than showing here and that lessens the effect a bit, but I still recommend He Started It.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2021.

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“Wholly original. Scarily clever. Completely mesmerizing. You
will never look at family road trips the same way again.”
—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

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Credit Jacqueline Dallimore

Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where
she is furiously typing away on her next thrilling book.
Website // Facebook // Goodreads

Book Review: His and Hers by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland @Flatironbooks

His & Hers
Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books, July 2020
E-Book

The Title – His and Hers –  refers to the book’s two main characters.

Hers:  Anna Andrews, a newsreader, divorced and living and working in London, with a troubled past.

His:    Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper who lives and works in the small English village of Blackdown where he grew up.

We are introduced to these two characters in separate chapters at the beginning and throughout this rather unusual and intriguing novel.

When the body of a young woman is found in Blackdown Woods, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper is called to the scene.

Anna Andrews, who has recently been taken off her job as newsreader, is asked to travel to Blackdown to cover the murder. She is somewhat reluctant to go.  Anna grew up in Blackdown, her mother still lives there, but Anna hasn’t seen her in months and the village holds no good memories for her.

The murder victim, Rachel Hopkins, is known to both Anna and Jack,  a fact neither wants revealed.  But as the investigation unfolds the reader is privy to both Anna’s and Jack’s take on the murder. It isn’t long before the connections between Jack and Rachel and Anna and Rachel  surface, casting suspicions on both of them.

This twisted tale is full of surprises and more victims before it reaches an exciting and dramatic climax.  But even there the tale isn’t quite over…

You’ll have to check this one out… You’ll be glad you did.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles @skesliencharles @AtriaBooks

The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles
Atria Books, February 2021 (delayed from June 2020)
ISBN 978-1-9821-3419-8
Hardcover

I started this book without high expectations. I’d already read one book set in Paris during the Nazi occupation, this year. It was a good book, well executed, well written, a good plot. Heart-rending, as most books on this subject are. What are the chances this one could compare?

Well, let me say right off, this one went directly onto my “Best Books Read This Year” list.

It’s 1939 in Paris. Young Odile Souchet, who is fluent in English, has gotten the job she always wanted at the American Library in Paris. She loves the people she works with, and after refusing a string of suitors her father presented as possible husband material, discovers true love at last. But then the Nazis occupy Paris and the American Library and their mixed bag of subscribers, including a good many Jews, are in dire danger. An American woman with whom Odile has become best friends takes a job at the library as well, hiding during the occupation in plain sight. But then she does the unthinkable and Odile’s anger and sense of betrayal knows no bounds.

Forty years later the reader discovers Odile has moved to a little town in Montana State, USA. There she befriends a girl who has lost her mother to cancer and is angry and bewildered when her father marries again after only a few months.

Together, Odile and Lily help each other grow and forgive and discover what makes a true family.

This is the best kind of book, one where you learn something and do it the easy way. By which I mean by becoming involved with the characters and absorbed in their stories. Especially with a story as meticulously researched, plotted, and executed as this one. You’ll find your emotions, your intellect, and your heart involved. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that you’ll learn some important history along the way.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews—and a Giveaway! @mkayandrews @StMartinsPress

Hello, Summer
Mary Kay Andrews
St. Martin’s Press, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-25692-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s a new season…

Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, in the rearview mirror years ago. Now a star reporter for a big-city paper, Conley is exactly where she wants to be and is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C. Or so she thinks.

For small town scandals…

When the new job goes up in smoke, Conley finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister, who is trying to keep The Silver Bay Beacon afloat―and she doesn’t exactly have warm feelings for Conley. Soon she is given the unenviable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.”

And big-time secrets.

Then Conley witnesses an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman―a beloved war hero with a shady past. The more she digs into the story, the more dangerous it gets. As an old heartbreaker causes trouble and a new flame ignites, it soon looks like their sleepy beach town is the most scandalous hotspot of the summer.

Big city journalist stuck writing a gossip column on a small town newspaper—what could possibly go wrong? Conley’s grateful her sister, Grayson, made room for her on the family paper after her ignominious exit from Atlanta but getting used to being back in her coastal Florida hometown is hard enough without having to ferret out the local tattling and innuendos. Before long, though, life takes a different turn and Conley starts sniffing around a real story, a suspicious death of a politician.

That’s not all, though, as it seems Silver Bay is a hotbed of scandals and secrets involving a plethora of folks, including her own family, not to mention a potential reconnection with a crush from earlier times. Throw in G’mama, the quintessential grande dame of Southern small towns, and her opinionated housekeeper, Winnie, and you’ve got the makings of a great beach read—a bit too long for my taste but, all in all, a winner.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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To enter the drawing for a
hardcover copy of Hello, Summer,
leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on
Thursday evening, September 3rd.
Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Fractures by Alice Reeds @Alice_Reeds @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Fractures
Series: Echoes #2

Author: Alice Reeds
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
iBooks // Entangled Publishing

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Fractures
Echoes #2

Alice Reed
Entangled Teen, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-900-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They survived a plane crash.

They survived life on a deserted island.

They survived being hunted.

Now they must survive the truth—they are not who they think they are.

One minute they’re in Poland, subjected to gruesome tests they keep failing. No friends to support them. No family to claim them. No hope of ever living a normal life again.

Then suddenly, they’re trapped on an abandoned freighter in the middle of the ocean and forced to fight for survival. No food. No drinkable water. No way to get home. And strange memories of another life they don’t understand.

But how can they be living two separate lives, trapped in two separate places, at the same time? They’ll have to find the connection and uncover secrets that someone went to great lengths to keep hidden…if they’re going to survive long enough to find out who is behind it all.

When I read Echoes, the first book, I was immediately drawn in by the two protagonists and by the alternate timeline aspect of the plot. The timeline thing and the characters still appeal to me in Fractures now that they are off the island but, if Fiona and Miles thought they were in trouble before, they could have had no idea what was to come.

This time, the point of view comes from Miles and there’s a difference in the level of urgency that they felt on the island but the mystery of what’s really going on deepens. For starters, how lovely is it that their own parents sold them out, literally? The promise of new lives in California was just a ploy and now Miles and Fiona have to trust no one but each other and work to find answers for themselves including the question of their real identities.

I could definitely do without the insta-love but Alice Reeds is a fine writer and her worldbuilding is vivid; the duology is a nice blend of science fiction and mystery, which I really appreciate, and Ms. Reeds kept me guessing and flipping pages as fast as I could to the very end. Besides heartily recommending Fractures, I’ll say this—you must read the two books in order 😄

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Alice Reeds was born in a small town in Germany but spent her first eight years in Florida, USA. Later on, she moved back to Europe, where her family moved around a lot. She was raised trilingual and has a basic understanding of Russian, read and spoken. After getting her International Baccalaureate Diploma, Alice is studying English Language and Literature at University. In her free time Alice mostly writes, reads, figure and/or roller skates, or watches countless let’s plays and figure skating videos.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Twitter

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Enter here.

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Book Review: The Maven Knight by Matthew Romeo @housemontegue

The Maven Knight
The Maven Knight Trilogy #1
Matthew Romeo
Matthew Romeo, December 2018
ISBN 978-0-578-42878-9
Trade Paperback

Mr. Romeo reaches out and pulls the reader right into a frenzied chaos with his Sci-Fi/Fantasy, The Maven Knight. Immediately invested in the action, in spite of not even knowing who is good and who is not, the dust settles soon enough to show that we have a small group of prisoners en route to their proper punishment.

Or so Sarina assumes. She groggily awakens to find her hands tied and tethered. A quick glance around shows the strangers surrounding her are similarly bound. Sarina doesn’t remember anything past tending bar at a banquet, but cannot fathom doing anything to get herself into this situation. Sure, she’s keeping a secret, but certainly not worthy of this retribution.

Talir, on the other hand, cannot specifically pinpoint his “crime”, but is oddly not particularly surprised to find himself in this predicament. Perhaps his cherished Maven armor, his last remnant of his father, is providing some comfort.

As the apparent criminals start to size each other up, their convoy is shot down. Soon, six people are stranded in the middle of nowhere with no reason in the world to want to work together. Except their lives may depend on it.

The saga unfolds from two separate points of view. What initially appeared to be a random sampling of ne’er-do-wells, now seems to be a carefully selected group. But to fully figure out the reason each person was chosen, secrets must be spilled and certain actions will require sincere apologies if there is to be any hope for survival.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2020.