2017 Book Review

Book Review: Darktown by Thomas Mullen

4.5 ⭐️’s from me27274326

Goodreads Summary: “Responding from pressure on high, the Atlanta police department is forced to hire its first black officers in 1948. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: They can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even use the police headquarters and must instead operate out of the basement of a gym.

When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death. Their efforts bring them up against an old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood like his own, and Dunlow’s young partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines.”

My Review

Although fiction, this book draws its inspiration from the appointment of the first African American police officers in Atlanta, Georgia. The depiction of the events in this book seem all too real. The horrific, segregating rules these police officers must follow make their jobs just that much more difficult – making you wonder how they kept motivated at all. Mullen’s characterization of the men’s struggles against oppression causes the reader to feel angry, dismayed and somewhat hopeful for change all at once. This book was apparently drafted before the events of Ferguson here in the U.S. However, it seems incredibly relevant, if not more so, to the racial tensions facing America today. This book would be perfectly paired with the March Trilogy by John Lewis as an educational tool to confront both the past and the present ideas of the Civil Rights Movement.

Not to be forgotten, this book has all the classic elements of a ‘Whodunnit?’ – drawing the reader deep into a compelling mystery, intertwined with a corrupt and racially unequal police force. The pace leaves nothing to be desired – a definite must read.

2017 Book Review

Book Review: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney

3 ⭐️’s from me.

Goodreads Summary:The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. I wonder which one of us will be next?

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St. Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?
Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.”

My Review:

Many people raved about this thriller, but I really find it that compelling. To me a good thriller means it will haunt me in the days to come – I’ll feel a “pull.” However, this one didn’t stick. Even as I am editing my review now I am struggling to remember all the details about this one.

I did feel like I wanted more characterization. Detective Lottie seemed like such an interesting character with such potential that I found myself wanting to learn more about her and her family than wanting to solve the mystery.

This book was written well, the mystery itself just took a while to get going.

Not too much else to say about this one.

2017 Book Review

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

4 ⭐️’s from me!

Goodreads Summary: 32796253“Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.”

My Review:

If you are looking for a book to get wrapped up in this summer – this is it! I finished this one in less than 24 hours…

Quincy has survived a horrific ordeal, but her memory of the events is hazy at best. She has done her best to move on from her past but new events threaten to disturb the balance she has created.

This book throws plenty of curve balls – and I definitely found myself thinking “No, please, No!” and “It can’t be them…can it?” on more than one occasion. I was well and truly hooked way past by bedtime – it reminded me of when I used to secretly read under the covers with a flashlight as a child because my book was just soooo good. Sleep doesn’t matter right?

Amongst all the mystery and thrilling events, Sager asks us what does it mean to be normal? And are we somehow bonded by our similar sufferings – how far will that bond go? Quincy is so real and authentic you are right there with her as she confronts her past – invested in her survival. It is no wonder all my book loving friends are recommending this read. Take our advice!

2017 Book Review, Net Galley

Book Review: The Address by Fiona Davis

4.5 ⭐️’s from me!

Goodreads Summary:33607640 “After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.”

My Review:

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review this book. I loved Davis’ other novel The Dollhouse, but I have to say The Address was even better! Davis has truly mastered the art of intersecting the history of an iconic building with her fictional characters.

I felt as if I was transported to the 1880’s and the construction of the Dakota. The gilded age was a perfect backdrop for the mystery of this novel. Then as the parallel plot with the characters in the 1980’s, you can’t help but be pulled into a voyage of rapid page-turning.

The overlap with fact and fiction was just want you want in historical fiction. A little intrigue layered with facts like arrival of the Statute of Liberty or maybe the appearance of famous journalist, Nellie Bly.

The Dakota is the local of love, betrayal, adventure, new beginnings and tragic endings. Definitely pick this up if you were a fan of The Dollhouse.

**I received my copy via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to the author and publisher for this opportunity.**

2017 Book Review, BOTM Club

Book Review: American Fire by Monica Hesse

4⭐️’s from me

Goodreads Summary: “The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate—there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning.

The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn’t lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other’s inspiration and escape…until they weren’t.

Though it’s hard to believe today, one hundred years ago Accomack was the richest rural county in the nation. Slowly it’s been drained of its industry—agriculture—as well as its wealth and population. In an already remote region, limited employment options offer little in the way of opportunity. A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. Hesse brings to life the Eastern Shore and its inhabitants, battling a punishing economy and increasingly terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. The result evokes the soul of rural America—a land half gutted before the fires even began.”

My Review:

Lately I have found myself more and more attracted to the true crime drama, both in written form and film. In many ways it can be more thought-provoking than fiction – because you know it actually happened.

I had heard rumblings about American Fire before it became published. So naturally, when I had the chance to get a copy – I made sure to get it. American Fire tells the captivating story of a couple, Charlie Smith and Tonya Burdick, who set fire to sixty-seven abandoned buildings across Accomack County, Virginia. As Hesse sets out to discuss the fires, we learn that this is so much more than just a plethora of fires.

Hesse uses her journalistic skills for an in-depth exploration of the historical, psychological, and motivational explanations behind arson in order to expertly relate her research to the events in Accomack County.  She explores the personal histories of Charlie and Tonya; And with that comes the exploration of rural America today, a different exploration of identity altogethers. The struggles of families in Accomack County could ring true in many rural American towns today making the story so much more intriguing.

Then on top of it all, this is ultimately a love story – a love story that Hesse compares to the likes of Bonnie and Clyde and other crime couples of the ages. An age-old motive, love is at heart of these arsons and, perhaps, the reason for their unraveling.

A must-read for true-crime lovers. Hesse will have you hooked from the very beginning.


2017 Book Review

Book Review: Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer

3⭐️’s from me32027278

Goodreads Summary: “Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It s also Darcy s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.”

My Review:

This is a very easy summer read, if you are looking for a quick story to escape to while enjoying the sunny weather. It is a cutesy story about finding yourself. A resident librarian of Nantucket has interesting neighbors this summer, neighbors who make it evident that she must finally confront her past in order to move forward. The characters are lovable and almost like a little summer family. However, I found this book very unmemorable in the end; it didn’t leave me thinking about much of anything. I guess that’s what makes this review a short one?

2017 Book Review

Book Review: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

4⭐️’s from me!

Goodreads Summary: “From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, g

reed, ruthless ambition, and murder.”

My Review:


What an interesting take on a murder mystery. I am a huge fan of the Agatha Christie classics and this book paid homage, yet perfected an interesting spin. This book has a mystery within a mystery book! What more could you ask for?

As Susan Ryeland reads the latest manuscript up for editing, she discovers a whole new real life mystery. The manuscript and reality are so intertwined that you have one giant puzzle on your hands. The read will keep you looking for those tiny Poirot-type clues – you know the ones that dare you try to solve the mystery before the characters. And, to top it all off, for the literary buffs out there, the large amount of references to classics was absolutely delightful (while somehow, not too cheesy). My only complaint would be that I wanted to know the result faster! The book almost seemed a little too long because of that, but a great read overall.

2017 Book Review

Book Review: Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

3 ⭐️’s from Me
Goodreads Summary: “From the author of the hit literary horror debut Bird Box (”Hitchcockian.” —USA Today) comes a chilling novel about a group of musicians conscripted by the US government to track down the source of a strange and debilitating sound

The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious-and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

Part Heart of Darkness, part Lost, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking new novel plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear.”31752345 

My Review:

I’m sorry to say that this book wasn’t to my liking. After much hype, I was sadly disappointed.

The characters of this novel initially pull you in with their determination. The two parallel story lines are intriguing and develop a decent pace as we the characters strive to solve the underlying mystery. This was what pulled the book to a third star for me.

However, the resolution to this novel is very much embedded in science fiction – which, I admit, is not my cup of tea normally and may be why I generally disliked this novel. This far-fetched reality  seemed confusing and uncertain of itself. I found myself re-reading sections of the ending at an attempt to follow Malerman’s intent. I can see how others will get more out of this story, but it wasn’t my favorite.

2017 Book Review

Book Review: The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

4 ⭐️’s from me

Goodreads Summary: From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.”

My Review:

This book started slow at the beginning, but if you keep going after the first few chapters you will soon be imme31850560rsed in this little village on the Normandy coast. As the villagers attempt to reckon with the occupation, their home begins to ebb but Emma – the village baker – shows them a way to silently resist. It is in this resistance that they find joy.

This is a story of silent resistance, but the emotional journey also portrays the fragility of life – and the resulting, unimaginable, tight-rope these villagers must walk in order to avoid discovery.   The Voltaire quote Kiernan uses at the beginning helps to generate this dangerous atmosphere:

“It takes twenty years to bring man from his vegetable state inside the womb…to the stage where he begins to grown into maturity. It took thirty centuries to learn something about his structure. It would take an eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes only an instant to kill him.” – Voltaire

Such authentic characters help make this WWII novel. I definitely recommend this read.


2017 Book Review

Book Review: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

4 ⭐️’s from me

Goodreads Synopsis:  “A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”

My Review:

After a runaway hit with The Girl On The Train, Paula Hawkins had set the bar high for anything that was to come next. Although it didn’t blow me away quite lik33151805e it’s predecessor, Into the Water is a gripping read.

I heard an interview on NPR (click here for interview) where Hawkins discusses the mystery of water and what lies beneath the surface – her inspiration from her novel. That idea – intrigue and fascination with the unknown – is vividly described in these pages. A simple body of water in a small town, a place for fun in the sun during the day becomes so much more in darkness – taking womens’ lives in its tow.

I do have to say I think there may have been too many narrators here
with similar voices as I was checking to make sure I had characters straight until about halfway through the novel.

The pace is familiar and welcome – like that of The Girl on the Train and will keep you wanting to read just one more page long after bedtime. However, the ending was not as twisty and almost felt a little predictable if not contrived.

Still a great book and a recommended read! Enjoy!