4 Star Books · Book Reviews · mystery · psychological thriller · suspense · Uncategorized

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

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Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Published by Thomas & Mercer on July 1, 2017

Pages: 300

Genres: psychological thriller, suspense, mystery

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: psychological thrillers, the TV show Criminal Minds

Read with food: nothing because you’re too nervous to eat

 

Synopsis:

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Review:

Such an addicting book!

Gwen took her kids and ran, trying to stay one step ahead of all the people wanting to hurt her family. Her emotions and struggles drew me in and didn’t let go. Her fear was palpable. Her love for her children was genuine. The book was a wonderful terrifying ride set in the world of one of the worst what ifs.

What if my husband was secretly a serial killer and I never knew?

What if the world turned on me and was convinced I helped that sicko, but in reality I had no idea.

It’s a whirlwind of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cliffhanger made me definitely want to find out what happens next to the family. 

One downside was that I felt the last quarter or so was a bit rushed. The story started out better than it ended, but the psychological suspense was still phenomenal. So looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Do you like it when books have cliffhangers?

4 Star Books · contemporary fiction · Literary Fiction

Book Review: The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

Published by Picador on February 7, 2017

Pages: 288

Genres: contemporary fiction, literary fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: novels that give older people a true voice

Read with food: Early Grey tea with milk 

 

Synopsis:

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility which they prune with a zeal that belies the fact that they are both over eighty.

But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late to expect these two to change?

Review:

Rarely do I finish a book and not have something to say about it. However, I’m struggling to find the words to properly sum up this book. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. 

The Woman Next Door tells the tale of two older women who are neighbors, but have been enemies for a long time. Set in South Africa, the story has a long history of tension and struggle behind it. 

One woman loses her husband, falls, and requires in home care. Another’s house need renovations, and so the two end of temporarily living together. It is the perfect set up for drama and lots of it. However, the writing and the characters are subtle and much more mature than that. Through their current situations, we learn about their lives. The good, bad, difficult, and celebratory. 

The author does the characters justice and gives them a wonderful voice to share their perceptions and experiences. 

The one major downside is that in the paperback version the pages are thick and weirdly textured, which I found annoying. If I left my bookmark fully inside the book, it made it really hard to find. Not that big of a deal, but annoying after it kept happening. 

I definitely recommend this subtle but wonderful novel. 

 

How often do you not have too much to say about a book?

What do you do about it? 

3.5 Star Books · Audiobooks · Book Reviews · humor · memoir

Book Review: Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

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Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

Published by Ballantine Books on November 29, 2016

Pages: 209

Genres: memoir, humor

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: Gilmore Girls, memoirs with life lessons

Read with food: coffee, duh! Because . . . Lorelai in Gilmore Girls

 

Synopsis:

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

Review:

Everyone has been saying how amazing and hilarious Talking As Fast As I Can, is. I found it good, but not as great as all the hype.

Maybe it’s because while I enjoyed the TV show Gilmore Girls, I was not a super fan. So the behind the scenes look at the show wasn’t that interesting to me. The writing is also amusing, but not over the top hilarious.

The memoir does contain a lot of life advice that makes me think. I appreciated that. Lauren Graham talks about enjoying life as it’s currently happening, instead of spending all your time online. I found this especially poignant as I was outside enjoying the spring flowers and listening to this audiobook.

A bit underwhelming, but overall an enjoyable read.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks … especially memoirs read by the authors. #love 

 

Any recommendations for me?

 

What are your favorite memoirs?

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Cozy Mystery · mystery

Book Review: Crime and Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett

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Crime and Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on May 29, 2018

Pages: 304

Genres: mystery, cozy mystery

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: cozy mysteries, cats, the English language

Read with food: pancakes and maple syrup, watching the gorgeous autumn colors out a picturesque window 

 

Synopsis:

After splurging to buy her childhood home in the Catskills, recently widowed Mikki Lincoln emerges from retirement as a freelance editor. With her ability to spot details that others fail to see, it’s not long before Mikki earns clients–and realizes that the village of Lenape Hollow isn’t the thriving tourist destination it was decades ago. Not with a murderer on the loose . . .

When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow’s not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki’s spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story . . .

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany’s death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. Then there’s Tiffany’s grandmother and husband, who aren’t exactly on friendly terms over the local area’s planned rejuvenation efforts . . .

Unable to convince police that they are focused on the wrong suspect, Mikki must rely on her keen eyes to catch the truth hidden in Lenape Hollow. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki’s investigation seriously–the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending . . .

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

The definition of a well done cozy mystery!

The story drew me in within the first chapter and entertained me the entire book. I especially enjoyed the main character, Mikki. The writing flows nicely, is easy to read, and draws the audience into the story. It’s obvious that the author is passionate about writing. I especially loved the education in grammar, the English language, and the writing process through Mikki’s job as a freelance editor. Such a wonderful addition to round out the book. Also, I appreciated that many of the characters were ages 50 plus. It’s a welcome addition to novels, as it’s not often done. 

The mystery that Mikki is working to solve is good, but not great. It drives the story along, but I enjoyed reading about her passion for writing more. 

In general, Crime and Punctuation is a wonderful cozy mystery that I would recommend to fans of the genre or those wanting to give it a go. From the “Feel the Bern” reference, which was awesome!, to the autumnal setting in a small town, Katilyn Dunnett had me thoroughly entertained throughout. 

Bonus points for a great cover! From far away it really does look like books lined up on a bookshelf. 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · mystery · psychological thriller · suspense

Book Review: The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

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The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

Published by Kira on April 26, 2016

Pages: 384

Genres: psychological thriller, mystery, suspense

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: dramatic intense Lifetime Movies, disturbed and smart teenage girls, supposedly perfect rich neighborhoods

Read with food: strawberry lemonade to sip by the pool

 

Synopsis:

Liz McGinnis never imagined herself living in a luxurious gated community like The Palms. Ever since she and her family moved in, she’s felt like an outsider amongst the Stepford-like wives and their obnoxiously spoiled children. Still, she’s determined to make it work—if not for herself, then for her husband, Phil, who landed them this lavish home in the first place, and for her daughter, Danielle, who’s about to enter high school.

Yet underneath the glossy veneer of The Palms, life is far from idyllic. In a place where reputation is everything, Liz soon discovers that even the friendliest residents can’t be trusted—and almost everyone has secrets they’d do anything to protect. So when the gorgeous girl next door befriends Danielle, Liz can’t help but find sophisticated Kelsey’s interest in her shy and slightly nerdy daughter a bit suspicious.

But while Kelsey quickly becomes a fixture in the McGinnis home, Liz’s relationships with both Danielle and Phil grow strained. Now even her own family seems to be hiding things, and it’s not long before their dream of living the high life quickly spirals out of control…

Review: 

The Drowning Girls is an addictive novel.

Creepy, suspense filled, and dramatic people make up the characters in this story. Is the book the most original in terms of plot lines? … No, but it’s so entertaining.

I couldn’t stop reading.

The Drowning Girls has the vibe of a Lifetime Movie and episode of Law and Order SVU. Kelsey, the teenager, is conniving, smart and highly disturbed. Phil, the man she is obsessed with isn’t completely innocent either. The stress from Kelsey’s obsessions reveals the true nature of all involved.

I highly recommend this addictive, page turning, drama filled book!

 

I want to read more books with a similar vibe. Anyone have any suggestions?

 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · LGBTQIA+ Books · Literary Fiction

Book Review: Most Precious Blood by Vince Sgambati

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Most Precious Blood by Vince Sgambati 

Published by Guernica Editions On March 1, 2018

Pages: 300

Genres: literary fiction, LGBTQIA+ fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: authentic stories, struggles with one’s sexuality

Read with food: any sort of authentic Italian food . . . be sure to make enough for the whole family

 

Synopsis: 

Hard Luck Lenny Lasante is the quintessential good son, brother, and father. He fears a calamity will derail his son’s future the way his own dreams were derailed years ago and is adamant that Frankie leave home for college, but Frankie is preoccupied with thoughts of Gennaro DiCico, the son of a small-time mobster. Lenny’s fears are realized when a cabdriver’s son avenges his father’s murder. Most Precious Blood, set in the eleventh-hour of a declining Italian-American neighborhood, speaks of complex and often destructive loyalties, consequences, and forgiveness.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

Most Precious Blood tells the stories of Italian Americans living in New York City. Like most families, life is messy, filled with heartbreak, struggles, and attempts to find oneself despite what family might think. It’s Italian family life written into a story format.

At the beginning, I wasn’t really enjoying the book. It didn’t really draw me in. As I kept on reading, I learned more about all the characters and grew to enjoy their stories more and more.

Most Precious Blood mainly focuses on Frankie, a teenager growing up in the neighborhood. He’s in love with Gennaro, the son of a small time mobster. They don’t want to reveal their relationship to others, for fear of judgment and lack of acceptance. I ended up really enjoying the story as it continued to unfold. I could even see a sequel being written.

Overall, I would recommend Most Precious Blood for it’s traditional but open minded characters, rich storytelling, good food, and relevant topics.

 

 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · non fiction

Book Review: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

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Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

Published by Algonquin Books on February 14, 2017

Pages: 332

Genres: non fiction, science, history, anthropology, biology, nature, psychology

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: books that include a comprehensive mix of multiple sciences to uncover the facts, science nerds

Read with food: 100% vegan salad

 

Synopsis: 

For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism–the role it plays in evolution as well as human history–is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.

In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party–the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).

Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species–including our own.

Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.

Review: 

A book about cannibalism seems like it would be weird and horrific, but it was actually quite intriguing. That is not to say I want to engage in cannibalism … actually quite the opposite.

The book discusses the history of cannibalism in animals and humans, and the mainly evolutionary and survival purposes for the practices. Young animals, especially amphibians, would engage in cannibalism by eating other smaller animals of the same species to increase their chance of survival. I found this fact intriguing and informative, as my preconceived notions were that cannibalism was only creep psychotic serial killers.

In humans, the practice of medical cannibalism throughout history occurred in some cultures. Mainly as an attempt to cure health conditions or periods of extreme famine.

Overall, I found this book to be incredibly interesting. The author is truly trying to understand the practice of cannibalism, not sensationalize it. A bit of an odd book choice for some, but if the topic intrigues you, then I definitely recommend this book.

 

So . . . I want to know, what’s the weirdest book you’ve read?