Sunday, September 19, 2021

Paradise Lost: "Of Love and Abuse" by Kayla Lowe


Spoiler alerts for anyone who hasn't read the first three volumes of Kayla Lowe's Tainted Love series!

Sara and Bruce are married! The beautiful young woman had fallen for the online man who intrigued her and won her heart when he played the Phantom to her Christine in messages that kept her from being the good, freshman student that she started out as, in book one. When the man she thought was her soulmate shows up in person, she finds he is 30 years older than her, and that is only the first of the deceits he used to win her heart.

Once she defies her concerned and caring parents by moving in with Bruce and then moving to Florida, far from home, she feels there is no turning back.

Now, they are husband and wife. Sara is trying to earn and save money, first with part time jobs outside their home and then with online writing and editing at which she excels. They finally have enough money to move to a beachside apartment. It's further from his friends with whom he spent most of his days drinking and smoking.

While they turn their new place into a home with Sara shopping for second hand, and affordable furnishings and decorations, she is also finding he is trying more and more to make her spend time with him, whether at the beach or drinking. Something she never would have thought to find herself doing, but is becoming a worrisome habit as part of their marriage. Even though her parents and Bruce come to a sort of peaceful understanding so they can visit and so Sara can in turn come home occasionally, he still gets in black rages about her calling them. Can they work things out and have the happy marriage Sara hopes for... or has it all been a terrible decision that she has to live with. Are there darker days  to come or will there be a happy ending? You will have to read this series to find out!

Powerfully written and intensely realistic, Ms. Lowe has created a character you care about in Sara, and Bruce has a magnetism that seems to be able to win her over despite common sense and  her parents fear for her safety. I can't wait to see what happens in volume 5! Highly recommended!

Join the Club: "The Final Girl Support Group" by Grady Hendrix


Lynette is a "Final Girl". She survived something terrible that happened when she was a teen. Something, or rather, someone, so horrible, that she is lucky to be alive. She lost her parents, her little sister and her boyfriend.  All in one night. Her Monster is behind bars. She should feel safe now, shouldn't she?

She is a member of the Final Girl Support Group. Along with 5 other Final Girls. Each a survivor of  some horrendous event which took out others, but somehow, they managed to make it out alive. There are movies based on their experiences, and documentaries and online forums that discuss the crimes and the killers, some of them are fan groups of the various murderers.

Besides her attendance at the support group, Lynette lives alone, with just a house plant as a companion. She is wary and paranoid and  always ready to make a quick getaway if she has to. Then something happens that might force her into action. What that something is and what follows is something you will have to find out for yourself.

This is a suspenseful and darkly funny story. I loved Grady Hendrix's previous book, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires and I'm looking forward to reading his older titles as he is great at capturing the various characters that occupy his fictional worlds. Highly recommended!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Invisible Man: "Wrong Alibi" by Christine Dodd

 This was the first Christina Dodd book I've read and it had me from the first sentence!  I listened to it on audiobook through hoopla and it was grippingly narrated by Vanessa Johansson. A good narrator makes or breaks an audiobook and Ms. Johansson definitely made this a listen to the end experience from the start!

It is set in Alaska, a place I have always found fascinating as a setting for a story, and begins with Petie, a young woman caretaking at a fishing camp in the wilderness, she is dealing with a wild winter storm and a power outage, but is self sufficient enough to be able to get things working again.  How she came to be living such a solitary existence unfolds as we learn that not long before she had been a resident of a juvenile detention home in California, and her name had been Evie Jones. Abandoned by her mother and sister, her caseworker helps her find a job.

This job turns out to be working for a seemingly well-off man who wants an assistant to help him with his business in a house filled with antiquities in a small town in Alaska. This man, Donald White, meets her at the airport and has her drive his fancy jaguar despite the fact that she only just got her license. 

As she cleans and prepares food and does computer work for Mr. White, he also makes some odd requests of her, that she deposit large sums of money in a bank account in town that is listed under her name. He explains that he is saving money to help the former owner of the house who is being help prisoner by a rebel gang in a foreign country. He tells her the man's wife sold him the house took her son and went to live with relatives until her husband's release. He also tells her he'll be away at times and that she never look in the basement because she might get injured going down the stairs leading to it.

What happens next will hook you into reading, or listening to the very end, as Evie/Petie finds herself framed for a double murder and the story takes off from there and is filled with some surprising twists and turns and reveals! If you love a good thriller filled with great characters, a unique setting and that wraps everything up perfectly, then this book is for you! 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Hit Girl: "Finlay Donovan is Killing It" by Elle Cosimano


Not many books make me laugh out loud, but Elle Cosimano's Finlay Donovan is Killing It is such an enjoyable read I started telling everyone I know to get a copy!  It's funny, suspenseful, and has some hot guys thrown in for good measure! Right from the first couple of sentences Finlay has us on her side. A single mom of two young kids, Finlay, an author of police thrillers, is trying to make ends meet after her husband dumped her for the realtor who sold them the house she's now living in. It's not the career she'd hoped for and doesn't brings in much beyond a meager advance. Her ex, Steve and Theresa (the realtor) are doing fantastically while Finlay has to keep asking her ex to help bail her out of her financial problems. He's also fired her nanny, Veronica, someone she depended on.

Arranging to meet her agent at a local Panera, and throwing on dark glasses and a wig-scarf, so the manager won't recognize her and kick her out for previous troublemaking, she hopes Sylvia might be able to get some more money out of her publisher. Frustrated by her recent writing, and worried about it becoming too formulaic, they discuss contracts, characters and killings before Sylvia takes off to meet with another client, Finlay returns to her table to find a mysterious note under her plate. A note that says :
$50,000 cash.
Harris Mickler
and an address and a phone number.

There must be some kind of mistake. That kind of money could turn things around for her. But was this some kind of joke? I don't want to give away any further details because it is so much fun following Finlay as she tries to navigate a new reality and that this might just be the first of a series is more good news, because this is the kind of book you just don't want to end!
5 Stars! Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mind Games: "Survive the Night" by Riley Sager


Wow! I  didn't expect to love this book as much as I did! Riley Sager has written some great books, books that I've thought about long after the final page. I really enjoyed Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied and Survive the Night is maybe my new favorite!

Charlie, named after Teresa Wright's character in Hitchcock's classic Shadow of a Doubt, is looking to take a break from college. Her best friend and roommate, Maddie, was murdered by someone known as the Campus Killer. Charlie feels like it is her fault. An introvert, Maddie helped entice Charlie out of their dorm room, where otherwise, she could happily have spent all her time watching classic movies on VHS. One night, Maddie wants to go out to a bar. Charlie doesn't feel like going out, but finally relents and goes with her. When Maddie leaves her alone to flirt, Charlie storms off. When Maddie tries to persuade her to stay, Charlie calls her a bad friend and walks away, glancing back to see a shadowy male figure lighting a cigarette for Maddie.

Charlie sometimes has spells, where she can't tell if what she's seeing is reality, or a movie scene in her head. So when she's questioned as the last person to see Maddie alive, she can't describe the man she saw, because he may not have been real.

Maddie's boyfriend, Robbie, doesn't understand why she needs to leave. ASAP. He offers to drive her home, to her grandmother, her only family, when the semester ended, but Maddie goes to put an ad on the rideboard at school. There's a guy there, handsome, a slightly older student in a campus hoodie. 
Turns out, he's looking for someone to keep him company on a long drive and he will be going right past where Charlie needs to go, Youngstown, Ohio. He needs to leave that night.
"I can be that someone" she says.
So begins the journey that will take place over the course of a long night. From the moment Charlie gets in the car with Josh, we begin to wonder, along with Charlie, if this was the smartest move she has taken.
This is such a twisty, surprising thrill ride, and we are there, beside Charlie, following that long dark road with a complete stranger, as well as those movie stars also along for the ride, care of Charlie's imagination! This is a perfect book for film lovers who also enjoy a suspenseful thriller that will keep you guessing right up to the end!

Highly recommended! Thanks to NetGalley for the DRC!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Out of the Past: "The Day I Disappeared" by Brandi Reeds


Years before the story begins, there was an accident. A young boy, babysitting his little sister, goes fishing. His sister is asleep, and his parents will never know. He keeps going a little further out, until he realizes he can't hear his sister if she wakes up. Rushing back, he finds her gone. His parents return and blame him, as they search for the missing girl. She is eventually found, drowned in the lake.

Flash ahead to the present. Holly was kidnapped when she was four years old. She was returned, and the man responsible has been behind bars ever since. She had no memory of the 94 days she was missing. Now in her mid-20's, and a carpenter for her father's construction company, she has an on again/off again relationship with her boyfriend, and her mother is in a coma, the result of a possible drunk driving accident. Besides that, her best friend, Kitten, is getting married and Holly is the Maid of Honor. 

In the midst of all this, Holly is contacted by a detective. He is investigating the disappearance of a little girl. In fact, there has been a string of missing girls over the past few years. He wonders if Holly had any memories that could help his investigation. She doesn't remember anything from her kidnapping... or does she? She has flashes of things. Is there any way for her to help? And then there's Kitten's brother, Matt, home from his time in the service. He was older than Holly and Kitten and helped in the search. So did Sterling, Holly's sometime boyfriend. Will Holly remember anything? What about the man in jail? Is there a copycat on the loose? This is such a riveting story I had to keep reading until the very end! This is the first book by Ms. Reeds that I've read, and she is a fantastic writer, drawing you into the world she's created, and keeping you guessing about what happened.
Thanks to NetGalley for the DRC!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Secret Love: "If You, Then Me" by Yvonne Woon


16 year old Xia Chang is something of a computer prodigy. She has created an AI program called "Wiser" that replies to your questions with the advice you might give yourself  when you're older. She lives in Massachusetts with her Mom, a political science professor, who is hardly home, as she works at 4 different colleges.

Except for her neighbor, Gina, Xia is pretty lonely and created Wiser to keep her company. Knowing Wiser is a unique creation, Xia has applied to a school for tech prodigies called "The Foundry". The unthinkable happens and Xia gets a call from the Foundry's director inviting her to join them in California's Silicon Valley at the institute, where all her expenses will be paid as she works on further developing Wiser.

While she waits to break the news to her mother who is going to be a tough sell, she has someone else to share her good news with. ObjectPermanence, her online soulmate, someone whom she's shared her secrets and hopes with, well, while using her own online persona U/ARRAYofLIGHT.

Once her mother finally agrees and Xia is off to the Foundry, we'll share her adventures as she joins the other 19 teens from around the country as they work to build their creations in hopes of startup money and becoming coding rockstars.

I loved this book!  You felt you were part of the new world Xia has entered, and were cheering her on from the sidelines. Xia experiences so much in her new school, and is stronger than she thinks, as she faces the sexism of the largely male tech world and works at trying to fit in and make friends with classmates who are also competitors. There's also the verbal bullying from a couple of entitled white boys who delight in humiliating her right from the start. And there may be a boy, who seems to be someone who "gets" her. Could there be more to him than he seems? Does he like her... or is he just trying to find out the secrets behind her AI?
Then, something happens that takes her in an unexpected direction, at a party,  Xia has a casual meeting  with a young woman, famous for the apps she created, and whom Xia had idolized. What happens next and throughout the rest of Xia's whirlwind trajectory from nonentity to notoriety in this unputdownable story is something you've got to find out yourself!

I haven't read Ms. Woon's previous books, but she has created one of my favorite characters ever in Xia, a young woman so smart and resilient and quick and funny that you'll find yourself wondering about her and her future long after you've turned that last page. This is highly recommended, and one I'll be Militantly Recommending! Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the DRC!