Book Review Tuesday: Falling by T.J. Newman #thriller #suspense @T_J_Newman

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Hoo-boy, hoo-boy! I just finished a book that has to be the BEACH READ OF THE SUMMER! It has “blockbuster movie” written all over it, and I have no doubt Hollywood is already knocking at the author’s door. Falling is definitely one of my top reads of 2021. The hard copy was just a few dollars more than the Kindle version, and with a cover like this, I couldn’t resist indulging. I’m pleased to say the story lives up to the amazing cover and the hype. I’ve been seeing this one all over the place and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. What a thrill ride!

BOOK BLURB:

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.” —Gillian Flynn
“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks, and scares…Chilling.” —Lee Child

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beach Read of the summer!

I’m already anticipating the blockbuster movie. This is a story that keeps you enthralled from page one, but continually ups the stakes with each successive chapter. During the last half, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough, annoyed by the slightest distraction that threatened to pull me from the book.

Captain Bill Hoffman has taken a last minute flight from LA to NY, much to the chagrin of his wife, Carrie. She was counting on his presence at their son’s Little League game but Bill’s decision quickly spirals into a nightmare for both of them–and countless others.

Targeted by terrorists, Carrie frantically tries to keep her family alive on the ground while Bill faces impossible decisions in the air, every choice impacting the lives of the passengers aboard his flight.

This is an adrenaline-fueled, emotional roller coaster. Be prepared to gnaw your fingernails and teeter on a seesaw of right vs. wrong. Many lives comes into play–not just Bill, Carrie, and their children, but Bill’s flight crew, FBI personnel, and those on board. I especially loved senior flight attendant, Jo and her courage in the face of impossible circumstances.

Some reviewers have called a few specific scenes corny, but I loved them. I saw them playing out on the “big screen” complete with gasps and cheers from a movie-going audience, myself included.

The author said she had forty-one rejections before finding an agent to take a chance on her manuscript. His vision is our gain. Newman, a former flight attendant, wrote this book on red-eye flights over a ten year period. I’m thankful she stuck with the manuscript. The finished novel ranks among those books I consider my top reads of the year. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. I have no doubt that Hollywood will scoop this one up quickly.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous #psychologicalfiction Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid #literaryfiction #sagafiction

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Hello, and Happy Wednesday! I’m sharing two books today, but because the blurb for the second is especially long, I’m skipping blurbs and going straight to my reviews. These are both worthy pool/beach reads. Both also employ alternating timelines, a technique I never tire of reading. I’ve been fortunate to have hit so many engrossing stories lately. If you’re a fan of the board game “Clue,” I think you’ll find the first one especially interesting.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a twisty mystery that involves three different time periods, all of which converge for a spectacular finish. As a huge fan of the board game Clue, the present timeline immediately drew me.

Sadie is a bit actress looking for a break when she’s offered the chance to play “Miss Lamb” at an old mansion known as Raven Hall. Other guests also assume roles—Professor Owl, Colonel Otter, Miss Mouse, Lady Nightingale, and Mrs. Shrew. Each guest has been given individual cards about their characters’ actions and clothes in a single themed color. As Miss Lamb, Sadie dresses in white. Mrs. Shrew dresses in blue, etc. Sound familiar? I was in “Clue” heaven! The guests have been gathered to solve the murder of Lord Nightingale as a test-run for a new business that hosts murder mystery parties.

In the past, Beth, an orphan, is taken by her aunt to live at Raven Hall as a companion for Nina, the daughter of the owners. Both girls are fourteen. After some initial wariness, they form a close bond, going from friendship to the attachment of sisters.

The scenes in the past are every bit intriguing—if not more so—then those in the present. Beth is a likeable character, who just wants to feel part of a family. She constantly worries if she doesn’t do everything perfectly, she’ll be sent back to the orphanage.

But aside from Markus and Leonora (Nina’s parents) insisting Nina can never leave the property or go into town, Beth’s time at Raven Hall is filled with fun and the closeness she longs for—until she is talked into participating in a strange charade. One that will ultimately have far reaching consequences.

There is also a third timeline, not as in depth as the others. Told from the POV of young woman, it isn’t until the middle of the book that the reader discovers who is narrating those sections.

It may sound like there is a lot going on in this novel (and there is) but it isn’t difficult to follow. The chapters are fairly short, and the pacing is excellent. Mysteries build steadily in both the past and the present. I was impressed by the number of subtle clues the author plants that turn into timebombs at the end. The final chapters deliver staggering revelations, not one but several. Then when I thought there were no surprises left, and I could finally catch my breath, the author dropped a final twisty shock in the closing pages.

If you love a good mystery, this is one you don’t want to miss. A spectacular read and another candidate for my Favorites List this year!

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have a weakness for stories that use parties as a central theme. Oodles of people thrown together, many faking a surface gloss while harboring resentments or grappling with hidden issues. Secrets pile up like kindling waiting for the match to result in a major conflagration. In this case the fire is real.

Nina Riva is holding a posh, highly anticipated house party in 1983. A model, and the daughter of legendary singer, Mick Riva, she and her three siblings attract attention merely by the association of their last name—despite the fact Mick hasn’t been part of their lives since they were small children.

Nina’s party, attended by actors, agents, models, sports pros, hanger-ons, wannabes, and Malibu’s elite begins on a summer night at 7PM. By 7AM the next morning, the house will be in flames. During the course of that twelve hours, secrets are spilled, relationships are made, others broken, lives altered—all during a night of luxury, drugs, excess, and revelations.

There are a lot of characters in this book but they’re surprisingly easy to keep track of—perhaps because of the author’s use of third person POV. Head hopping happens frequently, but is rarely distracting. That might be because the scenes are handled so skillfully or because the characters are fully fleshed out and unique. In addition to Nina, there is Jay, her brother and a champion surfer, Hud, another brother and professional photographer, and Kit, the youngest sister who is struggling to find her footing in life.

Chapters in the first half alternate between past and present with a look at Mick Riva, his rise from struggling singer to fame, and his relationship with June, the mother of Nina and her siblings.

This is a story of family dynamics. Of how people who love each other pull together, sacrifice for one another, and also sometimes hurt each other. How some obstacles can be overcome, and others are not so easily set aside. I found it intriguing from start to finish, the use of short chapters and the past/present story line well utilized to keep the plot moving forward. There are characters to admire, others to feel sorry for and still others to loathe. When it was all said and done, I thought the ending was perfect.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross @GCrossAuthor #psychological fiction #domesticthriller

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It’s no surprise I have another psychological suspense novel to share. I tend to gobble these up like candy. A tip of the hat to Kim of By Hook or By Book for steering me toward this perfect beach read with her own review. Break out the popcorn for this one!

BOOK BLURB:

A young woman takes a job as a nanny for an impossibly wealthy family, thinking she’s found her entrée into a better life—only to discover instead she’s walked into a world of deception and dark secrets.

Nanny needed. Discretion is of the utmost importance. Special conditions apply.

When Sarah Larsen finds the notice, posted on creamy card stock in her building’s lobby, one glance at the exclusive address tells her she’s found her ticket out of a dead-end job—and life.

At the interview, the job seems like a dream come true: a glamorous penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of NYC; a salary that adds several zeroes to her current income; the beautiful, worldly mother of her charge, who feels more like a friend than a potential boss. She’s overjoyed when they offer her the position and signs the NDA without a second thought.

In retrospect, the notice in her lobby was less an engraved invitation than a waving red flag. For there is something very strange about the Bird family. Why does the beautiful Mrs. Bird never leave the apartment alone? And what happened to the nanny before her? It soon becomes clear that the Birds’ odd behaviors are more than the eccentricities of the wealthy.

But by then it’s too late for Sarah to seek help. After all, discretion is of the utmost importance.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group/ Ballantine / Bantam for my ARC of Nanny Needed.

What a twisty, clever domestic thriller! Sarah and her fiancé, Jonathan, are struggling to make ends meet when she happens upon a flyer advertising for a nanny. Although she has no experience, the position is too good to ignore—a fat, unbelievable salary and a swank luxury penthouse address as the place she’d be working, watching over Patty, a four-year-old girl. Once she applies, she hits it off with Patty’s mother Colette Bird, and soon finds herself hired.

What happens after that is a topsy-turvy roller coaster of events until the end. Many books promise “unbelievable twists” or “jaw-dropping conclusions” but this one delivers. The ending blew me away and left me rereading passages to soak in the enormity of it all. Some suspension of belief is required, but with this kind of book, you sit back, break out the popcorn, and enjoy.

The story plays out like a glossy soap-opera or a Lifetime movie. I liked that the chapters were short, constantly propelling the reader to flip pages. The writing is wonderfully descriptive yet not bogged down in excess prose. I loved the gilded extravagance that surrounds the Bird family and how Colette is portrayed. I want to say so much more about her, but it’s difficult without giving away spoilers.

If you enjoy domestic thrillers, psychological suspense, and flawed characters, Nanny Needed checks all the right boxes and then some. This is a story I could see myself reading over again for sheer enjoyment. It makes a great beach read or poolside escape!

RELEASE DATE IS 10/05/21 | PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON

Tuesday Book Reviews @JacqBiggar, @dlfinnauthor, @JanSikes3, @BalroopShado #shortstories #poetry

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Welcome to my first book review post of July. If you live in the United States, I hope you had an amazing 4th of July holiday weekend. Mine was on the quiet side, but involved a great cookout and time spent sunning (and reading) by the pool. Today, I have several indie book reviews to share that run from a novella to a 15-minute read, children’s fiction, and a collection of poetry.

Because I have so many (these are all short reads) I’m going to skip the blurbs and simply post my reviews. Click the Amazon link for full details. Let’s get started!

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Katy and Ty met as teens and were destined for an HEA until circumstance drove them apart. Katy moved with her mom out of state, putting Ty and small-town life in Tidal Falls behind her. Now, years later, she returns with the intent of getting married in her hometown. She has become a cardiac surgeon, engaged to a real estate developer who is the exact opposite of Ty. Her plan is to have her wedding in the old theater her family owned when she was a child, now being remodeled by Ty’s construction company.

As expected, sparks fly when Katy and Ty reconnect. Biggar takes her characters through a gamut of emotions from denial and regret to the longing of two hearts that have never truly separated. Danger lurks in incidents of sabotage at the theater and a shadowy stalker who has Katy in his sites.

This is book three of a series, and although it does help to have some understanding of the secondary characters and their relationships, the main story reads easily as a standalone. The characters feel like neighbors. I love the small-town setting and how so many lives intertwine. The author is a pro at writing feel-good romance. I loved the inclusion of an abandoned kitten for extra warm fuzzies and an ending that delivers a perfect HEA.

MY REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a whimsical story that enchants from beginning to end, weaving the lives of humans, trees, and fairies in an imaginative adventure that is part fanciful fun and part environmental teaching. The main character, Daniel, goes from child to adult over the course of the novel, plus the reader sees the progression of lives for several fairies and their families. Both human and fairy timelines intertwine in perfect symmetry.

I loved the magical feel of the story, the glitter and enchantment of disappearing into a forest where trees talk and impart wisdom, and fairies watch over animals. The reader learns about trees, fishers, owls, and martens as well as the danger environmental issues bring. There are bad guys and good guys and plenty of magic. Although the main audience for this book is middle grade and above, adults will find the beautiful descriptions and heart-warming story a bewitching journey.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a very short read, but it delivers both a message and a huge warm fuzzy. Told from the POV of Cinders, a wild stallion in love with Satin, a domestic mare, the story delivers a tale of longing, love, and having the confidence to reach for your dream. When Cinders braves the unknown to connect with the mare he has loved from afar in spirit, he and Satin find strength in their devotion to each other. The delivery is sweet and wraps with a lovely and strengthening message about pursuing your dreams, even when it involves stepping out of your comfort zone.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Although I am primarily a reader of fiction, I enjoy escaping into a book of poetry now and again, especially when the poet paints vivid images and deftly stirs emotions with words. Balroop Singh never disappoints with the way she weaves words in a beautiful and spellbinding tapestry. Slivers: Chiseled Poetry is a collection inspired by haiku, tanka, and acrostic poems. Subjects cover seasons, natural and abstract elements such as Clouds, Wind, Light, Love, and Change to name a few. I’m always drawn to poetry that plays off nature and those comprised my favorites. In a different vein “My Muse” really stood out for me, along with the soothing photographic images scattered throughout.

These are poems to ponder and absorb in quiet moments. The acrostic poems were different and interesting, but the tanka, and especially the haiku stole the show for me. As you read, take the time to digest these in the manner the author intended. They make a lovely escape from the frenzied rush of daily life.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager #ghostficton #ghostsuspense @riley_Sager

Last week I reviewed Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, which released yesterday. Home Before Dark has been on my Kindle for some time, buried among the books I keep buying. When I realized I hadn’t read it yet, I set out to correct the oversight immediately. This one is another “Wow! Just Wow!”

BOOK BLURB:

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks toMaggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve come to realize the great thing about a Riley Sager book is that they’re all so different. This time around, he delivers a good old-fashioned ghost story. No gore or horror, just plenty of eerie happenings that deliver goose bumps, shivers and chills.

Maggie Holt has inherited Baneberry Hall, a house she and her parents fled in terror in the middle of the night when Maggie was five years old. She has no memory of the supernatural events that occurred in the house, but thanks to a best-selling nonfiction book her father wrote (think Amityville Horror) the whole world knows what took place during the twenty days her family lived there. Her life has been defined by “the Book” as she has come to think of it. Neither parent will talk about that time. Now, with the passing of her father, Baneberry Hall comes to her. The house has been uninhabited since the night her family fled, leaving all of their belongings behind. 

Maggie plans to renovate the house and sell it, but in the process, she is determined to discover what really happened during those twenty days and nights depicted in the Book. 

The story alternates chapters between Maggie’s POV in the present and chapters from the Book. The latter are told in her father’s POV and cover the supernatural happenings at Baneberry Hall.

Once again, Sager delivers a twisty page-turner. It’s difficult to say much about this one without giving away spoilers. I will mention that I loved the creepy ringing of room bells, the chandelier in the Indigo Room, and the session with the Ouija board. The ghosts—Mister Shadow and Miss Pennyface—are the definition of eerie, and the history of the families that occupied the house previously is played for massive goose bumps.

Numerous twists and turns near the end had me trying to pick up my jaw from the floor. As soon as I thought I was on firm footing, Sager yanked the proverbial rug out from under me again. This is mind-blowing storytelling at its best, especially if you are a fan of ghost stories that twist like a corkscrew and prickle your skin. Another stand out read from a stand out author!

Book Review Tuesday: A Mother for His Twins by Jill Weatherholt, Saving Parker by Dan Walsh @JillWeatherholt #christianromance #smalltownfiction

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Happy Tuesday! I have two books to share today, both in a similar heart-warming vein. Both of these authors were new to me, but you can bet I’ll be reading their work again. I’ve already snatched up more books from both. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I devour psychological suspense and thrillers, but every now and then, I want to lose myself in the pages of small town life with a fat HEA at the end. Both of these did the trick and then some!

BOOK BLURB:

She’d given up on having a family…until he made her feel right at home.

First-grade teacher Joy Kelliher has two new students—twin boys who belong to her high school sweetheart. If teaching Nick Capello’s sons wasn’t difficult enough, the widower’s also her neighbor…and competing for the principal job she wants. Now with little matchmakers drawing Joy and Nick together, can they overcome a painful past to build the family Joy’s always wanted?

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A heartwarming story about second chance romance, A Mother for His Twins ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a feel-good novel with a lovely HEA. Joy and Nick grew up together, falling in love in their teen years. They always knew they would be together until Nick’s family moved abruptly and Joy was cut out of his life.

Fast forward years later. Nick returns to his hometown, a widower with twin boys. The boys join Jill’s grade school class, quickly stealing her heart (and the heart of the reader). Meanwhile, Jill is vying for the position of principal at the school where she works, the only other applicant, Nick.

I don’t read a lot of romance, but I don’t really consider this story romance at the heart, so much as a tale of people finding their way back to each other. That journey is helped along by Nick’s boys, Joy’s sister and her niece, and the guiding touch of God. The story has a light Christian theme, twined with Hallmark-esque moments that will melt your heart. The characters suffer ups and downs, which make the eventual HEA all the sweeter. Both Nick and Joy have burdens in their past, secrets that present hurdles they need to overcome if they’re to recapture the love they once had. Factor in they’re both applicants for the same job, and the stakes rachet higher.

The writing is polished, the characters (even the secondary ones), beautifully defined. I breezed through the pages, enchanted by the author’s casual flair with handling the day-to-day challenges of her MCs. This is book 3 in a series, but it reads fine as a standalone. I enjoyed it so much, I immediately bought another after finishing. I’m smitten!

BOOK BLURB:

After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy’s terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he must do more. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free. Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell is hiding a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He suffered the same fate as a child. It’s the main reason he became a cop. But what can he do? When a near-death tragedy occurs, what role might Parker play in bringing these three lives together?

Dan Walsh is known for page-turning, character driven novels. Fans of Dan’s other novels, as well as dog-lovers everywhere will especially enjoy Saving Parker (and if they do, 3 more books are available in the Forever Home series, including Book 4, Keeping Bailey, the sequel to Saving Parker).

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is a heartwarming story built around Parker, a dog who gets a second chance at a forever home. Abused by his former owner, a drug dealer, Parker is rescued by Ned, a police officer. If you’re worried about animal abuse, don’t be. The neglect Parker endures happens before the story starts, which makes this about his learning to trust people again, and his journey to recovery.

Ned is a great character, strong, and l likeable. He decides to take a chance on fostering/adopting Parker, and through that decision connects with Kim, who works at an animal shelter. He also has new neighbors—a single mom and her sixth-grade son, Russell, who becomes a target for bullies at school.

The story shifts between Parker’s recuperation, Ned and Kim juggling emerging romantic feelings, and Ned helping Russell find a way to stand up to the bullies. There is nothing earth-shattering in the plot, just clean, wholesome feel-good entertainment. Think Hallmark with a light Christian theme. Although this is the third book in a series, it reads fine as a standalone. I got the impression some of the characters cross over from book to book, but I had zero difficulty following the story. If I hadn’t been aware beforehand, I wouldn’t even realize Saving Parker is book three in a series.

I enjoyed the humbleness and simplicity of the tale, to the extent that I plan to seek out other titles in this series. If you enjoy reading books about dogs, and a story that leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling, you’ll find Saving Parker enchanting.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur #literarysatirefiction

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Recently, a new book store opened up in my area—always a cause for celebration. They’re a discount seller, so they don’t have a huge selection per genre, but what they do have is very affordably priced and they have a nice variety. On my first visit, I picked up several novels in hardback, including The Garden Party. I seem to be hitting on a lot of unusual reads this year, and this one certainly qualifies!

BOOK BLURB:

A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in a sparkling social satire set over the course of a single day.

This enchanting novel takes place in Brookline, Massachusetts, where dinner in the garden is bringing together two families on the night before the wedding that should unite them. The families are not unfriendly but they are shy and leery of each other. The Barlows are a Wall Street Journal-reading family of lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, corporations and war crimes, golf and tennis. The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals, including a biologist who has studied why scorpions glow in the dark; a social activist who always needs rescuing; and a historian of the cooking of ancient Babylonian who is trying, while hosting the dinner party, to figure out whether Time is really shaped like baklava.

The novel begins with the Cohens brewing morning coffee and considering the work they will have to do to prepare their house and gardens for the dinner, and it ends, late that very night, after a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles. Over the course of the day, it becomes clear that neither family is more eccentric than the other.

Featuring an ensemble cast of exceptionally vivid characters ranging in age from three to the early nineties, Grace Dane Mazur’s wonderfully lyrical novel is an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I initially picked up this book because I was drawn by the gorgeous cover. Once I read the blurb, I was hooked and ready to crack the cover. I loved the idea of the story playing out over a summer evening with so many differing characters as players. Therein lies the charm and the problem. There are twenty-four people at the garden party, plus a cook and a butler. The author manages to juggle all of these personalities with skill. But although we get glimpses beneath the surface of each, the reader never experiences a deeper connection. Some appear as nothing more than sketches. Each, however—including the children—have a quirk or two that makes for a gathering of eccentrics.

Written in omniscient point-of-view, the book is divided into sections (Arrivals, Drinks, Dinner in the Garden, etc), rather than chapters. I was halfway through the second part before taking note of the structure as the story sucked me under from page one. It’s not a long book, just over 200 pages. Most of the scenes move rapidly but others are dense. I found much of the writing exquisite, appreciating the lyricism of descriptions and unique turns of phrase. Note this example:

Pindar had always felt that there was something fleeting about his daughter, even at twenty-four, as though she were a delicate contraption made of feathers and rubber bands and sails.

And this:

The stairs in the front hall creak as oaken floorboards talk to nails. Walls shift as the day’s warmth rushes out and coolness from the garden flows in to take its place. Couches exhale. In the attic, objects made of suede and velvet stir.

I finished the book in two days, finding myself reluctant to set it aside when other matters called. Were it not for the closing section/chapter this would be a five-star read for me. But all the build-up, all the shuffling of players and personalities, lives knitted together, and others undone toppled into “WTH?” in the final section. I’m not sure why the author chose to end the book as she did. Without a doubt this is a novel to generate book club discussions. I’m not sorry I spent time with the story, only sorry the ending fell flat.

Book Review Tuesday: Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams #psychologicalthriller

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I’m back! Hubby and I spent a long weekend in Virginia for a family wedding—a wonderful event that left us with many great memories. I’m so happy for my niece and her new husband, who are now enjoying a long, leisurely honeymoon.

For myself, I’m settling back into my regular routine which includes blog posts and visits. To start, I’m kicking off the week with a NetGalley review on a book that releases today. Taylor Adams blew me away with No Exit, his debut novel. To this day it remains one of my favorite reads, and a book I easily see myself devouring again. Requesting an ARC of Hairpin Bridge, his latest was a no-brainer. Surprisingly, I found this one difficult to review. You’ll see why below.

BLURB:

From the author of the “full-throttle thriller” (A. J. Finn) No Exit—a riveting new psychological page-turner featuring a fierce and unforgettable heroine.

Three months ago, Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, drove to a remote bridge sixty miles outside of Missoula, Montana, and jumped two hundred feet to her death. At least, that is the official police version. 

But Lena isn’t buying it.

Now she’s come to that very bridge, driving her dead twin’s car and armed with a cassette recorder, determined to find out what really happened by interviewing the highway patrolman who allegedly discovered her sister’s body.

Corporal Raymond Raycevic has agreed to meet Lena at the scene. He is sympathetic, forthright, and professional. But his story doesn’t seem to add up. For one thing, he stopped Cambry for speeding a full hour before she supposedly leapt to her death. Then there are the sixteen attempted 911 calls from her cell phone, made in what was unfortunately a dead zone.

But perhaps most troubling of all, the state trooper is referred to by name in Cambry’s final enigmatic text to her sister: Please Forgive Me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic.

Lena will do anything to uncover the truth. But as her twin’s final hours come into focus, Lena’s search turns into a harrowing, tooth-and-nail fight for her own survival—one that will test everything she thought she knew about her sister and herself…

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I loved Taylor Adam’s No Exit and counted it among one of my favorite reads when it was released, so it was a no brainer to request an ARC of Hairpin Bridge. Thank you NetGalley and Joffe Books for my ARC. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to devour it. Unfortunately, unlike No Exit, this wasn’t a homerun. 

Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, has committed suicide by jumping from Hairpin Bridge, an old suspension bridge located on a remote section of highway in Montana. Unconvinced her sister truly killed herself, Lena asks the cop who found her body—Ray Raycevic—to meet her and answer questions. The two eventually end up on the bridge where the bulk of the story takes place. 

The narrative alternates between the present, flashback sequences from Cambry, and blog entries and thoughts about Cambry from Lena. Had the story stuck with flashbacks and action in the present, it wouldn’t have floundered. I found the blog entries and Lena’s thoughts about her sister draggy and, at times, confusing. 

The book takes a while to get off the ground. There’s a lot of talking back and forth between Lena and Raycevic with nothing happening. And the near-constant use of first names between two people who had never met grated on my nerves. There was even a point I found myself skimming. 

And then . . .

The Taylor Adams novel I expected kicked in. From the moment a third party is introduced into the story, it’s a freight-train ride until the end. The second half is an anxiety-fueled rollercoaster brimming with twists, turns, and nail-biting action. I encountered things that repulsed me and things that had me on the edge of my seat. Part cat-and-mouse, part explosive confrontation, the conflict kept me glued.

As with No Exit, this book would make an exceptional movie (fingers crossed and hoping). The ending was stellar, tying up multiple threads along with a surprise I didn’t expect. Were it not for the slow start and the intrusive blog entries I’d give Hairpin Bridge 5 stars. As it stands, I’m going with 3.5 rounded up to 4 for review purposes. 

To read or not to read: READ!!! The last half makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

Release Date is Today | Purchase from Amazon

Book Review Tuesday: Cold Dark Night by Joan Hall #mystery #suspense @JoanHallWrites

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. Cold Dark Night is the first novel in Joan Hall’s Legend of Madeira series. It follows her recent novella prequel, House of Sorrow, but you needn’t have read that to enjoy her latest release. Cold Dark Night serves perfectly as a stand alone. For those who read House of Sorrow, you’ll be richly rewarded by how everything fits together in this enjoyable mystery that weaves past and present with author finesse.

BOOK BLURB:

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tami Montgomery and her husband, Jason, have just moved to Madeira, New Mexico where Jason has accepted the job as Madeira’s new police chief. They settle into an old Victorian home, which Tami soon learns has an interesting, disturbing history. Several of Madeira’s former police chiefs lived in the house and met with untimely deaths, more than one of them murdered.

As Tami delves deeper into trying to uncover the link between the deaths and her home, Jason has his hands full dealing with a rebellious officer, a string of burglaries, an officer-involved shooting, and the mayor’s interfering wife. There’s also the unexpected arrival of Jason’s estranged father, and the frightening dream visions of danger from Tami’s new friend, Abbey.

I loved the small-town setting of this novel. Hall does a great job of bringing Madeira vividly to life, not only in the present but the past as well. There are several chapters that give readers glimpses into characters from the 1800s, and how their lives will eventually impact what takes place in the present. The author weaves a tale of more than one unsolved murder, doling out clues like breadcrumbs. Another plot thread incorporates lunar folklore and how it may or may not factor into the murders. I especially enjoyed how Hall incorporated those threads into the story, tying everything together for a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line: Cold Dark Night is an intriguing mystery that includes all the elements that make for a page-turning read—wonderful characters, a multi-layered plot, historical elements, and folklore. And easy five stars!

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin, The End of Her by Shari Lapena @sharilapena #psychologicalfiction #domesticsuspense

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Today’s reviews include a new-to-me author (and wow, did she nail it!) and an auto-buy author. If you’re a fan of psychological fiction, you’re going to love these. Extra good news—both are are available now, so no waiting to read them!

BOOK BLURB:

I never meant to hurt anyone. All I want is a normal life with friends to call my own. People rarely notice me. Like a ghost, I’m sometimes tempted to rattle a window to get their attention. But tonight isn’t one of those occasions.

Seated alone in an exclusive restaurant I stick out like a bruise on the tender white throat of a lily. And I cannot believe it when, on my way out, I bump into my colleagues having a great time without me. At the center of it all is Celeste Cooper with her shimmering auburn hair and her billion-watt smile. She’s everything that I am not: fearless, pretty, popular.

When she drops her keys, I can’t stop myself. I scoop them up on impulse and hide them in my purse… and now Celeste is missing.

If only I’d called out to her, returned her keys, as I should have.

Wracked with guilt, I join the search, determined to make up for my mistake. But I feel I’m being watched. Is the secret past I have so desperately tried to hide catching up with me?

I know I have to save Celeste, no matter the cost. But if I keep digging, do I risk being dragged back into the dark forever?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was immediately sucked into this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I devoured it in a single day while reading poolside. If you enjoy psychological fiction this is a winner. 

Mia is a fade-into-the-background type of person who makes a bad judgement call when she childishly steals a pair of discarded keys. Celeste, the owner of the keys is a popular, attractive, social butterfly who hails from a wealthy family. When she doesn’t turn up the next day and is reported missing, Mia realizes she could be at fault for something dreadful happening to Celeste. If only she hadn’t taken her keys, Celeste wouldn’t have needed to walk home, making her a target for potential harm.

To atone for her mistake, Mia throws herself into the search for Celeste. In the process, she digs herself into a hole rife with trouble—including a suspicious detective, a potential stalker, an over-protective aunt, nosy reporters, and an odd and unexpected friendship with members of Celeste’s family. 

As with stories of this kind, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing about what is really going on and who is responsible for the string of circumstances that build like dominoes. As conflicted as Mia is, I enjoyed her character, especially seeing her growth over the course of the book. She discovers steel she didn’t know she had, digging into her own psyche as much as struggling to discover what really happened to Celeste. The unraveling of that final plot thread brings shocking revelations and a satisfying conclusion. 

This is an easy read with quick chapters and a writing style that makes it easy to lose yourself in the pages. This is my first book by Carey Baldwin, but it definitely won’t be my last. A solid 5-stars from me.

BOOK BLURB:

A long-ago accident–and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Stephanie and Patrick are parents of two young colicky babies, a situation that has exhausted them both. Even so, they’re managing, and their marriage is secure—at least until Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past shows up with disturbing allegations regarding the death of Patrick’s first wife.

Shari Lapena is one of my auto-buy authors. I especially loved her novels, An Uninvited Guest and The Couple Next Door. I found this book slow to get off the ground, but the deeper Erica forced her way into Stephanie and Patrick’s lives, the stronger the story became. The second half is especially good.

Throughout, it was easy to sympathize with Stephanie and feel her confusion on whether to put her faith in her husband or a stranger with entirely selfish motivations. As the story develops the reader gets a clearer grasp of Erica’s character and her past. The disruption she causes between Stephanie and Patrick takes multiple twists and turns. Lapena keeps the main mystery wrapped tightly until the final stages of the book which brought an ending I didn’t expect. So…slower at the start than I would expect from Lapena, but worth sticking with.