TOP FIVE MUST READS OF SUMMER 2018

Orange leaves, the smell of cinnamon & pumpkin, crisp cool mornings, warm lattes… sorry, am I getting ahead of myself here, or is anybody else excited for Fall to begin?!

With just a few weeks left of summer, I’ve decided to pick my top five reads that I’ve read during the sunny, hot days! I hope that you enjoy these reads too to end off your summer reading – I am left STILL thinking about them. Here we go…

5. ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily Giffin

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SUMMARY

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.
At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

OPINION

I remember opening this book on a hot July morning by the lake, and I completely devoured this in that ONE DAY. I loved it! Now, this is a fairly typical opinion because I am a huge Giffin fan. Once I read her novels Something Borrowed and Something Blue on my two month Morocco trip a few years ago, I had to go find every book Giffin wrote at my public library and read them all in a month. But this one may have to be my second favourite Giffin, right after Something Blue.

My favourite thing about Giffin’s writing is her ability to jump from character to character in each chapter to offer a fresh, and different perspective. This really gives you a chance as a reader to form an opinion about every character, and where you stand on what’s right or wrong. I couldn’t stop reading about the lives of Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Giffin was able to take a complex situation in modern day, and give a thought provoking intake!

I really do wish we were able to read from Finch & Kirk’s perspective. I think it would have added a refreshing take on a scenario that seems to be too common. Nonetheless, the way the situation/dialogue was written had me so captivated – I just wanted to keep reading it!
This is a great summer read by the beach!

4. THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy

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SUMMARY

Vanity Fair calls it one of the most anticipated books of the summer. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Scandal’s Kerry Washington.

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.
Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

OPINION

Ah, my favourite! A domestic thriller twisted with suspense. I loved this novel! It had everything I look for in a domestic thriller: dialogue between unusual, curious characters, a bizarre mystery, & a plot that made a full circle by the end – definitely caught me by surprise.
This was a book that was on my TBR the moment I saw it be announced, and it did not disappoint. This was another novel that I could not put down, and was completely immersed into the lives of the May mothers.

3. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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SUMMARY

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

OPINION

I know that this book is about a year old, so I am WAY behind! It was sitting on my TBR shelf for quite some time, and I don’t know what came over me to start reading. But I was really happy and thankful that I did! Definitely a different read than my usual mystery/suspense thriller, but it was just.so.GOOD. 

I was in awe! This book was wonderfully crafted, heart wrenching, and at times inspiring. I found Evelyn Hugo to be frustrating, yet endearing in some of the choices she made throughout her life. But… it must be so difficult having to live in the spotlight, with everyone in the world knowing every single thing about you. I couldn’t imagine not having any of my own privacy. I found myself at times having to remember that this is a fictional story – that’s how real and raw the dialogue and characters are! Easily one of my favourite books!

2. THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN by Dot Hutchison

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SUMMARY

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…

OPINION

So.. back to the mystery/suspense thrillers… this one may just be one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. I’m still sitting here thinking about it, trying to put my thoughts and feelings about this book into coherent sentences.

It was creepy, eerie, chilling, sad and beautiful. Hutchinson’s writing was unique, and while the story was written based on the victim, Maya’s retelling of her time in the Garden, it was wonderfully crafted. This book had me in chills, and at times tears on public transportation! This book messed me up in a good way. Maya retells the story of her time in the Garden, and she even gives the reader an in depth description of the “Gardner” and what he was like. And honestly, at times, the Gardner was humanized in a way where for a split second you actually feel bad for him. But then, you remember that he kidnaps young girls, tattoos butterfly wings on their back against their free will, and continues to do horrific things to them – all while taking care of them medically, nutritionally, and seeing them as his most prized possessions. I’m mad at myself for waiting this long to read this book, but it was so enjoyable with every page and chapter. I’ll definitely be getting the second and third book in this series!

*** This book does contain sexual violence that may be triggering to some readers.

1. I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK by Michelle McNamara

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SUMMARY

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” McNamara pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by McNamara’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

OPINION

It was really difficult choosing this or The Butterfly Garden as my number one.. but it’s been so long since I’ve read a good true crime novel, that this book easily takes the #1 spot.

Riveting, creepy, & a “look over your shoulder” descriptive writing had me captivated in this read. I’m in awe of McNamara’s writing…she is talented no doubt. Her passion for true crime, let alone the strange case of the Golden State Killer bled through her carefully chosen words, and writing. What started out as a true crime blog, has now become a popular, must read book about a real serial killer.

The way she was able to describe the GSK’s crimes and how some of the living victims described what they saw and heard when the GSK entered their homes sends a chill up your spine. “Little eyes, in the dark, watching you…” I can safely say that reading this was most definitely a journey.
At times, I did find myself a bit confused in terms of the quick change in chapters, and the amount of people working on this case. BUT – the fact that this was real, the victims are real, the actions perpetrated by this monster were real, makes the deliverance of this story all the more terrifying. This isn’t just another fictional story about a killer, or a plot surrounding some domestic suspense, this a real story with actual encounters and descriptions from living victims. 

I find McNamara to be so inspiring – and it’s so tragic that she passed away before seeing the horrific GSK actually being caught.. thanks to her amazing work.

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So bookies, there it is! My top five must reads of the summer! It was very difficult to choose, and I spent a lot of time thinking about why I chose each one.

Will you be picking any of these up? Let me know 🙂

Until next time bookies,

Sam

BOOK REVIEW – Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

RATING: 2/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: JULY 24TH 2018

With three best friends, a troubling past, and hurtful secrets, Girls Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke delivers an interesting take on what friendship should, and shouldn’t be.

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PLOT SUMMARY

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies? (goodreads.ca)

The book starts off in an intriguing way, and had me wanting to keep turning the page to see what would happen next. Each chapter was either before Ashley went missing, or after, and showcased the little details that would foreshadow the main plot of the book, and had each character give their own perspective. As the book continued on, you start to learn about why Ashley, Lauren and Natalie slowly began to drift away from each other, and why suddenly Ashley wanted them to come back together as friends.

But – by the time I reached the middle of the book, I began to find myself a little bit irritated at the three main characters. These three women were middle aged, married mothers, and rather than being somewhat mature regarding the problems in their friendship, they just really acted like young girls in high school. Although each of the characters have gone through terrible things, everything they said or done was childish, and unrealistic in a way. There wasn’t a sense of realism in these characters, but rather, it seemed that these characters prefered to drown themselves in drama and self pity. None of these characters had a speck of empathy for their friends, and just continued to fight with each other, and all those around them.

The plot was very interesting, and the premise of the entire book had me excited to finish the story and see how the mystery unravelled. But unfortunately, the characters ruin the book. The three women did not grow as the story progressed, they remained flat through the whole book. I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately found it disappointing.

Overall, I’d give this read a 5/10 stars. It had a great plot, and at times, a great dialogue between characters, but, the character development and just overall characters within the book were frustrating and childish.

Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke will be hitting stores on JULY 24th 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

BOOK REVIEW – The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

A man comes up to you and tells you that everything is “going to be okay”. That, “none of what is about to happen is your fault”. Do you run? Or do you fight?

Paul Tremblay is known for his novels like A Head Full of Ghosts, and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. His novels feature chilling, mysterious stories, with an almost supernatural element to them. But his newest novel, The Cabin at the End of the World is so well written, it may might actually be my favourite of his novels so far.

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PLOT SUMMARY

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”(goodreads.ca)

This was a whirlwind of a read in the two days that I read this book! Totally engrossing, thrilling, edge of your seat kind of novel.The descriptions, dialogue, and thought processes from the characters leave you wanting more of this terrifying & strange encounter, but also leaving you too scared to turn the page in fear of what might happen.

I think so many important themes were intertwined within this story and it’s characters, and it really opens up a discussion for faith, survival, hope and trust. It’s got that typical, what are the lengths you’d go to save your loved ones type of feel to it… but then it takes your heart, and stomps all over it. Wen, Eric and Andrew are such raw, relatable characters in the novel, that relating with them makes you feel even more paranoid once Leonard begins conversing with them. It’s hard to review this novel in fear of spoiling something – but by the end of the book, I felt almost exhausted from the paranoia and curiosity of the plot (in a totally good way).

A novel instilled with mystery, chilling dialogue, intense emotion, and paranoia, The Cabin at the End of the World is perfect for those that love a good thrilling story!

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay will be hitting stores on TOMORROW, June 26th, 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

 

BOOK REVIEW – All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire

ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS

RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: May 29th 2018

Do you remember your first love? That rushing feeling you get when you meet someone who understands everything about you, and is willing to support you through anything? All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire was a sweet story about young love, tenderness, but also has elements of mystery, darkness, and curiosity.

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PLOT SUMMARY

The first time Elliott Youngblood spots Catherine Calhoun, he’s just a boy with a camera, and he’s never seen a sadder and more beautiful sight. Both Elliott and Catherine feel like outcasts, yet they find an easy friendship with each other. But when Catherine needs him most, Elliott is forced to leave town.

Elliott finally returns, but he and Catherine are now different people. He’s a star high school athlete, and she spends all her free time working at her mother’s mysterious bed-and-breakfast. Catherine hasn’t forgiven Elliott for abandoning her, but he’s determined to win back her friendship…and her heart.

Just when Catherine is ready to fully trust Elliott, he becomes the prime suspect in a local tragedy. Despite the town’s growing suspicions, Catherine clings to her love for Elliott. But a devastating secret that Catherine has buried could destroy whatever chance of happiness they have left.(www.goodreads.ca)  

MY THOUGHTS

The book begins with a young Catherine Calhoun and her father in their backyard burying their poor dog. Catherine is crushed and heartbroken, along with her father, meanwhile her mother seems to be distracted by her own thoughts. With this, I was immediately drawn to the family dynamic within the Calhoun household – something seemed eerie, and curious about their nature.

Across the street, young Elliott Youngblood is staying with his Aunt for the summer and sees Catherine from across the street… and falls in love immediately. All he strives for is to get to know Catherine. I found this so endearing about Elliott as a character, and found myself rooting for him during all his thought processes since meeting Catherine. Fast forward a couple of chapters, and Catherine and Elliott become best friends, and he promises her he will come back every summer for her. By the end of that summer, Catherine is faced with a tragic situation, and Elliott leaves her behind – or so it seems. When Elliott returns, him and Catherine are both seniors in high school, and Elliott still determined to win her back.

But, beneath all of that… a mystery is brewing inside the Calhoun household, and Catherine is determined to keep it a secret from everyone.

That is probably my favourite part of the book since I’m an avid mystery genre reader. The way McGuire was able to intertwine aspects of teenage love and a mystery within a creepy, almost gothic-like household. Within the dialogue and character development throughout the book, you begin to wonder what exactly is going on with Catherine and her family, and how her life can possibly get better. Although it was mainly a love story between two strangers, which is outside my normal read – I really enjoyed this book! Catherine & Elliot we’re such relatable and endearing characters, and I enjoyed cheering them on throughout the book, and found it so interesting to see this mystery unfold.

If you enjoy reading mysteries, but also love the YA/love story genre, this book may just be for you!

You can find All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire in stores now!

MEET THE AUTHOR – Wendy Walker

What would it feel like to be in a constant competition with your sister and mother? Or struggling in a battle with your emotional memory?

Wendy Walker explores the topics of narcissism, judgement, and memory in her two novels, All is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night.

Emma in the Night is an eerie mystery surrounding the lives of Emma, Cass, and their mother – Mrs. Martin. The relationship the three share is strange to the say the least. For starters, Emma and Cass never call their mother “mom”, but call her by Mrs. Martin. Already there, a separation has been created between the mother and her daughters.

Mrs. Martin is probably the most interesting character in this story. She is a self-involved, narcissistic mother who is always creating some sort of competition between her and her daughters. 

One night, Emma and Cass leave their house, and are never seen again. Until three years later, Emma shows up without her sister… and so begins the investigation of what happened to Emma, and where in the world is Cass?

I loved this novel when I read it just a few short weeks ago. The irritating yet interesting mother, and her odd relationship with her two daughters was intriguing to me that I just wanted to keep on reading. I only wish there was a separate book dedicated to Mrs. Martin!

Wendy Walker was a former family law attorney in Connecticut, who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She’s edited multiple stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul before writing her debut psychological thriller All is not Forgottenfollowed by Emma in the Night. Her first novel All is not Forgotten, is being adapted by Reese Witherspoon and the Pacific Standard!

I was so excited to be able to ask Wendy Walker a few questions! Check it out below:

Who’s your favourite author?

 

I really don’t have one favorite. I love different books by different authors. Denis Lehane’s Mystic River, for example, was a favorite. And I really enjoyed AJ Flynn’s Woman in the Window this past year. 

Favourite book or genre to read?

 

I read mostly in the suspense genre to stay current and also because I am asked to blurb a lot of books! 

When was the moment you realized that you loved literature?

 

When I was in grade school and there was a reading contest over the summer. I was very competitive and read over a dozen books. I can recall understanding the feel a well-told story for the first time that summer. 

You were a former family lawyer and seem to have such an amazing educational background in law! What made you decide to start writing fiction novels – specifically, psychological thrillers?

 

I really wanted to do something that allowed me to spend time with children and decide how best to use my time. I knew I was a good story teller so I started writing!I wrote for many years before my agent suggested I try my hand a psychological thriller, and it turned out to be the perfect fit for my writing style and skills. 

What gave you the inspiration for your debut novel, “All is not forgotten”?

 

I read an article in the New York Times about memory science and how certain drugs were being used to alter the emotional component of traumatic memories in soldiers. The article suggested a possible use in civilian life and I immediately thought about the implications of this for survivors of crime. That became the basis of the novel.

How do you feel to see that your first novel is being adapted to the screen by Warner Bros and Reese Witherspoon?

 

It is incredibly validating to have people of that caliber interested in my work! 

I recently read your second novel, Emma in the night, and I loved the complex relationship between the two daughters and their mother – more specifically, I loved the theme of narcissism that you chose to tackle within your story. What made you pick that?

 

Having worked as a family law attorney, I learned a lot about personality disorders, including narcissism. I found it fascinating and knew it would make the perfect undercurrent for the novel. Most people don’t know about the fragile inner core that narcissists typically have, and it was my hope that I could bring this out in the book. 

I loved the ending in the novel, but I can’t help but think that there are so many more underlying issues within Emma’s character and psyche. Did you find it difficult having to wrap up the story?

 

Yes, of course! With a complex, twisted ending there are always many things to explain and wrap up. The final chapter is always the hardest because everything has to get pulled together so the reader does not feel confused or betrayed by the twist. 

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing your second book?

 

Not really. I write when my kids are out of the house. That’s it! I make myself sit down and utilize that time. I outline the plot and the chapters and have deadlines for completing them. If I didn’t do this, my days would be easily filed with a million small things that always need to be done! 

Can we expect any more books from you coming up?!

I just finished my third thriller. I love it and can’t wait until it comes out in 2019! 

Do you have any advice for young writers out there?

 

Keep writing. Take advice from people in the business. Don’t get stuck with a story that may not be right for the market if you are trying to write commercial fiction. Ego and pride can get in the way and lead you down dead end roads. So be smart about what you write and how you write it so that you can get past the gatekeepers and into the hands of readers!
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Thank you for your time, Wendy! We look forward to your new book in 2019!
Until next time bookies,
Sam A.

BOOK REVIEW – The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY

RATING: 5/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: May 29th 2018

A dysfunctional family, a quiet troubled protagonist, a mystery ensuing, and secrets revealing – these are the makings of Ruth Ware’s newest novel. Ruth Ware is famous for her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10 and her most recent, The Lying Game. Her novels portray strong, independent female protagonists that are challenged by mysteries and thrilling situations. But, The Death of Mrs. Westaway may be her best novel yet, and it’s most definitely my favourite Ware novel thus far.

PLOT SUMMARY

Harriet Westaway—better known as Hal—makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. On a day that begins like any other, she receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but she also knows that she can use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money.

Hal attends the funeral of the deceased and meets the family…but it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and that the inheritance is at the center of it… (simonandschuster.ca)

The book starts off with a 1994 diary entry from an unknown narrator. Shortly after, the first chapter begins and we are introduced to Hal. A quiet, black haired girl trying to live her life as best she can after experiencing a tragic loss. Immediately you can tell that Hal is lonely, troubled, confused and lost when it comes to her personal life. Couple of chapters later, Hal receives a letter stating that her grandmother has passed away and she is now entitled to a large inheritance. But how could this be? She has no family, and no friends – all she has are a mountain of bills, an unaffordable rent, and a dead end job. The novel continues with Hal wondering if this was a mistake – could this letter be for a different Harriet Westaway? Or should she bite the bullet, go to the funeral, and get that money to pay for her financial woes?

This may seem like I am giving away too much here, but that’s not the case!!! There is SO much more to this story. The characters introduced later on all have such unique personalities and histories, and the dialogue was as if it was straight from an Agatha Christie novel.

If you haven’t ever read an Agatha Christie novel.. firstly YOU SHOULD! And secondly, Christie tells her stories solely through dialogue between her characters. The dialogue holds a majority of the story, rather than the story being set by description or thoughts from the main character, and I think that is my favourite thing about Christie AND this novel!

I read this book on an eight hour flight, and I absolutely devoured it! I loved Hal as a protagonist, and I loved each character. This is the kind of book you want to keep reading just to find out more about these characters and how they came to be who they are. This novel had everything I looked for in a mystery – great dialogue, great characters, relatable protagonist, and family secrets!

If you are looking for a lighter suspense novel, that is bursting with family secrets and mysteries, then this novel is for you!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware will be hitting stores on MAY 29th 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this does not affect my views , opinions, or thoughts on this book.

BOOK REVIEW – Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

LET ME LIE BY CLARE MACKINTOSH

RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: March 13th 2018

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When you think about psychological thrillers, suspense, and strong female protagonists – Clare Mackintosh is one of the authors to come to mind. And I can say with 100% certainty that she does it again with her newest novel – Let Me Lie. I first read her second book I See You, not really knowing that it was her second novel – and I absolutely loved it.. but then I read her very first book, I Let You Go, and was obsessed… it quickly became one of my favourite reads of 2017.

Her newest novel, Let me Lie, definitely did not disappoint in comparison to her first two novels. Where the first books were more serious, and thrilling, this book was lighter in suspense – focusing on family secrets, betrayal, and self discovery.

PLOT SUMMARY

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie… (Goodreads.com)

 I will admit that I found it a bit slow at the beginning (it could be my horrible reading slump I’ve been in for the last month). The characters’ introductions were thought out, with a gradual build up for the plot. After a few chapters, the story began to pick up, and I became immersed in the world of Anna Johnson, and her need to solve what exactly happened to her parents. As the story began to pick up, the twists and secrets were so shocking to me. I thought I had the mystery figured out, but I was completely blindsided – and that is what I absolutely love about crime fiction. Again, this is a much lighter suspense than her previous novels, which is perfect for those that aren’t particularly interested in a full on crime mystery. It was so easy to get close to the protagonist thanks to Mackintosh’s brilliant writing that I found myself rooting for Anna by the end. Although Anna’s familial situation was incredibly interesting and shocking to read, we can’t forget about another character’s POV… Murray.

Murray is a retired police officer who eventually works for the police with a desk job. Anna approaches him and confides in him that she doesn’t believe her parents committed suicide. Of course with his history in the police force, he became interested in the case and decided to take matters into his own hands before letting the rest of the police squad know. Not only is Murray’s thirst for continuing his policing career interesting, it’s his love for his wife, Sarah, who is battling with mental illness, that is the most intriguing to the point where it is heartbreaking to read. Although I loved Anna as a character, I really loved reading Murray’s side of the story. I don’t want to go on and spoil Murray’s story, but it’s amazing the way Mackintosh has the ability to write a story about ordinary, relatable people, in an unusual situation. Anna and Murray both showcase different sides of what a person will do to protect their family… and they manage to do so while being completely ordinary, and relatable characters.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and Mackintosh didn’t disappoint in the slightest. I was worried at first as I found it a bit hard to get into… but once those chapters were rolling I couldn’t stop myself.

If you are looking for a lighter suspense novel, with a relatable, and reliable narrator, then this novel may be for you!

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh will be hitting stores on MARCH 13TH 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this does not affect my views , opinions, or thoughts on this book.

 

MEET THE AUTHOR – B.A Paris

Imagine being in a relationship where the outside is like a fairy tale, but the inside of it is like Hell on Earth. Or witnessing a potential crime and having the power to stop it, but you are slowly losing your memory and your mind…

A test of bravery, courage, and discovery of truth are both tried out in B.A Paris’ novels Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown

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I first read Behind Closed Doors last year not really knowing anything about B.A Paris. From the first chapter, even the first page, Jack and Grace pulled me into their obscure and somewhat dangerous world. Paris’ writing displayed the trauma Grace was facing, and the inhumane, yet heartbreaking mentality of Jake. This is one of those books that I just could not put down.

It followed a story of a couple – Jake and Grace who seemed to have the perfect relationship, the perfect house, and the perfect life. Was it true love? Then why are there bars on the bedroom window…

Then came The BreakdownCass is driving through a dangerous road in the middle of a storm, and witnesses a car on the side, with a woman in the driver’s seat. The same woman who showed up on the news the next day as a murder victim. Could she really have done anything if she stopped and helped the woman? And what about when Cass begins to forget the little things, like where she placed her keys, or what she had for dinner the night before? And eventually who she actually trusts?

I enjoyed The Breakdown much more than Paris’ previous novel simply because as a reader it felt like I was in the story – feeling the same feelings, and thinking the same thoughts – trying to figure out exactly what was going on. As I was reading through the novel, it really did feel like I, myself, was losing my mind and I couldn’t distinguish what was real and what wasn’t in the book. The writing was enthralling that once again Paris’ created a story that you could not back away from.

These two novels quickly made me a B.A Paris fan and I was a tad disappointed that I had to wait for her newest book to come out – Bring Me Back – set to release March 8th 2018. 

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A novel set around a young British couple who are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns, her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside… no one ever sees her again.
Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is his past. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

Sounds like an engrossing story, right?

I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to ask B.A Paris herself a few questions! Check it out below:

Who’s your favourite author?

I don’t have one, I have many, far too many to list here!

Favourite book or genre to read?

Again, I couldnt possibly choose a favourite. I have lots of favourite books – whenever I’m asked, it often depends on my mood at the time – and I like most genres, except horror and sci-fi.

I first read your book “Behind Closed Doors” about a year ago, and it was a book that I could not put down! Because of the complexity of the characters, and the uncertainty of what is happening plot wise, I was constantly on the edge of my seat (in a good way). What inspired you to write this book?

Some years back, I had a friend and her husband seemed to be very controlling.  I thought it would make a good subject for a book but it turned out much darker than I thought it would.

Where did you get the inspiration for characters like Jack and Grace?

From my imagination! I’m very glad I don’t know anyone like Jack.

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing “The Breakdown”?

My writing process didn’t change as such but it was a very different experience. With Behind Closed Doors I had no expectations of it being published, so I was writing for myself. With The Breakdown, I was writing for all those who had enjoyed behind Closed Doors, so there was a certain pressure to deliver the same kind of reader experience.

In the past you worked in finance and we’re also a teacher – what drew you to become a writer? More specifically, a fiction writer?

I always wanted to write but I thought I would write stories for children. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a novel until one of my daughters persuaded me to try.

Have you set any reading or writing goals for 2018?

Yes, to finish Book 4, which will be another psychological thriller. There are also another couple of writing projects I’ll be working on. My reading goal would be to get through my TBR pile or to read all the Game of Thrones books – but I doubt Ill ever achieve either!

What can we expect from your new novel, “Bring me Back” set to be released next month?

Bring Me Back tells the story of Finn, whose girlfriend disappeared from their car one night and was never found. Twelve years later, Finn begins to receive signs that she may still be alive – and has to confront his past.

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

Yes – never, ever give up. And that applies to older aspiring authors too! If I can do it, anyone can.

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Thank you for time B.A Paris – looking forward to your third novel in March!

Until next time bookies,

Sam

 

MY TOP 10 READS OF 2017

On a goal of reading 25 books for the year, I managed to read 55 amazing books!

I’ve always been an avid reader, since I can remember. But, as I entered the final years of high school, and went on to study English Literature in University, my reading for pleasure began to go downhill… and wow did I miss it! After finishing school, I decided to set a goal for 2017 and read 25 books.

With all the books I have read this year, I’ve decided to narrow it down to my top ten of the year… hopefully among this list, you’ll find a great book to read!

Let’s begin…

10. The Breakdown by B.A Paris

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This past year continued to shine in books with strong female protagonists that are involved in a mysterious crime, and by the end of the book, a surprise twist catches you off guard. This book definitely falls into that category in a good way. This was an addictive read! I remember finishing this in one sitting – I could. not. stop. This story follows a woman named Cass, who is driving home in the middle of the night in a terrible rain storm, on a road where she promised her husband she wouldn’t drive on. As she is driving by, she sees a car on the side of the road, with someone in sitting in the driver’s seat. The next day, Cass finds out that a woman has been killed… the woman she drove by just the night before. As Cass begins to question her actions (or lack thereof), she slowly begins to feel like she is losing her mind… 

Cass is such a troubled character, but I absolutely loved reading her story. As I continued reading, I began to feel like I knew what Cass was going through. It was as if she was stuck in a prison of her own mind, and she had no way to escape. I won’t continue on because I don’t want to spoil the story for any potential readers, but if you enjoyed Gone Girl, or Girl on the Train,  this book will not disappoint those cravings!

9. Lie to Me by J.T Ellison

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THIS. BOOK! Wow, this book is definitely one of my favourites of the year. This book is a story about Sutton and Ethan – a couple that seem to have everything that anybody could want in a relationship and in life. But, behind closed doors, as tensions mount between Sutton and Ethan, Sutton disappears. Of course, the prime suspect is her husband, Ethan. Ethan finds himself the target of all the gossip surrounding the disappearance of Sutton, and as police continue to investigate, they begin to unravel the truth of Sutton and Ethan’s relationship.

Ellison’s writing is brilliant and I love how she was able to offer so much detail in order to really understand the character. The plot line was well thought out – but I think my favourite part of the book is how in depth, and complicated each character is. They are all so troubled and there are so many secrets. From the first page to the last, I couldn’t stop reading about the lives of Sutton and Ethan. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellison on my blog in September which you can read here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/09/14/interview-with-j-t-ellison/

8. The Child by Fiona Barton

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THIS WAS SO GOOD!!! (I feel like I’m saying that a lot). Fiona Barton is just brilliant. This novel begins with the demolition of a old building site, and a construction worker comes across a small skeleton.. a skeleton belonging to a baby. Kate Waters, an investigative journalist begins immersing herself with the case to find out who is the baby and what happened to it..

The plot is so complex and intertwined with so many ideas, that you really don’t know how it’ll end. Not to mention how raw and real the main characters are. I love that Barton used each chapter as a perspective from each character – it was so interesting to see what they thought. Emma and Jude have a very interesting relationship that at times made me uncomfortable because of Barton’s amazing writing and dialogue.

I was ecstatic to be able to interview Fiona Barton this year for my blog, which you can read here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/10/12/meet-the-author-fiona-barton/

7. The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

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An amazing read by Atwood! Her other books were definitely challenging and more dry, but this narrative was particularly interesting in terms of the Republic of Gilead and what exactly happened to modern society for women to be stripped away of all their freedoms. The protagonist Ofred was relatable, and quite endearing. There were points where I got a little bit scared by the end, because of the setting Ofred is in, and how one little move by any woman, can threaten their life. It’s really interesting to compare this story with what’s going on around the world when it comes to equality amongst genders – especially this year. To top it off, after reading this book, I did watch the television adaption, and it stays so true to the novel, but still expanding on the world of the Handmaids. Atwood has done an amazing job taking modern society and twisting it into something that we wouldn’t imagine happening, but still is so realistic to read.

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Different from my regular reads this year, but it’s an important story to read especially with everything going on in America between now and the last few year. It’s a heavy focus on racism, stereotypes, class divides and oppression. You hear about police brutality in the news almost every week, but it was SO interesting to actually read a story, and read a witness’ side and get a glimpse of their thoughts and feelings. I really liked Uncle Carlos as a character because he embodied both sides of black and white – at first he was a symbol of the “grey” areas in certain scenarios, but his true colours shined when he stood up for what was right. This was a really good read, and honestly I’d recommend it to EVERYONE – it’s an eye opener.

5. Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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I absolutely love this series! A story about a wizard detective named Harry Dresden, who within each book, gets stronger and his powers and loyalty are constantly tested. There are 15 books in the series so far, and a 16th one hopefully to come out soon! I’ve read 12 books so far within the series, and I’d have to say the 12th book, Changes, is my favourite of the series. From the first page until the last, Dresden goes on a wild ride which tests his loyalty, patience, and strength as a wizard and as a human. Think of this series as a more “mature” Harry Potter series – but with more mortal interactions within the books! Such a good series, and I’m looking forward to reading the next 4!

4. White Bodies by Jane Robins

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Okay, this book took me completely off guard.. in a good way! This novel follows a story about twin sisters and their odd, and complicated relationship. Tilda was always seen as the prettier, popular one throughout her childhood, and as she becomes an adult, finds herself involved with a man named Felix. Everything seems amazing on the outside with these two, but of course, there are secrets behind closed doors. Tilda’s twin sister, Callie, notices Tilda shrinking under Felix’s domineering love. 

This book was a great psychological thriller! During the first half of the book I really didn’t know where it was going with it’s characters and plots… but the way Robins was able to tie everything together in the end was perfect. Tilda and Callie have such a complicated, and odd sibling relationship, and even stranger personalities as characters themselves. I would’ve loved to read a bit from Tilda’s perspective, but Callie is equally as interesting. Overall a great read, and once again, a book I’d recommend to any psychological thriller fans out there!

3. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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This is hands down my favourite John Green book. There was a lot of hype around this one, so I was a bit reluctant to get it, but I caved – and I am SO glad I did. This books is about a 16 year old girl who tries to take matters into her own hands with her best friend Daisy when billionaire Russell Pickett goes missing.

I absolutely LOVE the protagonist Aza. She’s genuine and real, and Green perfectly captures what anxiety feels like through Aza. I’ve related so much to this wonderful story and all of its characters, and have even found some new favourite quotes. I honestly don’t think I have anything bad to say about this book. All I can say is, pick this up if you want to understand the mind of someone who lives with anxiety everyday.

2. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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I read this just over a week ago, and it’s definitely one of my favourite thrillers. To say this was a good book is a complete understatement. This novel begins with a tragic accident – a young boy runs across the street, and gets hit by a car. The driver unfortunately drives away, and the boy is dead. The boy’s mother tries to cope with the sudden accident, and her past begins to creep up on her as well.

From the first page, the story immediately hooks you and gets you feeling guilty, sad, and angry for the poor little boy. As the novel continues, each of the characters continue to grow – I loved the character development in the characters, especially Jenna. Reading this book felt like I was sitting on the edge of my seat, and it was as if I was the woman in the story. Mackintosh’s writing is so personal and realistic that at times you forget you’re reading a book.

Now.. my FAVOURITE read of 2017 is…

 

1. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie

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I am a HUGE fan of murder mysteries/detective stories. Ever since I was little I would stay up very late either reading a Nancy Drew story, or writing a detective story of my own. The fact I never read an Agatha Christie novel until this year is SO SAD to me! I have missed out on so much!! This novel is probably one of the most popular stories out there, following a detective named Hercule Poirot who rides the Orient Express.. and in the middle of the night, one of the passengers is found dead. It’s up to Poirot to find out who is the killer among the train.


I really enjoyed this book! From the first page, I knew I’d be hooked – Christie’s writing is unique, in which she is able to perfectly showcase every characters’ personality without having to write a giant descriptive paragraph. I loved the fact that the majority of this book is based purely on dialogue – which gives a real feel of what each of the characters are like. I have a huge admiration for Hercule Poirot after this book! He’s witty, smart, and a different kind of detective compared to other crime or murder mystery books I’ve read! I’d definitely say that this is one of my favourite books.. and I am SO excited to read it again and dissect it a bit more and try to solve the crime on my own ;).

The year of 2018 is definitely going to be a year full of Agatha Christie novels!

I hope my top ten reads of 2017 was somewhat helpful if you are looking to indulge in a really good book!

Along with my top ten reads, there are a few books I’ve read this year that still deserve an honourable mention:

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Child Finder by Rene Denefeld 

(Check out my interview with her here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/10/04/meet-the-author-rene-denfeld/)

The Party by Robyn Harding 

(Check out my interview with her here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/09/07/the-party-with-robyn-harding/)

and

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

This was a great year, full of great books and the launch of my book blog! I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished this year, and I’m looking forward to the great reads and interviews 2018 will bring!

Meet the Author – Gale Massey

Imagine being called by your loved one for help… to dispose of a dead man’s body.

What would you do?

In Gale Massey’s debut novel, The Girl From Blind River, nineteen year old Jamie Elders must help her Uncle Loyal dispose of a man’s body, and help her Uncle cover it up. Things begin to get more terrifying when her Uncle decides to pin the murder on Jamie’s younger brother, Toby. Trying to to deviate away from her family’s reputation of liars, cheaters, thieves and convicts, Jamie needs to prove her brother innocent with a detective on her trail, and her inner criminal begging to come out..

A coming of age story set in the depths of a small town where illegal corruption and gambling ensue, Jamie Elders has to prove herself and clear her family’s name.

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Gale Massey’s stories have appeared in several different outlets including: the Tampa Bay Times, Sabal, Connotation Press, Seven Hills Review, and Walking the Edge. She’s been a Tennessee Williams Scholar at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a Standiford Fellow at Writers in Paradise. She is also the author of the booklet Grief-reminders for healing. The Girl From Blind River is her debut novel set to release July 10 2018.

In anticipation of her new novel, Gale kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her writing process and upcoming book:

Who’s your favourite author?

My reading preferences seem to change every few years. When I was in my twenties I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie. In my thirties Barbara Kingsolver wowed me. Annie Proulx, Daniel Woodrell, Elizabeth Strout, and  Marilynne Robinson fed my soul for several years. It seems these days though, I’m interested in reading debut novels. Along those lines I’m falling for voices like David Joy and Emma Cline.

Favourite book or genre to read?

I prefer grit and realism. Having grown up in a fairly impoverished town I like stories about rising from nothing and those usually involve a fair amount of grit and striving at basic levels of existence. Where All Light Tends to Go and Winter’s Bone are two of my most cherished reading experiences.

You’ve had some works published in newspapers, how was the change from newspaper writing to novel writing?

Writing human interest stories for the newspaper was key in developing writing skills. Getting published allowed me to know a few things. First, that I had something to say that interested other people. Second, what it feels like to have thousands of readers. It can be a scary thing but I got used to it pretty fast.

Where did you draw your inspiration from for your new novel?

Inspiration for The Girl From Blind River came from the difficult choice writers sometime face. I’d given up on a novel I’d been working on for several years. I was empty and feeling very down about it. I had the feeling that I’d run through all my good options and was at a dead end with my writing. This is how my main character Jamie Elders starts out in the book. Then a mentor suggested that I read The Queen’s Gambit. That book opened up so many possibilities for what a character can be put through and still rise. At the same time I was just beginning to learn about poker and Jamie started taking shape. Jamie is an impoverished girl with no options other than mad poker skills. It’s like that with some books. A character with so many possibilities appears in your psyche and you run with it.

Did you always see yourself becoming a fiction writer?

Someone recently asked when I knew I was a writer. My immediate answer was that I never knew that. I saw the power of words as a child, not that I read very much, but stories touched me and everyone around me. It’s why we went to church every Sunday, to hear stories. So I always knew I wanted to become a writer but it was and continues to be something I work very hard toward claiming for myself.

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

Of course. I’m a hundred pages into a story about a young woman on the professional poker circuit. This novel explores the difficulties of being young and female and excellent at a craft but working within a male dominated field. There are obvious parallels to be drawn in our culture right now but being female in a patriarchal world has interested me since I was a child. I’d like to see girls grow up in a more fair minded world.

Any advice for young aspiring writers?

First of all, there are legitimate new writers of every age who need encouragement. My first advice is age old: READ. Read a lot. When you find a book that blows your mind dissect it. Find critiques that explain the book on a structural level and contemplate it. Find characters that you relate to on a soul level and seriously investigate why that character moves you. If you’re lucky enough to come across a teacher that gets you or what you’re trying to achieve, pay close attention. I could not have created this book without the many generous teachers and writers I’ve come to know. And persevere through the thousands of large and small disappointments that you’ll encounter along the way. And always, always celebrate the milestones.

 

Gale Massey’s debut novel, The Girl From Blind River is due out in July 2018 by Crooked Lane Books. Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group provides literary representation.

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Thank you for your time Gale – looking forward to your debut novel!