BOOK REVIEW – An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

AN UNWANTED GUEST

RWS RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 7TH 2018

READ IF YOU LIKE: 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

 

A quiet hotel in the midst of Winter, contrasting personalities put together, and murderous events happening over the course of a weekend makes up this chilling and suspenseful murder mystery by Shari Lapena. Lapena is known for her novels, The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House – a mixture of dialogue with strange, unique characters, and mysteries that keep you guessing until the very end of the book. But, An Unwanted Guest is most definitely her best novel yet.

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PLOT SUMMARY

A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away
It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.
Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm. (www.goodreads.com)

OPINION

This book would be the perfect winter read…cozying up by the fire, while it’s storming outside, and trying to figure out a puzzling mystery within this book. I loved the Agatha Christie vibe throughout this entire book. When I say that though, it’s got a more And Then There Were None type of feel. A bunch of strangers are together during a certain amount days, and slowly, one by one, a guest gets murdered.

When I first heard of Shari Lapena, it was November 2016, and I got her first book, The Couple of Next Door as an early Christmas gift. I devoured that book so quickly. And by quickly I mean I literally finished it in about seven hours because I was just dying to know how this baby went missing. The Couple Next Door had a lot of dialogue – more of “he said” then “she said” type of dialogue, which at times, began to get hard to read and a bit repetitive with no proper flow to the story, or the characters.

But this book has shown how much her writing has grown and flourished since her first one. Shying away from the “he said, she said” type of dialogue, Lapena carefully crafted together the dialogue between characters that made the book flow together perfectly! Page by page, chapter by chapter, I was eager to find out who was behind the murders, and by the end, Lapena did deliver and surprise with the big murder reveal.

The one thing I do wish this novel had was a bit more character background. I loved how each chapter had a different character telling their perspective and feelings, and some of those characters were so interesting, that I just wanted to read more about them!

An Unwanted Guest had themes of human survival and instinct, complex characters, and an incredible mystery!

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An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena is in stores 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 – Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

RATING: 4/5 STARS

CANADIAN RELEASE DATE: SEPT 4TH 2018

A heartbreaking read of revenge, justice, and the love of community. Backman’s Us Against You, the sequel to his highly acclaimed Beartown, is so well written, that the characters stay with you forever. Fredrik Backman is known for his novels like A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologies, and of course, Beartown. Fredrik Backman’s writing in his novels are so unique, that the characters are relatable to the reader, and the events that take place in his books are almost like they are true events.

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PLOT SUMMARY

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent. (Goodreads.com)

MY REVIEW

Backman is an incredibly talented writer, & that reigns true through each sentence of this book. Every character is carefully thought out, rounded, with ample growth shown throughout the book, not to mention they are mixed in with such an intense plot that leaves you wanting more.

Benji and Amat are probably the two most real, and heartbreaking characters within the book. Benji is an 18 year old boy, who’s best friend committed such a horrific act, left town, and now Benji is left to discover who he is and what he stands for. Benji is quiet, and so misunderstood, that he doesn’t even understand himself at times. But, I think that’s what makes him so endearing as a character, and so relatable. Amat is a 16 year old with such a profound love for hockey, but an even more intense love for his mother, and the search for truth and justice. Amat is a character that completely represents the right in a right or wrong situation, and even when the rest of the world is against him, he rises to the occasion with bravery. Both these characters in this book are so admirable on so many levels, and I think they both gave this book such depth.

It’s hard to review such an amazing book like this without giving anything away.. but all I can really say is that I was literally hooked from the first page, and with the dialogue between these interesting people residing in Beartown, I just couldn’t put it down.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman is now available everywhere at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

MEET THE AUTHOR – Sara Blaedel

Detective Louise Rick at your service…

A world of missing persons, murders, and dangerous secrets come to play in Sara Blaedel’s novels with Detective Louise Rick at the centre of it all. 

Sara Blaedel is well known for her famous #1 international best selling detective series, featuring the character Louise Rick – originally a rookie homicide detective in Copenhagen, who quickly becomes enthralled with strange cases of all kinds. Blaedel’s novels are what most would categorize as nordic noir – a genre of books set in the Icelandic countries. Before writing her most famous novels, Blaedel wanted the genre of nordic noir to expand in popularity, and thus launching her own publishing company Sara B, to give those novels a chance to be seen and read.

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Blaedel’s success and talent does not go unnoticed – winning Denmark’s most popular novelist for the fourth time. She is also a recipient of the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award.

The genre of nordic noir always intrigued me – was it the icy, snowy setting? The intense dialogue between detectives, police, and suspects? The talented writing from Icelandic authors? Or could it be my favourite type of stories set in a world that I have not seen or discovered for myself?

I was so excited and honoured that Blaedel was able to come on RWS and answer a few questions! Check it out below:

Who’s your favourite author?

I am such an impassioned reader and book lover.  I’ve been reading for nearly as long as I can remember and have devoured works of all genres.  I hold so many authors in the highest esteem, and while I couldn’t possibly point to one single writer, I do have many favorites.  To name a few, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, and the Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdsdottier are brilliant storytellers whose imaginations captivate and rivet.  I’m always waiting excitedly for their new releases.

Favourite book or genre to read?

The answer to that question very much depends on my mood. Some days, a deliciously humorous story is just what I crave; other times, I’ll hungrily dig into non-fiction. Most often, though, I’ll have an engrossing and provocative work of crime fiction in my hands. I have always been a devoted and obsessive fan of suspense.

When was the moment you realized that you loved literature, more specifically, crime fiction?

That moment goes all the way back to my childhood. I fell madly in love with “The Famous Five,” by the incomparable Enid Blyton. Mysteries for children- how ingenious. I found it exciting and positively thrilling to get involved; to work to solve the cases.  I’ve been hooked ever since. It was truly love at first sight.

What inspired you to open your publishing company, “Sara B”?

It was long before we experienced a crime fiction wave in Scandinavia, so the now explosively hot genre was not particualrly popular. But I was already a devotee- I wanted more, more, more availability and fabulous new titles.  So, my idea was to publish the novels in paperback and get them out everywhere. At that time, it was more common to publish all new books expensively, in hardcover. But I wanted to give people compelling and entertaining stories, reasonably.  Before that, only trashy novels were so affordable.

After opening your publishing company, what drew you to write your own novel that was published in 2004?

Actually, I no longer had my publishing house by the time I started write myself – stupid me! That surely would have been a better business model. I ran my press for 5 years, but also worked as a journalist,  It wasn’t until years later that the first story concept came alive in my head. And I think it all ultimately worked out perfectly. It’s been far better for me to have amazing teams to work with than it would have been to write and publish my own books.

What gave you the inspiration for the character, Louise Rick?

Louise emerged and came to life in my head. I did not plan it – or her. When she first spoke to me, I thought she was a journalist like I was, but then I realized that no; she had a different path.  She blossomed into a homicide police detective in Copenhagen. To be perfectly honest, for a long time I was really just telling myself a story; I had no idea that it would end up in a book. It started on a ”what if” note,  but at some point I grew really curious and started to do some research. And then it hit me- I knew that I was working on my first book.

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

It didn’t.  I was still working as a journalist when I started writing the second as I’d done all throughout the first, but after the publication, I was able to quit my job and become a full- time writer.  Which meant I didn’t have to ”work” in the evenings and all weekend anymore. I felt (and still do) so incredibly lucky and filled with gratitude that readers discoverd and took a chance on me so quickly.  What an honor!

Would you ever write a novel in a different genre?

No, I don’t think so. But, as they say: never say never. Because so much of the process is born from the stories that appears in my head, I can’t really predict. Early on, I wrote biographies. But crime fiction, suspense, and mysteries- well, those are the genres which inspire and motivate me now.  And quite likely always will.

Can we expect any more books from you coming up?

Ohhhh yes! For now I have nine Louise Rick novels and a trilogy about Ilka Jensen who inherits a funeral home in Racine, Wisconsin. I have just finished the third and last book in that series, and I’m so excited- can’t wait to share them all with my readers. And the next book coming up will be a new Louise Rick novel.  I so look forward to spending some time with her again.

Do you have any advice for young writers out there?

For me, the most important step is getting to know my characters before I start writing in earnest. I create them intensively and with depth.  I create background stories and full personalities, so I really feel that I know them; that they are true beings who exist and breathe air. I must hear and get their distinct voices so that they can talk roots and inhabit me.  I cannot write them if I don’t believe they are alive and kicking.

I love when my characters take over – and then, I can also get annoyed when they take too much over.  The whole process is complicated and wonderful! When I write, it feels like a movie playing out in my head, for my eyes only.  I am the person with her fingers on the keyboard, making decisions that feel organic and authentic (that is what I endeavor to do).  I tell myself the stories first, and then grow and build them to share with my amazing readers.

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Without a doubt, Blaedel is one of the most interesting, and talented suspense thriller authors out there. With her dedicated passion for nordic noir novels, I am sure that genre will continue to flourish in popularity more than it is now!

Thank you Sara Blaedel for coming on RWS to chat with me!

Blaedel’s newest novel The Daughter, will be available in store AUGUST 28th 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

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author-sara_blaebel

https://www.sarablaedel.com

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

allweeverwanted

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

perfectmother

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 – 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.

 

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.

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

 

Interview with Author Bobbi French

FINDING ME IN FRANCE

4/5 STARS

A few years ago, I spontaneously decided to travel to Italy and live there for 4 months. I don’t know exactly what came over me, but I was determined to do it, and determined to do it alone. I spent four months travelling on my own – living mainly in Torino (northern Italy), and making my way to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, the mountains, and even a trip to Lyon, France. Sure, it was lonely at times, but I don’t think I would change the experiences I had for anything else.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I loaded up my Kobo with a bunch of books to keep me preoccupied on my flight to London, England, and of course, throughout my stay in Italy.

I managed to visit Dante Alighieri’s house in Florence, and even saw the exact room, desk, and chair he used to write his infamous Dante’s Inferno – one of my favourite books of all time! It felt so surreal being around so much history.

Then, I made my way to Venice, and visited Harry’s Bar, where Ernest Hemingway spent a majority of his time writing – of course, I had to take a shot of espresso and work on writing of my own – Hemingway style.

With all of the travel, I still managed to find time to get reading done. Everyday I’d visit a new cafe in the streets of Italy, and read a book. One of the books that inspired me on my trip was Finding me in France by Bobbi French. This was a story about a Canadian woman who decided to let go of everything she knew in North America, and move to the country side of France with her husband.

I remember walking the streets of Florence with French’s book in hand – and I can’t think of a happier moment than that.

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Luckily, Bobbi French graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions!

 Bobbi,

What is your favourite book? Oh my, that’s a tough one. I read well over a hundred books a year. I don’t think I could ever pick just one but The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields is up there as well as The History of Love and Middlesex. And I had a great time reading The Rules of Civility. I like so many, so it always depends on what I’m after in the moment. 

Favourite Author? 

Again, killer question. Maybe Carol Shields, her work is so arresting and real. 

In your book, “Finding me in France”, you left a familiar, Westernized life to go live in the outskirts of France with your husband – what drew you to this decision? 

Many things really—having lived such a structured life, college then med school then residency, straight into a big career in psychiatry with no real break to explore the world; an interest in other cultures and languages and a husband who had lived around the world; being in my early 40s, knowing that if I didn’t make a move, I’d turn around and fell like I’d missed the chance to do something interesting and unexpected and creative. So, all those factors worked together to lead me to decide to shake up my life and see what happened. It was quite an adventure.

Are you still living in france now?

No, I am back in Canada, have been for a while. For now, I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia near my husband’s family and our friends, but who knows what lays ahead.

Of all the European countries you could’ve chosen to live in… why France?

Well, why not France, right? The wine alone is enough to draw anyone in. But really it was far less romantic and magical than it seems. My husband, Neil, and I had vacationed in Burgundy where we met some folks who were looking for help with their vacation property business ( and yes, I did work briefly as a cleaning woman). Neil spoke fluent French, the health care system is excellent, and so on. So, a beautiful place to start but also some practical benefits as well. The book details the decision pretty well I hope.

What is your favourite memory of living in France?

Oh, so many. A bonfire lunch with new friends in the countryside; a magical French and Russian candlelit poetry reading in a small bookstore in our village, Semur-en-Auxois; the smell of the chestnut fires in the fall; standing in the sun in the vineyards of Champagne; our neighbour’s small children calling over the fence for me to come play with them in the morning; wandering the streets of Paris at night. We have so many wonderful moments from our time there that it’s impossible to choose one over the others.

Are you working on another book?

Yes! I just finished a novel. I’ve never written fiction before, so I have no sense if it works or not. It has a similar voice to mine that’s found in Finding Me in France. Whether that works in fiction, well, we’ll see.

After publishing Finding me in France, did your writing process change at all?

Well, before Finding Me in France (the blog and the book), I’d never written anything apart from prescriptions, so I often have trouble seeing myself as a true writer. I’m more of a doodler and a storyteller, maybe it’s the same thing, I don’t know, so I’m not sure I’ve ever had a process. I can say that for both Finding Me in France and the novel, I simply sat at my laptop and tapped out whatever was in my head. Then I went back over it and picked away at it until I liked it or I felt I just couldn’t make it ay better. t do find that reading what I write out loud to someone, usually poor Neil, is incredibly helpful.

Do you have any advice for any young aspiring authors out there?

Hmm. Okay, maybe two things. One, read. Read anything and everything, different genres, books from different cultures and writers with vastly different perspectives. Get inspired and informed by the work of others, expose yourself to the full breadth of language and voice and style. And two, sit down and bang it out. If you start something, give it a middle and an end then revisit it. I always think just finishing something is a major achievement. 

You can follow Bobbi’s adventures on her website at: http://www.findingmeinfrance.com

Interview with J.T Ellison

What if your favourite person in the world, wasn’t who they say they are? What if that person disappeared, turning your life upside down?

From New York Times Best Selling Author, JT Ellison, comes her newest novel, Lie to Me which was highly anticipated amongst crime/thriller readers. While staying true to the theme of domestic noir and a psychological thriller, Ellison’s Lie to Me explores the story of two troubled, complex personalities who are intertwined in a complicated relationship with each other. To add to the intensity of the story – an unnamed character narrates a few short chapters, describing their feelings of revenge, and violence leading to wonder who that narrator actually is.

Ethan and Sutton Montclair are a good looking, rich artistic couple that face an emotional roller coaster of events throughout their relationship… which led to Sutton Montclair disappearing overnight. Ethan is the centre of gossip from friends and family… is he one to blame? Or is he innocent?

 

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J.T,

To start things off simply, what is your favourite book?
I can’t pick just one. I love OUTLANDER, REBECCA, everything by J.K. Rowling, Hills Like White Elephants (I know that’s a story, but what can I say, it’s stunning!)

Favourite writer?

Hemingway, Gabaldon, Harkness, Maas, Silva….. again, too many to count.

You have written multiple novels now and are considered to be looped in the genre of domestic noir and psychological thrillers… where do you find the inspiration for these kinds of stories?

Everywhere. Inspiration is yours for the taking out in the world. Books, songs, people on the street, news events – anything and everything can trigger a story idea. I often can’t help myself, I’ll hear a snippet of conversation and boom – story.

Obviously your books are crime oriented – what type of research do you do before writing a new book?

You know, it depends. Some books need a great deal of research—interviews with the police, FBI, medical examiners, autopsies—and some are very informed by my own experiences, like LIE TO ME. I do like to travel to the places I feature in my books. I feel like setting is so vital to my process, so I like to experience it firsthand so I can lend as much verisimilitude to the story as possible.

After publishing your first book, how did your writing process change?

Well, when you’re writing on deadline you don’t have the leeway you do when you’re first creating your debut, that unique experience of writing in a vacuum. But the biggest change to my process over the years is outlining. I used to solely write by the seat of my pants, but now I do like to have a framework in place. It makes the work go quicker.

And after writing consecutive novels, do you try to be more original, or go after what readers want?

Always, always, always, go for original. If I’m passionate for a story, the readers will be too.

Your latest standalone novel, Lie to Me, features two very troubled characters who are immersed in what seems to be a toxic marriage. Ethan and Sutton both have their sides of their story as to how Sutton’s disappearance happened… but who did you feel the most sympathy for?

Oh, Sutton, hands down. I mean, I love Ethan for all his flaws and his very maleness, and his passion and love for the life he thinks he wants, but Sutton goes through some experiences I can identify with, and her sorrows… you have to have compassion for a woman like that. 

Getting to truly know Ethan and Sutton was very easy thanks to your writing and description – what inspired these two crazy characters?

I wanted to write about a number of things here – but mostly, having writers who lead very different careers within the same house. It fascinates me, I love the dual-writer lifestyle. We live it in my house, too, but ours is much more functional and less competitive than theirs. 

And I always use my novels to work through questions I have about life, and love, and cruelty between people. These are themes in all my stories. I’m fascinated by people’s callousness toward others. 

Out of all the books you have written thus far, which one would you like to see adapted to the big screen?

I think this one works well on the big screen, and I think the Taylor Jackson and Samantha Owens novels would be great on television. Different stories for different formats!

Do you have any advice for any aspiring writers out there?

Read everything you can get your hands on, in and out of your genre, and write every day. The more you write, the more you read, the better your writing becomes. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, either. We all do!

https://www.jtellison.com

JT_Ellison_Wiki

The Party with Robyn Harding

Do you remember your 16th birthday party? Was it full of laughs, presents, candy… or were you up to no good? 

“The police were here. They said what happened was a terrible accident, but we’re not responsible…”

In Robyn Harding’s latest novel The Party, a sweet sixteen birthday party goes horribly wrong. Kim and Tom Sanders just wanted to be the “cool” parents, and throw their daughter Hannah a fun but safe birthday party – but when Hannah shows up in her mom’s bedroom covered in blood in the middle of the night.. their entire lives turn upside down. Luckily, Robyn agreed to answer a few questions regarding her highly successful novel from the summer.

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Robyn,

You’ve written quite a few books over the years, and have even written and executive produced an independent film: where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from real life. I like to take events that have happened to me,
or around me, or in the media, and then I twist them into something more dramatic.

Who would you say is your favourite author, and has given you the most inspiration and motivation for writing?

There are so many, but I’ll go with Kate Atkinson. She inspires me in many ways.
First, she’s an incredible writer who creates such real and fascinating characters.
Second, she has the ability to switch genres effectively (from her Jackson Brodie
detective series to historical fiction). And finally, I love how she manages to imbue
humour into even the darkest stories!

What kind of research do you do while working on a new story?

I use the internet! I can’t imagine how writers survived before it. For THE PARTY, I
consulted with a friend who had been involved in a lawsuit so I understood the process
the characters would go through.

What would you say was your hardest book or story to write thus far?

THE PARTY was the hardest book for me to write. My other books were all light and fun
and full of humour. THE PARTY is darker than anything I’d written before. In 2012, I
wrote 70 pages and then left it for three years. I didn’t know if I wanted to immerse
myself in all that drama and strife. I was afraid it might make me depressed. But once
I picked it up again, I got into it. Now, I’m enjoying writing darker material.

Your newest book, The Party, came out just this year, and has had major success – including being chosen as the Staff Pick of the month at Chapters/Indigo – what draws you to write about specific characters? Do you take personality traits from the people you know in real life?

I am so thrilled and grateful for the support from Chapters/Indigo. I like to write
characters with complicated backgrounds. Even if the details don’t make it into the
book, I create biographies for them that inform the way they react to situations.
Sometimes, they are composites of people I know in real life, with some fictional
traits thrown in.

Did you feel any sympathy for any of the characters in The Party? On the surface of things, it seems like a lot of sympathy should go towards Kim Sanders, but who did you feel the most sympathy for?

I feel the most sympathy for Kim Sanders, but not because the accident happens in her
house or because she’s attacked by Lisa Monroe. I think Kim has lost sight of what’s
important in life. She’s so superficial and concerned with appearances, and I don’t
think you can truly be happy that way. Some readers HATE her, but I pity her. Kim does
gain new perspective by the end of the book.

Personally, I find Lauren and Hannah to be the most interesting characters in the book – they seem to have a lot of underlying troubles they are trying to deal with internally. Do you ever think about continuing with The Party as a sequel? Or is that the end for those characters?

I don’t think I will write another book about these characters, but THE PARTY has been
optioned for film. Currently, there is some discussion of a limited series. If that
went ahead and we got a second season, then Hannah’s revenge plan against Lauren could be fleshed out. (I am crossing my fingers for this!)

It seems like drama/thrillers is a very popular genre right now amongst readers: what made you want to write about a Sweet Sixteen birthday party gone wrong?

The idea came from my own teenage children. They were being invited to parties where
alcohol was available, and it made me think about the worst-case scenario of teen
drinking. I didn’t know if this book would sell because its not technically a
thriller. There’s no dead body, no smoking gun . . .. But there is plenty of drama,
and I knew it was a story that I would want to read.

What are you currently working on?

I just handed in a manuscript inspired by Karla Homolka. It’s about a woman who, after
committing a heinous crime in her past, is free, a mom, and trying to live a normal
life in a new community. It explores questions of forgiveness, retribution, and
whether a person can ever really change.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

I suffer physical pain when I write a lot. My shoulders cramp up, my forearms seize,
my back gets sore. I never knew such a sedentary career could be so physically taxing!

And finally…what advice would you have for young, aspiring writers?

Writing is a very, very, very hard business. While most careers have an upwards
trajectory, writing is a roller coaster of ups and downs. There is a lot of criticism
and lot of disappointment. But if you really, really love to write (like I do) then
it’s all worth it!

https://www.robynharding.com

Robyn Harding