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.

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

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 – 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

 

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