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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom a rising television star. The bride 
a magazine publisher.

It’s a wedding for a magazine in a remote location. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead.

Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was great!

The story. The story was so well thought out. I think the effect was there, an enjoyable thriller, winding tighter and tighter, chapters transitioning from back story, to real time action, shortening in length as they went on, the intensity increasing like a tether ball winding around the pole at 4th grade recess.

Weddings are stressful for everyone and all the elements of wedding bliss and actual outcome were captured in the most dynamic way. I liked that this was an isolated closed mystery story taking place on an exclusive island with a fitting topography and Celtic history that drove the plot forward.

And it’s one of those books I think, predictable or not, if you wanted to by all sleuthy, there’s enough satisfaction in the story and satisfaction in the writing that an early lightbulb moment would be just as fulfilling reading onward.

The writing. I loved the strategically placed words, hinting about what was to come related to someone not leaving the island the way they arrived. I liked the strategically placed red herrings, the foreshadowing with words like… well I won’t quote the phrases, but they were letting me know something very specific was going to take place.

I really liked the way the POVs were done. First person narrative was done well with quite a bit of varied sentence structure and presented with a style of foreknowledge and knowledge acquisition in a really fresh and interesting way, especially when it came to description of physical traits which aimed for unbelabored accuracy in just a few words.

It was not as linear as I had expected in the beginning. Parts felt like chapters were missing with the multiple POVs, foretelling mixed with current events. I realized though how much I dove in, speed mode, by the time I got to page 30, realizing I was finally starting to commit things to memory and so I decided to restart the book and then it all made so much better sense to me.

Characters. First off the character roles were perfect, the couple, the plus one, the single… A wedding party composed of friends and family, reminiscing over everything you see and experience from the social aspect at wedding festivities from shared memories, childhood crushes, deviant behavior, life successes and failures, talents, desires.

I thought it was all well done especially when it came to character distinction, partly in due because of the age range/generational similarities and the author made them all shine in their own way.

Personalities from dialogue to inner monologue, action, all following suit and each had attachments of deeper connectivity, defining life stories with hopes and dreams, insecurities, consistent with life stages, elements of what could have been and nostalgia of pasts relationships, regret, even down to the awkwardness of joining conversation, all interwoven in such a way I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. All of it nicely curated to fit perfectly within the story being told.

Some questions, but not deal breakers. I did want to know what happened to a certain character aside from the emotional response that was displayed. Was it a lost one? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really mattered. I enjoyed reading the story so much anyway, but thought I’d mention it because it did linger in my head.

It did end sort of abruptly after the peak. I kind of wanted to see a bit more character reflection after the reveal, especially of a certain few. I didn’t expect to have full resolution or discourse, but just a little more internal dialogue or character interaction to bring situational awareness to everyone involved as a bit of closure to the post wedding festivities and relationships. Likely my feelings about this are because the greater first 3rd was more about building up character dynamic than action and I would have liked the story to have picked up a bit again from this angle in the end for full circle completeness.

Super good book nonetheless!

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“I look down at the spilled contents, shining gold tubes of mascara and lipsticks rolling in a bid for freedom across the floorboards, an overturned compact leaking a trail of bronzing powder.”



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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Mystery Nonfiction Thriller

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus by Ryan Jacobs

Beneath the gloss of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud. Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies. Hunters plant poisoned meatballs to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and even knowledgeable experts are duped by liars and counterfeits. 

This exposé documents the dark, sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffle’s path from ground to plate, making sense of an industry that traffics in scarcity, seduction, and cash.

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus by Ryan Jacobs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


An absolutely fascinating account about everything the truffle has to offer. The story went into great detail about this delectable treat.

Satisfying the curiosity behind understanding and better appreciating the experience and taste, status and glamour, told as it relates to a symbol of class, wealth, and refinement, taking a journalistic approach into the cultivation, the industry, the demand, food culture, food fraud, organized crime, and the sense of identity, pride, and accomplishment around this highly-prized fungus that is unlike any other thing you could ever eat, much less grow to highly proper standards accordingly.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by Ari Fliakos, who spoke so clear, direct, well-paced. His delivery of the story, so well-suited for true crime in the most classic way, really made the story, I’d highly recommend the audiobook version.

The story. It covered it all, from the science behind the fungus to truffle hunting dogs. And I’m not at all ashamed to say I spent some time looking up photos of these little Ewok faces, breeders near me, how to train them properly. “Butterscotch” and “Macchiato” are the names I have picked out.

With that, the writing was excellent. It revealed like a thriller. Informative at times, a slow-burn then punchy when it needed to be. It took the approach to include the author’s realtime journalistic experience which made it all that much more personal and intriguing. It added to the depth as each product and the lore behind each truffle story was told without reservation with the goals outlining the fulfillment of culinary promises, insight into the mysterious inner-workings, and the network of people behind them.

I’d recommend this book to everyone.

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One by One by Ruth Ware

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

One by OneOne by One by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I enjoyed curling up with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate for this one! I think anyone looking for a read that matches what you’d expect from the cover and title will be highly satisfied.

I loved how the author wrote, with the fast pacing, a very in-the-moment, spontaneous, almost fleeting style which I devoured in one sitting.

I liked the short time frame for this one, the straightforward descriptions, the ones used when something thrilling is going on and you can’t wait, speeding up your reading pace, and keep turning the pages.

I loved the ambiance created, the setting, being the snowy mountain, the plot, it was all perfectly aligned to tell such a great story.

I will say I did experience a little ambivalence at certain points, likely because I wasn’t really enamored right away. It actually took me a bit to get into it. I didn’t understand the details, the backstory, the relationships, and their little character quirks. I had a hard time keeping them all straight. I did receive an ARC, so it’s possible that a little rearrangement in between now and final publication could easily offer a little more guidance for readers like me.

And there was one, single line in the book that I just can’t anymore. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I know some of my fellow readers are going to cringe much like I did coming across it. My feelings, so strong about it, it’s all in good fun though, maybe it’s actually becoming a joke at this point.

There was a lot of conversation in the story. Perhaps for the setting, I would have enjoyed a bit more related to the ski activities themselves, as in depicting conversations about what makes good powder, something to that effect to add some more connection and common ground between the characters.

I wanted them to sit around the fire more to warm up, as in also warming up the story, and drink smooth French hot chocolate. Hot chocolate was mentioned of course, but maybe I would have been a bit more captured by the unfolding of scenes if there were more bonding experiences or times of reminiscence, memories, maybe some kind of internal conflict, or application of some stereotypical company team-building exercise, something like that to play into the lovely, yet mysterious scenery and actions a bit more.

Something where the characters, other than the main ones, were a bit more distinguished. To feel drawn to caring about them. And there were a lot of characters to care about, but maybe I would have liked them to be more identifiable, with traits. Traits that would have fed into the scene a bit, and into their dialogue, and to the way they went one by one accordingly. I didn’t expect a deep, emotional connection, but I wanted a bit more dimension to the plot from that standpoint.

The last 20-30 pages had more of this type of character development and I liked the ending as a whole as a result. And though I had my suspicions of the ending bit a little earlier on, it didn’t spoil the rest of the story for me, but, then when confirmed, I was pretty much ready to put the book down. So I suppose for those last few pages, the wrap up was a little lingering than it needed to be for my particular taste in the moment.

But even then it was all done very carefully which made for a very compelling read!

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Humor Mystery Thriller

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was great. It would make an excellent book club choice.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, which I’d highly recommend. She brought the story to life. Her voice inflection, the cadence, her cleverness in depicting each character with such distinctness even while keeping all the Southern accents straight, the expressions in tone, and her amazing ability at voice preservation, very well done.

So for the story, I really liked how the author brought me into it, into the womens’ lives, working relationships, within this Southern lifestyle of home and hospitality, and bookclub, just the icing on the cake. It was just hilarious at times, one where I thought, oh, so spot on.

I enjoyed the trajectory of the story as it unfolded, wondering how it would go, then, it was very satisfying. Of course there were times I thought, oh geez, is that just too much? Was it far from the reality of what possibly could happen/how one would react? But it didn’t matter so much because it was consistent in character, setting, circumstances, and the tone of the book, suitable for what it was to build the climactic aspects up and overall fitting and done well anyway from those aspects, if that makes sense.

I loved the writing, the truth, the perception, all of it told in a way without apology which I just love about writing that does this in such a way. Also fun, playful with bits of humor, a spot on reminiscent decade of Redbook magazine, Opium perfume, dial phones.

The accurate quirks in the sayings of the time, not only how a child/teenager would simply act, but appropriate for the age and time on such a consistent basis within each rise and flow of the plot, narrative thought, and dialogue.

I did question a few things, though not terribly distracting. Pupils would constrict in sunlight, not dilate. How a suspected rape victim would have been handled by a medical professional. How they celebrated Halloween with an incident happening that evening, but then later in the story, the continuation of the timeline, the next day was a cloudless, sunny, October day?

A really great story nonetheless. One that definitely kept me engaged the whole way through.

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction Thriller

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Memory makes reality.

That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome-a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

RecursionRecursion by Blake Crouch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good! The concept of this story was thought-provoking. It took relatable concepts, put them into a thrilling story of questioning the what-ifs, self-identity, and who-knows of life. There was almost this unwritten internal dialogue that put an over-arching question proposing “What would you do if you could have a do-over in life?”

There were some scientific concepts that were just a bit flat in writing style and content. More one-dimensional than I felt they needed to be. I think they could have been a bit less vague or arbitrary and the author could have taken more liberty and a step further with the descriptions. Example, “web of synapses” and “neural coordinates for memory.” But I can see how it might be challenging to keep true to the hard sciences as we know it from an expert/specialist’s point of view and also incorporate a creative spin to a science fiction narrative. Still very well done though! An enjoyable read!

And I loved the literary quote references at the beginning of each chapter!

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Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

Nancy Harmon long ago fled the heartbreak of her first marriage, the macabre deaths of her two little children, and the shocking charges against her. She changed her name, dyed her hair, and left California for the windswept peace of Cape Cod. Now remarried, she has two more beloved children, and the terrible pain has begun to heal — until the morning when she looks in the backyard for her little boy and girl and finds only one red mitten. She knows that the nightmare is beginning again…

Where Are the Children?Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After learning of Mary Higgins Clark’s passing, I thought I would pick up her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children? which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1975. I haven’t read any of her works in a while and I just have to say that I loved flipping through the old paperback book I found with all its page patina glory.

I loved the pacing of this one. It fit the crime story well since it was mainly plot driven and straight to the point, no meandering in atmospheric details which I quite enjoyed for this type of narrative. The plot is brought into view from multiple perspectives with a reveal that left me at a tipping point at the end of every chapter, peaking around the corners, as well-written suspense should have.

I really liked simple yet descriptive lines like:

“It was only when her vision blurred that she realized that tears were swimming in her eyes.”

“Startled, she looked up. Jonathan must have cut through the woods from his house. His face was deeply creased today. She knew he must be nearly sixty years old, and today he looked every bit of it.”

“The fire licked hungrily at the thick logs.”

It was a style of writing that I think really captured and beautified what was going on along with proper perspective to come with it without making it feel over embellished.

I liked that all the scenarios remained focused and directed to the endpoint.

There was kind of a bit of catching up to do with backstory around the 3-4/5th of the book which may have benefited from being placed elsewhere so it didn’t create that sense of “Oh time to better explain that.” It wasn’t exactly to the point of me being too overly distracted in the reading… or getting too lost in the newly revealed details… or subsequent urge to look for plot holes, but briefly enough to take me out if the trajectory of the story for a wee bit. Couple that with a sort of disconnect I felt about the main character Nancy, I sort of wasn’t sure what to think at one point.

However it quickly picked up again and the scenes did fall into place. I imagine it is difficult to explain changing scenes and changing POVs when you want to tell them all at the same time. They all have them make sense and keep the suspense up simultaneously.

Really enjoyed it.

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She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

A haunting tale of suspense, rendered with the masterful skill only Barker could muster.

After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child—this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after…

SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE conjures thoughts of early King and Koontz. A heart-pounding ride that creeps under your skin and will have you turning pages long into the night.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should BeShe Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Hampton Creek Press for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

An excellent book, one I couldn’t put down!

I could stop there and just make a recommendation to read it, but I can’t help myself to explain as to why when it comes to critiquing and there were a lot of things I loved about this book.

Starting with the overall premise and writing. There was a uniqueness both in original idea and writing style. I saw similarities to other namely authors, perhaps with some influence, but this author writes with a certain distinguished, intriguing sentiment that is all his own. It was like having a weird dream that only makes sense in your mind, materialized, taking risks in writing style, and then the retelling of such a story done right.

To begin with, it had all the essentials of what makes a good opener for a book. It sucked me in within the first few lines and chapter. I got a feel for the context, personality, setting, time frame, all with a taste of mystery, built as a nice set up with all the elements that readers crave when starting and continuing to enjoy a book like this, especially since it crossed into many types of genres. It was the seamless delivery that was carefully constructed.

Within each scene there was an ease to reading. Perhaps it was the way that each sentence was crafted. They were not so rule-hugging and rigid, formulaic, or formal, but appropriately written to enhance both personality, character growth, and the flow of the story. The writing pushed the boundaries, embracing the realm of creative thought and feeding it right back into the story.

I really appreciated the story because the detective work didn’t overtake it. Terminology wasn’t constantly being defined and explained, but instead jumped right into an occupation with use of the norms and lingo in conversation as they are understood among the people that use them. If you’ve ever read more than one mystery or crime novel, you will understand this and know that it is not uncommon to see stories get interrupted and cluttered with a bunch of backstories, rationales of behavior, or an over-explanation of job duties, procedures, and protocols that can so easily take you out of the story rather than be a natural progression of it.

I appreciated that there was not grab a thesaurus, word substitutions for adjectives, action verbs, words for said, and transitionals just thrown in, but actual descriptions told in unconventional ways which was both refreshing and compelling. Breaking of traditional rules by leaving in run-ons and fragments only added to the story, keeping the logical flow, the pace, the conversation, the thought-process, to speak for itself.

Even brand names, literary remarks, and historical references were mentioned without excessive descriptions or nouns to follow which made for an even smoother read. It just worked. Perhaps because the author knows his audience and can take liberty in allowing the reader to connect with the time and place, and feel like the story was just written for them.

With each character, the narrator voice was spot on consistent and distinguishable with actions, thoughts, and feelings, even through growth. The reminiscent parts were not only accurate to events but also perspective, really true to the time. The voice of internal conflict and insight was appropriate for each character age group. For example school-age memories and dialogue was told from a child’s mind, reflecting the safe, carefree life of youth, and also included the irrational fears and immature actions that resulted. I appreciated the attention to detail, even the accuracy of a growing boy’s height according to growth charts, which made it all the more believable even within the domain of nonfiction, paranormal, and fantasy.

I liked that it took me back to childhood memories of required reading, riding bikes to Circle K, skid-marks in gravel, and the fear of tetany. It made me want to reread Great Expectations, even though I haven’t had an inkling to ever read it again since its requirement in grade school. The desire to read another book as stirred up by a book you’re currently reading is always a success in my mind.

There were also comedic references that were sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, and so very funny.

Lastly I loved the internal dialogue referencing deeper meanings in life.

All-in-all, it reminded me of the momentum, thrill, and excitement of choose your own adventure books, the joy in anticipation and satisfaction of what comes next.

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Layover by David Bell

In this high concept psychological suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter, a chance meeting with a woman in an airport sends a man on a
pulse-pounding quest for the truth…

LayoverLayover by David Bell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program. I ended up converting my read to an audiobook which I purchased myself. It was narrated by Robbie Daymond which I’d highly recommend.

I enjoyed this book. The beginning was really quite capturing even though some bits were less believable for me as far as the actual plot goes. It was easy to get into and I liked the suspense being conveyed. I like the author’s way of writing character attributes and how the plot became multi-dimensional as each backstory and character quality reinforced the perspective of where he wanted to take me. This was done with ease and I felt myself melting into the story.

In a sort of charming way, I did feel that sometimes it read like a late 80s film. The kind where you yell at the screen saying “just call 911!” and where you click your tongue and say “I’m sure…” as you roll your eyes over the handling of evidence as authorities and medical personnel break protocol in most every way, even for a small-town, low caliber situation.

The middle got a little complacent and then the ending was not as satisfying to me. I think it was the new character introduction/development being a much later in the game, so the build up after a lull was not as intriguing as I wanted it to be/experienced in the beginning of the book.

I did convert to audiobook half way through, which was excellent and helped me during the lull I experienced. I suppose the lull was attributed to some of the drawn out dialogue taking place when I was wanting the story to just finally move forward and get back to more of the suspense that drew me in at the beginning.

Even with the less believable aspects, I still really enjoyed the story. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a thrill-type read and I will look forward to reading more from this author.

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Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He’s found a job protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia where his main responsibilities include tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. It’s hard work, and totally solitary—perfect to hide away from the Mexican drug cartels he betrayed back in Arizona. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, the quiet solitude he’s so desperately sought is suddenly at risk.

More bears are killed on the preserve and Rice’s obsession with catching the poachers escalates, leading to hostile altercations with the locals and attention from both the law and Rice’s employers. Partnering with his predecessor, a scientist who hopes to continue her research on the preserve, Rice puts into motion a plan that could expose the poachers but risks revealing his own whereabouts to the dangerous people he was running from in the first place.

James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel—one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.

BearskinBearskin by James A. McLaughlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one! I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a read that takes place in a woodsy setting, who appreciates the outdoors and is looking for a creatively layered mystery thriller.

I started it out on digital and ultimately changed to the audiobook version, which I’d highly recommend as it made it even more thrilling.

I really liked the way the author set up the scenes. It was gripping and suspenseful and there were inter sprinklings of humor which I much appreciated. The characters were compelling in the sense that their thoughts and subsequent actions made me want to “see what happens next” with each line. I liked the plausible approach to everything that was happening from the mindset of those participating in the drug and bear cartels to the way to the interactions and dialogue between characters.

I did feel that the author could have made the writing style a bit more colorful to make the storyline match the risks that were being presented. The descriptions for example: the green grass, whitened teeth, a strong grip, overcast sky, the hot sun… the hot sun… and repeated again, the hot sun… The story structure as a result could have been just a bit more fascinating to read.

I guess I wanted a bit more picturesque, creatively written, take a risk prose. I will say that there were wonderfully written parts that were engaging to my soul. I wanted just a little more of what drew me to the book in the first place. But I definitely enjoyed the story as a whole and it’s definitely not boring. There were just a few opportunities within the writing itself that I think could have really added depth and vividness to the story.

I will look forward to reading more books by this author.

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I would recommend it to anyone. If you have fond memories of reading Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird as a child or are looking to read classics this year, be sure to put this one on your TBR. It’s also a type of story within a story about a story whose final works (those being Harper Lee’s) were never published in which readers of true crime/thrillers will appreciate.

Furious Hours made full circle as it encompassed the published/unpublished works and the personal and literary life of author Harper Lee. As the first chapters unfolded into a compelling story of the accused Reverend Maxwell, I gained incredible insight into the norms of Southern living as well as the cultural and political climate of the times. From the perceptive value of the aesthetic and functional features of the Alabama courthouses to the practice of law itself, the intriguing writing style kept my full attention.

The author, Casey Cep, did an amazing job articulating and organizing the depth and reach of Harper Lee in a way that was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about influential circumstances and notable people who crossed paths with Harper Lee, including Truman Capote. All these details added so much biographical context to how Harper Lee lived her life, the choices she made, and how it shaped her writing as an author. This is one book you won’t want to put down!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Mystery Thriller

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

The new and exciting historial thriller by Lyndsay Faye, author of Edgar-nominated Jane Steele and Gods of Gotham, which follows Alice “Nobody” from Prohibition-era Harlem to Portland’s the Paragon Hotel.

The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.

The Paragon HotelThe Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I would recommend it to those who enjoy history within the time periods of the 1920s and 1930s and within the setting of the U.S. It really takes you back in time to the days of the prohibition era.

The writing style was excellent. Though I was definitely absorbed into the story from the beginning, I did have a slight bit of difficulty following at first, but ultimately really appreciated the detailed descriptions and changing POV, as well as the dialogue, which was well written to reflect deep emotion and the social climate of the time. The characters were rich as well as the plot, which made for very interesting revelations. There were so many intriguing layers within the plot, including cultural and social dynamics that added incredible dimension to the mystery of the story and brought an interesting perspective to well known events that I hadn’t realized before.

I would really like to listen to this via audiobook as I think it would be a great one.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Thriller

Bullseye (Michael Bennett #9) by James Patterson

Caught in the crossfire of a deadly standoff, Detective Michael Bennett must kill…or be killed. 

Tensions between America and Russia are the highest they’ve been since the Cold War. As the countries’ Presidents travel to the United Nations to iron out their differences, a fashionable husband and wife team of lethal assassins prowls the streets of Manhattan hunting their prey–a professor hiding a scandalous secret. Their next target: the extremely popular President of the United States of America.
Pulled away from his family and pressed into service, Detective Michael Bennett must trace the source of a threat that could rip the country apart–and what he finds may turn the Cold War red hot once again. With allegiances constantly in doubt and no one above suspicion, only Bennett can step into the line of fire to save the President before the deadly kill shot hits its mark.

Bullseye (Michael Bennett, #9)Bullseye by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book. I listened to it via audiobook. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys action crime with political twist and plots that take place in NYC.

The characters were easy to follow and somewhat predictable. There wasn’t as much room for imagination as a reader but the descriptions and use of language was candid and straightforward which complimented the NYC setting and law enforcement culture. Though there were different points of view presented, the plot was very linear, told with rigid structure, and was occasionally mechanical at times. The author James Patterson remained true to his typical talent for a strong, focused, plot-driven storyline which I did enjoy, in addition to the subplots which helped to add depth and color to the main story.

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*Some links may be affiliates which means I may earn a small commission when you make a purchase using them at no additional cost to you. If you choose to use them I would like to say thank you and I appreciate the support!