Review: Anything For Her

Book Title: Anything For Her
Author: Jack Jordan
REVIEWED BY: MARY
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Fiction
Date Read: 06/19/17
Pub Date: 06/11/15
4 STARS

 

 

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.

Louise Leighton’s life has fallen apart, all because of one fateful night. Her husband is an adulterer, her sister is his mistress, and soon, Louise will lose everything she owns. But she never imagined she would lose her daughter.

Eighteen-year-old Brooke Leighton is missing. It’s up to Louise and the Metropolitan Police to find her. Has Brooke run away? Or has she been taken against her will? And can Louise aid the investigation without mentioning the night where all of her troubles began?

If she mentions that night, she will incriminate her daughter for heinous crimes. But if she doesn’t, she may never find Brooke; and if she has been abducted, the person who took her may come for Louise, too.

Sometimes the past comes back to kill you.

When I became an aunt, something in my chemistry changed, or more accurately, was awoken.  Not only was I elated I was also fiercely protective. It was slightly startling to realize with one hundred percent certainty that I would lay down my life to protect another human being I had just laid my eyes on without a second thought. The enormity of that love was astounding. When I became a mother, that protective ferocity became second nature.  I had no doubt in my mind that I would do anything to protect my child from harm.  It wasn’t something that gave me pause, or that I had to contemplate, it just was. Becoming a parent is different for everyone, but it changes you in ways you could never predict.

Louise Leighton had a good life. She and her husband had been married for 20 blissful years with no end to their passion in sight.  They had successful careers that supplied them wealth and privilege. They had two beautiful children, Dominic, who at 10 years old was sweet and innocent and sheltered from the harsh realities of the world, and adored by his parents and sister, and Brooke, a beautiful girl, smart and popular, a loving older sister and a precocious teenager.  Life was good for Louise Leighton and her family…until it wasn’t.

In one night, the life that they had shared was shattered.  Tom and Louise had gone to bed, more in love than ever, but when morning came there was a distance between the couple that Tom could never understand.  His daughter had been a happy teenager, popular and social, but by the next morning was a shell of her former self. With the light of day came a new existence in the Leighton household, one in which his wife and daughter were reduced to tears, depression and secrets. The once stable foundation of their lives began to crumble under the weight of the secret that mother and daughter shared with one another but did not dare share with anyone else.  The secret Brooke and Louise shared drained them of their former selves, leaving only anxiety, fear and sadness in its wake. Their secret drove a wedge between them and the rest of the world causing both to become reclusive and sullen.

As days, weeks and months passed, mother and daughter retreated further inside themselves and relied solely on each other to shoulder the pain that they bore.  Tom, in deep legal trouble with his business and desperate for his old life, took solace in a mistress, Louise’s sister, Denise.  Tom knew his affair was a despicable act, one for which he loathed himself, but was sure he would be forgiven.  When he could no longer bare the guilt of his on going sins, he confessed to Louise.  He blamed the night a year prior for his betrayal, the night when everything had changed for the worse, when his wife and daughter had begun keeping secrets and began to distance themselves from him and everyone else.  He claimed the loneliness and heartbreak from missing his wife became to much to bear, but swore that the affair, was simply meaningless sex to fill a void and that he still loved her and didn’t want their marriage to end.

***I have to interject here; I was AMAZED, APPALLED and BAFFLED that this man didn’t think THIS particular betrayal would end his marriage.  I mean, MAYBE a one-night stand with a stranger, while he was drunk could be forgiven over time given the circumstances. BUT HE SLEPT WITH HER SISTER! MULTIPLE TIMES! There’s no mansplaining your way out of that.  You’re dead in the water, Pal.***

To no one’s surprise but Tom’s, Louise packs a bag and leaves. She does what any woman harboring a dark secret, imminent financial ruin, an adulterous husband and a back stabbing whore of a sister would do, she loads up on wine and heads for the country where she can drink herself into a stupor in solitude.

She refuses her children’s heartbreaking pleas to accompany her. She couldn’t possibly reach the level of inebriation she truly craves of in the presence of her children. She needs to be alone in order to fall apart and truly explore the depths of her heartbreak and despair, relying solely on wine to numb the pain when it becomes too much to bear. That is not a burden she wants her children to witness, but one she must endure on her own.

When someone begins to terrorize Louise in the country, shattering her solitude and the hope that she could outrun her secrets, she feels her sanity and her will to go on slipping away. When her daughter disappears, Louise knows it is no coincidence and experiences fear like she never has before. Desperate to bring her daughter home safely, Louise must decide if divulging their secret to the police will help them find Brooke or put her in grave danger. Feeling more alone and vulnerable than ever, Louise clings to the only thing she has left, her frantic need to protect her daughter at any cost.

ANYTHING FOR HER is a twisted psychological thriller that kept me on edge to the gut-wrenching end.  This novel is a tumultuous read that explores the depths of parental love and sacrifice. How far are you willing to go to protect the ones you love? Hopefully, you never have to find out.  This is a 4 star read filled with suspense and emotional turmoil that pairs well with a bottle of Seven Deadly Zins.

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Author Q&A: Mary Kubica

It’s such a pleasure to welcome author Mary Kubica back for another interview here on The Suspense Is Thrilling Me! For those new to my site, I consider Mary one of the “founding fathers” here, meaning that she was crucial in the developing and launching of my brand new blog just over a year ago. Without her support, and that of many others, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today, so it truly is a pleasure anytime she’s featured here! With the publication of her fourth novel just around the corner, I thought it might be fun to have her answer a few of the questions that myself and other readers may have surrounding her books, her writing style, and what she’s working on next. I think you’ll be interested to hear what she had to say. In case you missed it, I posted my spoiler free review of Mary’s upcoming novel Every Last Lie last week and you can find it HERE.

1) How does it feel to be publishing a fourth novel of suspense? How have you managed to keep each story fresh and unique?

It’s so exciting to be publishing my fourth novel, and a bit surreal, too. It still feels to me that my debut, The Good Girl, just came out, and I find it hard to believe that three years and three more novels have transpired in that time. There are a few overarching themes in each of my novels – motherhood being one of them – but I make sure that the characters and the story line are wholly unique. It takes a conscious effort when I sit down to begin a new project or to create new characters. I need to be sure the novel stays within that realm of psychological suspense, while introducing elements I’ve never done before.

2) Your books have always included full-bodied characters as well as a thrilling plot. Many readers feel this is what keeps your stories in such high demand. What initially caused this to be the focus of your stories? Do you find writing the character details or the furthering of plot more challenging?

Thank you so much for this, Chelsea. My characters are very important to me and, while not every reader is going to love every character, it’s vital to me that they have some sort of redeeming characteristics and that they’re true-to-life because, as a reader, this is what matters to me. Whenever I begin a new novel, there’s a getting-to-know-you period that happens with my characters. The first few chapters feel a bit more awkward to write, as that character’s voice isn’t yet instilled within me and I need to fully flesh the character out before the writing turns fluid. Once this happens, the plot then becomes the greater challenge – being sure to move the pace of the story along at a good clip, while laying that bread crumb trail and throwing all those red herrings into the storyline.

3) EVERY LAST LIE is a suspenseful plot that focuses on one family’s secrets and how a single tragedy changes their lives forever. Your books tend to follow a dual narrative changing back and forth to reveal one complete story. Can you explain to us the process of how you write these separate voices and bring them together in the end? What methods do you use to outline your plot before beginning the writing process for each book?

I’m not an outliner, but rather the type who dives right into the storyline and figures it out as I go. I enjoy using a dual narrative because it gives readers a more comprehensive view of the story, as it’s coming at them from different angles. With Every Last Lie, the story unfolds from Clara’s perspective beginning the day she learns her husband, Nick, has been killed in a car accident, as well as Nick’s perspective, beginning months prior to the crash and leading up to his death. With this novel, I wrote all of Nick’s chapters first before going back and writing Clara’s. This helped me to organize the plot points internally as well as give each character a unique voice – so that Nick and Clara’s voices weren’t both muddled together in my mind, coming out the same on the page.

4) Who was your favorite character to write in ELL? Who was the most difficult? Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

All the characters in Every Last Lie are fictional, though I fell in love with Nick and Clara for the fact that they are such ordinary, every day people. They might as well be my next door neighbors. I resonated with Clara more for the fact that she is a woman and a mother, and I remember all too well the delirium that accompanies the days after childbirth and the lack of sleep thanks to the round-the-clock care an infant needs. I could relate to her on so many levels. That said, Nick was quite enjoyable to write because he is essentially a good guy who finds himself deep in a hole, and instead of climbing his way out, he only winds up digging deeper. As awful as it sounds, I enjoy the process of writing a character’s life spiraling a bit out of control and for this reason, I had great fun with Nick.

5) As a full time writer, wife, and mother, how do you manage to keep your life balanced? Do you have any tips for aspiring writers on how to keep a manuscript moving forward in today’s busy world?

During the school year, I attempt to do all my writing in the early morning before my kids are awake, or when they’re at school. That way I can devote my time to them when they’re home. Summer, of course, complicates matters but for me, my family is always top priority. For aspiring writers, I think it’s so important to remember that a few words add up to sentences, a few sentences add up to paragraphs and so on. Even if you don’t have four or five hours a day to devote to your writing, write a little every day – even fifteen or twenty minutes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they add up. I do my most productive writing between the hours of 5 and 7am every day, so if you can get up a bit earlier or stay awake a bit later than you ordinarily would to squeeze some words in, it helps!

6) Most readers are already looking forward to your work in progress; could you give us any insider tips on what you are currently writing?

Yes! I’m just now working on revisions on my fifth novel, called 11 DAYS, which will arrive in the summer of 2018. 11 DAYS is another dual narrative. In one storyline, we meet Eden, a young woman, desperate to start a family, but struggling with infertility. In the other, Jessie – a fatherless, young woman whose mother has just died of cancer – is forced to question her own identity when she’s informed that her social security number belongs to a child who died many years prior. I’m so excited to share this one with you!

*Thank you so much for joining us today Mary! If you’d like to know more about the author and her previous novels, feel free to check out her website HERE! If you’d like to pre-order EVERY LAST LIE, you can do so HERE

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Review: The Grave Tender


Book Title:
The Grave Tender
Author: Eliza Maxwell
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Southern Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Goodreads
Date Read: 06/13/17
Pub Date (US): 04/11/17

 

 

Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.

When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.

But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need, or putting their lives in danger?

The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.

You may think you have read dark fiction, but unless you’ve picked up The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell then you don’t know the definition of the words. Descriptions such as disturbing, heavy, melancholy, and sorrowful come to mind when I think of what words to use in painting a picture of what this book was. Why in the world would anyone want to read such a story? Quite simply, the writing was beautiful and intoxicating; as languishing as the majority of the story’s content was, the setting wrapped me up in a warm, welcoming hug that made this Georgia peach feel at home. I am a huge sucker for southern gothic fiction, and this was southern gothic fiction done well.

I’m not even sure where to begin discussing this book. A large part of me just wants to keep telling you how hauntingly beautiful it was, but I don’t want to over-do it. My middle name is drama queen; just ask my mom and dad. However, it was a truly moving read that will not be for the faint of heart. Some of the trigger worthy topics include (but aren’t limited to): Rape, Incest, Domestic Abuse (Spousal and Child), Child Molestation, Murder, etc. That’s a whole lot to handle in under 240 pages, and while that may deter some readers (and no one blames you if it does), it was all done tastefully with class, structured more to create a moving novel than factors just added for shock value. Everything flows together, but I did find that I couldn’t just binge read this one. It definitely had that compulsive, can’t-put-it-down factor, but I had to set it aside for a few hours at times just to keep myself from falling too far down a hole of depression and anxiety.

Honestly, I feel my only minor complaint was that I wanted more! I was really into these characters, and I feel like just an extra 50-75 pages to further develop a few of the relationships and current day storyline would have made this quite possibly my top read of 2017. If you enjoy your literature haunting with a lining of hope, I can’t imagine you’ll find anything more excellent that’s set in Texas than The Grave Tender. I may have to move to a new gym as the other patrons are weirded out that I was tearing up on the treadmill (I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying!) but it’s a small price to pay for being privy to such a touching story. I won’t soon forget this book and would love to discuss with others who have read it. I’ve moved Maxwell up my list of authors who I stalk their books and publishing schedule and you should too! Yay for friendly stalking! 😉

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here. 

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Review: Undertow

 

Book Title: Undertow
Author: Elizabeth Heathcote
REVIEWED BY: MARY
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Fiction
Date Read: 06/13/17
Pub Date: 06/13/17
4 STARS

 

They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them…until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, although she knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman—the mistress who ended his first marriage: Zena. Mercurial, mesmerizing, manipulative Zena—a woman who, Carmen begins to discover, had the potential to incite the darkest of emotions. Zena, who drowned in the sea late one night.

Zena seems ever-more present, even in death, and when Carmen unknowingly stumbles on evidence that her husband has not been telling her the whole truth, she can’t shake her unease. As she uncovers documents and photographs, a very different tale than the one Tom has led her to believe begins to unfold, and she finds herself increasingly isolated and paranoid. As the twisted events of that night begin to come to light, Carmen must ask herself if it’s really a truth worth knowing…even if it destroys her and the lives of the people she loves most.

First, may I say, this cover is AMAZING! I spent a solid 5 minutes staring at it before I started reading.  It is equals parts beautiful and chilling.  I couldn’t wait to start reading to see if the insides matched the outsides.

As a kid my mom passed on wisdom to me that so many mothers pass on to their children: winners never cheat and cheaters never win, honesty is the best policy, the farther you stray from the truth the harder it becomes to recognize, don’t gossip, treat others the way you want to be treated, stand up for yourself, and so on. As I got older, I learned that there are gray areas and loop holes that come with those statements.  Little white lies told to spare someone’s feeling are sometimes acceptable, even gracious and well mannered.  No one wants to tell Grandma that they in fact HATE Baklava because that would have be rude, she’d worked so hard making it, so you smile, say you love it and promptly put it in the trash once she leaves.  Lies come in all shapes and sizes and some are more menacing than others.  The most confusing type of lie, in my humble opinion, is lying by omission. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell you. That’s not really a lie at all…is it?

Tom and Carmen have a loving marriage and Carmen does her best to navigate relationships with Tom’s 3 children from his previous marriage.  It’s a modern family where the adults act like grown ups and the children shuffle between homes and everyone tries to adjust to the new normal. Carmen met Tom after his marriage ended.  She met him after the woman he’d left his wife for had died.  It was a sad story, with a tragic end, Zena had gone for a swim and drown, her body washed ashore days later. Carmen came along after all of that despair.  Tom brightened when he met Carmen, it was as though she breathed new life into him, and he loved her almost instantly.

As the years passed and Carmen and Tom settled into their marriage, they began to make plans for the future.  They spoke of starting a family and when Carmen lost her job, it seemed only natural to Tom that she stay home and do freelance writing rather than seek out another full time job.  With a baby, she would want to have flexible hours and freelance allowed her to make her own schedule, Tom made enough to support them.  It was logical. But as time goes on and freelance opportunities become fewer and fewer, Carmen finds herself searching for ways to keep herself busy.  Once a focused and hardworking journalist, she finds herself feeling lost and growing restless. When she hears a particular piece of gossip about how Tom’s former lover met her demise, that it wasn’t an accident at all, she’s shaken.  She decides to dig a little deeper into this theory, thinking she’ll find answers that ease her mind.  When the opposite happens, Carmen finds herself on a journey for the truth, one that could end her marriage, end her plans for the future, possibly even her life.

UNDERTOW is a captivating thriller that is full of red herrings and suspenseful twists.  I love how the characters are all so closely connected, it offered a wide range of theories as to how and why Zena, a strong swimmer, drowns during an evening swim she had taken so many times before. As each character reveals a new layer of their personality and each new piece of information from the past is revealed, I found myself scrambling to form a new scenario of how death found Zena. As the suspense ramped up, Carmen’s fear seemed to leap off the page and become palpable. More than once I found myself jumping in reaction to a nighttime noise, double checking the locks and making sure the alarm was set. Carmen struggles to define the gray area between secrets and lies in order to find the truth. But the harder she digs, that darker things become.  Her once beautiful life has now become a chilling nightmare, one she may not be able to escape.

UNDERTOW is a thrilling page-turner that pairs well 19 Crimes Cabernet and mom’s old advice. I give it 4 Stars and am happy to report that the insides do indeed match the chilling beauty of the outside.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here. 

 

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Review: Every Last Lie

Book Title: Every Last Lie
Author: Mary Kubica
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Goodreads
Date Read: 06/10/17
Pub Date: 06/27/17

 

 


“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Of course I gave this 5 stars; what did you expect? 😂 In all honesty I’m a Kubica junkie. I truly love how fleshed out her characters are and how the suspense just builds from beginning to end. This one was very different than her previous three novels. Maybe it was because Clara was in a similar walk of life as I am (young mother with 2 small kids) or maybe it was because she put some of my worst fears on paper, but I really connected with the story. I think readers will be split over the ending; personally I loved it but I can see how some might be expecting a different direction. This ended up being a buddy read with the lovely Sam @ Clues and Reviews (she loved it to by the way) and trust me, you’re going to want to have someone to talk to once you finish it.

My mood has been solely focused on slow burning novels at the moment; I’m not sure what the reason is behind this. Maybe it’s a need for a deeper connection with my characters, possibly it’s because I have had so many review copies to churn out that my inner book nerd is craving something I don’t feel pressured to fly through; whatever the reason, THIS book satisfied that desire. Please be aware that there is nothing fast paced about this novel; it needs to be savored and enjoyed slowly as it is heavily character driven. I’m amazed that a book can lack so much action and yet captivate my attention so fully. Even with it being a slow paced read, I still found myself not wanting to put it down, only wishing I had more time to read continuously. So this is your warning for those who like to constantly state that slow books=boring books; this psychological suspense won’t be for you.

THAT ENDING. I’m sure it was just me, but I was completely taken by surprise with that ending. Maybe it’s that I’ve read so many twisty novels of suspense lately that keep trying to out-do each other with elaborate, over-the-top schemes that this finale was refreshing and powerful to my psyche. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers or causing your mind to drift in any one direction, but I’m convinced it’s the type of ending that will be controversial amongst readers; you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I can’t get into WHY I loved it, but just know that I did. It was a risky move of Kubica and I applaud her for going outside the genre’s comfort zone to give us something fresh. Note- outside of genre’s comfort zone is not referring to a supernatural/paranormal twist. Highly recommended to suspense readers looking for a realistic, moving suspense that deals with the domestic struggles of one young family; if this is you then look no further.

*Many thanks to the author for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.

BIOGRAPHY:

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including THE GOOD GIRL, PRETTY BABY, DON’T YOU CRY and EVERY LAST LIE. A former high school history teacher, Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, where she enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter.  Her first novel THE GOOD GIRL was an Indie Next pick in August of 2014, received a Strand Critics Nomination for Best First Novel and was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards in Debut Goodreads Author and in Mystery & Thriller for 2014. Mary has been described as “a writer of vice-like control,” (Chicago Tribune) and her novels have been praised as “hypnotic” (People) and “thrilling and illuminating” (Los Angeles Times). She is currently working on her next novel.

Photo by Sarah Jastre

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Review: Girl Last Seen


Book Title:
Girl Last Seen
Author: Nina Laurin
REVIEWED BY: MARY
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Date Read: 06/09/17
Pub Date: 06/20/17
4 STARS

 

Two missing girls. Thirteen years apart.
Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.

I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.

If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact…

I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.

Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl.

And now there is.

Sometimes I read a book that I just cannot put down until I have finished it.  When this happens I know pretty quickly and I prepare my cozy reading area.  I furnish it with pillows and blankets, chocolate, water and my drink of choice. I get giddy like a kid going to a slumber party.  I know I’ll be transported to a different world for the next few hours and I relish in that excitement.  I got to start my summer with that thrilling sense of anticipation.  I knew after reading the Prologue of GIRL LAST SEEN, I wouldn’t be putting it down until I was finished reading.  I was certain I was in for a dark, twisty, suspenseful ride, so I prepared my cozy corner and buckled up.

Ella was ten years old when she disappeared.  She was missing for 3 years before being discovered by police wandering on the side of the road in the rain.  At 13 years old, after having suffered at the hands of her captor in a dank basement for 3 long years, Ella had retreated so far inside herself to survive that she barely had an identity left.  In the wake of her release and recovery, the people caring for this broken survivor decided that changing her identity was in her best interest.  A new name would serve as a fresh, protective shell to hide her from her captor and the public that would want to feast on her tragic story like vultures, allow her a fresh start. After all, everyone kept reminding her how lucky she was to be alive, how lucky she was to have survived.  Ella Santos was the 10 year old girl who went missing, the girl that endured 3 years of hell. Lainey Moreno was the name they gave the girl that emerged, the girl that bore her scars, both physical and emotional, the girl that had to keep moving forward because she had survived.

The man that took Ella Santos was never found. In the ten years since her time in that basement, Lainey has survived.  She hasn’t healed and built a life, she has survived, mostly with the help of prescription medication to dull the pain and panic attacks.  Lainey lives a hazy life, that is lonesome and walled off from most people.  She has interactions only with the people she has to in order to hold down a job and rent an apartment.  Her closest friend is her drug dealer because he provides the means to dull the jagged edges of her existence. No one knows that she was the girl that survived three years in captivity.  Lainey Moreno is just another borderline junkie that lives in a heinous neighborhood.  No one knows that Lainey Moreno is the girl that the police and doctors said was so lucky to have survived.  And Lainey has no intention of ever letting anyone find out that she is that girl.

Now, ten years later, another girl has disappeared.  Her name is Olivia Shaw, she is ten years old, and she was last seen outside of her elementary school wearing a white spring jacket and pink boots.  Lainey sees the Missing Person poster with Olivia’s picture on it and her world, one that is held together with tape and glue, begins to unravel. Lainey looks into the face of Olivia Shaw and sees herself, a ten year old girl, an innocent child, with dark curly hair and brown skin and she knows in her bones that the same man that took her 13 years ago has taken this girl. Now she has to choose, whether to revisit the past she tries so hard to escape with pills and seclusion to save this little girl from becoming as tarnished as she is, or continue on and leave Olivia Shaw’s fate in the hands of the same people that never found her when she was missing for 3 years.

This debut novel is a gritty thriller with dark twists you won’t see coming.  Lainey is an unreliable narrator, as well as a tortured soul who has a resilience she is unaware of for whom my heart broke over and over.  The characters that surround her are well-developed and complex evoking feelings of love and hate in the same sentence.  The heart breaking, heart-racing journey that they go on together will keep you guessing to the nail-biting end.

GIRL LAST SEEN is a perfect summer read that pairs well with Dreaming Tree cabernet and a cozy reading corner where you will stay up all night devouring this 4 star thriller.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to review it here on the blog.

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Review: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

Book Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew J. Sullivan
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Literary Fiction
Goodreads

Date Read: 06/07/17
Pub Date: 06/13/17


Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

Have you ever been scouring Goodreads and notice a particular book continues to pop up on your feed? Maybe it starts slowly, just a glance here or there, but then turns into a full blown case of THE book everyone has just finished reading. That’s what happened to me with MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE. In an attempt to be a good girl and show some restraint of my NetGalley clicking finger, I had passed early on and immediately regretted it. Miracles do happen and I received a second chance with a hardcover that was cryptically wrapped in caution tape; I was immediately intrigued and decided that I had to read it straight away. I’m really glad I did, as this was such an intoxicating book; it was the kind that’s eerie aura stays with you long past turning the final page.

Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I had heard from various sources that this was a mystery, a thriller, and many other sub genres, and while it does hold aspects of both, I felt this would be most at home in literary fiction. The story vacillated between bright, intellectual dialogue and dark, graphic plot progression. I honestly cannot think of a single book to compare it to, which is why I was so impressed and found it so wholly unique. At risk of sounding like a sadist, one of my favorite parts of the book was the manner in which the gruesome murder scene with The Hammerman was portrayed; we see and hear events through the eyes of a 10 year old child. This was a bold, risky move and it worked well in progressing the storyline while firmly grasping our attention throughout.

We do spend part of the book balancing past and present narratives, and initially I was more interested in Lydia’s childhood and backstory than in the opening mystery surrounding Joey’s suicide. This quickly changed once the two were intertwined, which also helped the last half of the book progress much more quickly than the first half. The cryptic messages that Joey left behind were a nice touch; I heartily enjoyed trying to solve the pages of broken text before reading the correct answer that followed alongside Lydia and her eccentric acquaintances. I was fully invested in the broken relationship between Lydia and her father; both characters had survived far more trauma than any one person should have to endure in their life. While each character was written in the most excellent form, I felt those two were the shining stars of our tale and I could have read a book solely on the turmoil between the two.

This story was so many things; while it was weighted with a heavy sadness, it was equal parts dry humor and wit. Where it held dark content and depressing plot twists, it also manifested hopeful themes of forgiveness and uplifting lessons of life being what you choose it to be. Finally, while it may have slowed in a few spots, it was a worthy read and one I won’t soon forget. Highly recommended to readers of literary fiction who are wanting to branch out briefly into the mystery/thriller genre while staying within their comfort zone. Sullivan’s writing was moving and convinced me he must be a father himself; I can’t imagine anyone writing such a book without the experience of loving a child to inspire it. With the inside story being as captivating as the outside cover, I think readers will be pleased and moved by how the author chooses to take many timely issues and subtly place them in the narrative for pondering beyond the immediate tale.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here. 

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