Audible Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of LiesIn this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed listening to this story on Audible. The cover and premise intrigued me and I like the idea of a woman writing a tell-all of her famous author mother and the dark secrets she holds. Meg soon finds out not everything is what it seems and there is a crazy twist to the story-line at the end. I thought it was great!

I also like the idea of the story taking place on a privately-owned island off the Georgia Coast. Lots of good description of island life. All the characters were great and had their own unique personality. That is very important in storytelling.

Meg’s investigation of a murder that took place on the island long ago was fascinating to read about and made the story chilling and tragic. I’ve rated this story four stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Excerpt Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Steph Pic retakeDan Brown is the author of best-selling book The DaVinci Code among others and I believe he prides himself on writing fiction that has stirred numerous debates on his premises. His works-while fiction-has an intellectual ideology of science and religion and I think that is what fascinates me most about his work. Or maybe how he portrays his settings and characters? Either way, they do draw people in and I admire that in an author.

However, earlier I did make up my mind not to read anymore of his books. Alas, this latest one and considering Brown’s reputation has sparked my interest yet again in this controversy subject of science and religion. Before I start sounds too repetitive, let me tell you what I think of the prologue and the first chapter I was given by the publishers through NetGalley to read and review.

Brief summary of prologue and first chapter-Edmond Kirsch a man of accomplished science, a former student of Robert Langdon, journeys to Spain to speak with religious scholars about a vital secret of his scientific discovery that will shake the foundations of the religious world-if you will. One of the men he speaks to is Bishop Antonia Valdespino-a formidable figure in Spain. A man-I can already tell-of great wisdom and intellect.

In the prologue, it is not told what the secret is and in the first chapter Langdon goes to meet Kirsch to hear what he has discovered. Of what little interaction I read between the two men, I found to be utterly interesting and I wanted to continue with the story…. Dan Brown has succeeded in capturing my attention in this excerpt and I am anxiously awaiting to read more. One other thing, Brown is great with character development and descriptive language.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

About the book:

Origin

A Novel by Dan Brown

Doubleday Books

Doubleday

General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & ThrillersPub Date 03 Oct 2017

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Book Review: Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Friend Request II

MARIA WESTON WANTS TO BE FRIENDS. BUT MARIA WESTON’S DEAD. ISN’T SHE?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.

My Thoughts:

When I finished this book, my whole perspective changed about social media and who you accept back into your life after years and years of not hearing from people. I kid you not. After I got through the first chapter I was completely creeped out but I couldn’t stay away. I HAD to know everything that was about to happen. A few times, I had to put the book down because of the suspenseful content. However, that is a good thing, right? I have to admit, I was pretty tense reading this story and as I understand it, this is the authors debut novel. Just, wow! Friend Request is just about the best thriller I have read all year.

The story reminded me how much teenagers can be so cruel and the consequences that come after by that cruelty. Louise boggled my mind as her story unfolds. She is an adult but is still very much stuck in the past and when the past comes a knocking full force, instead of just telling the truth to the police, she creates more danger for herself and the people around her. I’d have to say that is the thrill and suspense of the story however, and it was told really well. There were some twist and turns I didn’t see coming and the ending was so sad but a good conclusion to the story.

I will certainly be more careful what I share to the public!

I have obtained a review copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

I have rated this book four and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Berkley Publishing Group

Berkley

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 20 Mar 2018

Description

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

My thoughts:

What makes a story? There are several answers to this question. When I read The Broken Girls, several things came to me. Most importantly truth in storytelling and how an author pulls it off. I am all for character development, plot driven stories. They are vital and this story has that but what about truth? Truth in human emotions. Truth in exploring one’s past. Truth in what haunts us. I can honestly say that St. James is an author to follow in these attributes of well-drawn stories. She really connects you to the characters and their story. That is truth. Each character has their own struggles and it brings the plot together in a delicious package of mystery, friendships heartache and meaningful human connections.

I was also delighted to feel a bit creeped out by the small town and the boarding school. The author makes you want to explore the ruins of Idlewild Hall and its past even further. I could easily read another story about the characters and location. Meaning, I didn’t want this story to end!

I can’t really pinpoint which characters stood out to me the most. They were all strong and interesting in this story and I sympathized with them all.

I really like the premise of a journalist who goes to no end to reveal the mystery surrounding her sister’s death and how the present day connects to the past in more than just one way.

I have to say that I feel sorry for the readers who have to wait to read this story when its published. The Broken Girls is truly an amazing story that has captivated me to no end and Simone St. James is my new favorite author! A must read.

I have rated this book five stars!

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Arrowwood new bookReview Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Harlequin (US & Canada)

MIRA

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 18 Jul 2017

Description

1895

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

The Afghan War is over and a deal with the Irish appears to have brought an end to sectarian violence, but Britain’s position in the world is uncertain and the gap between rich and poor is widening. London is a place where the wealthy party while the underclass are tempted into lives of crime, drugs and prostitution. A serial killer stalks the streets. Politicians are embroiled in financial and sexual scandals. The year is 1895.

The police don’t have the resources to deal with everything that goes on in the capital. The rich turn to a celebrated private detective when they need help: Sherlock Holmes. But in densely populated south London, where the crimes are sleazier and Holmes rarely visits, people turn to Arrowood, a private investigator who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime. Arrowood understands people, not clues.

My thoughts:

Sherlock Holmes is not the only private detective in London and if he has competition, it still remains to be seen. Arrowood and Barnett are hard press for a client and when a woman appears at their office seeking help to find her brother, the two detectives reluctantly decide to help her. Before they know it, they find the case more of a challenge than they thought. One of their potential witnesses ends up dead early on in the investigation and things get really heated after that.

Arrowood is an arrogant, silly man in many ways in my opinion. He annoyed me to no end. I have a feeling this might be the author’s goal for this character. As least I hope since I’ve been brutally honest about how I feel about him. The question is Arrowood’s characterization important for the story? There were a few times I wanted Barnett to slap him stupid. Though I have to admit his method in finding clues and questioning witnesses is an interesting one. He seemed to pride himself in being the opposite of Sherlock and had no problems in expressing that-too often in my opinion. Having said that, there were times I felt sympathy for him. Maybe just a little. If it weren’t for Barnett, the story wouldn’t hold much weight for me. I wish Sherlock had come along to shake things up.

I would like to add that I felt there were too many characters in the story. At times, it was a bit of a challenge to keep up. However, I do understand that in order for detectives to solve a case, they must interact and talk to a lot of people. Still…

The ending was satisfactory. In a nutshell, this was just an okay read for me. I expected more…

I rated this book a generous three stars.

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

DNF: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Girl in SnowGirl in Snow

by Danya Kukafka

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

************
My thoughts:

I was excited about starting this book over Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t working and had carefully chosen the books I wanted to read. Girl in Snow was second on my list. When I first started reading this book, I really found the characters interesting except for Lucinda. The story starts off with her being dead but you really don’t connect to her and you don’t feel sympathy-at least I didn’t.

As I got further in the story it started to fizzle and fizzle quick. I got about 20% in and realized this probably won’t be a finish read for me but I rallied on a little longer to see if it got better. Half way through the book, I gave up. When a person writes a thriller and there is nothing thrilling about it…ahem, go back to revisions! I know that sounds really harsh but it needed to be said. Don’t get me wrong, the premise is great and the characterization had potential for a physiological thriller but it missed its mark.

Another thing, I needed more dialogue and action coming from the characters! Showing in is very important in story-telling.

I am not rating this book since I did not finish it.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley. I feel bad for not liking this story but felt necessary to give my honest opinions why I did not finish the book.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Life She Was GivenOn a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

My thoughts:

If I remember correctly in the last few years I have read a total-including this one-three book that include a circus setting. These stories capture my attention for many reasons. Especially when the story takes place during the depression era in the early 20th Century. The Life She Was Given has a uniqueness to the story unlike the others I have read before it. It should be obvious what it is by reading the book description.

Normally, when I read stories this good, I devour it in a couple of days but I decided to savory this one. During the 1930’s and into the 40’s, the circus struggled to stay open due to the depression. Often times they had to make tough choices and this story shows some of that.  Often times they were cruel, heartbreaking and unnecessary decisions. I have to say that ignorance plays a big part in the decisions. Another theme in this story was the “freak Show,” and how these extraordinary people were treated. There are several other themes to this story that moved me and really portrays how cruel life can be. We all have many things to learn from this story and I highly recommend people read this book.

Wiseman’s ardent portrayal of an era, subject and setting, sets the stage for an unforgettable read.

I have rated this book five stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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