Book Review: The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

About the book:

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

My thoughts:

I must confess that this story took me a while to read and as I got closer to the conclusion, I was eager to push through. I have three minds about this book. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book. I am not a fan of Hollywood and the corruptness is disgustingly appalling and in the resent years, they been have increasingly known to the public. Not only that, but the politically and socially motivated agenda pushed on the masses and the kind-of movies that are being made out lately…Yeah, I won’t delve further in that topic at present.

While I found the story starting to lag a bit and go on too much about details and my attention waned at times, there are a lot of well-written twisty and tensely moments throughout the story.

The situations Mia found herself in kept getting increasingly stranger and I began to think that everything happening to her was in her head or someone was seriously messing with her. I found it amusing that Mia in this book played the Jane Eyre part like Mia Wasikowska in real life. I did like how she was asking herself what would Jane Eyre do or act upon in dilemmas she found herself in.

I appreciated the author’s portrayal of LA and from what I heard about the area; she is spot on. Though, she was likely being tamed about the telling. Which, I’m happy with because that was partly why I was hesitate to read this book.

I was relieved to find the conclusion satisfying because I had my doubts. As a whole, The Disappearing Act is a clever story with fast-moving tension and sordid truths about the movie industry.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten

Pub Date Sep, 7th 2021

Oceanview Publishing

Mystery & Thrillers

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Witten and he writes one heck of an at the edge your seat, nail biting thriller! It doesn’t take the reader anytime at all to be completely absorbed in the story. His protagonist Susan Lentigo is one that we can all admire and cheer for. She is a complex woman but there is no doubt, she will fight for justice and do the right think no matter what. She has been dealt a terrible hand of cards and losing her daughter to rap and murder is something no parent should ever endure. That was heart breaking to read about and at first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to read the story but felt I must. I’m so glad I did because the story also focuses on executions of murderers. Needless to say, no one in this story has a problem with executing a person who murders children.

I must caution you; the story might be too sensitive of a subject to some readers and there is profanity throughout the book. Other than that, this is a well written, fleshed out thriller.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Expected publication: August 17th 2021 by Atria Books

About the book:

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

My thoughts:

Most true crime novels, that I have read, pretty much delves in every facet of the human experience you can think of and at times, you don’t necessarily want to explore too much. Or do you? The criminal mind is shocking and heinous and does not limit itself to one shape, color or size.

What of the people who are obsessed with those stories? The ones who investigate, write those books or portray them in some form of medium? How do they live their lives? Like in The Family Plot, dioramas portraying crime scenes. Author Megan Collins gives her readers a chilling story of one family’s life centered around their own obsession of true crime. Not only that, but strange events and a horrible and unspeakable crim quickly becomes uncovered at their own door.

The Lighthouse family is certainly strange, twisted and creepy, wrapped up in their own secrets, lies, pain and eccentricity. Their odd behavior and unorthodox ways, has the local town leery of them to say the least!

Dahila Lighthouse seems to be the only one with a touch of reality as she ventures to uncover the crime that is discovered among them. Her siblings and mother are out of touch or basically wanting to stay in their bubble. It is safe there for them, or so they think. Though, who can really fault them? Especially the brothers…Imagine a lie, like a seed, being planted and taking root so deep, that one feels they can never unbury the truth. It is too ugly and disturbing. Imagine having to live with that lie in fear and pain growing up as a kid. No child should ever go through what the Lighthouse brothers did. Or what anyone of them had to for that matter.

I must say that I have never read a story quite like this one and I am absolutely delighted I chose to read this book. The story build-up was strong, great scenes, complex and frightening characters, and a solid plot. Though, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. That said, I highly recommend this book to people who love reading about crime, family secrets and mystery.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

Published August 3rd 2021 by Minotaur Books

Three couples travel to a destination wedding for the weekend in Portugal, a stunning villa high on the cliffs with the sounds of roaring waves crashing on the rocks below. What could go wrong? Everything!

My gosh! There is so much drama in this story that I felt I was transported back to high school. Needless to say, this story is not my usual fan fair but I found myself unable to put it aside, and I was imagining of all sorts of scenarios of how this would end. The author weaved bread crumbs throughout the story, and then there would be a twist to throw you off, just to lead you back to the same conclusion. The story went in all sorts of directions to the very end. Did I figure it out before the ending? Yes, I did with a couple details I didn’t see coming.

The Quilt Trip emphasizes just how much stupid and destructive things people do and say under the influence of alcohol and for just down right selfish and petty reasons. Furthermore, how secrets and lies are a tender box waiting to ignite at any moment when least expected.

The build up to this story was great, however, I found some minor errors in details to be an unbelievable and the ending did not measure up. For example, without going into too much detail, the tragedy at the wedding scene was overly complicated and did not work for me.

As far as the characters go, the person I felt most empathy for was Jack’s brother Will. Despite his role being in the background a bit, I enjoyed his personality and free spirit. He is the nomad type, a wanderer. A person who would happily sleep under the stars without worry. With this crowd and his brother, its no wonder! Rachel, Jack, Paige, Noah and Ali were extremely unlikable characters and their dysfunction drove me nuts. I dare say, that is the point of the story, I’m sure.

Despite my misgivings, I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy the book. -Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Description:

Six friends.

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.

As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .

But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

Book Review: The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Published April 15th 2021

The Thin Place is told in three points of views with their stories told in different time periods and they become interwoven with its supernatural elements.

Marion, a woman newly married, moved to her husband’s estate to only be neglected by him, used and dealt with repeated miscarriages.

Constance, a young sad, sickly girl who was basically kept locked away by her mother. Her need to please her mother became wrought in anguish and bitterness. There was an interesting, yet disturbing theme about the mother daughter relationship that helps drive the plot.

Ava, a female journalist, pregnant, lives in a small town, encounters Overtoun Estate and decides to investigates its tragic history. In doing so, she becomes obsessed with the place and its mystery, puts her life in jeopardy.

The Thin Place is described as a place where two worlds joined. To some, it can be a place of an abyss of sorts or heaven- if you will. Confusing, yes? It is widely known that many people feel these places when they come close to them. Especially, in England and Ireland. Though I can imagine these experiences happen everywhere and people just don’t understand them. Apparently, the more you experience these places, the more your sense of them are intensified. This theme is interwoven in the story and I’m still undecided if it worked or not. I have to admit, I felt as if I was told about this place rather than shown. I felt disconnected to Ava, Marion and Constance’s experience with the area, and their plight with Overtoun House.

Ava is the leading character and I have to admit I disliked her. Which is a problem for me because I’m usually cheering for the protagonist. I found her to be self-absorbed and often absent of feelings, neglectful and unkind to family and friends. Was it because she had become obsessed with the Overtoun House? So much so, that it consumed her to the point that she wasn’t even thinking about others and the baby’s well-being growing inside her? I’m not convinced despite the final conclusion of the story.

The only person I felt sympathy for was Constance and even then, I felt her story needed to be fleshed out a bit more and for The Thin Place to be more convincing. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling the supernatural and creep vibe as I thought I would be entering into the story.

That said, the premise is a good one and I enjoyed parts of the author’s descriptions of things, the premise, setting and the history of Overtoun House. Overall, I’m happy I chose to read this story.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy of The Thin Place from the publisher through Netgalley, for an honest review.

Book Review: Brilliant Disguise by Mary Anne Edwards

(The Charlie McClung Mysteries #1)

Published November 2020 by Sellem Books

Mystery & Thrillers | True Crime | Women’s Fiction

Are you sure you could tell the difference between murder and suicide?

Having had more than enough of the big city, Detective Charlie McClung moves to a small town looking for a simpler life. Turns out his first case is the most complicated of his career.

A young woman is found shot and while everyone is telling him suicide, his gut, and the dead woman’s beautiful neighbor, are telling him something quite different.

How far can he dig before he uncovers secrets never meant to be unearthed? Throw in a shady police chief and an unexpected love interest and McClung quickly finds himself with more trouble than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts:

I love a good mystery and while it’s not often I read cozy ones, I enjoyed Brilliant Disguise. Discovering that the story takes place in Georgia made it all the better!

The story began with a death by a gun shot and Marion the next-door neighbor, doesn’t believe it was a subside. Marion knows her friend Dianne would never commit such a travesty as taking her own life. Soon after the heart-breaking indecent, McClung interviewed Marion and they hit it off pretty quickly. They soon joined forces to find out what happened to Dianne and they uncover a cover up that took them into the heart of the very police force he works for.

The story flowed well and there was enough intrigue and suspense to keep you me invested. I have to admit, there were only two characters in the story I cared about and surprisingly neither of them was Marion. Strange that seeing that she is the star of the show, along with McClung. That said, since McClung likes her, maybe she will grow on me. I did, however, want to walk in her garden and try one of her freshly baked cookies and sit with her and talk about books.

Brilliant Disguise is one of the better cozy mysteries I’ve read. I look forward to reading the next book in this series!

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1) by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder was a quick read and I found myself fully absorbed in the story. I must admit, I chose the book because of the cover and title. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for quite sometime and decided to pick it up this weekend. This story is fascinating and sad at the same time. Yet, beautifully written and there’s descriptive scenery throughout.

Madison captured my heart. As a little girl, she was taken and missing for three years, she quickly creates a world of her own based on a fairytale story she loves, for survival.

Naomi, is a woman who was abducted herself when she was younger and is called to find Madison. At all odds, her discovery of the girl’s whereabouts reveals memories of her own past.

The Child Finder is a uniquely told story, that takes you into the world of a highly imaginative and clever mind of a child, whose self-preservation is astounding.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Hardcover, 274 pages

Published September 5th 2017 by Harper

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Book Review: Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenberg

Published April 6th 2021 by She Writes Press

Margaret Rodenberg brings us a story of Emperor Napoleon’s defeat and his exile on the Island of Helena in what is still, consider to this day, one of the most remote Island on earth. Finding Napoleon is about his final years and his plot to escape the Island and rescue his son. While on the Island, trust in the people surrounding him is quite the skill to say the least.

In the beginning, I felt as if the characters were moving parts in a play. Told where to stand, what to say and when to say it. I’m not sure that makes much sense but, in better words, I felt very little for them and that very well may be the point. Napoleon was using them and they were using him. We aren’t meant to have warm and fuzzy feelings for these people. They weren’t exactly pillars of society in terms of being moral and honest people. In my opinion, they were opportunist. As for the people of the Island, Tobyson, Hercules and Betsy were good people and despite Napoleon’s faults, they held him in high regard.

While Napoloen’s love affair with Albine wasn’t particularly “romantic”, I felt the author’s portrayal of their relationship realistic. That said, I still haven’t completely decided how I feel about Albine or her relations with Napoleon for that matter. Afterall, she was a married woman and I don’t say this with naivety. I’m well aware of the culture during that time. Maybe she felt she had to do what she did for survival.

Albine is a complex woman and people considered her a liar and a loose woman. Though many of the very people who said those things about her, were no better. In the end, she made good on a promise to Napoleon and I had to admire her for that. I would like to believe that leaving that Island and her changed circumstances in life, made her a better person in the end.

I feel Rosenberg depicted Napoleon’s ego as how I have always imagined it to be. Napoleon is intelligent and he very well knows it. He is always scheming and, in my opinion, using people for his own purpose and pleasures. He is a master manipulator. Despite his thirst for his own glory or survival-if you will-I found his interest in the world and how things worked intriguing to read about. He is a good listener and you do see a softer side to him in this story but I remain-rightfully so- suspicious of his motives.

I’ve read many novels about Napoleon but very little of his time on St. Helena or the end of his life in-depth such as this one. Nor was I familiar with the fact he began to write a story that was unfinished. That was exciting to learn and it intrigued me enough to read this book and wanting to know the author’s take on the history. I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been life if he had chosen a different path. He could have possibly done so much good with his intellect and charismatic personality.

You are reading two different stories with Finding Napoleon and how Rosenberg beautifully weaves Napoleon’s writing efforts into the time line and expanding on the story, is close to brilliant.

I appreciate the author’s obvious fascination with Napoleon. He is definitely a hot topic for discussion and this fact certainly shows in this book.

I recommend Finding Napoleon to readers who are already familiar with Napoleon’s life before his stay on the Island.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

More about the book:

With its delightful adaptation of Napoleon Bonaparte’s real attempt to write a novel, Finding Napoleon offers a fresh take on Europe’s most powerful man after he’s lost everything. A forgotten woman of history–Napoleon’s last love, the audacious Albine de Montholon–narrates their tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal.

After the defeated Emperor Napoleon goes into exile on tiny St. Helena Island in the remote South Atlantic, he and his lover, Albine de Montholon, plot to escape and rescue his young son. Banding together African slaves, British sympathizers, a Jewish merchant, a Corsican rogue, and French followers, they confront British opposition–as well as treachery within their own ranks–with sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but always desperate action.
When Napoleon and Albine break faith with one another, ambition and Albine’s husband threaten their reconciliation. To succeed, Napoleon must learn whom to trust. To survive, Albine must decide whom to betray.

Two hundred years after Napoleon’s death, this elegant, richly researched novel reveals a relationship history conceals.

New Book Release: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Many congrats to Rhys Bowen’s book publication of, “The Venice Sketchbook!”

About the Book:

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins. 

**********

“Juliet “Lettie” Browning, an English woman, is a woman of strength and courage. The life she experienced and saw during her stay in Venice were during uncertain times. Her will to behave uprightly puts her in many dangers but her resilience is an example to us all…read more of my review at this post link.” -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Kelly Heard

Published April 9th 2021 by Bookouture

I wake in a bed, with a stranger leaning over me. She asks my name and I realise I don’t know what it is. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here…

I’m grateful to the police who found me on the remote stretch of highway, covered in blood, with crimson flowers in my hair. To the doctors, too, who brought me back from the brink of death.

But I see the suspicion in their eyes.

They don’t believe me when I say I don’t remember who I am. They are unsure if I can be trusted.

Am I the innocent victim? Or guilty of a terrible crime?

No one has reported me missing or come looking for me. But today, a bouquet of blood-red roses has been delivered to my room.

Am I in danger? Or is someone trying to help me?

Searching for anything in this town that might seem familiar, I’m cornered by a woman with wild eyes who calls me I name I don’t know. She tells me my brother is in danger and only I can save him.

But how do I know if I can trust her, if I can’t even trust myself?

My thoughts:

Imagine being found on the side of the road with flowers in your hair, beaten badly and a few days later, you wake up with no memory of who you are. That is what happened to Sophie and it becomes apparent, rather quickly, that she is in danger. She starts to remember things from her childhood and she knows she has a brother named Miles and she has strong emotions about him.  After the doctors and police give her permission to leave the hospital, she must find food and shelter. Sophie lands a job at an historic home, that is known to be haunted, as a landscaper. She develops a relationship of sorts with the overseer and his son. As the chapters continue, she slowly gains more memories and her continued thoughts of her brother become stronger. She is certain that she needs to find him and that he will resolve everything.

For someone who woke up with that kind-of trauma and not knowing you are, I thought Sophie would be a bit more disturbed and concerned about her well-being. She wasn’t and I found that to be strange for this type of story. The reader is shown glimpses of her apparent personality as the story unfolds but you’re still not sure who she really is and what she has gotten herself involved with.  

I did like many of the aspects of the story but felt things weren’t fleshed out at a good pace throughout book and the whole “haunted house” part seemed contrived. Twist and turns in a thriller are important but sometimes those can take too many turns before you start to totally veer off in the wrong different. There were times, I began to wonder if that was happening. But then everything falls in your lap at the conclusion.

Despite those issues, I kept on reading because I needed to know what was going on and who she really was!

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.