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: 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?

Cover Crush: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

About the cover: I love when a layout shows the persons face! The rain and colors of grey and to lighter colors on the bottom of the layout, really makes it stand out. That said, it is a simple cover but nonetheless, the cover made me want to find out more about the story.

About the book: I discovered this book from Margaret with Just One More Chapter. She had posted about it on social media and discussed a little about how it went with a theme for her latest Kindle read. You Will Remember Me is mystery thriller and with the cover and premise combined, it looks like a great book to curl up with on a stormy night! -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Forget the truth.

Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything–his identity, his life, his loved ones–has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.

New Book Release: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Congrats to Jennifer McMahon’s book publication of, “The Drowning Kind!”

About the book:

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us

“A good mystery writer needs to know how to build dramatic tension and suspense that flows evenly through their stories. McMahon certainly knows how to balance those elements and more… She shows, brilliantly, how her characters work through complex situations in their lives and has a unique way of drawing the reader in as if they were experiencing the conflicts for themselves. She most certainly holds a special place in the mystery genre.” You can read more of my review at this post link. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: A Conventicle of Magpies by L.M.R. by LMR Clarke

(The Bloodskill Duology Book 1)

BooksGoSocial

Sci Fi & Fantasy

Pub Date 06 Jan 2021  

About the Book:

Rook is an unapologetic thief, determined to do anything to ensure her mother and siblings survive the squalid and dangerous streets of Stamchester.

Rook slips, like a shadow, in and out of the homes of the ruling elite, the Avanish, and steals what she needs. She feels no regret, afterall, the Avanish have enslaved her people, the Saosuíasei, and worse, have now determined the Saosuíasei to be disposable and worthy of nothing other than death. 

However, Rook is not the only shadowy figure in Stamchester. And far more deadly one haunts the filthy streets, striking fear into Avanish and Saosuíasei alike. A serial killer who drains every ounce of blood from his victims, and satisfies the elite’s demand for blood to burn in the magical art of Bloodskill and enhance their own natural, and sometimes unnatural, abilities. 

How can Rook outfox the serial killer and raise her people from the ashes left by the Avanish oppression? 

My Thoughts:

Conventicle girls never surrender.” – Rook

I stepped out of my comfort zone picking up this story and glad I did! I recommend starting with the prologue. You get a clear understanding of just how despicable the people in power AKA the rich are to people who are different from them. The prologue is written as letters between Governor Dredchain and Viscount Trass. They viewed these people as animals that needed to be dealt with swiftly. As you read on, you soon discover their plans are much more sinister and you become further absorbed in the story.

I really enjoyed getting to know a few of the characters and their quirky names. For example: Rook, Pit, Crake, Billy Drainer, and Pigeon- to name a few. That said, there are too many characters introduced and not enough information about them to form any lasting connection or impression, me thinks. Which is important, especially, in a story like this one. Though I felt like I began to know Rook pretty good seeing she is a protagonist.

There is also too many things going on in the story that I felt pushed and pulled -a bit- in different directions. Nonetheless, I kept ready on because the premise itself was so fascinating and the writing engaging! A few interesting aspects include the Victorian setting, conflicts between the characters and the bloodskill.

Fans of Neil Gailman and Suzanne Collins will enjoy this story. Not only that, Clarke gives a bird’s eye view of discrimination and the people who stand up to adversity. I look forward to reading the next book in this series!  

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Book Review: Heartbreak Hotel (Alex Delaware #32) by Jonathan Kellerman

Published February 14th 2017 by Ballantine Books

About the book:

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

Heartbreak Hotel is classic Delaware and classic Kellerman. 

My thoughts:

The subject of human behavior has been the driving force of Alex Delaware series and Kellerman has made a name for himself. Like many others, his interest in psychology brings detective work to the forefront. Criminal Psychologists study the moral compass-or lack of-of the human mind. They strive to understand the motivations, reactions and actions of people who commit various levels of crimes.

Thirty-two books in a series is quite a feat to say the least. I appreciate and respect writers who take on the task of writing such stories. It cannot not be easy and there definitely is an art to the process. This particular genre’s depth is widely known. Some prefer to read about the subject without becoming too uncomfortable. While others want to read stories that delve deeper and darker into people’s behaviors. Kellerman’s stories are among the very few books in this genre that I began with when I was a younger reader.

I rather enjoyed the beginning of Heartbreak Hotel. With the brief yet cryptic conversation about psychopaths between Alex and Thalia that is meant to grab the reader’s attention. That in itself was nicely executed and absorbing. I liked Alex and Milo’s interviews and interactions with witnesses and suspects. Those scenes were entertaining to say the least.

Alex and Milo both likable and they work well together. Almost as they are conjoined. I guess that happens when you work closely with a person long enough. If you’ve read the other books in the series, you will know that Alex has seen far more than his fair share of tragedy that any person could fathom. How he maintains his cool is quite impressive. Alex’s every thought seems to be measured before uttering a word. To anyone. His principled and intellectual mind makes for an intriguing person but I found myself wanting more from him

While Kellerman takes us in-depth into human behavior, I felt the background story of the characters needed to be fleshed out and over half way through the book, I found it difficult to maintain my interest and remain objective. The mystery is captivating but you find the elements of the investigating and characters-in this case- Alex and Milo become all too formulaic. I swear I could almost predict what their next plan of action was going to be and what they would say next.

There was a time-several books back now-where I looked forward to reading an Alex Delaware story. But the main characters have become too comfortable in their roles. Perpetual dilly-dallying comes to mind when I read this book. Heartbreak Hotel is a vague remembrance of what was once a great series, in my opinion. I feel the series has long run its course for me to remain a fan.

Don’t allow my experience with this story sway you. Heartbreak Hotel is a good story for readers who want to stay safely in their comfort zone. No wrong in that. If you’ve never read the any of the books in the series, might I suggest you start with his earlier books?

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

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

My thoughts:

Simone St. James is among my favorite suspense writers and when I spotted this book on NetGalley, I might have almost fell out of my desk chair. I was overjoyed! I must confess I read the story last year and for whatever reason I failed to write a review. I do remember having a few issues with it and I couldn’t remember some details of the story. This prompted me to read the story again for a fresh start.

St. James is brilliant at setting the stage for a creepy story! Reading Sun Down Motel definitely gives one pause about staying in a road side motel! The location and the people of the story are intriguing and you do sympathize with their troubles. Like the first time reading the book, the second time around, I still had trouble with some parts that were dragging. I felt there were too much detail in the telling and not enough showing. Maybe that is just me.

Viv and Carly’s story were so similar that at times, I became confused who I was reading about. Maybe it was because of the lapse of time when I wasn’t reading the story? Not so much the second time around.

There was a scene in the story where I guessed what happened to Viv. It actually was a small detail and I was actually surprised to pick up on it. Towards the climax the story started to weaken and I was really disappointed in the ending. It fell completely flat in my opinion.

Don’t allow my thoughts on Sun Down Motel sway you from not reading this story. It is a good premise, atmospheric and over all I enjoyed it.

I’ve rated this story three stars and I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie Hopkins

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