The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager #BookReview

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TITLE:      The Last Time I Lied

Paperback Release Date: April 2, 2019

AUTHOR:               Riley Sager

GENRE:                 Thriller

PAGE COUNT:       370

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.75
Story: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

In this New York Times bestselling thriller from the author of Lock Every Door and Final Girls, a young woman returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

BOOK TRAILER:

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

You probably recognize the author’s name, Riley Sager. I recently reviewed his book Final Girls, which I loved. It was the first book in a while that I actually gave a 5 out of 5-star review. Well, he did it again with The Last Time I Lied. It was amazing.

STORY (★★★★★): This story follows Emma, who at the age of 13 goes to summer camp at Camp Nightingale and bunks with three other girls who end up going missing and the camp is shutdown. This book takes place 15 years after that event and Emma is now an accomplished artist in New York City who secretly paints the three missing girls into all of her paintings, hidden under layers of paint.  Basically, she suffers from anxiety because of this tragic event that happened during her childhood and she uses her art as a form of therapy.

During her art show, at the gallery, Franny the owner of the camp shows up and asks her to return to camp for the camps re-opening. She wants her to come and be an art instructor at the camp. Emma eventually decides to go hoping for closer, and also hoping to maybe do a little investigating and find out what happened to the three girls.

WRITING (★★★★★): The pace of this story is great. It’s a very fast read, I think I finished it in just a few days.

The structure is interesting, it jumps back and forth between the past and present a lot. This allows us to not under understand what Emma is going through today but also what she experienced 15 years prior and how that colored her world as she grew up.

This book was so much fun to read. Sager is great at putting suspicion on so many of the characters making it hard for the reader to trust anyone. Usually I can figure out ‘who done it’, but with this one I didn’t know the end until the twist happened and the answers are given.

I really like how Riley Sager writes and I love his vivid settings and descriptions. He uses a lot of similes in his comparisons that just paint a wonderful picture for the reader. I love his plot twists and the big reveals – like in Final Girls, the reveal in this one really surprised me.

I love how Riley Sager is able to tie up all the loose endings by the end of the book. It makes for a very clean story with no plot holes, which I like when it comes to single story books as opposed to series. In a series, I want to be left with a cliffhanger until the last book.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): There are so many characters that I wanted to trust, but couldn’t. You even find out things about the lead character, Emma, that make you question whether or not she is the “good guy” or the “bad guy”.

Since this book is told from the perspective of a female character, there are a number of scenes where the author, being a man, could have really messed up. However, Sager is really good at writing from the female perspective and capturing the emotions that come along with the events that happen throughout the story both in the past as well as present day.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover, designed by Alex Merto with photograph by Aaron Smith, is beautiful and haunting, although the photo doesn’t look like the character of Emma.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Sometimes the only way out is through.”

“My future is quite literally a blank canvas, waiting for me to fill it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries. His second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, LOCK EVERY DOOR, which is currently on my TO READ LIST, was an instant New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today bestseller. A television adaptation is being developed by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

ALSO BY RILEY SAGER:

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The Outsider by Stephen King ~ Book Review

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TITLE: The Outsider (June 4, 2019)

AUTHOR:     Stephen King

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★.★ (4.5)
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Soon to be an HBO limited series starring Ben Mendelsohn!

Evil has many faces…maybe even yours in this #1 New York Times bestseller from master storyteller Stephen King.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park (WARNING – IT IS VERY GRAPHIC). Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems iron-clad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

* Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

There has been so much talk about and praise giving to this book that I just had to read it and see if it lived up to the hype. In my opinion, yes… YES it does. I’m a huge King fan, but I’ll be the first to admit that some of his recent work, I’m talking in the last few years, hasn’t really been my favorite. This one however, I really loved this book. It is a classic good vs. evil story and yet it is still completely original and has the natural clearly Stephen King feel.

WRITING (★★★★★): Stephen King can weave words together like a spider weaves a web. His words are beautiful, haunting, freakishly terrifying, and they trap the reader like an unsuspecting fly never letting go until the spider is done with him.

The Outsider has an uneasy realness quality about it. It’s the same feeling you get when reading the Mr. Mercedes novels. Its less about the things that go bump in the night and more about the unexplainable murder mystery and wondering just how much of it could really happen. It isn’t until late in the novel that King introduces his signature supernatural twist. I won’t lie, I was waiting for it. I even predicted who the killer really was. I’ve read enough Stephen King to know there is always more to his stories than just the reality we live in and if you’re looking for them, he leaves breadcrumbs – or clues – along the way.

STORY (★★★★): The Outsider is a crime novel with a classic Stephen King supernatural twist. Because it comes in at just 560 pages, this one is rather easy, quick to read. It is well paced and definitely one I would recommend to anyone who loves crime thrillers.

Stephen King is great at making you relate to his stories. In The Outsider, he pulls you in right from the beginning with the introduction of a horrific crime that has been committed against an eleven year old boy. Immediately it activates the readers sense of sympathy and compassion for the family involved and the town in which the boy lived. It makes you biased against the man they have in custody before you even know if he is guilty or innocent. King makes you feel like the world he has created could be your own.

Like most King novels, there were no weak elements in this story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): King has put together a great cast of characters in this one. Like other books, many of his characters are just normal people experiencing the horrific crime that has taken place and King allows us to watch through their eyes. There is even a character from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy that makes an appearance, to help with the investigation. That was really cool. I love when he ties his novels together showing us exactly what world or King universe, they are playing in.   

APPEARANCE (★★★★): I love the cover! It is stunning.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“People had the mistaken idea that Poe wrote fantastic stories about the supernatural, when in fact he wrote realistic stories about abnormal psychology.”

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

“Dreams are the way we touch the unseen world, that’s what I believe. They are a special gift.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game The Shining, It, and the list goes on.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Stephen King…

I can’t list them all, but below are a few of my favorites. Just click on the cover photo to read the description and order your copy!

Disclosure: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase. I only recommend products/books/tools I use and love!


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ~ Book Review

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  • Title: Before We Were Yours
  • Author: Lisa Wingate
  • Release Date: May 21, 2019

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★ (4 Stars)
Writing: ★★★★ | Story: ★★★★ | Characters: ★★★★ | Appearance: ★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain


Memphis, 1939. 
Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017  Winner of the Southern Book Prize  If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.”Parade

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I didn’t know anything about this book when I started reading it. It was a book club selection, so I didn’t need to read the back – I knew I was going to read it. I had a feeling it was going to be emotional, and it was. It isn’t the typical genre I like reading, but I am so glad I read it. It has opened my eyes to a piece of U.S. history that I never knew about. Not all history is good, in fact most isn’t, this included. Yet, not knowing, doesn’t make it any better. The families that supported and participated in this “legalized” child trading should be ashamed of themselves. It was disgusting and unforgivable. No child should have to suffer the way these kids did. No child should be ripped away from their family for no reason. There is a difference between children being put into the system when there is abuse, drug use, or the families are just unable to care for the children properly. But to have a child kidnapped off their front porch or sold into the system, its not right.

WRITING (★★★★):

Lisa Wingate’s writing style is simple and elegant storytelling. The pages are painted with descriptive text that make you feel like you’re there in the world she’s seeing in her mind. Talk of magnolias smelling like freedom, children wrapped in bedsheets like caterpillars, and the way the boat moans beneath their feet…all of it allows you to hear, smell, even taste exactly what the characters are experiencing.  

STORY (★★★★):

This book tells two stories, the first centers around Rill Foss and her siblings and the second centers around Avery Stafford a woman who comes from a well-known political family. The stories take place about 70 years apart, but are weaved into each other for the purposes of the novel. The first story, that of Rill Foss and her siblings, covers their time and experiences within the Tennessee Home for Children, and is both intriguing and devastating. The second story, that of Avery Stafford and the Stafford family as Avery is digging up her grandmother’s history and past secrets was a little less intriguing. In fact, at times, it was quite boring.

The Tennessee Home for Children portion of the story takes the unthinkable facts, based on the recounted stories told by children who survived the Tennessee Children’s Homes Society orphanage and who later were able to locate their lost family members after the documents were unsealed in 1995, 45 years after the home was closed. Lisa Wingate has created a family of believable siblings, using an all to likely storyline, caught up in this terrible scheme of child trafficking. It is heart-breaking and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. When you consider these things actually happened, and may still be happening in some areas of the world, it is sickening.

As a mother, this was a rather hard book to read. The subject matter is disturbing and unforgettable. I kept picturing my children going through what Rill and her siblings when through and it made me sick. Having a story like this be based on something that really happened makes it all the much worse. That being said, I felt like it was extremely well-written and hard to put down. I needed to get to the end. I needed to find out if everything worked out for them in the end, even though I knew that for many of the children in the care of the Tennessee Home for Children, things didn’t work out well.

CHARACTERS (★★★★):

Character development is one of Lisa Wingate’s strongest tools. She weaves two stories; then and now, into this book and the only thing holding them together is the strong characters she has created. Rill Foss (aka May Crandall) and her siblings has such a tight bond that the entire book your hoping and praying that there will be a happy ending and everyone will find each other again. Avery Stafford, the great granddaughter of Rill’s sister is a truly honorable woman, set on finding out the truth even if the buried secrets could hurt her family politically.

APPEARANCE (★★★★):

The cover is beautiful. It speaks to the heart without giving anything away.  

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“One of the best things a father can do for his daughter is let her know that she has met his expectations. My father did that for me, and no amount of effort on my part can fully repay the debt.”

“A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Selected among BOOKLIST’S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Masterful” and ForeWord Magazine refers to as “Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction’s Top 10, RT Booklover’s Reviewer’s Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.

IN THE WRITER’S OWN WORDS: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, made a writer out of me. That may sound unlikely, but it’s true. It’s possible to find a calling when you’re still in pigtails and Mary Jane shoes, and to know it’s your calling. I was halfway through the first grade when I landed in Mrs. Krackhardt’s classroom. I was fairly convinced there wasn’t anything all that special about me… and then, Mrs. Krackhardt stood over my desk and read a story I was writing. She said things like, “This is a great story! I wonder what happens next?”

It isn’t every day a shy new kid gets that kind of attention. I rushed to finish the story, and when I wrote the last word, the teacher took the pages, straightened them on the desk, looked at me over the top, and said, “You are a wonderful writer!”

A dream was born. Over the years, other dreams bloomed and died tragic, untimely deaths. I planned to become an Olympic gymnast or win the National Finals Rodeo, but there was this matter of back flips on the balance beam and these parents who stubbornly refused to buy me a pony. Yet the writer dream remained. I always believed I could do it because… well… my first grade teacher told me so, and first grade teachers don’t lie.

So, that is my story, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, or ever loved a special teacher, I salute you from afar and wish you days be filled with stories worth telling and stories worth reading.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Lisa Wingate:

Click on the book cover images below to read the descriptions and order your copy! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


No One’s Home by D. M. Pulley ~ Book Review

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  • Title: No One’s Home
  • Author: D. M. Pulley
  • Publication Date: 9/1/2019
  • Genre: Horror | Ghost Thriller | historical mysteries
  • Pages: 397

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RATING OVERVIEW (4.25 STARS)

Writing: ★★★★ Story: ★★★★ Characters: ★★★★ Appearance: ★★★★ ★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

or fans of The Haunting of Hill House comes a dark tale of a mansion haunted by a legacy of tragedy and a family trapped by lies.

Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.

After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.

As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

No One’s Home has been compared to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I’ve read… It’s scary. This book, although good, does not compare. It just didn’t live up to the hype.

WRITING (★★★★): Pulley is a great writer. Her descriptive text is beautiful and she does a great job of pulling you into a scene. However, this book covers the story of five different families, at five different periods in time; the Rawlings family 1922-1931, the Bell family 1936-1972, the Klussman Family 1972-1990, the Martin Family, and the Spielman family – present day. Although the writing is good and the stories are interesting, going back and forth between the different time periods only pulled me out of the story. Each time the story shifted, I had to take a moment to think back, figure out who these characters were and what their story was. That was a huge distraction for me. Although I can see this story working really well as a movie, shifting from one period to the next with lighting changes, appropriate set dressing, and costumes for each time period, it just didn’t work for me as a novel. I see the film done in a similar manor as American Horror Story, which actors playing multiple roles within the time period – almost a reincarnation of spirit sort of thing.


STORY (★★★★): The story is well thought out although maybe could have been structured a little better. I think this could have worked really well as a series of short stories… a collection of stories that take place over the years all centered around this one house in Shaker Heights.


CHARACTERS (★★★★): I wasn’t really sure who the main character was. The back of the book reads as if Margot and Myron Spielman are the main focus, but then their son, Hunter pulls more of the focus when reading. Then, you have to consider all of the other families you’re learning about. The Spielman family isn’t given any more “screen time” or “ink” than any of the other families. So, what family did Pulley really want this story to be about? I think we could have learned so much about the history of the story and been drawn in more to each of the stories if this were a collection of short stories.


APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. It even has the feel of the cover from The Haunting of Hill House although this one is set in blues were as The Haunting of Hill House is more oranges and Yellows. Whoever designed the cover, I give them credit. The creepy old house with the single light in the attic really does draw you in. I noticed this one on the shelf the instant I walked past and even before reading the back, I knew I was going to read the book. That to me, is the sign of a really good cover.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

D.M. Pulley lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, her two children, and a dog named Hobo. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a Professional Engineer rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Since then, Pulley has sold over a half a million books worldwide, and her work has been translated into eight different languages.

Pulley’s historical mysteries shine a light into the darker side of life in the Midwest during the twentieth century, when cities like Detroit and Cleveland struggled to survive. Her latest novel, No One’s Home, unravels the disturbing history of an old mansion haunted by family secrets, financial ruin, and murder. The abandoned buildings, haunted houses, and buried past of the Rust Belt continue to inspire her work. Learn more at www.dmpulley.com.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by D. M. Pulley

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The Unclaimed Victim

What if the last victim of Cleveland’s infamous Torso Killer got away?

In 1938, a serial killer terrorizes Cleveland, Ohio, leaving a trail of bodies along the rails and riverbeds. Ethel, a street-hardened woman who’s lost everything, takes refuge inside a city mission only to find that its righteous facade conceals the darkest of secrets. As she wanders the twisting corridors, it becomes clear she may never leave the mission alive.

Sixty years later, the police discover the body of Alfred Wiley, dismembered in a disturbingly familiar way. His daughter, Kris, finds herself pulled into Cleveland’s haunting past as things he never told her begin to surface. Stolen books about the unsolved Torso Murders, missing archives, serial killer chat rooms, and an abandoned city mission are all somehow connected to his disappearance. The more she learns of her father’s obsession with the Torso Killer, the further she stumbles into a madman’s sights.

Separated by decades but trapped in the same killer’s web, Ethel and Kris must unravel the truth behind the city’s most notorious unsolved murders . . . or die trying.


The Dead Key

2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Grand Prize and Mystery & Thriller Fiction Winner

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.


The Buried Book

When Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he’s left on his uncle’s farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It’s 1952, and Jasper isn’t allowed to ask questions or make a fuss. He’s lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle’s good graces. No one knows where his mother went or whether she’s coming back. Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands. From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he’s drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother—and now it’s chasing him too.


Bright Side by Kim Holden ~ Book Review

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RATING OVERVIEW 4.75 STARS

Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WOW… I ate this book up, binge reading it in just a couple of days. It is a super-fast read with so much amazing detail.

WRITING (★★★★★): Kim Holden draws you right in with her playful dialogue between life long friends Kate and Gus. Immediately we feel their connection and realize that these two friends have just been separated as Kate left for college and Gus is still home in southern California following his dream of being a Rockstar.

The way Kim tells the story, each chapter from one character’s perspective, really pulled me into the book. It makes you, as a reader, feel more involved and it gives the story an overarching personal feeling that telling it from third person just wouldn’t have accomplished.

STORY (★★★★): This story takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get pissed… but, if you’re like me, you’ll love every minute of it.

A little warning though, this one is for mature audiences. Topics covered in Bright Side include loss, disease, eating disorders, homosexuality, sex, drinking, and SO MUCH MORE!!!

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): As an author, Kim Holden understands character development. She has to be one of my top 5 authors for character development. She had me emotionally connected, not only to the main character Kate but also with Gus, Keller, and everyone else. Seriously, even Kate’s college roommate, who is kind of a jerk, is written in a way that makes her misunderstood… I found myself wanting to know more about her. Who knows, maybe Kim will write a book for her at some point too.

Kate, also known as Bright Side, is a beautiful person inside and out. She is optimistic in every sense of the word and sadly, life has just not been kind to her. She has been dealt a terrible hand, but she doesn’t let it get her down. With every line… even when she is saying Dude every other word, we get a sense of who she is. That is the magic of good character development.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): Simple… Intriguing… and totally Bright Side! The cover made me smile even before I opened the pages to meet Bright Side!  

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Today, my life is awesome. I don’t want to think about tomorrow. Or the day after that. So I repeat to myself: Today, my life is awesome.”

“Don’t judge each other. We all have our own shit. Keep your eyes on yours and your nose out of everyone else’s unless you’re invited in. And when you get the invitation, help, don’t judge.”

“Imagine for a moment that you were free of all the expectations in your life. What would you do? How would you live your life with no one watching? What would your future look like?”

“Do Epic.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kim lives in what she calls the greatest city in the world: Denver, Colorado. Some of her favorite things: reading, writing, her husband and her son, her bicycle, Facebook, iced coffee, and music. She also loves dreaming. Her advice to anyone reading this, or any of her books… follow your dreams. It’s never too late. Get started today … heck get started RIGHT NOW! Make your dreams reality.
She loves to hear from fellow readers. So, if you want to reach out, find her on Goodreads at author/show/7445352.Kim_Holden

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kim Holden

GUS (Bright Side Book 2)

This is the story of Gus.
Losing himself.
Finding himself.
And healing along the way.

“ … but the honest-to-God truth is I don’t even know how to function anymore. Bright Side wasn’t only my best friend; she was like my other half … the other half of my brain, the other half of my conscience, the other half of my sense of humor, the other half of my creativity, the other half of my heart. How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?”

Note from the author: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is recommended for mature audiences.

FRANCO (Bright Side Book 3)

Franco Genovese is the drummer for world renowned American rock band, Rook. He’s got it all. A killer smile. Tattoos. Talent. Razor sharp wit and humor. And a heart as big, and generous, as they come.
Life is good. Steady. Uncomplicated. Just the way he likes things.
Until one night at an unassuming L.A. bar changes everything.
Enter Gemma Hendricks.
She’s a successful young architect from Northern England with an adorable smile, sarcasm for days, and an unparalleled trusting heart.
The attraction is instant.
So is their friendship.
It’s also temporary because they’ll both be heading home, thousands of miles apart from each other, in a few days.
Or is it?
There’s something Gemma wants more than anything else.
And when Franco propositions her to provide what she’s looking for, everything changes.
Will it transform friendship into love, or will it be their ruin?

THE OTHER SIDE

There are two sides to every story.
The surface reality that’s presented to the world…
And then there’s the other side.
The real one.
The one that matters.
Seventeen-year-old, self-proclaimed asshole, Toby Page, is alone.
No friends.
No family.
He trades maintenance work in exchange for room and board.
Every day he fights demons no one else can see.
Every day he wants to give up.
But he can’t.
Not yet.
When Alice Eliot moves in downstairs, she offers Toby some light in his dark world.
At a crossroads and barely hanging on, it’s hard to have perspective.
It’s difficult to see your own worth when you’re the villain in your story.
Luckily for Toby, Alice brings things out in him that no one else ever has.
As the two sides of Toby’s story are revealed, and the full reality comes into view, truth is gained, unlikely heroes emerge, and improbable alliances prove that kindness is fundamentally human.
The question is, Will it all be enough to save him?

ALL OF IT

Seventeen-year-old VERONICA SMITH has it all: a loving family, a funky car named Jezebel, and a plan to go to college after graduation. On the first day of senior year, she meets DIMITRI GLENN–a mysterious transfer student with gray eyes and a mischievous smile who seems determined to win her heart. But there’s something odd about Dimitri, leading Veronica to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. Before long she finds herself in a whirlwind romance that seems too good to be true–until a series of devastating events leaves her questioning everything. It’s not until she chooses to think with her heart instead of her mind that she can rise from the ashes to learn the truth of their connection.

SO MUCH MORE

This is a glimpse into divorce: the lead-up, the aftermath, and the redemption that follows.
Love is strange. It comes out of nowhere. There’s no logic to it. It’s not methodical. It’s not scientific. It’s pure emotion and passion. And emotion and passion can be dangerous because they fuel love…and hate.
I’m now a reluctant connoisseur of both—an expert through immersion. I know them intimately.

When I fell in love with Miranda, it was swift and blind. She was the person I’d elevated to mythical status in my head, in my dreams.
Here’s the thing about dreams, they’re smoke.
They’re spun as thoughts until they become something we think we want. Something we think we need.

That was Miranda. She was smoke.

I thought I wanted her. I thought I needed her.

Over time reality crept in and slowly dissected and disemboweled my dreams like a predator, leaving behind a rotting carcass.

Reality can be a fierce bitch.
So can Miranda.

And I can be a fool…
who believes in dreams.

And people.


Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco ~ Book Review

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  • Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • Author: Kerri Maniscalco

RATING OVERVIEW: 4.25 STARS
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I’ve always been fascinated with the minds of serial killers. Not in a creepy way, but in a ‘how could anyone possible do that’ sort of way. My mind tries to understand that which cannot be understood… With that said, I’ve read a number of books about Jack the Ripper and I’ve even played his final victim in the play, The Belles of Whitechapel by Wayne Miller. So, when someone asked me to read and review this book, I jumped at the opportunity.

WRITING (★★★★): Maniscalco’s writing style is detailed and fluid. I love how easily I was swept away to the late 1800’s while Jack the Ripper was roaming the streets. Although, at times, the story seemed to drag, bogged down by unnecessary scenes, it didn’t distract me from the over all story. I loved Maniscalco’s style and am eager to read more.

STORY (★★★★): Audrey Rose, our heroine, is a member of high society expected to attend tea, brunch with the ladies, and accept her place in society as an uneducated woman. However, Audrey Rose doesn’t accept that. She has a passion for knowledge and a curiosity for forensic science. Sneaking behind her father’s back, she studies under the tutelage of her uncle, spending many days elbow deep in the viscera of the latest cadaver.

The author leads us down a few paths, making the reader question who the killer, Jack the Ripper, really is. I’ll admit, I made a couple wrong guesses, but I got it right on my third try about half way through the book. If you pay attention, the clues are there.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): The book has a small cast of primary characters, the two main characters being Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. We’re also introduced to Audrey’s Uncle Jonathan, her brother Nathaniel, her father Lord Edmund Wadsworth, her Aunt Amelia, and her cousin Liza with a few other thrown in throughout the story.

Audrey Rose isn’t your typical 1800’s lady, but I found her to be fun, feisty, and all around relatable. Like many teenagers, she often acts without thinking, she jumps to conclusions, and she puts herself in dangerous positions. She is strong willed and brave. It’s that bravery and courage that I enjoyed the most about her character. The way she didn’t care about blending in… fitting in… she was who she was and she didn’t care what other people thought about her.

Thomas Cresswell, who fancies Audrey Rose from just about the moment he spots her is the devilishly handsome, smooth talking, bad boy. Or at least that’s what he wants you to believe. I loved the way that he and Audrey play off each other. There is chemistry between them from the start, but back in the 1800’s it wasn’t proper to act on emotions so there is also a lot of restraint. That push and pull of emotions is fun to read.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. We have a clear image of what Audrey Rose looks like, although, I’ll admit she isn’t the girl I was picturing as I read the book. We also get a visual of her world, the dark streets of Victorian-era London. I think the cover artist did a beautiful job.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

“In my spare time I flay open bodies of the deceased. Two of whom were victims of leather Apron. The scent that hung in the room would drop a man to his knees, and I aided my uncle during the postmortems while standing in gelled blood. Whatever you have to show us won’t be too much for my stomach to handle, I assure you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kerri Maniscalco

Becoming the Dark Prince

In this irresistibly-priced short story, catch a glimpse of the inner struggles and triumphs that drive Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s endearing but troubled hero.
Enigmatic, brooding, and darkly handsome, Thomas Cresswell has always been the one mystery Audrey Rose has never been able to fully solve. As brilliant partners in crime investigation, they understand each other perfectly…

but as young lovers, their passionate natures have led to both euphoria and heartbreak throughout the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.
This novella features a collection of scenes that takes place during and after the pair’s horrifying Atlantic voyage in Escaping From Houdini. Experience new and familiar scenes from Thomas’s unique point of view, including an intensely personal look into his plea for Audrey Rose’s hand in marriage.
With a romance for the ages, Audrey Rose and Thomas reach the conclusion to their epic, irresistible partnership in their final adventure, Capturing the Devil.


Hunting Prince Dracula

In this New York Times bestselling thriller, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life? FEATURES BONUS CONTENT EXCLUSIVE TO THIS PAPERBACK EDITION!

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.


Escaping From Houdini

Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell find themselves aboard a luxurious ocean liner that becomes a floating prison of horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer.

The #1 bestselling series that started with Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula continues its streak in this third bloody installment…. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose

Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow more and more bizarre. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation before more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?


Capturing the Devil

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer—or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London.

But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?


The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey (Book Review)

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Title: The Friar's Lantern
Author: Greg Hickey
ISBN-13: 978-1733093705
ISBN-10: 1733093702
Paperback: 224 pages
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars

RATING OVERVIEW ~ (Overall: ★★★ (3.33)
Writing: ★★★ Story: ★★★ Characters: ★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

You will judge a man of murder.

Choose-your-own-adventure makes a comeback in The Friar’s Lantern.

An eccentric scientist tells you he can read your mind and offers to prove it in a high-stakes wager. A respected college professor exacts impassioned, heat-of-the-moment revenge on his wife’s killer – a week after her death – and you’re on the jury.

Take a Turing test with a twist, discover how your future choices might influence the past, and try your luck at Three Card Monte. And while you weigh chance, superstition, destiny, intuition and logic in making your decisions, ask yourself: are you responsible for your actions at all?

So choose wisely – if you can.


MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

Let me start by saying that I received a free copy of this book for my honest impartial review… That is what I mean to give here.

WRITING (★★★): Lets first address the fact that Hickey has chosen the very difficult task of writing a “choose your own adventure” style novel. This concept allows the reader to make decisions throughout the story which then determine the path the characters take. I grew up reading choose your own adventure stories as a kid and have loved them ever since. In fact, my current work in progress is also an interactive adventure novel. If I’m being honest, the main reason I agreed to read and review The Friar’s Lantern is because I wanted to see how he tackled the meticulous mapping of his story threads. His method, I believe, was very different from my own. This is an ambitious novel structure for any author and the fact that he successfully completed his story is impressive.

As for the quality of Hickey’s writing, although it is clear that he is extraordinarily articulate, I felt that some of his descriptives felt forced. Many of his sentences were so long that by the time I reached the end of the stringed together adjectives, I forget what it was he was originally explaining.

“…The stadium, Ozymandian on the bitumen shore, is beset to the north by woodlands, and here the hard blacktop, the steel girders and thick slabs of concrete devolve into dirt and dead yellow leaves and broken branches overhung by untrimmed trees and dotted with tangled bushes. The little laboratory remains as a mere afterthought, its wearied face shrouded by the sallow, emaciated branches of a willow tree, devoid of leaves even now in mid-May, the tree dead or dying as its limbs sag down on despair to scratch the top of the building.”  

Unfortunately, because of the wordy writing style, I think I enjoyed the idea of this novel more than the actually story itself.

STORY (★★★★): The concept of the story is intriguing… How do our choices effect our outcomes and do we really have free-will? The main problem I had with this story, aside from the wordiness of the sentences, was the ending. It felt rushed… or rather pre-determined as if he wrote the book knowing the concept and the ending. With the “choose your own adventure” style, I felt that there should have been something more. I didn’t feel as if my choices were really leading the story, it was more that the story was leading my choices.

CHARACTERS (★★★): Honestly, as the reader, you are the main character. With that said, I imagine trying to include any sort of arc or character development had to be hard for the author. The character doesn’t really seem to grow or change throughout the story. However, it does provide for the wonderful opportunity, when reading the story for the second time, to make different choices based on the previous outcome.


AUTHOR BIO

Greg Hickey is the author of the INDIES Book of the Year-nominated novel Our Dried Voices and an award-winning screenwriter. He is also a former international professional baseball player and coach and current forensic scientist and endurance athlete. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.


Also by Greg Hickey

Our Dried Voices

In 2153, cancer was cured.
In 2189, AIDS.


And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a distant planet to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a bright young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his determined friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue humanity.