Book Review: Into the Black Nowhere

80D6C469-4943-4E6D-BB40-36DD48309C58Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

From Dutton: In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.

Netgalley and the publisher provided me an advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: I am a true crime buff. My high school psychology teacher was an eccentric woman with a lending library and some books were about high profile serial killers. I was terrified and consumed at the same time and I could not stop reading about high profile cases. And now more than twenty years later I’ve been reconnected with the likes of high profile deviant masterminds, The Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy thanks to Meg Gardiner’s Unsub Series.

INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is a fictional tie-in to serial killer, Ted Bundy, who went on a murderous rampage killing upwards of 30 women during the 1970’s. He was educated, intelligent, good looking, and charming making it easy for women to fall prey. Set in modern day Texas and spanning across the desert Southwest up to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle Detrick is calm, cool, confident and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. His weakness is blondes with a cheerleaders physique – he can’t help himself so he stalks them and they disappear into the black nowhere.

This book has incredible plot twists that left me spooked to the core! Gardiner injects you into the mind of a serial killer so you know his thought process, how he preys on his victims and how he plans his next kill. She knows her stuff when writing about the criminal investigative side of things and expertly ties up the critical details into a nice, neat package that packs a powerful punch.

Few things scare me but the Unsub Series are so well crafted you will need to keep the lights on and maybe even someone in the room with you while reading these books – they are thrilling and all consuming.

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Book Review: Young Jane Young

YOUNG JANE YOUNG BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books & PRH Canada
Publication Date: August 22 & 29, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Algonquin: Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss–and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.

She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up–an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

*Thank you to Algonquin Books, PRH Canada and Netgalley for providing me this free digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: YOUNG JANE YOUNG is guaranteed to resonate with anyone who loves contemporary women’s fiction. I was fully invested in this book and read it in two days. Yes, Aviva makes horrible mistakes in her youth and yes, she owns them and I think it strengthens who she is as a woman but the wide reaching impact is haunting and inescapable. I am blown away by these types of political sex scandals where male politicians walk away unscathed.

YOUNG JANE YOUNG elicits a range of emotions in response to events and situations that are real and relatable but presented in a light and upbeat framework. Zevin’s writing is masterful. My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with. Rachel is recently divorced and doesn’t want to be alone so she takes the advice of her best friend and tries online dating. You can imagine a divorcee in her 60’s who doesn’t mince words with her dates, I found her experience hilarious. Meanwhile, her daughter Aviva is dealing with the fallout from her sex scandal with a congressman. Pregnant, jobless and husbandless she leaves Miami and reinvents herself in Allison Springs, Maine. When she embarks on her own political career her adorable thirteen year old daughter Ruby, who is wise beyond her years, learns the truth about her mother’s past and handles it as a teenager would by running off to Miami to meet the father she thought was dead.

If you love a story that is funny, fresh and poignant then YOUNG JANE YOUNG is not to be missed and should be high on your reading list!

Book Review: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta Book ReviewTitle: Mrs. Fletcher
Author: Tom Perrotta
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Scribner: Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My Review: Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for providing me this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance. The topics explored cut to the emotional quick as most readers will be familiar in some way. But they are presented in a light manner which keeps the story upbeat. Tom Perrotta’s well-defined characters, engaging narrative and thought provoking subject matter really took this story to another level. Written from both Eve and Brendan’s perspectives, I felt like Perrotta nailed it perfectly coming from both angles.

Eve Fletcher is a single mom and brand new empty nester. After getting her son Brendan off to college she channels her loneliness in a gender studies course at the local community college. One night she receives a wildly anonymous text, U R my Milf! This text sets the wheels in motion for Eve’s indulgence in MILFateria.com, an erotic website that gets mileage out of middle aged women.

Eve is enjoying her new found freedom, a student pondering feminist theory, she’s drinking and dancing, exploring her sexuality and making stupid mistakes. One evening things really heat up after a small gathering of friends and this event is the defining moment where Eve realizes she’s just plain lonely. And it doesn’t help that her married friends plaster their Facebook walls with sappy Valentine’s Day messages.

Meanwhile, Brendan’s jerk-like behavior isn’t winning anyone over at college. After finally getting a date with pretty Amber he screws up any possibility of a relationship due to his chauvinistic sexual behaviour. His roommate Zack has pretty much ditched him because he doesn’t like the person he becomes when he’s around Brendan. He quickly realizes he is a big disappointment on campus and drops out of school and moves back home.

Eve’s freedom is stifled with Brendan at home again. She gives up taking another class at the community college to spare Brendan the embarrassment of running into his mom at school. Her freedom and carefree lifestyle is quickly swapped out for domesticity as she falls back into daily life as ‘mom’.

That hot and heavy night plays over in Eve’s head as she comes dangerously close to making a regrettable mistake. Fighting back her inner desires not a moment too soon, she offers up one lasting memory that is sure to never fade away.

I think the biggest takeaway from this book is our views and acceptance of others. This really came thru in Brendan’s transition as the story progressed. I think anyone who enjoys an entertaining story will appreciate this one. It’s light, funny and interesting from start to finish.

Book Review: Hello, Sunshine

IMG_0117Title: Hello, Sunshine
Author: Laura Dave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: A good read
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

My Review: If you are a foodie and like social media culture then HELLO, SUNSHINE should be on your summer reading list! This book is a page-turner and I could not wait to find out what deep dark secrets Sunshine Mackenzie was hiding and who was behind the Twitter hack that took her culinary career down.

I tried not to over analyze this book because it’s meant to be entertaining but I found several characters shallow and ridiculous. I didn’t care for Sunny because she was embedded in lying for her own betterment and her lying knows no boundary.

Dave’s writing style is engaging and has a flow that kept me turning the pages, although I’m not sure what the incomplete ending is about – nothing was resolved!

The food descriptions are divine and a relatable element that any foodie will appreciate. While this one isn’t one of my favourite books it’s definitely fast-paced, light and entertaining – perfect beach reading!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for providing me this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Heirs

The Heirs by Susan Rieger Book ReviewTitle: The Heirs
Author: Susan Rieger
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: Borrow it from the library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From PRH: Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure.

Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together — Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm — and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty – a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor’s sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

My Review: The Heirs was good but not great. Rieger is clearly a great literary fiction writer, the premise is good and the characters well developed and likeable but I wanted more from the story.

Eleanor Falkes receives a letter from Vera Wolinski six months after her husband Rupert Falkes dies staking claim to a portion of his estate. She says Rupert fathered her two grown sons and he promised to provide for them. Eleanor and their five sons, Harry, Will, Sam, Jack and Tom are floored by this news. Vera produces unconvincing evidence; a blurry photo of Rupert and their two sons and monthly payments received from an unknown Caymen bank account. Both are dismissed so she asks for paternity testing, which is impossible because Rupert was cremated and all of his personal effects donated to charity.

The boys find it all quite perplexing as Vera’s son’s bear a striking resemblance to their father; thinking it possible Rupert had another family they wonder who their father really was. With no conclusive evidence to prove paternity, Sam and Harry reach out to the men to make a financial amends.

The Falkeses are upper class, old money. They attended the best schools and had every advantage.  Eleanor was brought up by a strict disciplinarian and loveless mother and Rupert was an orphan cared for by Reverend Falkes. Despite the stodginess Rupert and Eleanor were kind and loving parents. But, beneath the surface of their perfect appearance each family member tells their recollection of Rupert and Eleanor’s marriage in alternating narratives.

My favourite character is Sam. I found him the most level-headed of the brother’s, the go-to guy when a brother or sister-in-law needed to talk. His relationship with Andrew has reached an impasse, Sam wants a baby and Andrew doesn’t. Sam and longtime friend Susanna, whose biological clock is ticking, consider raising a baby together.

Thank you to Blogging for Books, Penguin Random House and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my own review.

June Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0628Happy Summer! Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids so we are officially on summer break. The plan is to enjoy a couple weeks of downtime including chilling at the beach and pool, which is code for R-E-A-D-I-N-G. Mid-month I’m taking my kiddos to visit my parents for 3 weeks – woo hoo! We will be swimming, shopping, sewing and reading. My mom is a huge reader so I look forward to lots of book discussions with her.

I read some great books in June. It’s a toss-up between Beartown and UNSUB for my favourite. Both were amazing stories that kept me fully engaged from the first page to the last page. What are you reading this summer?

The People We Hate at the Wedding – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
The People We Hate at the Wedding is scores of family dynamics and dysfunction. It was like watching an upper echelon reality show chock-full of painful moments and endless entertainment.

The Fourth Monkey – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
The Fourth Monkey is portrayed as a cross between Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. Both movies are creepy, have disturbing aspects, literally keep you on edge but most of all stay with you. Years later you still remember those movies and may re-watch them. The Fourth Monkey has none of those attributes. It did not check off those typical suspense / thriller checkboxes for me. I am surprised because a bit of research into J.D. Barker and he has some near-award worthy books out there, unfortunately this one isn’t one of them.

Beartown – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book can be summarized in one word: POWERFUL! Beartown instilled emotion in me that made my heart want to explode from page one. Backman transported me into a place where I could feel the pain of every resident who inhabited Beartown, flailing on the cusp of survival but longing for so much more.

Chemistry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

Sweet Home Cowboy – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This was my first book from the Love at the Chocolate Shop series and I thought it was a cute story. This was a pretty big variation in my reading choice. I normally don’t read romance-y books and definitely not western’s but this was light on the western romance. I thought it was entertaining and quick to read – perfect for summertime sitting poolside or at the beach.

UNSUB – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
UNSUB is the most intense and engrossing book I have read, which speaks volumes because I have read many true crime books. This book is fiction but Meg Gardiner made it feel like true crime. The story is a takeoff of the Zodiac Killer that haunted the Bay Area in the 60’s and 70’s but with a dialled up creepy factor. This book is not for the squeamish – it’s graphic and cuts to the quick, but totally suitable for any true crime lover. And the best part, a sequel is coming! This is a series I look forward to and know I will dig into.

The Secrets of Married Women – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book is super-cute! I listened to the audio book version narrated by Laura Knight Keating. Her narration is amazingly authentic as if Lara Jean herself were reading the story out loud. This book is entertaining and fast-paced making it a perfect summertime read.

Book Review: The Secrets of Married Women

IMG_0624Title: The Secrets of Married Women
Author: Carol Mason
Publisher: Lake Union
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: Borrow it from the library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Lake Union Publishing: When Jill’s husband discovers he can never have children, it tears a hole in their marriage that Jill doesn’t know how to repair. Frustrated, she seeks comfort in her friends: fierce Leigh, with her high-powered career and doting family, and sweet, uncomplicated Wendy, who has a rock-solid marriage any woman would envy.

Leigh and Wendy’s lives seem perfect. But beneath the surface are secrets that could tear their friendship apart.

Leigh has grown tired of her stay-at-home husband and is looking for excitement—outside of the marriage bed. And after seventeen years of marriage, Wendy can’t shake the sense that there is something missing in her life.

As Jill is drawn deeper into her friends’ relationships, she is confronted by a temptation of her own: an intriguing stranger whose good looks and charm spark an instant connection.

Full of the realities of modern-day marriage, The Secrets of Married Women asks the question: how well can we ever know our husbands, our friends, or even ourselves?

My Review: Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

Leigh gets a hairbrained idea to have an affair, six weeks tops and no strings attached. Lawrence isn’t cutting it anymore and she needs to rev up her sex life because life is too short. The affair creates a chain reaction that throws the lives of three families off the rails. Jill and Wendy get caught in Leigh’s crosshairs where jealousy and deceit know no boundaries.

I enjoyed this story but with mixed feelings. Leigh’s behaviour was disheartening and reminded me of the jealous best friend in high school-type who stole your other friend’s boyfriend and then talked you into destroying your relationship too. You know the type?! I sympathized with Jill because her situation was sad for both she and Rob and her behaviour motives weren’t intended to cause destruction. Despite all of the betrayal there is a small silver lining at the end.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with this digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.