Summary: 2017: Tallulah Murray, a nineteen year old mother, goes out with her boyfriend to the neighborhood pub for dinner. The next morning her mother, Kim, finds that neither one of them have come home. Kim knows that Tallulah would never abandon her baby son. As she talks with Tallulah’s friends she find out that they were last seen at a party at Dark Place, a manor house outside the small village.
2018: Sophie Beck has just moved into a little cottage on the grounds of a private boarding school. Her partner is the new head teacher while Sophie is a mystery novelist. As Sophie explores her new home she finds a sign in their garden with the words, “DIG HERE”, written on it. As she digs she uncovers a missing link in the mystery of the disappearance of Tallulah Murray.
My Thoughts: I enjoyed this book from the beginning until the end. Normally the time jumps can be confusing but since each time had a different narrator that made it easier to follow. The end was excellent. I was on the edge of my seat, trying to finish it as fast as I could. And of course, that’s when my dog decided he needed to go outside!
I liked the characters of Tallulah and her mother Kim. Sophie felt like more of a filler character to help solve the mystery. She was the like her characters in her book which the comparison is drawn in the books as well. Her part felt more cozy. But I think Jewell did a great job of bringing Kim’s pain and Tallulah’s struggles out. They were relatable and I could sympathize with them as their lives changed through the story. After Jewell’s last book I was hoping that this one would be much more entertaining. Thank goodness it was!
FYI: Audio book was read by Joanne Froggat (Anna Bates from Downton Abbey).
First line: Lord Ruthven wanted him killed during this tennis match but Darnley said no.
Summary: On the night of March 9, 1566, the personal secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots was murdered by assassins in the Queen’s apartments at Holyrood Palace. David Rizzio was dragged out and stabbed fifty six times while the pregnant queen was restrained by her husband, Lord Darnley.
My Thoughts: I remember the first time I learned about David Rizzio. It was a in a book by Jane Yolen, The Queen’s Own Fool, that I stumbled upon in a book sale. It seems like such a fantastical story but it is actually history. Mina’s book is a quick story about these events, the people involved and the reasons behind them.
Even though I liked the story I found the writing style strange. I didn’t feel like it flowed well. This was my first book by Denise Mina, so maybe this is her normal style but it’s not one that I found appealing.
Mary had such a tragic life. But I think that is why so many people, including myself, find her interesting. She was a woman with power in an age when many women had no power. And she is constantly being compared to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. If you have never heard about this event in Mary’s life or need a short book (118 pages) to complete your reading challenge then I would recommend picking this one up!
First line: Blood-sodden, the girl staggers into the black.
Summary: A young man is found murdered in his houseboat in Regent’s Canal. As the police look into what happened they focus on three women. The young woman with whom he had a one night stand, the grief stricken aunt and the nosy neighbor. Each one has their own dark pasts with lots of mistakes. And their own reasons to kill.
My Thoughts: This book started great! It felt like it was going to be an exciting story with lots of twists. And it was fun but so much of it seemed to not matter to the whole storyline. Miriam especially seemed like she was just an addition to get the book to a certain page count. Plus there was lots of characters at the beginning. Keeping track of them while listening to the audio version made it hard to keep track of the plot.
I did enjoy the relationship between Irene and Laura. Seeing two women who are lonely and very different be friends and support each other is heartwarming in a murder mystery. I felt bad for both of them throughout the book because of the prejudices against them by society.
I was not surprised by who the killer was. It seemed rather obvious from the beginning as we learn the women’s backstories. With each one we see the connections and can figure out how the story will play out. Especially if you have read other thrillers. But I will say I still had fun reading it and would recommend it.
Summary: Belmont Academy is the best school in town. It churns out smart and well connected students to Ivy League universities. Teddy Crutcher, an English teacher, has just won Teacher of the Year. It is a high honor, especially for someone who did not attend Belmont as a student. And as a teacher he has high hopes for his students. He wants the ones who deserve to do well to achieve great things but he must teach the students who are entitled to learn a lesson. For their own good of course. When a parent dies at a school function the Belmont community is thrown into chaos. But then another murder happens. What is going on in this prestigious school?
My Thoughts: This is fine. I liked it. The characters were mostly terrible people. They each had such strong opinions about everyone else around them and were not afraid to act on their urges. Teddy was definitely scary in a calm methodical way. He could always justify his actions. But he also seemed to make sense in some of the things he thought which is even scarier.
I felt like the book was aimed more for young adult readers. And this may be because several of the main characters were teenagers. It felt like it was missing something that her other novels had which led me to give them a higher rating.
There were plenty of little twists but the reader knows from the very beginning who is killing. It was fun to read. And the ending was satisfying. Perfect for the story and the characters involved.
First line: This is not a book about mental health, but about how it can be used as a weapon.
Summary: Elizabeth Packard, a wife and mother of six, has displeased her husband with her differing views on religion and politics. According to the laws of the land he is within his rights to commit her to an insane asylum. And this is exactly what he does. However, Elizabeth will not go quietly. For three years she lives inside the walls of the institution, writing her story and about the abuses of the staff and the superintendent. Finally, when she is released her problems are not over. There is still a battle to be won and no one is going to silence her until it is finished.
My Thoughts: If you are looking for a non-fiction book that reads like fiction then this is it. The story is very easy to follow, the flow is consistent throughout and the plot is compelling. Elizabeth’s story is probably more common than anybody realizes. A husband, father, or brother has become disgruntled with a woman and sends them away. It is sad and fascinating all at the same time.
I listened and read this at the same time. Both were very enjoyable ways to consume this book. The reader did a great job and kept my attention while I was doing other things as I listened.
I did get a little frustrated at times with Elizabeth. Even though she knew that certain men were the ones that put her in the asylum she continued to try and persuade them to change their minds. I liked to see that she was smart enough to manipulate the situations she was in or make the best of her times in the asylum. She kept her wits about her which many other women would not be able to do.
With her limited resources she improved the lives of many of the women trapped in the asylum with her. And when she left she did not forget the ones that were still imprisoned. She was an intelligent woman who knew how to get her points heard. Because of her campaigning she brought about changes for married women and patients in the asylums.
First line: final girl (n.) – the last and sole survivor of a horror movie
Summary: Lynnette is a final girl. She has spent years keeping herself safe from the monsters that are out in the world. Part of her recovery and routine is the Final Girl Support Group. Once a month she has been meeting with a therapist and other final girls to try to deal with the trauma that has defined their lives. But one day things change and it seems the monsters are back and coming for all the final girls. Lynnette goes on the run. She is determined to survive but also keep her final girl sisters alive too. With each passing moment she sees that they are in more danger than ever before.
My Thoughts: I tried reading a Grady Hendrix book years ago and was just not impressed. I did not finish it even though it seemed to have everything I liked. So when my friend told was telling me about his most recent book I decided to give him another try. I am very glad I did. It was a wild ride. It reminded me of Riley Sager, another author who brings eighties horror movie tropes to his readers in thrilling stories that will keep you reading deep into the night.
Even though I really liked this book, I really did not like the main character. She was so depressing, whiney and crazy. I was constantly rolling my eyes at her thoughts and actions. It is like when you watch a horror movie and the dumb teenager goes into the dark basement rather than the running car. However, this is supposed to be like those campy horror movies making it perfect for the story. One of the best parts were the little additions like police reports, newspaper articles and interviews after each chapter that shows us the pasts of these women or people’s views on them.
There were lots of crazy twists and turns. Characters that seem reliable aren’t and vice versa. I was always expecting a “monster” to jump out at any moment like in the movies. And even when they are “dead” the bad guy comes back for one last scare. But the ending was wonderful. I did not see it coming. It was a great way to wrap up the novel.
I guess I will have to go back and try to read other Grady Hendrix novels now.
First line: There are many expensive houses here in Brecken Hill, an enclave on the edge of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley.
Summary: In the rich neighborhood of Brecken Hill live the Mercer’s. They have lived here for years where they raised their family, grown a business and been the envy of all. But one Easter weekend after a family dinner the Mercer parents are found brutally murdered in their home. It appears to be a robbery but with all the secrets in the Mercer family the police are sure that one of the adult children has something to do with it. As they dig deeper they find that there are more secrets than anyone originally thought.
My Thoughts: This was a solid book. Lots of suspense. Red herrings around every corner. Lots of backstabbing, threats and secrets. I finished it in just a few days. It kept me interested throughout but I feel like it has been done before like so many thrillers lately. All the characters were awful people. Not one was likeable. There were some loose ends that I felt were not dealt with and characters that seemed a little nonessential. But did I have fun reading it? Yes. Will I recommend it? Yes. It was fun for a quick summer read.
FYI: Perfect for fans of B. A. Paris and J. P. Delaney.
First line: Numbers floated round my head like stars.
Summary: This book is a fictional story based on true events that happened at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Odile, a young Parisian woman gets a job at the library before war comes to France. Lily is Odile’s neighbor in Montana. The story jumps between Lily in the 1980’s and Odile from 1939-1944.
My thoughts: I had no idea there was an American library in Paris, let alone that it had managed to remain open through the Nazi occupation of the city. I’m a sucker for books about books or libraries or readers, so this one came to me naturally. However, once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.
What incredible stories are written about the circumstances of those who experienced the hardships of the war firsthand. The author did an amazing job of slowly peeling back Odile’s story. And Lily was crucial to that telling. I love Lily and Odile so much.
FYI: Be sure to read the author’s notes to see which of the characters were actual staff members at the library.
Summary: It’s the summer of 1967 and London is swinging. Estella has spent the last four years living by her wits with her partners in crime, Horace and Jasper. She steals what she needs to survive and the fabric she loves for her clothing creations. Then by chance she meets rich siblings who take her under their wing and show her a whole new world. Dazzled by the money, food, clothes and lifestyle Estella sees the world she believes should be hers but it does come with some downsides as well.
My Thoughts: This was a fun young adult book. It is neat to see authors looking into the lives of villains. I loved that it was placed in Swinging London. The colors, people, lifestyles and music were all reminiscent of Austin Powers but for young people. I loved the way the name Cruella was introduced and her back story. It always seemed rather strange that someone’s name is Cruella but the author made it seem more natural. And that Horace and Jasper were included was great to tie it in with the original cartoon movie. I have yet to see the live action movie but I am looking forward to seeing it. Especially after reading this.
First line: The policeman, with the slicked-back hair, stands at the bottom of my hospital bed, staring at me intently.
Summary: Rachel and Jack, along with their best friends, Paige and Noah, have traveled to Portugal for a wedding. Jack’s brother is marrying the young, beautiful and impulsive, Ali. Even before the trip starts secrets start to reveal themselves about who Ali really is. Jack says he had a coworker tell him about an affair he had with Ali. And as the trip progresses Rachel begins to believe that this is a cover story for an affair between Jack and Ali. As more clues come to light, Rachel is convinced that her marriage is not what she thought it was. Does she ruin the weekend and tell the secret or does she wait until it is too late?
My Thoughts: I was unbelievably disappointed in this story. It was like a high school drama. So many worries about someone kissing someone else, insinuations, flirting, innuendos and lots of drama! Rachel was worried just because she felt insecure. Then her friend continued to feed into the insecurity. It was a lot of hearsay and bad timing. I was just so done with it about half way through but I kept going hoping that it would redeem itself or bring it to a satisfying conclusion but it was a silly ending. Not Sandie’s best book.
FYI: Skip this one unless you love relationship drama.