Goodreads Monday – The Outsider by Stephen King

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is The Outsider by Stephen King. This is a psychological thriller that was published several years ago now (2017) and has a 4.05 star rating on Goodreads.

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – The Outsider by Stephen King”

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Publish date: 21 January 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Mystery & Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Panda Rating:

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Bitter Falls is just as intense and action packed as the first three books in the Stillhouse Lake series. Once again we’re swept up in a high-stakes thrilling drama as Gwen and her family face harassment from a town that shuns them, harrowing messages from trolls that want to see them grievously harmed, and getting caught in the cross-fires of the latest case that Gwen has been assigned in her new job. I’ve been a big fan of this series ever since I read the first book and I’ve truly come to appreciate all the main characters (Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor), as well as the recurring side characters in the series (Javi, Kezia, Agent Lustig etc.)

Continue reading “Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview”

ARC Review: Some Choose Darkness by Charlie Donlea

Goodreads: Some Choose Darkness
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish date: 28 May 2019
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: ★★★★

A modern master of suspense, critically acclaimed author Charlie Donlea returns with a taut, gripping novel about the deadly secrets hiding in plain sight . . . 

The truth is easy to miss, even when it’s right in front of us. As a forensic reconstructionist, Rory Moore sheds light on cold-case homicides by piecing together crime scene details others fail to see. Cleaning out her late father’s law office a week after his burial, she receives a call that plunges her into a decades-old case come to life once more.

In the summer of 1979, five Chicago women went missing. The predator, nicknamed The Thief, left no bodies and no clues behind—until police received a package from a mysterious woman named Angela Mitchell, whose unorthodox investigation skills appear to have led to his identity. But before police could question her, Angela disappeared. Forty years later, The Thief is about to be paroled for Angela’s murder—the only crime the DA could pin on him. As a former client of her father’s, Rory becomes reluctantly involved with the killer—though he continues to insist he didn’t murder Angela. Now he wants Rory to do what her father once promised: prove that Angela is, in fact, still alive.

As Rory begins reconstructing Angela’s last days, another killer emerges from the shadows, replicating those long-ago murders. With every startling discovery she makes, Rory becomes more deeply entangled in the enigma of Angela Mitchell—and in The Thief’s tormented mind. Drawing connections between past and present is the only way to stop the nightmare, but even Rory can’t be prepared for the full, terrifying truth that is emerging

This was my first Charlie Donlea book and it had me questioning how on earth I was sleeping on his books before this. How is it that he wasn’t even on my radar?! Shook. But you can believe that I will be remedying this from now on because “Some Choose Darkness” was such a great read! It wasn’t that it was entirely unpredictable, but the suspense was kept high from the start, and the characters and storyline were engaging throughout. The story is told in alternating narratives, shifting from the past with Angela Mitchell and the present with Rory Moore, with some other character perspectives thrown in there at the start. Through Angela’s chapters we learn about how she discovered the identity of a serial killer known as The Thief in Chicago in 1979. With Rory’s chapters, we learn about how that past ties in with the present when her father passes away and his cases, one of which concerns The Thief who her father represented, gets passed on to her.

I really appreciated the fact that both Angela and Rory are characters on the spectrum and that being autistic was what really enabled Angela to discover the truth and what makes Rory so great at her job as a forensic reconstructor of cold cases. I can’t speak to the accuracy of how they’re portrayed, but I thought Donlea did a really good job of representing characters with autism and OCD. Reading Angela’s chapters often left me feeling itchy and restless and had my heart galloping so fast and I became so immersed in the mystery in Rory’s chapters. When it came to the “big reveal” of The Thief, Donlea kept me guessing until Angela’s most pressing discovery, when my jaw dropped in disbelief. I would have frozen cold and probably died if I had been in her shoes. I was so convinced it was someone else and the person it turned out to be wasn’t even on my radar to start with! The rest of the story was slightly predictable; I was able to easily guess about something significant to Rory’s character as I was reading, but that said, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story overall.

I did think the ending was rushed and Rory’s actions didn’t make sense to me at all (personally, I thought it was completely out of her character), so that was a bit disappointing. To be honest, it was a little anticlimactic and very ‘easily done’. I also didn’t understand how the cold case Rory was initially involved in was relevant to the story. It did make a nice segue to a big part of Rory’s life and personal character, but mentions of it kept popping up throughout the story, and I never really understood why. Is Donlea going to continue Rory’s storyline as a forensic reconstructor? It would be interesting if he did and I’d definitely read a series with her in it!

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in reading? Keep your eyes open for when this book comes out on 28 May 2019.

Book Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Goodreads: Verity
Genre: Thriller/Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Rating: ★★★★ ½  (out of 5)

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Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

It has been a hot minute since I read anything by Colleen Hoover–I think the last time I read a book by her was in 2016. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, I think I just overloaded on romance novels and decided to read more fantasy. That said, this book got caught on my radar in December 2018 and it was already getting some serious hype on bookstagram. I read the blurb and it definitely caught my interest, but I picked it up when I saw it randomly on Kindle Unlimited (UK). I was in a serious reading slump for all February, but this book took me right out of that!

“What you read will taste so bad at times, you’ll want to spit it out, but you’ll swallow these words and they will become part of you, part of your gut, and you will hurt because of them.”

To say that Verity is a little different from CoHo’s other novels would be a serious understatement. That would a little like comparing puppies and rainbows to axe wielding maniacs–only slightly different 😜 Although I guess you can classify this as a romance, it has a fairly dark plot that CoHo has filled with many twists and turns that leave you gaping at the end. At least, that’s what it did to me. Just when I thought there surely couldn’t be another plot twist, CoHo certainly proved me wrong with the final pages of the novel.

Right from the start, Verity has a very somber and a slow creeping sinister feeling to it. I was certainly put on edge and the discomfort only grew incrementally when Lowen moved into the Crawford’s home. My mind was often leaping to one conclusion after another as the the story progressed. I wasn’t very taken with any of the characters in this novel — I didn’t particularly like Lowen, I couldn’t quite place whether Jeremy was an innocent party or not, and I developed a fiery hatred for Verity almost from the moment her unfinished autobiography is introduced. While this usually deters me from reading a book, I found myself unable and unwilling to put it down until I knew what happened–it was really that good! It was actually quite refreshing to read parts of the story from the ‘villain’s’ perspective, even from as dark and twisted a mind as Verity’s was.

I honestly don’t think I can say anymore about this story without giving key plot points away. I will just say that it definitely had me gripping my bedsheets as I read in bed at night. There were definitely some parts that gave me serious goosebumps and made me want to squeal in fright– I’m thinking about one particular moment involving a patio scene during the day time! Overall, I thought this was a pretty screwed up suspense/thriller, obviously in the very best way! If you like being creeped out, I highly recommend it!

Have you read Verity yet or are you planning to? Did it successfully creep you out or was it just ‘meh’ for you?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat books!

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Goodreads: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1)
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: ★★★★☆

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.  As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? 

“This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.”

It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this book and for some reason I’m still not really sure what to say about it; but I know I did really enjoy it. This wasn’t a fast paced thriller but more of a slow burn mystery that explores the dark depths of humanity and the effects of abuse on children/adults.

Despite the dark and heavy tones and topic of this novel, Rene Denfeld writes in such a beautifully descriptive way that it oftentimes felt like I was reading a fairytale. The author incorporates the surrounding nature and environment of the Pacific Northwest into her story very well, and I think it really added to the genuine feeling of loneliness, and desperation of the characters, town and situation. There was a certain magical quality to the writing that makes it feel like you’re reading through a dream. I thought this was fitting because the story covers the ways in which a person, specifically a child, can deal with traumatic events that happen. One of the coping mechanisms that’s cited is that they’ll often create a magical (fairytale) world that essentially protects them from the reality of their situation. This novel really dives into the psychology of abuse and delivers a powerful story that’s full of emotion. Through many parts of the book I felt such a profound sadness and teared up at various emotionally touching scenes.

“She said we are all part of a secret club. Someday, she said, we will take over the earth. It will be people like us that save the world, she said: those who have walked the side of sorrow and seen the dawn.”

Rene Denfeld also surprised me with the way she chose to narrate this story. I was expecting to only explore one character’s perspective, but Denfeld introduces a very unique perspective that made the story all the more emotionally gut-punching. I don’t want to give more away by going into it, but I definitely think it made it more hard-hitting and impactful. I really enjoyed Naomi’s character. She’s strong, but at the same time, she is delicate and often has a childlike naivety to her interactions with certain people. It’s a clear example of how trauma and abuse in childhood can impact a person well into adulthood.

“Everyone needs faith: faith that even though the world is full of evil, a suitor will come and kiss us awake; faith that the girl will escape the tower, the big bad wolf will die, and even those poisoned by malevolence can be reborn, as innocent as purity itself.”

That said, while I enjoyed the many perspectives, I also wondered if it was necessary for certain characters because I felt their narratives did not really add anything substantial to the story — if these narratives weren’t included, I honestly don’t think it wouldn’t have made a big impact in the plot. There were times that I also found parts of the writing too abstract and a little too existential for my tastes. This was especially so for sections of Naomi’s narration, when she’s reflecting on her present and past, and I didn’t feel that it added anything of significance to the story. It just left me feeling slightly confused — was I missing something important in not understanding how to read between these lines? I didn’t think so, in the end!

Overall though, I really enjoyed this one. There will be a second book in the Naomi Cottle series coming out in October 2019, and I can’t wait to read it! 😊 I am also excited to read the author’s first book The Enchanted, which I’ve heard is a beautifully written and enchanting (ha) story, although ti does have a lot more magical realism in it.

Have you read anything by Rene Denfeld? Do you plan to?
Let me know in the comments — let’s chat books!