thriller

Book Review: Kalorama Road by E. Denise Billups

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After reading a few articles written by E. Denise Billups in Conscious Talk Magazine, I found myself intrigued with her writing style and voice. After some research, I noticed she’d written a few books, so I selected the one that appealed to me the most, Kalorama Road. If you’re a fan of mysterious character connections, someone with memory loss trying to unearth what happened during a missing 24-hour period, or a subtle tense feeling of “uh oh” while reading, you will definitely enjoy this one!

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The story takes place in modern day NYC (blocks from where I live) and the Washington DC / Virginia area. Allie, an editor at a big publishing company, can’t remember what happened one night at a party during her college years. She remembers being invited by a strange girl, showing up and seeing some peculiar behavior, but then all she knows is that her roommate saw a handsome guy drop her off the next morning. What happened overnight? Well… Allie’s been getting monthly text messages and emails asking her what happened at Kalorama Road that night. They scare her but also intrigue her. Is it someone else who doesn’t recall? Is it someone who wants her to remember? Is it the person who took her there who has since disappeared? It all begins coming back together when she’s let go from her publishing job and begins writing a blog. Someone submits a book for her review but it seems like a real life mystery, then it begins to resemble her own experience at Emsworth University. Allie never told anyone but she’s compelled to reveal all the details to her former colleague and the former roommate. At the same time, Allie’s sister has a secret she wants to keep hidden and a new man enters Allie’s life that seems very familiar. How does everything come together?

The book jumps back and forth between a few main characters, sharing their stories and actions over the course of a few weeks. We see a few memories from the past and learn who is really connected to who. As each chapter unfolds, a piece of the puzzle gets more clear but also opens up more confusion to leaf through. Throw in a powerful senator and his family, a suicide, a newspaper reporter trying to find out what happened in the past, a murder, and a family with a large endowment given to the university yet some secrets worth protecting, there’s bound to be a few explosive moments. What a wild ride, both in terms of how all the connections are revealed and in the build-up of tension between all the new people suddenly just appearing in Allie’s life as she’s trying to solve the puzzle of her missing memories.

Billups drew me in from the first few chapters. I’m a sucker for a lost memory story, but when it straddles that line of “oh, this seems obvious” but then throws you a curve where you’re like “wait, WHAT?” it’s even more appealing. It takes a lot to plan a story where you reveal things bit by bit. It’s also difficult to cover a story from multiple points of view without confusing readers. Billups handles both with great aplomb and talent, as it came together solidly without any concern.

Her character sketches of different women and men in their 20s, living in NY, were on point and realistic — there were moments were they annoyed me because of typical behavior, but that’s a good thing as it means Billups has evoked intense emotion and a strong connection to the story. I enjoyed the slow-build romance and potential eerie connections with her new friends, but I also could tell she had some blinders on when it came to all the ‘coincidences’ going on in her life. And there’s an explanation for it… as the tidbits of history we learn about Allie and her sister’s lives growing up clearly show why they act the way they do now. A great way to make things seem quite reasonable in a story that has you guessing who to trust.

I’m quite intrigued by what else might come from the author’s clever mind. I’ll be taking another look at her previous books and seeing if I can find out what’s coming up next… as I’ll definitely be reading another one this year. And I don’t want to wait a year for another book! 🙂

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin

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I’m very excited to share a review on a book I read while in Italy last month. From the moment I saw the first few postings or social media messages, I was interested… and when I learned it was from a blogger I follow and respect, it was all the more intriguing. If you aren’t following her blog, please check it out. Let’s get into my thoughts on this fantastic book…

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When The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin appeared on my news feed earlier this year, I was excited to devour such a thriller. I purchased the novel and scheduled it for my May vacation while I was out of the country visiting various Italian cities, especially since one of the tours included the crypts and catacombs of Rome. What a perfect way to align my reading with my physical setting, right? Well, it gets even scarier… I’ve previously visited the Paris Catacombs where the story kicks off, and at some point during my current trip, I scratched my finger (I believe while trying to load luggage on a bus when it stopped to pick me up in Amalfi on the edge of a cliff) just like the main character in this book, and within two days I had a nasty bug and infection. For a moment, I thought the The Bone Curse might be coming to life and I was gonna call Ms. Rubin for some advice! Thankfully, I did not cause people around me to die, so all in all, I handled it with aplomb — just like this great new author I’ve found!

The novel is categorized as a medical thriller, but it goes beyond that initial genre with the introduction of educational backstory on Voodoo / Voudo practice (different types depending on the interpretation), a young doctor learning how to make a name for himself during his initial hospital training, some fantasy elements when ancient bones seemingly come back to life, and a bit of romance and family drama to round out the story’s depth. I am always excited when a book crosses genres and this one did not disappoint. Life’s sometimes ordinary, and if you can push the boundaries with a little bit of mystery and a strange curse, I’m all for it. Bring it on!

Rubin’s story is top notch. It combined all the elements of my favorite movies and stories covering ancient mummies with revenge on their mind, mass graves of people who were victimized and need to heal, a fine line between medicinal cures and that of the occult. The story drags you in from the beginning and throws out many well-calculated twists and turns. You’re never quite sure if the truth will add up in the end with a logical and natural explanation like some weird virus that caused it all, or if it’s an honest-to-god ancestral curse come back to life seeking vengeance. That’s what made it such a page-turner… you felt tossed back and forth and feverishly thrashed while reading and savoring each of the words to figure it out all.

It helps that the characters were distinct, admirable and endearing. But oh, the deaths… an author is brave when she goes after the ones likely to be a fan favorite. A few times, I wanted to punch the main character, Ben, for being such a dunce. Rubin offers more than enough detail and reasoning for why he might choose not to believe in such a curse, but when enough people are impacted around him, the dude needs to wake up! If I’d been his friend, I would have locked him up much sooner… but that’s what makes the story such an intrigue. Ben is human and torn from what his scientific experience tells him and how his interesting upbringing has shaped him. He’s a product of all the things that keep him wary and cautious of the truth, so he seeks to eliminate all the rational before allowing himself to accept the non-tangible. It was a well-crafted approach and makes readers attach strongly to the entire cast and plot.

I am fond of the author’s writing style and the world she’s built in Ben’s personal life. Though he may have a ‘solution’ with answers at the end of this book, his travels are far from over… this is the kick off of a new series, and there’s plenty more to explore coming out of what’s happened to him in this book. Between death, changes to his family situation, and the upcoming impacts of his life at the hospital, I’m excited to continue being part of this adventure. Rubin’s enamored a new fan and I might even need to take a peek at a few of her earlier unrelated books while I wait for book two in this series. Kudos!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton

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Starting off this review by saying it’s right around 4.5 stars for this one… Everyone once in a while, a writer truly catches you off guard with either a story arc or a plot twist. It’s especially powerful when it’s a new writer you’ve not experienced before. And that’s what happened when I picked up Last Girl Gone: A Laura Chambers Mystery by J.G. Hetherton after it was provided to me earlier this year by the publisher, Crooked Lane.

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Laura Chambers, a reporter who’s been fired from a big-time Boston paper for doing something bad, is the main character in this suspense thriller series. Eventually we find out what happened, and all I have to say is… yikes, we better revisit that story as it doesn’t feel like it’s quite over yet. She returns home to a North Carolina town where she has been working at a local paper for about a month. She’s being treated poorly by a real jerk of a colleague, has a horrific mother, and now a serial killer is fascinated by her reporting. But it doesn’t start there… we open with a young girl being kidnapped nearly 40 years earlier, then we figure out we’re decades forward in Laura’s story. It’s connected somehow, but it takes 2/3 of the book to get there. And when it does, you’ll definitely enjoy the connection. But trust me, that’s only the beginning!

For some reason, this book really talked to me. I felt Laura’s pain given how everyone treats her (tho she can give back with full force). Writing quality is strong. I’m not sure how much I particularly like Laura yet–or understand why she is still living at home / tolerates her mother (other than money)–but I’m hoping it’ll get fleshed out in the next book in the series. The book has a bit of everything and quickly pulls you into the action. It also ends with a bang and a very twisted story. It’s the perfect genre with an out-there-over-the-cliff-edge plot, yet I totally see it happening in a weird sorta way one day.

I look forward to reading more from the author. He builds creepy characters and creates rousing suspense, especially when Laura goes after the killer basically on her own. And the title is such a play on words — always like seeing that when the book is over and being analyzed. Kudos and thanks to Crooked Lanes for sending me this book. Definite spot-on read for me!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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I read a Lisa Jewell novel last year and connected immediately with her writing style, tone, and voice. When Then She Was Gone showed up on NetGalley last month, I immediately requested it and added it to my reading queue for April. I really find myself enamored with Jewell’s characters, plots, and settings, so much that I’ve added ten of her other books to my TBR and hope to read a few more later this year.

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Domestic drama is the best sub-genre to describe this book. A 15-year-old girl goes missing, resulting in her family falling apart. Ten years later, her mother finds new love (divorced her ex-husband though they still remain friends) and slowly learns of connections to her missing child who was feared dead. The description in the Goodreads or Amazon summary says it all, so I don’t need to add to it here. The book alternates between “Then” and “Now” to tell the story of what happened to Ellie, who kidnapped and hurt her, what the new love interest for Ellie’s mother, Laurel, has to say transpired over all the years, and where things really fell apart.

This book read itself. I intended to spend 90 minutes reading on a weekend afternoon to have a relaxing break from some outside chores. Three (3) hours later, I’d finished it. The book was so good that I lost track of time and read so quickly, everything just disappeared, but I was absolutely connected and attached to every part of the story and characters. Jewell clearly knows how to lead readers on a path where investment is deep and shock is wide. I’m sure a few readers will sideways glance at a couple of plot twists, and I can understand it. You have to suspend a tiny bit of your disbelief or questions as to how the kidnapping was truly pulled off. But it’s fiction and it’s part of a story and that’s why it worked — the writing supports it and carries you off into a world you cannot leave.

I normally figure out what’s really going on. But Jewell uses some clever disguises regarding timing that make it complicated, and when you do figure it out about 2/3 of the way thru, you have to stop for a few minutes and think about all the repercussions, Then, it all adds up. How did I miss it??? But for me, that’s what makes an incredibly gifted writer. One who transports you into the story that you forget to try to solve it because you’re just so stunned by its beauty. I can’t wait to pick up another Jewell book this summer. So many to choose from! But this one gets at least 4.5 stars.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp

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Why This Book

I’m beginning to read more from a few publishers that publish other books I’ve enjoyed, and this author is under contract with one of those companies, Creativia. What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp fell into my lap while it was on sale via Amazon last month, so I allotted it to February and made it a current read this week. I always look forward to clever and complex thriller and suspense fiction, and this one hit the spot. Kudos to the author!

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Approach & Style

I read this ~350 page book via Kindle Reader on my iPad over four days and six hours. It is a British period piece focusing on a few decades in the mid-twentieth century involving a spy, military, police, murder, intrigue and war. And that’s just the beginning! The language is very intricate and detailed. The story hops through the past and the present. It focuses on a few different critical characters you get to know little by little — or all at once! But my favorite part is how it offers up a true British nostalgia and ambiance.

Key Thoughts

Espionage and murder… could it get any better when it comes to solving a mystery? Author Kemp provides all the suspense and thrills in this very descriptive story. Main detective Patrick is very charismatic in an offbeat way, but he will also stand out as a highly intelligent and trustworthy confidante you enjoy sharing the read with. He’s not quite the narrator, but you get that feel from how the book is written.

I appreciate the skills necessary to weave together this type of tale. When you have multiple decades and secrets to track, it could be easily confusing. But it’s not. There are many twists and turns, surprising reveals, and eye-squinting characters who make you wonder… ‘what’s going on here?’ — but soon enough you start pulling the past together. Then the ending portion kicks in… and you’re back to guessing all over again!

I enjoyed this read. It’s partially in my typical reading choices, but it’s more of a spy novel that I’m used to… think a bit James Bond like. I am more a horror thrillers chasing serial killers or historical fiction type of reader. But this bring some elements from both and offers a good tale with a what feels like a realistic setting. I’m sure the author’s career helped played a big role in developing this story. Add in the various facts / stories we all know about World War II and how the ‘underground network’ works, then you’ve got a strong read.

Summary

I’m impressed with the author’s ability to weave a highly complex plot over multiple time periods and characters, in particular how well written the language in the story is. I recently learned it’s part of a book series, where two are already written and a third is on the way in the future. Very exciting for any true British crime fan!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

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When Origin, the fifth in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, was published last Fall, I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I had several ARCS, giveaways, and commitments that forced me to hold off until just this week to read it – nearly 5 months of misery. I cried when my fellow readers published reviews and I couldn’t look at them. I kicked things when the book mocked me on the shelf. Then my wonderful blogger friends voted for this as the book they wanted me to read in February on my Book Bucket List! So I survived and made it my priority this week… in the end, it was a good read and I will always enjoy Brown’s style, plots and characters. I’m giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars and will rate either a 3 or 4 on each of the book sites depending on their ratings meanings.

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The story is quite intriguing, as always. A man holds a press conference to reveal that he has found the answers we’ve all been searching for: (1) Where did we come from, and (2) Where are we going? It kicks off a series of events including his murder, the ire of many established world religions and the envy of historians and cultural icons. Langdon pairs up with the future Queen of Spain who runs the museum where the murder occurs, then they travel the country to discover all the answers.

The scenery, setting, and backgrounds are marvelous. Brown is highly adept at giving readers exactly as much as they need to picture the story without coloring it in too much… a few blurry edges for personal imagination. The sheer intensity of the research he must have done in the worlds of science, religious, museums, Spain and art is admirable. The volume of characters, the who is good versus who is evil balance, the red herrings, the small and large steps during the chases… all of these facts and the enveloped tone completely make this a 5 star read from those perspectives.

But then I started comparing it to his previous novels, to other works in this sub-genre and to his overall approach in telling the story. It fell short for me. There weren’t enough side stories. The characters were flatter than usual. I would love to have seen a bigger story about the Spanish royalty’s influence and history (other than Franco) in regard to science, evolution and romance. There were no scenes except a memory between the prince and his future consort, so I didn’t root for them. Langdon almost felt like a secondary character in the book. And the various sects of religious and military groups involved in the story seemed too fluid and/or disorganized in terms of the bigger picture. It made the story less interesting as I couldn’t really latch onto any specific character. Even Langdon had a minimal connection to the man who was murdered… despite being professor and student, we saw very little memories of a bond between them. Throw in a few conversations at a pub bonding over a theory, or an argument over the church, something to connect them for us in the present.

That said, I do enjoy these types of novels and there was enough to keep my interest. It just wasn’t a consistent page-turner throughout the whole book. I’ll still read the next one. And I’ll always be in awe of the author’s intelligence, world knowledge and style.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Blood Sister by Kenna McKinnon

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Why This Book 
I’d heard a few good things about Blood Sister by author Kenna McKinnon from some fellow readers and decided to take a chance on it. It was published in 2015 by Creativia and has a very unique set of characters and multiple voices (you’ll get this joke later on)… let’s get on to the review.

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Set in contemporary Canada, this quirky novel tells the story of two vicious murders of the town mayor and doctor in Serendipity. While the police lead the investigation, they’ve called in a consultant private-eye who has a unique relationship with the detectives working on the case. She’s a schizophrenic who still hears voices and is currently on a stress leave while she re-adjusts to new medication levels. As if that’s not enough of a reason to draw you in, Annie is married to another interesting fellow, Samir, a Sudanese man who has a few issues of his own to deal with, but they may just be trying to pull the wool over their guardian’s eyes… as they’re barely in their early 20s and not quite ready to be on their own based on a few crimes they too committed in the past. Add in a sexy new detective named Mark Snow who just happens to have the same initials as the possible murderer and you’ve got yourself quite a corker to figure out!

Approach & Style 
I read this 294-page mystery and suspense novel over ~4 hours on my iPad via Kindle Reader. It’s broken into ~90 chapters which means each one is relatively short around 3 to 4 pages. While it could be difficult to tell who’s talking, given all the personalities sometimes taking control of Annie, author McKinnon has kindly italicized those moments so readers are quick to follow along. The story is told in third-person POV with a perspective focusing on the main character, Annie, and her adventures not only in solving the crime, but deciding how to handle her relationship with Samir and feelings for Mark.

Key Thoughts 
Let’s focus on the mystery first. Two dead people always make a story more complicated. Was it a single murderer, a serial killer with more victims in his/her plan, or just two very unrelated incidents. Lots of red herrings and different motives, both real and faked, help move this plot along nicely.

You’ll either love or hate the characters. They are portrayed quite well, so it’ll really come down to your ability to see through the quirks and nuances versus the games they seem to be playing with each other and within poor Annie’s mind. I’m in awe of how the author kept this all in line!

There are a lot of side-stories going on which help keep readers interested in all the action and characters. Between birds and cats, foreigners and natives, old historic beliefs and medical approaches, the novel seems to have a bit of everything. It’s a lot to keep track of, but imagine what that’s like for Annie who has to try to assemble all the clues while her schizophrenia idles up and down depending on her adjustment to the medicine.

Throw in a bit of romance, some Canadian humor, and the potential for some fun and silliness, you’ve got yourself quite a unique read. If you’re looking for something different and logical in its own right, this would be a great choice to push your reading comforts. The best part is following Annie’s mind and voice throughout the story. She’s got a lot of charm and intelligence, and you never quite know what she might say out loud unintentionally. I know a few people like that!

Summary 
This was a unique book and I don’t think I expected it to be what it turned out to be — but that’s certainly not a bad thing either! It has all the drama, mystery and suspense you’d expect in this type of novel, but it gives you a very different setting and tone as part of the ride. I like when books throw me for a loop, especially when you need to re-orient how you think in order to align your reading style. Kudos to the author for finding great formatting, approaches and character descriptions to help make everything pop on the page.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.