Saturday, October 19, 2019

Catching Up with a (4) Mini Reviews - The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall - The First Mistake; Sandie Jones - The Institute; Stephen King - The Whisper Man; Alex North

I've been on a bit of an audio book binge lately while walking, driving, cooking, cleaning - you name it.  (3) of the (4) books were audios and thrillers which helped me to finish RIP Challenge as well.

The Dearly Beloved; Cara Wall
Simon & Schuster - 2019

The Dearly Beloved is a debut novel about love, faith, friendship and community. It's set in the 1950s -1960s New York City and follows two couples  (Charles and Lily and James and Nan) from college to marriage and beyond. The men become co-ministers of a Presbyterian church in NYC. We witness the couple's struggles within their marriage, the community and their struggles with faith.  Although religion and faith played a major theme in this novel, it didn't feel overly preachy or in your face.  This book started out strong for me, but then the characters started to come across as rather flat. This was one of those stories that I found it harder and harder to get back to once I took a little break.  I'm on the fence about a rating but, for me, I decided on 3/5 stars. I'm not sure whether I would have felt differently about the novel if I was a person of faith.

The First Mistake; Sandie Jones
MacMillan Audio - 2019

I was looking forward to The First Mistake by Sandie Jones after totally enjoying The Other Woman, her previous book. Best classified as a domestic thriller it's full of twists and a surprise shocking ending as well.

Set in the U.K. we meet Alice, who lost her first husband, Tom, in an accident. She still misses Tom even though she's now married to Nathan. Alice and her new husband run a successful international company founded by her first husband.  Despite Alice's success and having two great daughters, she begins to have her doubts about her new husband and wonders whether he's been completely honest with her. She also suspects he might be having an affair. Alice confides in her best friend Beth about her suspensions but, before long her anxiety working overtime makes her wonder whether Beth has her best interests at heart.

Without giving too much info, this thriller that took the reader in directions I never expected.  Everyone has secrets in this one -- who can you trust? The ending was a shocker as well. 4/5 stars

The Institute; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio 

The Institute was an 18+ hour audio book production that begins with a drifter named Tim Jamieson who takes a night beat job with a small town South Carolina sheriff's department and then jumps to main focus of the story, the exploitation and kidnapping of exceptional kids (younger than 16).  Luke Ellis, is one of these children, kidnapped from his home in Minnesota and ending up in a strange place in Maine (The Institute).  It's a tight knit operation kind of place with strict rules. Luke's not the only child, there are other gifted children who have suffered a similar fate and ended up like Luke-- kidnapped in the middle of the night and their parents murdered.  The Institute is a place you enter, get promoted, as one progress through some cruel experimentation but, they don't get to leave. I liked that the Tim Jamieson character resurfaces once again before the end.

For me this story had more of a SF feel at times than horror. There is a good deal of physical and certainly mental abuse in this novel and you'll yes, you will be able to tell that Stephen King is no fan of our President as well. This novel felt like it could be a standalone but, by the end I found myself wondering whether there might be a sequel as the ending was a little loose and ambiguous. The audio narration  (Santino Fontana) was very good (this story just way too long for me).  I didn't feel it was scary and overall, I enjoyed this one. 4/5 stars.


The Whisper Man; Alex North
MacMillan Audio - 2019

I do love a good old intense thriller and many of the reviews I read called this "creepy, chilling etc".  I listened to this one every evening, before bed for about a week and although the audio was excellent, and, the whispers - atmospheric, I never found this serial killer preying on a small town story too scary or felt the need to put it down. I did think it was an addictive story.

After Tom's wife dies unexpectedly, he tries for a fresh start in a new town with young son Jake.  The town has a dark past, a serial killer Frank Carter, "The Whisper Man" was, however,  finally caught. Soon after they settle down in their new town and house, which has a haunted feel,  a young boy goes missing. Is this a copy-cat killer or were the rumors true, maybe Frank did have had a partner, who has now taken up where he left off?  It isn't long before young Jake begins acting weird and hearing things.

This was an addictive story, perfect for those cooler fall nights.  The character development was very good, the troubled characters, added to the intense feeling of dread at times. I heard was optioned for a movie, which could be great on a big screen production. The audio version was terrific and kept me in suspense and eager to find out how it would all turn out.  4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros; The Reckless Oath We Made; Bryn Greenwood

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s) of a book that they are reading or plan to read. I loved this author's last book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

The Reckless Oath We Made; Bryn Greenwood
G.P. Putnam and Sons - 2019

Chapter 1


"People talk about having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  I had a pair of imaginary bill collectors, so no matter which way I turned, there was somebody to remind me I needed money.  That's how I ended up on the train at four o'clock in the morning with my nephew and a hundred pounds of weed."

 What do you think about this intro - read more or pass?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Someone We Know; Shari Lapena


AUTHOR:  Shari Lapena
PUBLISHER: Pamela Dorman Books
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: print/Library
RATING - 4/5

A nice, safe neighborhood in upstate New York is shocked to learn their neighbor goes missing and soon after turns up dead. Amanda Pierce has been murdered and, although her husband  Robert is a suspect, there are a few people who might want the young, attractive and flirty woman out of their lives for good.

Meanwhile, a teenage boy from the same neighborhood has been breaking into houses and not stealing anything but, gaining access to the homeowner's computers and learning some secrets which are capable of causing havoc. Could there be any connection?

This is a novel where there are so many so many suspects, secret affairs and other motives. It is a  twisty thriller that had me wondering and changing my opinion about the killer several times over before I was done reading. Although I enjoyed this one, a quick read indeed, I didn't think it was quite as well plotted as the author's previous offerings, but, it was still a good read overall.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Daughter of Moloka'i; Alan Brennert

NOTE--- possible spoilers -- read book 1 - Moloka'i first!

AUTHOR:  Alan Brennert
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Hawaii and CA
RATING - 4.5/5

The much longed for sequel to a favorite book of mine, Moloka'i (read in 2008), which told the story of Rachel Kalama, a young girl growing up in Hawaii who developed leprosy at the age of seven.  She was taken from her family and forced to grow up in a leper colony on the island of Molokai.

While Rachel does return in this sequel, the focus is more on her daughter, Ruth Utagawa who was sent to an orphanage and then adopted by a Japanese family at the age of five.  Ruth moves from Hawaii to California along with the couple's three boys, and then sadly, Pearl Harbor forces a relocation to an internment camp.  When an unexpected letter from Rachel to Ruth arrives shortly after the war ends, the story takes an unexpected and pleasant turn.

Very little of this novel focuses on the island of Moloka'i. There was a lot of informative history which reveals the suffering some had faced, but, there were also heartwarming moments as well.  A powerful, well-researched piece about a time in history that was not spoken about often enough IMO.  I enjoyed the focus on Ruth from her birth to adulthood. I thought the author did a great job creating characters that I really cared about.

 I enjoyed this sequel, but wished that I had reread Moloka'i again since it has been 11 years since book #1. I guess you probably could read this as a standalone novel but, you'd be missing a really beautiful story.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The First Mistake; Sandie Jones

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where readers post the opening paragraph(s) of a book that they are reading or plan to read.

The First Mistake; Sandie Jones
Macmillan Audio - 2019


"She looked at me with real warmth in her eyes, as if she trusted me with her life, and for a moment I thought I wouldn't go through with it.

But then I remembered what she'd done and I suddenly felt calm again.  What comes around, and she deserves everything that's coming her way.

Trust is a funny thing; it takes such a long time to build, yet it's broken in a second.

She shouldn't trust me--it will be her undoing.

What do you think?  I'm almost done with this one; a  highly addictive, psychological thriller.

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Nearly Normal Family; M.T. Edvardsson

AUTHOR:  M.T. Edvardsson
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
FORMAT: audio
RATING - 3.5/5

A Nearly Normal Family is a complex family drama and legal thriller that explores how far parents will go to protect their child.  The Sandells have an 18 year old daughter named Stella who has been accused of the brutal murder a wealthy and unscrupulous businessman, Chris Olson, who in his early 30s. How could this be, what is the connection?

This multi-layered story drew me right in as I watched this dysfunctional family begin to unravel bit by bit. The story is told from the POVs of Adam, the husband and father, who is also a pastor. We also get to hear from Ulrika, the wife and mother who is also a criminal defense attorney, as well as the POV of the accused, daughter Stella.

The story was clever and detailed but, slow moving as well.  Stella was a rebellious teen who got away with a lot; her parents desperate to protect their daughter but not the best parents. The trial was enlightening and lead to some unexpected surprises.  I did like that it's a story that gives you plenty to think about, especially since the epilogue answered the questions I wondered about.

Readers who enjoy legal thrillers might want to try this one.