Review: The Fifth To Die #4MK by @jdbarker @HMHCo

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Release: 2018
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Last year, I read The Fourth Monkey and while I enjoyed it, I felt it ended up being a little predictable. Still, I wanted to keep reading this series because of the mystery and the serial killer theme, which I love, so when the publisher sent me this copy, I quickly began to read it and I was definitely curious.

Soon enough, I realized I was enjoying Fifth To Die way more than its predecessor. I still can’t explain why exactly, maybe it was my mood, or maybe because I didn’t feel like I knew what was going to happen, but I found this sequel to be an amazing mystery novel and I couldn’t stop thinking about the story and its characters.

There are two cases here: 4MK and the salt water deaths, but you quickly realize the two cases are related. How? I had no idea.  But I sure wanted to find out. And what about the parents and the obituaries? My mind was going crazy! Some of the aspects I loved the most about this book were the short chapters and the fast pace. This basically meant there wasn’t a moment of boredom and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It doesn’t matter if the book is long: you will devour it!

I also enjoyed the way the story was told, how Porter followed a clue while his team continued to investigate the other case. I was equally invested in both storylines. Besides, I really like Porter, Nash, and Clare and I love the way they interact as a team. Some additions were a nice touch as well. I did guess a couple of things but nothing could prepare me for that explosive ending. I can’t get over it!

The Fith To Die ended with a major cliffhanger and I seriously can’t believe the author could leave us like this. TFTD was definitely one of my favorite reads this summer and I’m counting the days until the third installment is released. Don’t miss it!

Many thanks to the publishers for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter @SlaughterKarin

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Release: 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

If you read my blog often, you know that Karin Slaughter is undoubtedly one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved The Good Daughter and I was looking forward to reading her new novel: Pieces of Her. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love reading books during my vacations, and this year, Malta’s choice was Karin’s new standalone. Now, every time I think about the trip, I will remember how much I enjoyed reading this novel while lying on the beach.

If you’ve read other reviews, you already know that Pieces of Her is quite a different book and unlike her usual mysteries. I wouldn’t say this is a mystery per se, although, of course, Andrea is trying to find out more about her mother and her past. But I’d say this is more of an adventure… and what a ride! Andrea wasn’t an easy character to like, as she appeared to be pretty bland in my opinion, but I still wanted to know what was going on. However, the past narration was my favorite aspect of the novel and one storyline that will be incredibly hard to forget.

I don’t want to say much because I’d love for you to find out for yourselves, but I was incredibly gripped from the moment the flashbacks started. At first, I wasn’t sure what the book would be about, but once we started to get to know Laura a bit more, the book took a direction I honestly didn’t expect and I really like stories like this one. The story reminded me a bit of Diane Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of Ceecee Wilkes, and, after all, that is definitely a favorite of mine.

I am well aware that this will not be for everyone because it’s not exactly fast-paced and it’s quite long, but if it manages to grip you like it did with me, I’m sure you will love it, too. It’s not full of twists, as the story is pretty straight-forward, but it’s so incredibly well-written and full of interesting dynamics between the characters, that I couldn’t help to admire Karin Slaughter’s ability to make me care about her characters no matter what she writes about.

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Review: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

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Release: 2008
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Ever since I read The Nightingale years ago, a couple of friends recommended Firefly Lane by the same author. I haven’t read many chick-lit/contemporary books for the last ten years, so I thought this could be a nice change given how much I liked Nightingale. Almost 600 pages and many tears later, I think I know now why I don’t usually read this kind of books. I was a mess after finishing Firefly Lane!

This is a story about a friendship. As simple as that. And yes, it’s also about two women’s professional and personal lives, but the main concept behind this novel is friendship, and I loved the focus, as opposite to the thousands of books that revolve around romantic relationships. Tully and Kate were the best of friends and I loved seeing their friendship grow and evolve during so many years.

I admit I am very fond of this type of stories spanning many years, although I don’t read them as often as I would like to. I was hooked from the very first page when we know something has happened and the two friends aren’t speaking anymore. But what happened to make them grow apart? I admit I was sure it would had to do with something, but I was incredibly wrong. Then again, I had to wait like 500 pages to find out.

I guess Kate was more relatable, but I also admired Tully’s strength and determination. They were a great combo. Johnny was an interesting character as well, although he made me suffer a lot. Love triangles are not a favorite trope of mine, but here it was handled beautifully.

A beautiful and moving book about life, friendship and family.

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Review: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks

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Release: 2018
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Contemporary

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Louise Beech. Ever since I read How To Be Brave, I became a fan of Louise’s writing and I’ve loved all of her novels (The Mountain In My ShoeMaria In The Moon). However, I think this one might be my favorite yet!

I love Louise’s books because although her novels aren’t my usual go-to genre (contemporary, literary fiction), I can’t help but become completely captivated by the way she tells her stories and the beauty of her characters. Her books are always beautiful, poignant, and magical. I would recommend them to anyone.

This time, the protagonist is Ben, a young man who’s in Zimbabwe trying to forget about his relationship with Andrew. We know something went wrong and we know Ben is suffering, but we don’t understand why. And then, slowly, we begin to learn about Ben and Andrew’s relationship by revealing their past from both points of view. I believe this structure worked really well because there were some details that you didn’t fully understand until you read them later.

I found Ben’s story heartbreaking and I became so invested in his relationship with Andrew that I couldn’t stop reading until I knew what would happen to them. I also enjoyed the family dynamics, especially when we finally discover more about Ben’s father and why he behaved the way he did. I’m not saying I liked him, because I didn’t, but he had some redeeming qualities, as well.

Finally, let’s not forget the lions!. The Zimbabwe setting and the lion sanctuary scenes were incredible: I will never forget Ben’s interactions with Lucy. At first, I wasn’t sure of how well the two settings would work, but I soon realized I loved reading about both present and past, which doesn’t happen often. That’s the power of a great book, I guess.

A truly unforgettable story.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Blog Tour: What Lies Within by Annabelle Thorpe

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Release: 2018
Publisher: Quercus Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

What Lies Within by Annabelle Thorpe

An intense, claustrophobic psychological novel about the dark side of expat life, and what being out of your comfort zone can do to you, set in the vibrant souks and ancient riads of Marrakech

A unique friendship, built on a lie

Freya, Paul and Hamad. Three friends from two different worlds; a seemingly unshakeable bond, suddenly under threat.

A move that would change all their lives.

The trio have stayed close since university despite Freya and Paul’s marriage and Hamad’s wealthy lifestyle – so different from their own. Then an incredible job offer from Hamad sees Paul and Freya move to Morocco.

A city where nothing is as it seems

Marrakech soon proves a perplexing place to live. Instead of reinvigorating their marriage, Freya finds the move is driving them apart. Revelations about their shared past force her to acknowledge that neither Paul nor Hamad is quite the man she thought. When a shocking crime is committed, Freya finds herself cast adrift in the dark corners of a bewildering city, unsure who to trust or to believe.

Extract

Taroudant, Morocco

‘Are you ready, monsieur?’

Hamad glanced down at the book; the signature was unrecognisable. His fingers had
locked around the pen; the final i was turning into an elongated r as the weight of his hand dragged the nib across the page. ‘I need a moment.’

‘Bien sûr.’

His phone vibrated; the screen glowed brightly in the dim light. Freya. He didn’t have
the words. Not yet.

‘OK.’ What was he waiting for? To feel better?

‘Shall we proceed?’

Hamad nodded. His gums were coated with a thin, sour liquid; his palms slid greasily
against the weave of his jeans. The man gestured towards the strip-lit corridor, following closely behind. His shoes clicked on the grubby linoleum.

‘Ici.’ He slipped a key into a metal door, heaved it open with a grunt. Thin,
refrigerated air rushed at them. Hamad shivered. ‘Through here.’

The room smelt of cleaning fluid and something odd, like stale tea. An older man was
leaning against a desk; sallow-skinned with thinning hair. The gendarme muttered something in Darija, pointed to the large steel cabinet that took up most of the far wall. Hamad had seen enough films to know what it was. Six compartments. Six bodies. Even in his state of shock he could feel the grotesqueness of the situation. He had always been unusually squeamish.

The balding man pulled down the handle on one of the panels, slotting his fingertips
underneath to lever out the drawer. The runners squealed. Lying on the shelf was something wrapped in what looked like white plastic.

‘Are you ready?’

‘I am.’ He smoothed his thumb and forefinger over his beard. The plastic sheet
crackled as it was peeled away. He glanced down. The body was discoloured, mustard and purple bruises spreading like faded ink beneath the skin. Her hair was smoothed back from her forehead, lashes long against her cheeks. The room swung gently. He reached out his hand to steady himself on the corner of the gurney.

‘Monsieur. Is this . . . ?’

Hamad closed his eyes for a moment; he felt disorientated, unable to process what
he was seeing. A word rose in his throat; he swallowed hard.

‘I understand this is difficult.’ The man’s voice was surprisingly gentle. ‘But can you… ?’

‘Yes.’

‘Monsieur Al-Bouskri? My apologies, but I must be clear. You are saying this is . . . ?’

‘Yes.’ His fingernails bit into the skin on his palms. He looked into the man’s blank
face. ‘This is the body of Racine Delacroix.’

Annabelle Thorpe

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After sixteen years as an award-winning travel and features journalist, writing for The Times and many other national broadsheets and magazines, Annabelle made the transition to fiction with The People We Were Before, the tale of a young boy and his family living through the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The book was born of her experiences in travelling to Croatia for over thirty years, and witnessing the country’s spectacular fall and rise. 

As a travel writer, she has visited over 50 countries, including driving through the Omani desert, trekking in the New Zealand rainforest, learning (and failing) to sail in Bermuda and narrowly escaping being run over in Tripoli. Her fiction brings in locations she knows intimately; Croatia in The People We Were Before, and Marrakech and Qatar in her second novel, What Lies Within, published in April 2018.

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