#ThrowbackThursday The Rosary Girls by @RRMontanari

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies. Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most. 

I read this a few years ago and I really loved it. The Rosary Girls was the first in a procedural series (Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano). Unfortunately,  I didn’t read any of the following books (ouch!); I really need to keep up with my series!

This was a thrilling and old-fashioned thriller featuring a sadistic serial killer in the city of Philadelphia. I loved the partnership between Byrne and Balzano and the way the author made me care about both the characters and the case. I was captivated from the very first page, as the prologue was creepy and mysterious.

I don’t recall everything about the plot, but I remember I couldn’t stop reading and I felt like I had discovered a new favorite series.

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Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by @stu_turton @BloomsburyRaven

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‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’ It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

Okay, so how do I even review this book? The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was probably my most anticipated read this year. The moment I came across that blurb, I knew I needed to read this book. I’m a big fan of the whole Groundhog Day premise and I already talked about my love for Before I Fall on the blog. Happy Death Day was also one of my favorite films last year, so Seven Deaths was high on my list. And it was a murder mystery! What more could I ask for?

I admit it, as much as I ended up loving this book, my relationship with Seven Deaths didn’t start off that well. I don’t know if anyone else had the same issue with the Netgalley format, but my ebook file was a mess. Random 0s and 1s all over the pages, no capital letters, paragraph breaks that made no sense… it was hard to follow. And if you take into account that the actual plot isn’t the easiest to understand, you can imagine my confusion. I almost gave up before I even reached 10%. But. The idea was awesome and it seemed like such a cool story, so didn’t it deserve a bit of an effort? Yes. So I kept on reading…

At first, I remember thinking: what is this even about? For the first 20%, I had no idea where the story was going. I didn’t understand anything, there were too many characters and the Agatha Christie character guide would’ve been useful if I had been reading the hardback or paperback version (no, of course my format didn’t allow me to go back to the beginning!). And who the hell was Anna? Wasn’t this book about Evelyn? Who are these creepy evil characters? But you know that moment when you realize you’re actually enjoying a weird book? I knew I was beginning to like this novel… And for sure I wanted to know what was going on!

And the more I read, the more I loved it. I couldn’t stop. No, I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but I no longer cared. I loved how this book messed with my mind. It’s my favorite feeling in the world. And I had to continue reading. It wasn’t only about the high-concept plot and the promise of a mind-blowing puzzle. I also really liked the main character, Aiden Bishop, and I was rooting for him. I wanted him to escape Blackheath. But he was so stubborn! Oh, how he made me suffer…

I deeply admire Stuart Turton’s work here. He has created such a complex and unique novel, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like Seven Deaths. I’m sure no book has ever made me feel like this one. It’s not an easy read and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I’ve never been happier that I decided to keep on reading. This was very different from all the other Groundhog Day stories I’ve read or watched. Stuart Turton took it one step further. And I’m glad.

By the time I reached the conclusion, I felt like I was watching an episode of Black Mirror. I had read that some people were disappointed with the ending, but I enjoyed the case resolution (so Agatha Christie!!!) and I really loved the world created by the author and the way he answered all the questions about Blackheath.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a truly original and mind-blowing novel that could easily become a cult classic.

Netgalley, Bloomsbury, 2018

Review: Three Things About Elsie by @JoannaCannon @BoroughPress

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Three Things About Elsie tells the story of 84-year-old Florence, who has been lifelong friends with Elsie, who has fallen in her flat and waits to be rescued. As she tells her story, we find out she has a secret, a secret she promised she would keep forever. And Florence is worried her forever is now.

Last year I read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep and it instantly became an all-time favorite. I fell in love with Joanna Cannon’s writing and her two main characters. The story was sweet, funny, poignant and overall beautiful. Three Things About Elsie was one of my most anticipated reads this 2018 and I wanted it to be my first this year. And I have to say it was a fantastic book!

It’s funny because when I read the blurb of this novel, I thought: “well, this is definitely not similar to TTWGAS at all”. However, as I kept reading about Florence and Elsie, I realized Three Things About Elsie was actually super similar to her previous novel. The structure: two female friends investigating despite being total amateurs and hence facing several obstacles. The humour, the witty dialogue, the innocence, the meaning of friendship…

The plot started off a bit slow but it gradually got more and more engaging. In my opinion, Three Things About Elsie keeps getting better as the story progresses. There was some gaslighting, excellent (and hilarious) dialogue and a few chapters narrated by a couple of secondary characters. Joanna Cannon has the ability of making you care about everyone she writes about, she excels at crafting vulnerable characters that will forever stay in your mind.

I particularly enjoyed the book’s structure, featuring Florence’s present chapters where she foreshadows what she thinks is going to happen and then switching back to one month before the incident, when it all started. I couldn’t wait to know what was exactly going on. This is contemporary fiction, but it has a mystery at its heart.

There was a particular aspect about this novel that I found extremely predictable in the way that we’ve all experienced this type of ending before. And it works, it certainly does, but I’m afraid it’s not going to surprise me anymore, which yes, it’s kind of sad, but then again it’s my fault because I overthink every small detail I read. Don’t worry, because there were plenty of other small surprises, and there was one tiny detail which wasn’t even relevant in terms of plot but it made me all tear-eyed. And it wasn’t the only time I cried. The last sentence of the book was so beautiful…

I have no issues with this book whatsoever, but I did love The Trouble With Goats and Sheep a bit more, maybe because it was the first or because I can’t resist a quirky child narrator. But Three Things About Elsie is a wonderful and lovely book that I would recommend to everyone.

Netgalley, The Borough Press, 2018

#ThrowbackThursday I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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Surrey: Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. East Yorkshire: Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home. But who is he, and how can she trust a man who has lost his memory?

I Found You was one of those tiles I wanted to read based on blogger reviews. I bought it this past summer and I couldn’t wait to start it and see if I enjoyed Lisa Jewell’s writing as much as everyone else did. I must say I was instantly engaged and I loved the story from the very beginning. The peculiar family, the man from the beach, Lily’s missing husband, the flashbacks… All the stories were interesting and I couldn’t wait to know how they’d come together.

This wasn’t a dark book, and I kind of appreciated that. I’d say it was mostly contemporary fiction with a mystery touch. And that’s okay, because I wanted something like this to finish 2017. However, even if the themes weren’t that dark, there was a character who was pretty scary and I loved the way he was written.

My issue with I Found You was that I thought the last section of the book to be rather unsurprising. I wasn’t shocked by anything, I don’t know if I was expected to believe Frank was someone else, but I never had a doubt. Despite my disappointment, I still think this is a deeply entertaining novel and I’d read another book by this author without a doubt.

Review: The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

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In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same. In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago. Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

The Chalk Man has been one of the most talked about books in the last few months. Everyone was reading it and writing about it. Some raved about it, others were a bit disappointed. It seemed to be quite a polemic book, but still, I couldn’t wait to dive into it because of the comparisons to IT, Stranger Things and Stand By Me (I’m a big fan of those three). So I finally sat down one morning and read it from beginning to end.

The Chalk Man was a truly addictive read for me. I didn’t think about anything else while I got to know about the kids and the chalk figures: I read it compulsively, trying to guess what had happened all those years ago. I liked the atmosphere, the 80s flashbacks and wanted to know what was going on in the present, too. I didn’t love the characters that much, but that was okay because I was really enjoying the story. Sometimes that happens.

However, when I got to the ending, I realized I didn’t feel as satisfied as I had hoped. I liked the book enough and thought it was well-written, it had great ideas and enjoyed some aspects that I can’t really mention now because of spoilers. But the main mystery ended up being a major disappointment. I usually love this kind of “tragic endings” but I didn’t care much about this one.

I liked CJ Tudor’s writing and the way she kept me guessing until the very end. It’s obvious that she loves the 80s and all that “retro nostalgia”, and I really appreciate that. This was a great debut novel, but I think the mystery lacked a bit of that “memorable” feeling I look for when reading this type of books. Also, Nicky’s character was kind of underused and I wanted to know more about her (despite her obvious similarities to IT’s Beverly).

Overall, I enjoyed The Chalk Man and would recommend it if you enjoy mysteries and coming of age stories. At the same time, I can’t really say it I will remember it forever.

Netgalley, Michael Joseph, 2018