Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Face Off Review

Title:  Face Off 
Series:  The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #3
Author:  Brenda Novak
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Aug. 28, 2018
Purchase link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Chilling Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an arc of this book.

Tortured and left for dead at sixteen, Evelyn Talbot turned her personal nightmare into her life’s work—studying the disturbing psychopathy of some of the world’s most vicious serial killers. Now a leading psychiatrist at Hanover House in a small Alaskan town, she tries to believe the past will never come back to haunt her—until a woman goes missing from a cabin nearby, and every clue points to the man who once brutalized her…
As her boyfriend, who is the area’s only police, begins to investigate—and finds not one but two bodies—Evelyn can’t forget that her would-be killer, Jasper Moore, was never caught. But there are no new faces in tiny Hilltop, no one who seems suspicious or potentially violent. In this twisted game of cat and mouse, Evelyn is certain of only one thing—Jasper must be hiding in plain sight. And if she can’t find him before he comes for her, she won’t be lucky enough to survive twice…

As a fan of The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, I've been on pins and needles since the cliffy ending of Hello Again and anxious to see where Novak would take the story and characters next.  I'll say now that if you haven't read the previous books, you should snatch them up and settle in for a chilling marathon of thriller action.  Novak does a fantastic job of catching readers up on backstory with each book so they can be read as standalones, but you're missing some great reading time if you skip the previous books.

Face Off picks up right where Hello Again ended, and I soon found myself transported right back into Hilltop, Alaska, and the tumultuous lives of Evelyn, leading psychiatrist at Hanover House, and her love interest, local law enforcement officer, Amarok.  Their relationship development is key in this book as ultimatums are issued forcing some major decisions and changes.  The author does a fantastic job exposing the differences that threaten their relationship and highlighting major hurdles they will need to overcome in order for them to move forward.  Novak wastes no time ramping up the chilling action with tension escalating from the opening chapters all the way through to the shocking ending.  I found the pacing to be brisk as I maneuvered the many twists and turns the author wove into this riveting plot line.  The interesting thing in this book is that even though readers are aware of the identity of the villain all the way through, I still found myself burning through pages while screaming, "Take off the blinders and SEE who's standing right in front of you!"  It certainly begs the question: Is there any better hiding place than in plain sight?  

I'm not going to discuss any plot details here as there's only one way to experience this thriller - read it for yourself!  I will say that dead bodies are surfacing once again, and Evelyn is sure that it's a warning for her from Jasper, the psychopath who's come close to killing her twice.  If there's one thing Evelyn knows to be true, it's that Jasper will never rest, never stop stalking her . . . until she's dead.  Question is:  Where is he hiding??

Face Off is an intense, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have readers looking over their shoulder at things that go bump in the night.  While it can be said that the plot line is repetitive in some ways with Evelyn once again in a serial killer's sights, the story's chilling, threatening, atmospheric delivery makes it another Must Read in the series!  After the ending, I'm anxious to see where the story and these characters go next.  Another winner by Novak!

My Rating:  4 Chilling Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Sold On A Monday Review

Title:  Sold On A Monday
Author:  Kristina McMorris
Publisher:  Sourcebook Landmark
Genre:  Historical Fiction, General Fiction
Release Date:  Aug. 28, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Haunting Hearts

*I'd like to thank the publisher for offering me a copy of this arc via both Netgally & Edelweiss.


The scrawled sign, peddling young siblings on a farmhouse porch, captures the desperation sweeping the country in 1931. It’s an era of breadlines, bank runs, and impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when the image leads to his big break, the consequences are devastating in ways he never imagined.

Haunted by secrets of her own, secretary Lillian Palmer sees more in the picture than a good story and is soon drawn into the fray. Together, the two set out to right a wrongdoing and mend a fractured family, at the risk of everything they value.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photo that stunned readers across the nation, this touching novel explores the tale within the frame and behind the lens—a journey of ambition, love, and the far-reaching effects of our actions.

This appears to be my year for trusting my gut instinct and grabbing books based on the cover and title.  I've been rewarded with some awesome books by doing so, and once again struck gold when I decided to take a chance and request an arc of Sold On A Monday.  If the heart-touching cover photograph doesn't get you, the title, synopsis, and story will.  This has also been the year for me to become a fan of fictional renderings of real life events.  The story behind Sold On A Monday is based on a newspaper photo (shown in back of the book) that shocked the world during the Great Depression.  During this bleak time in history, families were faced with impossible, heartbreaking decisions.  Banks collapsed, homes were repossessed, people were out of work, and families were starving.  All hopes and dreams were shattered.  And so, a heartbreaking photograph served as a sign of the times:  2 Children For Sale.  Says it all, doesn't it?

Ellis Reed was a struggling reporter assigned to cover the social circuit in 1931.  In the execution of his duties, he stumbled across an old, desolated farmhouse and took a photograph of two little children sitting on the front porch.  Not intended for publication, Ellis only takes one picture which will later prove paramount in upcoming events.  Upon reviewing the photograph, he's stunned to see the sign that says 2 Children For Sale propped up near the boys.  Do these children have any idea what the sign says . . . or means?  Newspaper secretary Lillian Palmer later discovers Reed's photograph in the darkroom and is so moved by it that she passes it on to the powers that be.  Through happenstance, Ellis is faced with some hard choices including one borderline unethical decision that not only changed the course of his life, but also utterly destroyed some innocent lives.  Will Ellis and Lillian ever find a way to right this wrong?  

Sold On A Monday is a story first revealed through the lens of a camera - a moment of utter hopelessness forever frozen in time.  But, thankfully, it's also a story of compassion, ambition, forgiveness, and redemption - a story of two people's determination to do the right thing with no thought of personal consequences.  The setting and plot line drew me right into the story, allowing me to see, feel, even smell the agony, defeat, and heartbreak of families fighting for survival.  I appreciated the direction and approach the author chose to tell this story as I think it broadens the reader's focus from the one photograph and allows them the vision to see a much bigger picture and story.  I found the story pacing to be perfect as it kept me turning pages while searching for any assurance that it wasn't too late to set things right again.  I highly recommend you skip all reviews and dive into this book prepared to not only be deeply moved, but also a little surprised.  McMorris has written a stunning story - one in which a photograph is worth more than a thousand words.  And yet, her words and rendering of this story are absolutely perfect!  A 2018 Favorite!  A Must Read! 

My Rating:  5 Haunting Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lies Review

Title:  Lies
Author:  T.M. Logan
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Sept. 11, 2018 (1st released 1/17/17)
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  3.5 Deceiving Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for a copy of this book via Netgally.


What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

 One thing I know to be true from experience is that life can change in a blink of an eye.  One minute you're happy and content going about your normal day, and the next minute your whole world comes crashing down.  That is what happened to Joe Lynch in Lies.  Joe is an average, happy, contented, trusting man with a wife he loves and a son he worships.  Life is good . . . until one day it isn't.  One afternoon, one impulsive decision, one life-altering moment, and Joe's perfect world comes crashing down with devastating implications and results.  The more he tries to unravel the lies, the more deception he discovers.  The foundation Joe's life is built on is crumbling away, and he has no idea how to shore it back up.  

Lies begins with an ordinary man making an ordinary decision that sets off a tsunami of events that forever change his life.  There's no way to discuss more detail without revealing a story line best discovered by reading it yourself.  I found the first half of the story to be intense and compelling as events escalated out of Joe's control.  The story unfolds from Joe's pov thus making it easy for readers to feel his pain, sense of loss, sorrow, and growing confusion and panic as he works to uncover the truth and salvage life as he once knew it.  The author's use of social media and technology is brilliant as it ends up playing a huge part in the storyline while potentially sealing Joe's fate.  This part of the story is fast-paced, heart-pounding action that is well executed.

The middle to latter part of the story lacked the intensity of the first part in my opinion.  The pacing seemed to stall as the storyline became a bit predictable and almost repetitive.  I think maybe it was just a case of one lie too many drawing the story out too long at a point when I was impatient to be immersed in the escalating suspense and danger.  Having said that, the detailed characters and plot line are conducive to an intriguing story, and a surprise twist near the end is sure to keep readers talking.  A complex story of lies, deceit, and the ultimate betrayal, Lies will be high on the list of Must Reads among fans of mystery, suspense, and thrillers.    

My Rating:  3.5 Deceiving Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG: Publishing Pitfall Alert! Is Your Book Reader-Ready?

Hi everyone!  Welcome to my blog and this month's edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Thanks for stopping by.  I'm honored to be one of the co-hosts for our August IWSG posting.  I'd like to thank my co-hosts and encourage you to visit each of their blogs today.

August Co-Hosts: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, & Lee Lowery!

IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. It's a great writer's resource that I'm sure you'll find well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with other IWSG Members.  

I'd like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to our fearless leader Alex J. Cavanaugh who launched IWSG on Sept. 7, 2011, offering writer's a place to seek and give support, encouragement, and advice to other writers.  Our writing community has since grown by leaps & bounds.  Many thanks to Alex and his awesome team!

IWSG Mission Statement:  The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a website media business with affiliates to enhance our service to visitors. We are a home for writers in all stages; from unpublished to bestsellers. Our goal is to offer assistance and guidance. We want to help writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement we are creating a community of support. Visit IWSG to learn more about this great writing community!  

Exciting News!  The official theme of the IWSG Anthology
Contest is being announced today!  Visit Insecure Writer's Support Group for more info!

Together We Can!
The IWSG community has joined forces with WEP (Writing, Editing, Publishing) - an online writing community that posts to a theme every third Wednesday or every second month!  For more info, check out Denise Covey's Blog.  You can check out WEP's August theme below!

August IWSG Question:  What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

What a great question for the more experienced authors with several published books under their belt!  I'm all ears - your advise is always priceless.  I'm also interested in hearing from other writers who get up every day and take the next step in the long journey to first-time publication.  What pitfalls are you facing, and how are you handling them?

As for me, while I consider myself fortunate to have some articles published, I'm still working toward publishing my first book.  And while I haven't ventured deeply into the publishing process myself, I've watched and learned from other authors who have.  

No doubt, there're several potentially disastrous pitfalls on the road to publication.  Yet,  when I read this question, I knew immediately what my advice would be.  I'll keep it short and sweet - Avoid putting undue pressure on yourself (and those around you) by setting realistic deadlines - aka release dates.  In today's publishing world, many authors are self-publishing and thus in charge of setting their own deadlines.  So, you've finally finished your book?  Great!  And you want it published yesterday - I get it!  However, it's highly unlikely you wrote your book in a day and unrealistic to expect to get it into the hands of readers immediately after writing "The End" . . . not and deliver your best work.

I believe the number one job of writers is to write.  Having said that, it's also extremely important for authors to deliver their best work to readers each and every time.  So, now that you've written your best book ever, don't shoot yourself in the foot by rushing through the steps necessary to ensure your book is reader-ready.  Curtail your anxiousness to get it out there NOW, and set a release date that allows enough time for every step (and person involved) in the publication process.  After all, word of mouth is one of the best (and least expensive) advertisements an author will ever have, and it can either make or break a book.  As an avid reader, reviewer, and participant of several book club groups, I can tell you one of the fastest ways to an early book funeral is to publish a book full of errors.  You'll be reading about it in every review from here on out.  Good news is - this is one pitfall easily avoided by allowing needed time to get it right the first time!  Make sure your book is reader-ready.  When it's finally in the hands of enthusiastic readers sharing it with other readers, you'll be glad you did!

Life is hectic enough!  Avoid unnecessary stress by setting realistic publication deadlines.  Allow yourself time to get it right.  Make sure your book is Reader-Ready.  Your readers will thank you!