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.


Synopsis:

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.

Review:
 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
Sandra


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!


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rust & Stardust Review


Title:  Rust & Stardust
Author:  T. Greenwood
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Aug. 7, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Heart-Wrenching Hearts

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




Synopsis:
Camden, NJ, 1948.

When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

Review:
I was first drawn to Rust & Stardust by both the title and cover.  Both are certainly unique and intriguing.  The dark, disturbing, fictional story is based on the real life kidnapping and abuse of a young girl by an ex-con in New Jersey in 1948.  The pain and suffering this girl and family endured for almost two years at the hands of a monster is completely unimaginable and utterly heart-breaking.  At that time, parents and children still felt safe in their unlocked homes as children often played outside, rode bikes, and traveled about unsupervised.  Sadly, their sense of security was shattered when every parents' worst nightmare became a reality for the Horner family.

Sally Horner just wanted to "fit in" with her peers when she acted on a dare to steal a notebook from a Woolworth's store.  She had no way of knowing that a man who confronted her claiming to be a FBI agent was actually a sexual predator.  Threatening eleven year old Sally with jail time, fifty-two year old Frank LaSalle kidnapped her, stealing her innocence while repeatedly mentally and physically abusing her as they crossed the country traveling as "father/daughter" - always one step ahead of the law and curious strangers.  Sally's fear, along with LaSalle's continuous threats, kept her mum and in line.  Through her point of view (and that of family and friends), readers gain a sense of the horrendous pain, suffering, doubts and despair that Sally and her family endured.  And yet, there was always a tiny spark of hope.

To say Sally's story touched me would be a gross understatement - it devastated me.  No child or family should ever be forced to live this nightmare.  Unfortunately, evil does exist and in this case, it has a name.  Needless to say, this is a tragic, deeply disturbing story of lost innocence and shattered lives, but it's one that I think needed to be told, and this author did so with as much grace, care, and sensitivity as possible.  Rust & Stardust is beautifully written and delivered, and I believe it pays homage to Sally Horner and her family with their remarkable strength and perseverance.  While this is a fictional rendering, it's obvious Greenwood did a great deal of research in delivering a story that closely mirrors the true story.  Like many other readers, after finishing this book I researched the real life story of Sally Horner's kidnapping, reading newspaper articles and looking at pictures.  It certainly drove home how all too-real and tragic this story was, but I can still say, with tears streaming down my face, this is a Must Read!  Well done, T. Greenwood!

My Rating:  5 Heart-Wrenching Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Monday, July 16, 2018

Pieces of Her Review



Title:  Pieces of Her
Author:  Karin Slaughter
Publisher:  William Morrow
Release Date:  Aug. 21, 2018 (first published 8/9/18)
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Unsettling Hearts

*Many thanks to publisher William Morrow for an arc copy of this book via Edelweiss+.



Synopsis:

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother Laura. She’s knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; 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 Saturday afternoon 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 will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs 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. . . .

Review:
A quiet birthday celebration at a local mall turns deadly in the opening pages of Slaughter's new standalone book, Pieces of Her.  A gunman opens fire, killing one woman and then turning his sights on mother, Laura Cooper and her 31 year old daughter, Andrea (Andy).  In the middle of the ensuing chaos, Andy watches, paralyzed by fear and shock, as her mother calmly and coldly not only faces down a killer but overcomes him.  Like most of us, Andy thought she knew everything there was to know about her mother, but in the aftermath of this tragedy, she's left scared, confused, and devastated . . . wondering who this woman she calls "mother" really is.

Pieces of Her explores Andy's search for the truth, as she goes on the run and begins digging into her mother's past - uncovering deadly secrets that threaten several lives.  The story unfolds through dual timelines, affording readers an opportunity to witness events as they happen in both the past and present.  I've come to really enjoy this method of story-telling as it makes me feel present in the moment and thus more vested in the character's lives.  As always, Slaughter delivers an intricately woven plot with some twists and turns that will leave you reeling even as she maneuvers the sometimes unsettling minefield of mother/daughter relationships.  The mystery and deadly secrets cast an immense shadow of imminent doom over the characters and story.  I found the "past" chapters to be intriguing and fast-paced, while the "present", much of which places the reader in Andy's head, was a bit convoluted and slow moving for me.  Having read most of this author's work, I can say that I didn't find this book to be as dark and graphic as many of her other books.  For some readers that may be a plus, for others a minus.  While it won't make my Favorite's List from this author, I still found Pieces of Her to be a complex, compelling thriller that mystery/suspense/thriller fans will enjoy.  A Must Read!

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

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra












Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Last Time I Lied Review


Title:  The Last Time I Lied
Author:  Riley Sager
Publisher:  Dutton
Release Date:  July 3, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 4 Twisted Hearts


*Many thanks to Dutton for an arc of this book via Edelweiss+.




Synopsis:
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Review:
The Last Time I Lied is a disturbing, atmospheric thriller that had me jumping at threatening noises and looking over my shoulder from beginning to end.  The location sets a menacing, ominous tone that settles over the story and characters like thick fog descending over the woods and lake.  The story plays out through dual timelines that weave past and present events together, leaving hints of the truth hidden among the many secrets and lies. 

Emma was thirteen the last time she stepped foot in Dogwood Cabin at Lake Nightingale Camp.  And now, fifteen years later, she's returned to teach the art of painting to a brand new group of young campers . . . and to uncover the truth of what happened to her cabin-mates all those years ago.  As the youngest camper, she had watched three older girls sneak off into the night, and by the light of dawn, she awoke only to realize they had never returned.  Were they lost in the dark woods?  Or victims at the bottom of the dark, sinister lake?  For fifteen years, Emma's been haunted by ghosts of the missing girls who often appear hidden among the gnarly trees in her massive paintings.  She's back at Lake Nightingale to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

The Last Time I Lied is a creepy, mysterious suspense story that unfolds layer by layer.  At one time or the other, I suspected different members of the large cast of being involved, and yet found I was wrong in the end.  This story leads readers to suspect everyone, but trust no one just as it did Emma.  The more I read, the more a sense of dread spread in the pit of my stomach and a sense of danger invaded my senses.  The cabins, the woods, the sinister yet serene lake, the secretive cast - all lend a sense of fear and impending doom to the story.  Fans of mysteries and thrillers will love this complex, dark, edge-of-your-seat thriller!  A Must Read!

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

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

IWSG: Ultimate Writing Goals

IWSG Question of the Month:  What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Goals.  Everyone has at least one, probably more, right?  Some are constant while others change over time.  Either way, in order to realize any goal, you need a plan of action and the perseverance to stay the course . . . sometimes easier said than done.  It's something I continuously strive to do.

When it comes to writing goals, my first thought is to say my ultimate goal is getting my book/s into the hands of readers (who will rave about them, of course! haha).  I'll venture a guess that's a high priority for most writers as it is for me.  It's one of the reasons we forego so many other activities in favor of writing.

Time management is another ongoing goal that ranks high on my list as I work to maneuver over, around, or through the obstacle course called  "real life" and maintain a disruption-free, regular writing schedule.  Honestly, until I started trying to keep a regular writing schedule, I didn't realize how many interruptions could occur in a 30 minute period of time.  So, a regular, uninterrupted writing routine always rates high on my list of goals.

But, I think my ultimate goal is to always feel a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in every aspect of my writing from start to finish - to feel certain when readers open one of my books and start reading, they're getting the best of me, each and every time.  My goal is to punch every reader's ticket to ride on an emotional rollercoaster all the way from Page 1 to The End.  I want to write the book that catapults them on a convoluted journey they won't escape before reaching the end - the same journey I've experienced from some of my favorite authors.  That's my ultimate goal.

How about you?  What are your writing goals and how have they changed?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage each other. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I know you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Please join me in thanking the awesome July co-hosts:
Nicki Elson,  Juneta Key,  Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!





Friday, June 8, 2018

The Other Woman Review



Title:  The Other Woman
Author:  Sandie Jones
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Release Date:  Aug. 21, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Diabolical Hearts


*Many thanks to Minotaur Books for a copy of this arc via Netgally.




Synopsis:
HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.

BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.

AND SHE'LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.



Review:
I'm always excited to discover a debut novel that keeps me up at night, burning through pages to reach the end.  The Other Woman certainly did that with an air of impending doom surrounding the heroine, Emily.  I knew it was just a matter of time before everything hit the fan as this gripping story unfolded.

Emily and Adam meet in a bar and are immediately in lust and soon after "in love".  Emily has finally met her prince, and now she's meeting his perfect mother, Pammie - a woman who does no wrong in his eyes.  Emily is nervous, but ready . . . she thinks.  It quickly becomes obvious that Pammie isn't ready to share Adam's affections with another woman.  Her devious actions undermine Emily at every turn, even as she presents a sweeter than sugar persona to Adam and everyone else.  When things take a malicious turn, the question becomes . . . Is Pammie dangerous?  How far will she go to keep Emily and her son apart?

The Other Woman is an intense, engaging, medium paced read told through Emily's point of view.  Readers have a front row seat to what's happening to Emily both physically and mentally.  She's a perfect spokesperson for the old saying "Love is Blind" and still, I was sympathetic to her plight.  The author does a great job weaving the plot and enhancing it with a varied cast of support characters.  I will say I suspected the main twist way too soon and while the delivery of the story had me flipping pages and freaking out early on, the ending left me feeling a bit disappointed and wanting something more.  In spite of that, The Other Woman is a gripping debut thriller that I enjoyed reading.  I'm looking forward to more from Jones.  Avoid all spoilers and settle in with this Must Read!

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

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra