Book Review | The White City by Grace Hitchcock

Book Description:

Mysterious Disappearances Taint the Chicago World’s Fair
Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim? 

This was my first historical fiction based on real life novel and I LOVED IT!

Henry Howard Holmes (among other aliases) was an actual serial killer believed to be running around the Chicago’s World Fair, establishing relationships with women and then murdering them in his “Murder Castle”. I ended up doing a little bit of research online before jumping into the book, which made it that much more interesting.

This book starts out with 19-year old Winnie Wylde witnessing a tall man holding a revolver to a woman’s side and rushing her through the crowd at the fair. Because she is the daughter of an investigator, she is intrigued and begins to follow this man to a building nearby. Against her father’s wishes, she gets his permission to investigate, but only as long as she will take an escort for protection. She is assigned a new detective, Jude Thorpe, who recently moved to Chicago to secretly investigate the death of his brother-in-law.

Winnie’s being raised in a well-off home, by her aunt, as her mother passed away when she was younger. Her aunt is intending to help her become a bride, so she is setting up men to “call” on Winnie. She is briefly courted by Percival who happens to be the author of the romance novels she loves to “escape in” and though he is handsome and charming, she also begins to have feelings for Jude.

Winnie also establishes a relationship with H. H. Holmes and obtains an interview, as well as a job at his building, where she does odd jobs and only goes through files he allows her access. When in the building, she explores and finds certain items that lead her to believe that there is indeed some nefarious happenings in the “castle”.

The element of faith in this novel was endearing. Jude is forbidden to have a relationship with Winnie, primarily because he is her escort and protection, but also because Winnie’s dad knows the pain he caused Winnie’s mother by being gone long hours as an investigator, and doesn’t want his daughter to endure the same loneliness and heartache. Jude demonstrates his faith, as does Winnie, by offering prayers up throughout the story. Their inner desire for each other, among the focus of the investigation and the danger they ultimately enter, tries their faith and boundaries of love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this light romance novel, with faith and plot twists. It was easy to read, a great pace, humor was peppered in, and also suspense and terror. I would definitely read another book by Grace Hitchcock and enjoyed this genre debut! I’ve got a few more TRUE COLORS novels on my TBR list with reviews coming soon, so stay tuned!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Stratagem by Robin Caroll

Book Description:

A High-Stakes Simulation Adventure Leaves Grayson Thibodeaux the Prime Suspect. . .for Murder
 
Deep in the gritty underbelly of New Orleans, psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux loses everything when his wife leaves him to climb her company’s corporate ladder. He buries himself in his job of creating mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s to create an elaborate game, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder.

Grayson Thibodeaux is a psychologist who created a business with his best friend, Colton York, a sociologist. They create virtual games for businesses that build trust and team build. He recently went through a divorce, and his wife Anna-Belle had unfortunately cheated on him with her boss. He tried to salvage the marriage, but she wanted out. At the onset of the book, they have a public argument in his office, and his staff witnesses her slap him when terms of their divorce agreement are discussed.

He and Colton create a game for her company, per the direction of her boss. Members of her office attend a team-building game to determine who will get a promotion. All office workers have to go to a certain location and follow certain rules. Only the CEU and board members know it’s a game. While attending meetings and accomplishing tasks, Anna-Belle falls ill because she has an allergy to cherries and passes away! Grayson immediately becomes the primary suspect, being the recently divorced husband.

Two investigators get assigned to his case, who know him pretty well, and have to overcome their bias to prove his innocence. Anna-Belle’s boss, his wife, other employees and Grayson all become suspects and one-by-one they get ruled out.

The pace of the book was fantastic. It was well-written with little things happening during the investigation that made me question a few people. I also loved the faith-based aspect attributed to Grayson as he tries to prove his innocence. It makes a strong character and was a great read! The outcome wasn’t predictable until the moment it was revealed, so it ended very well. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a fast-paced, faith-based, suspenseful novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Bloody Sunday by Ben Coes

Book 8 in the Dewey Andreas series…

Ben Coes Bloody Sunday cover

Book Description:

North Korea, increasingly isolated from most of the rest of the world, is led by an absolute dictator and a madman with a major goal―he’s determined to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. While they have built, and continue to successfully test nuclear bombs, North Korea has yet to develop a ballistic missile with the range necessary to attack America. But their missiles are improving, reaching a point where the U.S. absolutely must respond.

What the U.S. doesn’t know is that North Korea has made a deal with Iran. In exchange for effective missiles from Iran, they will trade nuclear triggers and fissionable material. An exchange, if it goes through, that will create two new nuclear powers, both with dangerous plans.

Dewey Andreas, still reeling from recent revelations about his own past, is ready to retire from the CIA. But he’s the only available agent with the skills to carry out the CIA’s plan to stop North Korea. The plan is to inject a singular designer poison into the head of the North Korean military and in exchange for the nuclear plans, provide him with the one existing dose of the antidote. But it goes awry when Dewey manages to inject a small amount of the poison into himself. Now, to survive, Dewey must get into North Korea and access the antidote and, while there, thwart the nuclear ambitions of both North Korea and Iran. And he has less than 24 hours to do so―in the latest thriller from Ben Coes.

First of all, wow! I love political thrillers, especially from previous government employees who have intel we would never have! This author is very engaging, keeps the pace moving from the first page and never let me down.  Quite a feat! 5/5 for this book!

Ben Coes, the author, is a former member of the U.S. Special Forces Delta Force. Working for the Veterans Administration, I can concur that there are abbreviations and acronyms for everything we do, and reading this book, gave me a lesson in even more of them.  For instance, SOQ is statement of qualifications, THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and DARPA is Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Felt like I was reading an email from a colleague with a va.gov address, but I digress…

The book has so much action, characters who are easy to follow who aren’t predictable or annoying, and a plot that could easily fit into today’s headlines. With Kim Jong Il found to be dying of pancreatic cancer that has spread, he’s determined to annihilate the western part of the US with nuclear warfare because he wants to go out strong. But what he doesn’t realize is that Dewey Andreas, though bordering on retirement, gets pulled back in to stop him.  And when the plan that’s in place goes off-course when one of Jong Il’s agents overpowers Dewey, the clock begins ticking and it’s a race to get him back to safety and to baseline.

If you like political thrillers packed with action starring a man who looks like Jason Statham (in my mind), these books are for you.  This book was a fast-paced read and since it was built on the previous seven in the series, it would most likely be wise to go back and read them in sequence just for fun.

Book One: Power Down, 2010

Book Two: Coup d’etat, 2011

Book Three: The Last Refuge, 2012

Book Four: Eye for an Eye, 2013

Book Five: Independence Day, 2015

Book Six: First Strike, 2016

Book Seven: Trap the Devil, 2017

Book Eight: Bloody Sunday, 2018

Thanks for reading! 😉

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

dream daughter

Book Description

Book Review | Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

bring me back

Book Description

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Behind a Closed Door by Adele O’Neill

behind a closed door

Book Description:

What if everything in your life was a lie?

An emotionally tense story of love, loyalty, betrayal and revenge. Perfect for the fans of Louise Jenson.

DUBLIN – For the past two years Jill Ryan has tried to keep her darkest secrets deeply buried and remain relatively anonymous. Haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her life together, Jill soon realizes that the last person she can trust is herself.

KILKENNY – Only Heather Martin knows the lengths her husband will go to teach her a lesson and Heather has had enough. Faced with the impossible choice of saving herself or staying to care for her ailing father, Heather has a choice to make. But does she have what it takes to survive? When Detectives Louise Kennedy in Dublin and Tony Kelly in Kilkenny begin to investigate, their dark discoveries collide unravelling a complex web of secrets that stretch far and wide.

The title itself was what drew me in.  Who of us doesn’t like to know what really goes on behind a closed door?  We may think we know things about certain people, but this book revealed that is not always the case.

This book was crazy!  And I mean that in a good, couldn’t-put-down, suspenseful way!  This is the first book I have read by Adele O’Neill. It really grabbed me within the first chapter, and within a few minutes, I was almost in tears (this book has graphic, descriptive scenes of physical and emotional abuse), but knew there was a heroine that I wanted to see to the end!

There are two locations, and two time periods, so the book does jump back and forth between them.  However, the writing is done very well to keep you on track as you’re following along.  The characters were extremely believable, and realistic.  Heather’s husband, Mike, is consistently the resident jerk, wearing the proverbial mask and acting like all is well, meanwhile, the battered wife, Heather’s  behavior fits the mold for what you’d expect from someone in that type of environment.

I enjoyed the plot, the way that things lined up, the dramatic moments of fury and failure, but also the successes along the way, and the slow reveals.  I didn’t feel that the ending was super climactic, I just felt like it tied up all of the loose ends nicely, and as a reader of this type of genre, I could see the link ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean the ride wasn’t worth it.  I would read another book by this author, and have already downloaded Brothers and Sisters.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Aria Fiction.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson

the girl who lived

Book Description: Ten years ago, four people were brutally murdered.

One girl lived.

No one believes her story.
The police think she’s crazy.
Her therapist thinks she’s suicidal.
Everyone else thinks she’s a dangerous drunk.
They’re all right—but did she see the killer?

As the anniversary of the murders approaches, Faith Winters is released from the psychiatric hospital and yanked back to the last spot on earth she wants to be—her hometown where the slayings took place. Wracked by the lingering echoes of survivor’s guilt, Faith spirals into a black hole of alcoholism and wanton self-destruction. Finding no solace at the bottom of a bottle, Faith decides to track down her sister’s killer—and then discovers that she’s the one being hunted.

How can one woman uncover the truth when everyone’s a suspect—including herself?

From the mind of Wall Street Journal bestselling author Christopher Greyson comes a story with twists and turns that take the reader on a journey of light and dark, good and evil, to the edge of madness. The Girl Who Lived should come with a warning label: Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop. Not since Girl on the Train and Gone Girl has a psychological thriller kept readers so addicted—and guessing right until the last page.

GracieLynn Review:

I have read Christopher Greyson’s books before and I have to say that this book meets my expectations for him.  He’s great at character development; leaving out certain details until just the right time, and slowly building their profile with consistency.  This book was no different.

Our story started out with the main character, Faith Winters, in a psych ward.  On her birthday, she had witnessed her father, her sister and a friend murdered at her home cabin.  And not being able to cope with that at such a young age, she ended up needing mental health care.  Her hometown seems to think she should still be there.  With a personal alcohol addiction as her coping mechanism, a mother who used her story of being a witness as a catalyst for her writing career and lack of trust from those who know her best, Faith doesn’t have much to look forward to upon her release.  But she gets released and begins her new life on the outside.  Her goal to find the murderer (and prove that her father didn’t commit murder/suicide) is still number one in her mind, and she will go to whatever lengths necessary to find him.

As the story is told from her point of view, we get a look into Faith’s past.  She has an ax to grind and a negative attitude toward pretty much everyone she meets.  She comes across thoroughly as a jaded young woman, and I understood her snide comments, but over time as a reader, I was getting annoyed.

A few times in the story, she swears she sees the person who killed her father, but no one seems to be taking her seriously.  And I began to feel sorry for her, because as someone who has struggled with alcohol in the past, I realize the loss of trust people have in you, and how you just want to be taken seriously, especially when you’re in the right.  As the story progresses, you begin to wonder about the people in her life: the counselor, her sponsor, her “friends” at meetings, etc.  Almost everyone seems to be involved in some way, and she begins to question herself.  For that reason, I loved the suspense in this story, but I’m going to be completely honest: The ending was disappointing.  And because I can’t reveal who it is, I have to admit that I just don’t know if the person responsible would actually be capable of doing it.  I did see some signs throughout the book that made me suspect this person, but when it was actually revealed, I wondered what psychosis one would have to be under to commit such atrocities.

But I love the absolute ending where Faith gets her justice, and is able to move on, to actually LIVE.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley and Greyson Media Associates. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

need to know

Book Description

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

A classy spy novel with intrigue, doubt, and fierce loyalties.  This debut novel by former CIA analyst, Karen Cleveland, grips and doesn’t let go.  The main character, Vivian, tracks Russian sleeper agents for her career, and at the end of chapter one, realizes they are much closer to home than she thinks!  Hacking into a recovered laptop from a known Russian source, she uncovers five covert agents who are sleepers and she is about to expose them.  But what must she do when one of them is related to her?  The book immediately gets the reader thinking ethically and to what extent we might bend the rules.

By chapter six, she makes a decision that affects everyone in her family, her four children and husband included, and the story takes off.  Can she protect her family from those who really wish harm, or is she trapped?  And will she be able to move on when lies are built on lies?

If you love spy stories, or possible real life fiction, this book is for you.  I will admit at some points, I struggled with some of Vivian’s decisions, but her motherly ways influence her in ways I might not have chosen. However, the end is satisfying, and some of the conversations throughout the book aren’t predictable, but flow as if characters are actually having a conversation, which is rather refreshing.  For a debut novel, I would definitely read more by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House Publishing through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Movie Update: http://deadline.com/2017/02/charlize-theron-need-to-know-cia-spy-novel-universal-pictures-karen-cleveland-1201924366/

Book Review | The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

the flight attendant

Cassie is a flight attendant who is known for her partying and drinking. So after an evening indulging in what she does best, she wakes up next to a man she met the night before, a hedge fund manager who is now dead.  Her blackouts are getting worse, but could she really have anything to do with this?  Surely she would know if she killed someone, right?  And as she leaves the hotel room, she makes a choice to run, and find a way to prove her innocence to the Dubai police and to the American investigators with the FBI.  But even her own flight crew is questioning who she really is.

The story was fast-paced and I loved the descriptions of where she would stay during her fights. I liked the book, as I do enjoy flight travel, and the author does give real life examples of what it’s like to be a flight attendant.  Cassie gets to continue working, even during the investigation, so it was interesting to learn the patterns of flying, staying in hotels, finding things to do before flying back to base, all of that.

I also enjoyed the perspective shifts from Cassie to another woman whom Cassie met the night the murder happened.  The main character is believable, yet I will admit a few times that I didn’t agree with her decisions, and was beginning to lose hope.  She has a history of alcoholism attributed to her relationship with her father, and it’s almost annoying how much she thinks about drinking.  However, the ending did tie things up nicely and has a nice touch.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Doubleday through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

And since this book was just released on March 13, 2018, I’m including a review from USA Today written today.  Add it to your weekend list!

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2018/03/24/weekend-picks-book-lovers-flight-attendant-chris-bohjalian-anna-quindlen/443758002/

Book Review | The Good Sister by Jess Ryder

the good sister

Official Book Description:

“Two sisters. One secret… A lie that could destroy them both.

When her father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover he led a secret life: another house, another family and a half-sister called Valentina.

Both with red hair and icy blue eyes, Josie and Valentina could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there…

Josie – Sweet, reserved, jealous, thief.
Valentina – Care-free, confident, dangerous, liar.

Two sisters. One survivor.

A nail-bitingly tense and unputdownable read that will keep you turning pages into the night. Perfect for fans of Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train and Sister Sister.”

I’m not sure about “gripped”, but this book definitely took me down roads I wasn’t ready to go down.  The story opened up with a man named Jerry, dying in a motorcycle accident, after refusing to respond to text messages that seem to be incriminating him in some way.  As a result, his wife Helen and her daughter Josie are alerted to his death and they start the process of grief and moving on.  Josie’s father, Jerry, was a Viking who passed down to her his heritage and philosophy, and it is evident in her appearance and way of thinking.

When Jerry passes, Josie goes to his second residence to clean it up and get it ready to sell.  It’s there that she begins to realize who her father really was.  There is a sister named Valentina who is five days older than she, and another mother she’s never met, and all of a sudden, her father’s time spent away from home begins to take shape.  The betrayal, questions and heartache are all left wanting, as Jerry isn’t there to fill in the blanks.

As the half sisters begin to spend more time with each other, they begin to learn about each other and it’s hard not to compare how one of them was given much, while the other had to struggle through life.  The built up animosity begins to show, and sadly, the lines begin to blur between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Sidenote: At the beginning of each chapter is a “truth” about Viking morals and values, and it prefaces what is about to happen.  These are very contradictory to a healthy functioning family, and seems to give Jerry a pass at not being the best father.

The story shifts each chapter between Josie and Valentina, and even toward the end, it’s hard to tell which is which, so that may be a bit confusing, but it does eventually line up.  And although I enjoyed the suspense of the mothers finding out, the details learned by the sisters, and the antics they go through, I couldn’t help but find myself yelling at one of the sisters in many of the situations, because she seems to allow herself to be led down paths she knows aren’t safe.  What truly is the intention of the “bad” sister?  And which sister is which?  The ending is bizarre, but leaves lingering questions.  However, I read it in less than a week, so maybe it did grip me.

Nature of book warning: graphic sex scene and memories of a rape

Blogger note: I read 50% of this book, and listened to the other half through Amazon Audible.  I loved the narrator, Annette Chown, as she read from Josie’s and Valentina’s perspectives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bookouture and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”