Book Review | Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

jar of hearts

Book Description:

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Whoa! I love psych thrillers and loved the synopsis of this book when I read it. Then I began it, and immediately I’m in the courtroom, reading about Geo and how her life ended up as a result of a horrible decision as a teenager.  From there, she goes to prison and then assimilation back into real life. Sadly, not much of a normal one.

So much happens so fast, and the book is written so well, that it is like a soft ribbon enclosing the book that when pulled lightly, slowly unravels and each new revelation is more bizarre than the previous. And yet, you keep pulling because you know the buildup will be worth it.

Geo is a believable character, especially as a teenager who has a small circle of trusted friends, is competitive and like normal young women, insecure.  The explanation of her early years, and the contrast as the story switches to her best friend growing up, Kaiser, lends relevant history to her character.  And her love interest, turned boyfriend, exaggerates how young love can be manipulated and not really love at all.

Caution: The book was graphic at parts with sex, rape and the aftermath of all of that. Though relevant to the story, I just want readers to be aware that this is not an after school special.  This is definitely more Lifetime. Or Snapped, even.

And about 80% into the book, an even deeper revelation is revealed that is a fantastic twist, but goes a disturbing direction (one I was able to predict, but still made my jaw drop).  This book is a fantastic suspense read, very deep and methodical.  I hear it may become a movie.  But kudos to the author. It’s a great book with depth and bizarre twists that came through as promised.  And I can never look at cinnamon hearts the same.

Well done!

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

Official 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 | 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 | After He Killed Me by Natalie Barelli

after he killed me

So Emma Fern is back, in the second of two books in this series.  Without giving away spoilers, since I truly am going to suggest that you read the first book, Until I Met Her, this book picks up right after the ending from that book.  Emma is a published author, Poulton Prize winner and she and Jim are happy and moving on after some of the incidents from book one.

Yet within the first three chapters, Emma is struck by a car and things begin to move into motion.  She and Jim seem to have weathered some pretty intense moments in their marriage, and the accident is another one that pulls them together.  Or does it?

After the accident, Emma has some repercussions and as a result, her instinct seems to be a little off.  This time around, Emma needs to write another book, and she coincidentally runs into a ghostwriter who offers help.  Things begin to slowly unfold and Emma’s new reality is revealed.  Prepare for the fast-pace and “what in the world is really happening” moments that are reminiscent of book one.  I laughed out loud a few times, just because Emma always seems to have a plan, and one that involves so many crazy pieces fitting together.

This book made me wish there was a book three, simply because the ending is almost unbelievable.  There’s no way it can just end there.  Do you want to go on the wild ride that is Emma Fern?  Grab a copy, snuggle up by a fire, and maybe grab a bottle of Scotch in honor of Beatrice Johnson Greene.  You’re definitely going to need it!

Book Review | Until I Met Her by Natalie Barelli

 

until i met her

Until I Met Her begins with the funeral of an author- Emma Fern’s best friend and mentor.  There is a private admission from Emma that she in fact, killed Beatrice.  And so the book opens to reveal a mousy character who owns a vintage shop, is married to a successful businessman with a mundane life.  But Emma Fern is nothing if she isn’t incredibly unpredictable.

Her entire world changes when Beatrice Johnson Greene entered her store.  She can’t help but fall all over herself, complimenting her and winning her affection.  The two quickly move from strangers to best friends, and within a short amount of time, trust begins to build between them.  Emma begins to disregard the store, preferring to run off with Beatrice to drunken lunches, and shopping with the rich and famous.

Beatrice confides to Emma that she has written a book that is outside of her genre, and since a previous book of hers had bombed in the past, she was wondering if Emma could be the “author” for a novel she’d already written- take the credit, and be the face of this new book.  At first, Emma is shocked and refuses to do it, but then her dream of being a writer is ignited, and she agrees.

Emma’s lust for fame, and a desire to remain friends with successful, untouchable Beatrice turns to greed as little by little Emma makes subtle changes to the manuscript and takes full possession of the book.  And with no set contract in place, it’s hers, right?

A sidebar to consider in the novel is Emma’s relationship with her husband Jim.  It is incredibly awkward, as she sees no wrong in him at all, and his lack of interest in anything she says/does.  But because of his success, she admires and fawns all over him, even though he’s constantly dismissive of her.  She seems to have a very skewed view of how well her own marriage is going.  Pleasing Jim has always been her main concern, until the book…

Is Beatrice encouraged and thrilled for her best friend to have fame as well?  Or is it truly a passive aggressive friendship that is doomed?  You’ll have to read for yourself.

This was a quick read, one with unpredictable twists and turns, and moments of “what the what!?!!”  I loved the characters, with the exception of Jim, who is so noticeably arrogant, that it makes me wonder what Emma really sees in him.  And even though Emma is nothing like she seems in the beginning, I found that I liked her crazy thinking as she progresses through the story.  She’s feminine, overthinks as many of us do, and a little immature, so I found her to be believable.

I loved Natalie Barelli’s first book in the Emma Fern series, that I’m currently reading the second book, After He Killed Me.  Stay tuned for that review!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer Publishers.  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 | A Margin of Lust by Greta Boris

margin of lust

The first in a seven-book series on the seven deadly sins, A Margin of Lust, focused on strictly that- LUST.  Gwen Bishop is a real estate agent who lists her dream home and can’t wait to sell it.  She loves real estate and the long-term goals she’ll be able to accomplish with the sale of homes.  Her husband is a school principal who is very focused on their family and his career as well.  As distance comes between Art and Gwen, enter a killer, who has a tie to the house Gwen is trying to sell, with agendas of his own.  Soon after the listing for the multi-million dollar home goes on sale, a body is found in the house, and Gwen is part of the clean-up crew, as well as the next target.

Lust manifests in many shapes and sizes in this book, and it was a suspenseful quick read, with well-developed characters and a strong plot line. It makes you question every person that Gwen encounters, and with chapters written from the perspective of the killer, the story pulls you in until you reach the very end.  Can’t wait to read The Scent of Wrath, Greta’s second book in the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Fawkes Press and the author. 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&gt; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

are you sleeping

Whoa…talk about suspense!  Twins who grew up together shared a very sad secret for years, but it looks like it has finally caught up to them.  Josie and Lanie’s father was murdered, and a man has been in prison for over ten years, due to Lanie’s eyewitness account.  But when a woman who runs a podcast begins to question if the right person is serving time, it shakes the remaining family members to the core.  Did Lanie tell the truth?  If she didn’t, who killed their father?

The sad truth too, is that Josie, unable to trust her twin, moved away after the murder and has no relationship with her sister.  When their mother, who had run off to join a cult commits suicide, they are brought together to unravel the lies, determine the truth and shut down the suspicion of the podcast following.  Their interactions are believable (I have a sister) and I was able to relate to Josie very easily.

I loved the book, enjoyed the characters and appreciated the outcome.  Very well written first book!  I would gladly read another book by Kathleen Barber.

Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery, Threshold and Pocket Books for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to read and review this book honestly.  It is a privilege and an honor.

Book Review | Subject 375 (or The Spider in the Corner of the Room) by Nikki Owen

 

subject 375

Dr. Maria Martinez is being accused of murdering a priest, and is awaiting trial in prison while the details get figured out.  Sadly, she has no recollection of the event.  She also has Asperger’s and is incredibly intelligent.  While in prison, she meets with a few therapists and others who try to help her determine what really happened the night the priest was murdered.  Could she really have killed him and then forgotten about it?  Did she commit the murder, or is she being set up?  And if so, by whom?  Who is Subject 375?

This story moves around quite a bit, as it jumps from present to Maria’s early childhood and back again.  And sometimes it seems as if her “memories” may have been fabricated.  She questions everything and everyone so often, you wonder midway through the book if she has a type of paranoia or some other type of mental illness.  The characters she encounters are well-defined.  Some relationships seem strained, but the reasons for people distancing themselves from Maria is explained later in the book.  I enjoyed the suspense and recommend it for anyone else who does, especially when it’s a trilogy, with two more books to come.  Can’t wait to see how this unfolds!

I would like to thank NetGalley and Blackstone Audio for the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.  It’s my privilege and honor to do so.