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 | The Burglar by Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry The Burglar cover

Book Description: From the New York Times bestselling author Thomas Perry, who can be depended upon to deliver high-voltage shocks” (Stephen King), comes a new thriller about an unlikely burglar – a young woman in her 20s – who realizes she must solve a string of murders, or else become the next victim.

Elle Stowell is a young woman with an unconventional profession: burglary. But Elle is no petty thief – with just the right combination of smarts, looks, and skills, she can easily stroll through ritzy Bel Air neighborhoods and pick out the perfect home for plucking the most valuable items.

This is how Elle has always gotten by – she is good at it, and she thrives on the thrill. But after stumbling upon a grisly triple homicide while stealing from the home of a wealthy art dealer, Elle discovers that she is no longer the only one sneaking around. Somebody is searching for her.

As Elle realizes that her knowledge of the high-profile murder has made her a target, she races to solve the case before becoming the next casualty, using her breaking-and-entering skills to uncover the truth about exactly who the victims were and why someone might have wanted them dead. With high-stakes action and shocking revelations, The Burglar will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they barrel towards the heart-racing conclusion.”

The main character, Elle Stowell, is meticulous, investigative, and swift. She knows how to pick locks, enter residences quietly, scout out homes and locations, and obtain wares from homes without owner knowledge – for the most part.

One day, she enters a home she’s been casing for a while. Thinking she’ll make out with some amazing objects, she assumes the owner is gone, but unfortunately finds him and two other women in an uncompromising situation in the bedroom and they are deceased. Elle panics a bit, realizes there is a camera filming and she’s now part of the footage. She takes the camera, goes home to study it, and returns it to the homeowner’s residence for the police to find after she’s wiped any trail of her presence.

Where she thought she was doing a good deed, tides begin to turn. Someone is aware that she was there and now they are after her. As she begins to research and study people associated with the murder victims, the lens begins to narrow to her. She doesn’t know who to trust and she doesn’t know where she’s safe.

Who is after her and why? And will she be able to get herself out of the situation alive?

I enjoyed this book. I liked the fact that after a bit of a backstory of Elle, even though many may disagree with her life choice of being a burglar (vocation passed down for generations), you begin to identify with her and want her to “win”.  There are a few intense moments of car chases, foot chases, and an urgency that was well written. She is smart, determined, and willing to outsmart those chasing her, so justice can be done.

I loved the pace, the intrigue, the suspense building up to an event with someone she thought would become a love interest. That was better than the ending, in my opinion. But this was well written and hooked me. And I certainly learned a lot about burgling! 🙂

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Grove Atlantic Mysterious 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 | 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 | All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

all we ever wanted

Book Description:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

In an age where pictures can be shared in seconds via social media and texting, and long-term repercussions are not considered, this story takes a very realistic scenario and plays it out with such fast-pace that it pulls you in and challenges everything you believe.  “White privilege” and minority stereotypes were addressed in this story and it was extremely well written, without being forceful toward a certain agenda.  Thankfully fiction stayed as fiction.

This story really made me feel all kinds of emotions: compassion, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust. I loved the writing, as it was so incredibly vivid.  The characters were definitely realistic, even the teenage viewpoints and I felt like they weren’t forced.  The “uppity” status exemplified by Nina’s husband was sadly believable as well, and the conversations had between multiple parties flowed.

I really enjoyed the novel, didn’t mind thinking about the worst case scenario when it comes to consequences and actually think this book might be extremely relevant for mothers, fathers, and teenage children to read together to cause discussion.  I would definitely read another book by the same author anytime, and enjoyed this book, despite the raw scenes. It was refreshing to read something that was mature about a topic as severe as this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Random House Publishing Group 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 | 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 | Anything for Her by G. J. Minett

anything for her

Book Description:

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago?

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.

This book was a great read!  It started out with a prologue that reeled me in and got me speculating, so that’s a great start!

Billy Orr and his sister Mia have a strong relationship.  They grew up very close, despite a tragic childhood trauma situation. Mia is now married and dying, so Billy goes back home to assist.  And though he has a purpose for being there, he soon becomes distracted by an old love interest with an urgent need.

Things get weird pretty fast, and I liked the pace of the book.  It does skip back and forth from now to a few years earlier, so much is revealed in the flashbacks.

After “Gone Girl”, I’m getting used to the time jumps in stories. And with this style of writing, G. J. Minett nails it.  So much comes out! Very suspenseful book and a great twist at the end gave this book the boost to 4 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley and the publisher, Bonnier Zaffre.  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 | 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.”