Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

4 stars Mystery

This was dark.  I felt as I was reading this novel that I was being led down different paths, roads that never really connected to one another till later in the book. I knew immediately when Emma left Abigail at the party that she had made the wrong choice.  The beer is flowing freely, the bonfire is hot and the guests are ready to party.  Abigail leaves Emma behind as she walks off into the woods with the boy.  Abi tells her friend that she’ll be fine and that, she’ll find a ride home later.  Abigail never made it home that night.

So, where is Abi?  To answer that question, we’ll need to time travel and return to “Then” and get some history on our characters. Throughout this book, you’ll be rotating time periods from “then” and “now”, so don’t lose track of where you are. 

Welcome to Whistling Ridge, a small community, where not-even the preacher was honorable.  It seemed as if every citizen has a secret side of themselves, a side that only a few others see.  That hidden side can hold many different attributes and, in this town, it holds a great number.  From prejudices, abuse, phobias, anger and lying, these are just some of the issues that you’ll find on their city blocks.  I really find it interesting how all these individuals can live together in one small community and they can actually exist with one another. With everything that is dividing our country now, how can such a small town have such a high number of issues and still function as a community?  The history of these individual play a major role as they investigate where Abi went.

I, myself have never lived in a small town but my grandparents did when I was growing up and I visited there quite frequently. My grandfather owned the general store in town and we’d see lots of folks stop in.  I don’t remember hearing or hearing my grandparents talk negatively about their neighbors.  Perhaps, it depends on where you live and perhaps, they kept that information away from my ears.  I seem to gravitate towards dark stories and this one definitely checked that box, while also keeping me engaged and energized.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams

4.5 stars Thriller

Given the evidence, I’d have done exactly what Lena did when she was notified that her twin sister had committed suicide.  Sure, Cambry wasn’t completely stable but Lena feels that she knows her sister and that she wouldn’t commit suicide.  Cambry was supposed to be taking a break from life, traveling, living in her car, enjoying the world around her so, why would she suddenly decide to end her life by jumping off a bridge?  Then, there’s the police report.  This piece of paper raises too many red flags for Lena.  Why hasn’t anyone else questioned this record?  Do they understand all the phone calls Cambry made?  What about Cambry’s last message, what did she mean by that?  Was it just a coincidence, the contact between Cambry and the same highway patrolman before and after her death?  This was one intense read and I wanted needed to know the answers.

As Lena meets Reymond Raycevic on Hairpin Bridge, she wants the full account of what occurred between Reymond and her sister, when the two of them came into contact.  As Lena listens, the Montana Highway Patrolman comes off irritated for having to repeat this but nevertheless, he gives Lena what she wants.  Whoops!  Better slow down Mr. Patrolman, you might just not want to be so overconfident.  This is getting good as Lena is a great listener and she’s paying close attention to everything that he’s saying. She’s not giving up until she knows the truth and she’s not putting any trust in the words on the typed-up police report.      

Another fantastic book by Taylor Adams, an exciting pursuit that had me turning the pages way past my bedtime!  I received a copy of this book from Scene of the Crime Early Read Program in exchange for an honest opinion, thank you for sending me this book. 

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

5 stars Mystery

What a terrific book by Tudor!   This was my third book from this author and she never fails to amaze me.  From the beginning pages, the story had my curiosity as Jack and her teenage daughter are relocated by Bishop Durkin.  I didn’t know what to think as the reverend and her daughter were transferred to the small community of Chapel Croft.  As the Bishop talks to Jack about this move and he mentions that Jack will be leaving behind the police observations, the crime scene and her angry congregation, whatever Jack did, it sounds pretty serious.  The Bishop felt that this would-be Jack’s best option yet, as I read the book, this was supposed to a good option?  I guess I wouldn’t want to know, what the Bishop thought were bad options.   

When the mother and daughter arrived at their new community, it’s not all that promising.   What happened that first day, should have told them something but I guess the reverend is used to drama.  The pair was met by a pair of Burning Girls at their gate, Jack later find a gift that was left for her.  Upon opening this gift, Jack finds she was gifted an exorcism kit and later, as their first visitor approached them, they realized that she was covered in blood.   Welcome to Chapel Croft.

I liked how the book unraveled itself.  I was interested in Jack’s past yet as the book progressed, there were other more intense issues at hand now.  It felt as if Jack was trying to separate herself from her past and start anew, as she wasn’t saying much about what happened.  As they arrived into Chapel Croft, they were pulled inside Chapel Croft and the events that surrounded this small community.  Jack had seen the small church and she thought that it needed to be revived but she didn’t really know the church’s history nor the people who resided in the town.   Jack was trying to distance herself from one horrible scene in her past and then, she ends up walking right into another one.  As Jack tries to make sense of what has just been uncovered, she realizes that her past is never really gone.   There were plenty of twists inside this book, and they were amazing as the stories unfolded. 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine in exchange for an honest opinion.  Thank you for my copy.

We Thought We Knew You: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and Murder by M. William Phelps

4.5 stars Nonfiction/True Crime

I’m new to reading true crime novels so I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book.  I know that I hadn’t heard about this case before, so that was a plus. I like to watch true crime shows on television and reading this book was just like watching an investigation unfold on television.  I liked that there were just a few individuals to keep track of, therefore, I narrowed my suspects down to two, quite quickly.

When Mary arrived home from work, she wasn’t feeling well. Mary would normally fight off an illness, letting her cheerful-self shine through but whatever she had, it was getting the best of her. When her husband Bill awoke in the morning and found that Mary had not slept all night but had been sick all night, he took her to the hospital. They ran tests, gave her fluids and Mary started to feel better.  Reluctant to leave her side, Bill finally went home that evening to sleep while the hospital staff took care of Mary overnight. It wasn’t long before the hospital called the family in, as Mary’s condition deteriorates.  Within 24 hours, Mary’s illness had killed her. 

Crazy! Mary was considered a healthy person. Suddenly, she gets sick and then, just dies?!?  Something is just not adding up. When Bill left that night after he took her to the hospital, she was improving and then, the family is summoned to the hospital when things take a turn for the worse. They ordered an autopsy and it was finally discovered that Mary was poisoned.  How? On purpose or accidentally?  I liked how the author showed this process, how in-depth and difficult this procedure really was.  Mary wasn’t poisoned with your typical toxic either which leads to more investigations and boy, the story really starts to gets interesting now.  

When we meet their son Adam, he was working at the family’s chiropractic business in the office.  This kept him busy fulltime until he decided to go back to school.  He seemed to have it all together until we are introduced to his girlfriend, Katie.  Katie was, in my opinion, needy.  Katie played Adam and he fell for it. Katie becomes a big part of the family as she takes over in the office when Adam returns to school.  She makes the perfect office manager or so, it looks like she does. They were my suspects from the beginning.  Their motive for the killing? I didn’t have one but I felt it must be in the book somewhere.  Their relationship was off and on, all the time.  They’d fight, then made-up and I wondered if they even remembered if they were together or not, half the time.

The investigation itself was interesting and I liked how it was laid out.  I was curious and was feeling analytical as I turned the pages, trying to predict what would be happening next.  Although, I felt at times that some of the investigation was repeated or rehashed over and over again.  I don’t know if that was done as a means to connect pieces together or to remind us what had already occurred but I just wanted to move on.  I did like how the author fed the information to the reader.  It was definitely an interesting story and I think I’m going to look into other books this author has written.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

4 stars Fiction

Such interesting lives that some individuals live.  At the beginning of this novel, I couldn’t quite figure out what made this novel so interesting.  Everywhere I looked, this book was being talked about and individuals were giving it high reviews but it just wasn’t drawing me in.   There was some drama occurring in the neighborhood and an area school was having some security issues but I was really hoping that this book would be a twisted mess. 

In walks all these individuals and the book bursts open.   A phone call from Zach takes Lizzie back to when they first met and she’s determined not to accept his case.   As Lizzie investigates the scene where Zach supposedly committed the crime, I’m wondering where’s the authorities are, in all of this?   What is the story behind Amanda’s death?  Lizzie’s digging deeper and deeper into the case, discovering facts about her client, the victim, and others as the truth comes to light.    

Lizzie discovers that Amanda had a lot on her plate.  Having recently moved, Amanda was hoping that she had left a stalker behind in California, but did she?   There also been a breach of security at her son’s school which had everyone on edge.  Amanda had also been informed that the parties held at one of her neighbors are more than just a social gathering.  A party has been planned there, a party that Amanda and her husband, have already planned to attend.  

Lizzie’s not without her own issues as she flips through Amanda’s journals, traveling back through time.   It’s when she closes these journals that she must face her own issues.

Ha! I enjoyed this fun story as these lady’s heads bobbed back and forth, flirting between all the adventures going on in their lives.   So many hats to wear but which one will actually fit?   As you can see, the book picked up and the ending was actually fun, in a twisted, delightful way.  4 stars  

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

4 stars Mystery

It was their annual trip, situated on a secluded campground, for which the everyone was planning on attending.  She had ordered enough food for weeks, which was good as an unprecedent amount of snowfall fell while they were there. Then, they found the body.  It was finally discovered after hours of searching but the question on everyone’s mind was why and who?  Why would someone do this and who amongst them is the guilty party?  They are in a secluded area yet its size is massive enough to hide the likes of other unwanted guests. 

This year’s New Year’s mini-vacation was going to be a snapshot of all their previous years. They had been coming together since their days at Oxford but now their group was getting bigger. These few days gave the group, a chance to catch-up, a year of activity and to reminisce about their college years. I enjoyed the diversity amongst the group and how some of them had changed over the years.  It was entertaining how some individuals continued in the path they set in college and how some had matured and started to become adults.

As they arrived, the Gamekeeper (yes, that is what he was called) arrived to take them to the lodge and their cabins.  Doug was shifty guy, I thought, from the moment the author introduced him and I kept waiting for more information on him as I read.  The image I had of him was disturbing (and hysterical, if I thought about it) and I know he couldn’t have looked that way or no one would have gone near him.  The place was perfect, and secluded. Have I mentioned that? There is also a woman Heather, who runs the place who seems nice but as you read, you learn she has some secrets.  Oh, let’s not forget Iain.  Iain is the hired hand at the lodge and does odd jobs.  Yep, you don’t hear much about him but what I read, I definitely want to know more about him.

They discover that there’s another couple staying at a section of the lodge, who are more prepared for the elements of this secluded site than our large party but let’s not concern ourselves with these Icelandic individuals.

Oh, it’s a grand time at the lodge, partying and living the good life, well at least for some of the group.  There are those who are in the spotlight and those who are hugging the wall, just watching the scenes unfold. This was interesting how these individuals took to the group and how their lives had evolved over time.  Was there anyone who was watching the whole group?  There had to be a “fly on the wall,” taking in the group’s interactions and conversations, privately and openly. 

I’m not so sure I enjoyed all the flashing back that occurred in the book.  The chapters were set up in 3 Days Earlier, 2 Days Earlier and Now fashion and then, we would read about different characters views on that day.  I had to stop for a minute and tell myself where I was in the story as time shifted, for events that occurred really made a different in what day you were in.  I liked the mystery surrounding the death and how the author laid that out.  I was right about one part of it but I had many individuals who I thought could be the second half of it.  It was a fun book and I was glad that I read it. 4 stars.

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

4 stars Mystery

Well, that was not what I expected.  I’ve been looking for a mystery series to read and it looks like I’ve finally found one.

What first intrigued me about this book was that it took place in Iceland.  I don’t know a whole lot about that area and I enjoyed how the author incorporated some of that country’s characteristics into the story.  I also liked how the main character was not perfect.  She was an individual that you could relate to and understand her actions.

Told from multiple viewpoints, each of the stories within this book, had its own pacing and intensity.  I noticed that as I read and switched between the stories, that my mannerism changed. One story I might be on edge while the next story, I was just reading along and then, I would find myself in another story not able to put the book down and then, wanting to flip ahead and read more of this story.  Perhaps, I’ve had this same experience with other books, but not at this magnitude.  These stories then came together to create an amazing conclusion.

Hulda had plans to retire, she knew the date was coming up but when her boss calls her into his office and expediates the process, Hulda is not prepared.  She knew she didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the police department’s officers, yet to have her job striped from her by a younger, overachieving, male, just didn’t sit right with her. 

With her cases reassigned, Hulda looks into a cold-case to pass the rest of her time on the force. She wanted a time-filler, she needed a time-filler but what Hulda found, was a case that needed a competent detective inspector.  With time running against her, Hulda is determined to close this case the right way, but there are too many people getting in her way.

She should just walk away.  She should just start planning a new life with Petur.  Hulda is just starting to enjoy being in the presence of Petur, a retired doctor.  But that too, has complications. 

I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to continuing this series.   

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

4.5 stars Nonfiction

I just have to say “wow!”  I never expected this book to be packed with so much information.  At times, it almost felt overwhelming.  Centered around the 1986 Los Angeles library fire which burned for more than 7 hours and consumed 400,000 books, this book is not just about that fire. This book is about books, fires, libraries, reading, patrons, individuals, writing, it’s about the love of reading.  If any of these subjects’ interest you, then this title should be on your list, but I warn you, this book is not one to be read quickly.  You could do what I did and listen to this book and take breaks digesting what the author read to you, because it’s a lot! 

I found the fire to be interesting as the circumstances surrounding it, were unique.  Being such a big structure, filled with flammable materials, I figured it would be a ball of flames quickly but there were other factors to take into account.  As the author takes off from this subject, she leads me into a multitude of many other subjects, before coming back to the fire many times.  I got to thinking that this book would be a great one to listen to and read at the same time.  I would have loved to make reference to some of the other subjects that she branched off on but that was hard to do while just listening to her.   

I feel that the author did some research before launching into her writing because of the statistical and elaborate facts that she presented in her book.  The author also gave some interesting details about specific individual books in her chapters which sounded like books that I might enjoy and I should look up in the future.  As the author talked about the fire, she talked about how books burn, the investigation on how it started, how they tried to stop the fire, who was affected, the damage, the rebuilding, and the years since.  When I first started listening to this audio, I couldn’t believe this book could be this long but as I continued listening, I wondered how she was going to finally wrap things up in the end.

There were a few times, I thought the book got a bit long and I had to take a break. I think it was “information overload” on my part.  I didn’t really like how the author included random books at the beginning of each chapter.  I think if I had been reading the book, I could have skipped over this but listening to the audio, I couldn’t. Listening to call numbers and titles of books for no particular reason just broke up the mood for the story.

Overall, it’s a great book that’s based on a true event.  The author takes us readers, on an incredible journey, enlightening us with fascinating facts and stories centered around a building, that many of us like to call our second home.