Jul 23, 2017

Series Catch Up

Over the last several months during the time of my move and my break from blogging, I did continue to read and listen to audiobooks. A few of the books were from mystery series that I've been enjoying for awhile now. I thought I would use today's post to do mini reviews of these installments.Each of these series have been around awhile, so they're very well established and one of them is the conclusion of its series. Another interesting fact about these three books I'm going to talk about is that each one takes place in a different country. We go from the United States, to Canada and finally, to the United Kingdom

The first stop in our series catch-up is the town of Painters Mill, Ohio, where both Amish and English citizens reside, and where Kate Burkholder is the Police Chief. HER LAST BREATH is the fifth book in this series of nine, currently. What makes this series interesting is that Kate grew up Amish with her family until the age of fourteen, when after being raped by an Amish man, she couldn't continue to live the Amish lifestyle and pretend nothing had happened to her. so she made the decision to leave the Amish way of life.  As a result, she is now shunned by her former family and friends.  But when there's a crime, Kate does whatever it takes to bring the perpetrators to justice, no matter what. In this installment, Kate is investigating the gruesome collision between an Amish buggy carrying a father and three children and a 4 x 4 truck. The driver of the truck did not stop and three of the Amish died at the scene. The case hits home because the mother in this family was Kate's best friend growing up, though she hasn't seen her in years and now she has to go tell her that her husband and two children are dead.

My Thoughts:  This book was a departure from the others in the series, because it didn't involve a serial killer but someone who used to be close to her.  I enjoyed the personal aspect involving Kate's childhood and liked glimpsing back into that time. While Kate is investigating this crash, remains have been found in the next county over. Kate knows exactly whose remains they are because she put them there. This multi-plot story is one of my favorites of the series and the reader learns more about Kate from each of the investigations. Linda Castillo is a great mystery writer who reminds me a bit of Karin Slaughter, who I really enjoy. Castillo writes with grit and leaves you clinging to the edge of your seat. I'm planning to read the sixth book very soon. 

THE BRUTEL TELLING by Louise Penny is the 5th book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series. There are currently  13 books in this series that takes place in the fictitious village of Three Pines, outside of Montreal. Over the last few years, the chief inspector has come to this quaint village while investigators deaths and he has forged friendships with some of the residents. When a stranger's body is discovered in the village bistro belonging to Gamache's friend, Olivier, he is forced to separate his friendship from his job and find out the truth, even if it costs him personal relationships he values.

My Thoughts: I absolutely love this series! Louise Penny has a different kind of writing style than most mystery writers. I've said before that this is not an edge-of-your-seat series. It's not fast-paced or even all that suspenseful. It's more of a thinkers mystery. She delves into the minds of the villagers and sometimes it's what they don't say more than what they do say that reveals the answers. Penny's love of food and art also comes out in these books through the characters. This turned out to be one of my favorites in the series, leaving me anxious to find out what's next for these somewhat odd villagers and the inspector they've grown to appreciate. By the way, a few weeks back CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on Louise Penny that was terrific. If you can, I recommend pulling it up - it's worth watching.

I hope you enjoyed my brief comments on these three books and I encourage you to check them out. I believe they are three of the best ones out there!

THIS WAS A MAN by Jeffrey Archer is the 7th and final installment of the Clifton Chronicles Series taking place in the United Kingdom.  This family drama started back in the 1920's when Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington met at primary school in Bristol. Harry is the son of a poor, single mother and a dock worker while Giles came from the prestigious Barrington shipping family. In this last book, which covers 1980 through 1992, where the story has its final ending. This edition, no different than the others, has it all: business, family drama, politics, and even murder. Jeffrey Archer is a great storyteller who can go from frightening suspense to laugh out loud hilarity seamlessly. As Harry and Emma Clifton and Giles Barrington grow older, they watch as their offspring are making their own ways in the world, following the examples all three have set forth. Old rivalries find closure as the new modern world takes over. Harry, a successful mystery writer finally fulfills the dream his mother had for him and Emma reaches the pinnacle of her political and humanitarian ambitions.

My Thoughts; This was the perfect ending to a wonderful series that I am so grateful to have read. I can honestly admit that if I hadn't won the first book (audio CD) from Anna, a fellow blogger, I probably would have never read these books. I was totally unfamiliar with Jeffrey Archer. But that fist sudiobook was such a joy to listen to that I was hooked from the get-go. With only 7 books in the series, it wouldn't be an overwhelming task to start reading it now. For me, it was time well spent and a totally entertaining experience. Archer incorporated certain historical events into the story as well, so that gave it an realistic feel. Though I'm sorry to have this series come to an end, it was done gracefully with a wholly satisfying finale.

Jul 18, 2017

New Book Review: The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry's latest novel is about friendship, family and the difficult choices sometimes required to remain loyal.  At the center is a river house in Watersend, South Carolina that holds both fond memories and painful reminders of loss.  Bonny Moreland and her family spend three wonderful summers at the river house along with friends of her parents' and their two kids, Lainey and Owen. Bonny and Lainey developed and maintained a life long friendship, even though they are now separated by many miles.

The touching story mainly focuses on Lainey, Bonny, and her daughter Piper, who is in her freshman year of college. The three women find themselves back in Watersend at Bonny's request, though Lainey has deep reservations and Piper doesn't want to be there at all. The chapters are told by each of the ladies, along with Mimi, a local resident and bookshop owner who remembers Bonny and Lainey from when they were kids.

At the heart of this story is the mystery of Lainey's mom's disappearance during their last summer. Bonny, now an ER doctor, is facing some serious consequences regarding a patient and is using the river house as a respite while she awaits the outcome that could impact the rest of her life. Piper is facing her own demons of failing out of her first year of college, simply because of bad behavior. The peaceful atmosphere of Watersend is just what these women need, even if they don't know it.


THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END is a multi-layered story and it melds the lives of these women together in a very believable manner. It does transition from present to past somewhat. I'm not a huge fan of that writing style, but PCH doesn't over use it. One compliant I have a lot when reading womens fiction is the predictability of story, so I was very pleased when the story didn't go where I figured it would go. The book has a strong plot and realistic, likable characters. The problems each of them are facing fit well into the dynamic and didn't seem forced or too complicated. It's just good storytelling.

Another aspect that drew me to this novel was the bookshop mentioned in the title. It represented so much in the book, mainly a place where the characters felt safe and secure being who they were or who they wanted to be. I love stories about books and bookshops so that was just icing on the cake for me.

This is a great book to take on vacation or a day trip to the beach. I love that PCH doesn't get bogged down in description, yet conveyed the breezy feel of a small coastal town. This would also be a perfect choice for a book club, having many different discussion points.

The bottom line is I highly recommend this book and would be surprised if it's not on everyone's summer reading list.  It would also make a nice summer birthday gift!

Author: Patti Callahan Henry
Publisher: Berkley
Published:  July 11, 2017
345 pp

Disclaimer:  My review is based on an advance copy I received from the publisher prior to final edits, therefore changes may have been made to the finished copy.

Jul 1, 2017

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

I received an advance copy of this psychological thriller via Kindle Firsts. This was my first experience with Rachel Caine's work, though she is a very well established writer. The book is hitting shelves today, July 1st.

The Royal family from Wichita, Kansas seems like any other average family: Melvin and Gina appear as a happy, loving couple, their two young kids don't have a care in the world. That's what having a stable, happy family life brings to your children. But things can change in an instant. For Gina Royal, a freak accident uncovered an ugly, horrific truth about her husband. Melvin had been living a double life, keeping it from his wife and kids. A year later, after proving her innocence in court, she was forced to take her kids and live in hiding, away from the constant threats and stalkers who refused to believe she wasn't 'in on it' with her deranged husband. It's now four years later and she's finally thinking they've reached a place of peace on Stillhouse Lake in Tennessee. That is until a murdered woman is pulled from the lake and an all-too familiar feeling comes rushing back. Someone is setting out to implicate her and destroy her life and she will do anything to protect her kids.

My Thoughts:

The minute I read the blurb about the book I was totally intrigued. In the beginning we learn a lot about Gina and what she's been through and how they ended up at Stillhouse Lake. Caine takes a lot of time, in my opinion, justifying Gina's paranoia and her defensive way of life now. Though i get it, I felt it was kind of over-explained, like she was trying to convince readers.  Honestly, I felt like that throughout the book. I spoke to a friend of mine who was also reading the book and she made similar comments to me. That being said, it was VERY suspenseful and full of questionable characters and not knowing who she should trust. For me, ultimately, I felt it was a good story and kept me riveted regardless.

When I got to the end I realized this is the first book in what will become a series. The second book, KILLMANS CREEK, is due out in December. I will more than likely read it when it comes out, but as far as a whole series, I just don't know. We'll have to see how the second book goes.

The Bottom Line: I give this book high marks for story and suspense. It was definitely a thriller and I enjoyed that. The characters were realistic which made it believable. I would recommend this book to people who like psychological thrillers, but be prepared for an open ending.  Using the Goodreads rating system, I give this book 4 Stars.

Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
Publshed: July 1, 2017
Length: 302 pp
Source: Amazon Kindle Firsts