Tag Archive | Suspense

Review of The Girls by Emma Cline


About The Girls

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

My Review

Very well written and researched. We are granted psychological access to Evie as we understand her fascination towards the girls leaving you questioning why and how given her relative ‘normal’ upbringing. I was surprised her interest didn’t wane as her story unfolds, yet I’m not surprised she kept their company and deepened involvement. Cline’s attention geared around the girls as opposed to Russell was smart, great psychological angle, adding interest.

Wasn’t a fan of any of the characters by any means.

Cline left me uncomfortable and disturbed, certainly feeling immersed in the mind of teenage Evie, accompanying her as she mixes with the wrong crowd, making wrong decisions, choices, hallmark of a talented author. The big ‘what if’ question floats around in my mind weeks after finishing the book. Chilling.

About Emma Cline2926065

Emma Cline is from California. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House and The Paris Review, and she was the winner of the 2014 Paris Review Plimpton Prize.

Expected publication Random House (June 14, 2016)


Review of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North


About The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

My Review

Love the creativeness of North. Unique paranormal aspect appearing quite plausible. Alternative history fans will enjoy the rules established in the plot. Immersed in Harry’s world and it is an unforgettable ride.

Lots of humor popping up when least expected. Harry August is a hoot, privy to his thoughts you’ll find yourself laughing at his internal banter. Observing the world through Harry’s eyes and experiences is both enlightening and fascinating, you sort of step back and reexamine and rethink what you normally ignored or never really considered. For the most part Harry is tame but boy his fifteen lives are something else.

The story moves slowly yet my interest never waned, through all the fun and humor a few moving moments make an appearance.

Fun read leaving you in a semi-existential state questioning much. Much more than a time travel experience, this book is a mind, body and soul absorbing trek. North is extremely clever and I look forward to reading more from this imaginative authoress.

About Claire North7210024

Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Medal-nominated young-adult novel author whose first book, Mirror Dreams, was written when she was just 14 years old. She went on to write seven more successful YA novels.

Claire North is a pseudonym for adult fantasy books written by Catherine Webb, who also writes under the pseudonym Kate Griffin.

Published October 21st 2014 by Redhook

Review & Giveaway: A Death in the Family (A Detective Kubu Mystery) by Michael Stanley

Death in the Family CF AW.indd
About A Death in the Family

‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders to try to bring the killers to justice, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?

My Review

The authors manage to combine a tragic murder with traditions and customs of Botswana creating an intriguing read. The setting isn’t described as much as I would have liked, however, the details of traditions and customs filled the deficit.

The reader senses the frustration and profound grief of law enforcement professional David ‘Kubu’ Bengu as his father is tragically murder and he is barred from participating in the murder investigation. Kubu balances personal and professional obligations as he wades through grief and shock. I loved the closeness he shared with his mother, he’s by her side as they both navigate sorrow. Exploring family life during tragedy gives the main protagonist dimensionality, he struggles with emotions while exhibiting strength, if you have suffered a loss you will find Kubu’s reaction and challenges realistic. His mettle is tested as he watches from the sidelines as his professional peers rally together in finding the killer, he stumbles and rises as he is rendered professionally helpless.

The plot gains momentum, twists appear towards the end along with blindspots. A few scenarios were more than obvious, however, the predator wasn’t revealed until many pieces fell into place creating a level of tight mystery. Interesting plot especially as the story unfolds, Kubu’s charm and warm personality serves as the cog of the story, he’s endearing and his loss is clearly felt. A few smooth moves from the police force boosts the story.

Fans of foreign mysteries with a robust main protagonist, sprinkled with comedic relief along side an affecting murder, you’ll want to venture into this fascinating series.

About Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.

Both are retired professors who have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa.

They have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe, where it was always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. They have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having their plane’s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering navigation maps over the desert.. These trips have fed their love both for the bush, and for Botswana.

It was on one of these trips that the idea surfaced for a novel set in Botswana.

A Carrion Death is their first novel.

Michael Searsmichael Sears - Small

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in Cape Town and Nairobi, Kenya. In the worst of the apartheid era, my family emigrated to Australia, where I studied mathematics. But Africa drew me back and I accepted a position at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where I specialized in applications of mathematics in a variety of areas including image analysis and ecological modeling. One of the more adventurous projects involved radio-tracking hunting lions through the Botswana night. Another was a system model for the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.

I have traveled widely in Southern and Central Africa. Botswana has always been a special favorite with its magnificent conservation areas, dramatic scenery, and varied peoples. A long-held ambition was to capture the flavor of the country as the canvass of a novel.

From 1997 until my retirement at the end of 2007, I managed remote sensing at Anglo American, a major international mining house. Its associate – the diamond giant De Beers – has extensive interests in Botswana through the Debswana joint venture with the government. The mining and exploration threads in the book draw on experiences in this context.

I enjoy research, project work, and writing most when I’m working with other people. I’ve worked with researchers in several countries on varied projects, managed teams in the academic and business arenas, and co-authored two novels. All these things can be, and generally are, done by oneself. But it’s a lonely business.

Although I still live in Johannesburg, my mind is often in the African bush, and the rest of me follows as often as possible. Stan and I share a bungalow in a private game reserve close enough for a long weekend. Birds are watched, wine is drunk, and plots develop.

My wife, Annette, and step-daughter, Jacky, have provided great encouragement. The family also includes two corgis, who, although intelligent, are not avid readers of crime fiction.

Stanley Trollip - SmallStanley Trollip

I was born in Johannesburg where I did all my schooling up to and including an undergraduate degree (in Statistics). My undergraduate time was checkered, taking twice as long as usual, mainly due to participation in a variety of sports (cricket, rugby, and field hockey) and involvement in the anti-apartheid movement. In 1970, I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where I received a PhD in Educational Psychology. For the most part, I was always a professor with an interest in how computers can facilitate teaching and learning. I’ve co-authored three editions of a widely used book, Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development (Allyn and Bacon).

Before retiring in 2003, I was as Director of Learning Strategies at Capella University – which delivers courses entirely through the World Wide Web. When I joined, Capella had about 50 learners. When I left seven years later, it had over 8,000. Today it is about 18,000.

I hold a variety of pilot’s licenses and have a strong interest in aviation safety. I lecture frequently on the topic; have co-authored one book on the subject published by Jeppesen Sandersen (Human Factors for General Aviation). I am still an active small-plane pilot and am currently learning to paraglide.

Michael and I have been on a number of flying safaris to Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is always exciting to buzz a dirt airstrip to shoo the elephants off. We have had many adventures on these trips including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, being charged by an elephant, and having our plane’s door pop open over the Kalahari, scattering our navigation maps over the desert.. These have been wonderful times which have fed my love both for the bush, as well as for Botswana.

In my leisure, I golf, bike, and hike. On dark and stormy nights I play with my collection of stamps from German South West Africa/South West Africa/Namibia.


Enter to win a copy of A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley. Open internationally. Ends 1/28/16.

A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley, published October 28th 2015 by Orends Books

Review: How To Be Brave by Louise Beech


About How To Be Brave

This is a novel about how stories bring magic to our lives. Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat where an ancestor survived for fifty days. Natalie struggles when nine-year-old daughter Rose is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and refuses her life-saving injections and blood tests. When they begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar they realise he has something for them – his diary. Only by using her imagination, newspaper clippings, letters and this diary will Natalie share the true story of Grandad Colin’s survival at sea, and help her daughter cope with her illness and, indeed, survive. This is a haunting, beautifully written, tenderly told story that wonderfully weaves together a contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life through the medium storytelling with an extraordinary story of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War.

My Review

This is an absolutely beautiful book. I’m not a fan of split narratives, however in this instance the alternating between past and present worked wonderfully. I’m also not a frequent reader of paranormal, yet again Beech masterfully knitted this into the narrative with perfection.

Beech’s writing is stunning, penetrating. Considering Colin’s story is fact based on his experience and journal entries makes it all the more moving and haunting. Beech’s use of language emotionally grips her audience from beginning to end. Both Colin and Rose’s story will capture you mind, body and spirit.

I connected with Colin’s story the most, poignant. His harrowing ordeal, the thread of hope he maintained when his peers perish around him. His hunger and thirst never ceasing. His bravery was arresting. I felt the sting of saltwater, the burn of the sun, constant hunger pangs, counting the days adrift bargaining with God, his ordeal is beyond moving.

Louise Beech impresses with this amazing debut novel. Her writing is solid, she certainly comes across as a seasoned author rather than a neophyte. I am anxious to read future writings from this gifted authoress.

A marvelous book demonstrating bravery and courage we all possess, along with how a story wields unimaginable power. A story not to be missed.

About Louise BeechDSC06211

Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show. This is her first book.

Expected publication: April 1st 2016 by Orenda Books

Review: One of Us by Tawni O’Dell

About One of Us

Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.

Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners’ deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

My Review

O’Dell has a way of capturing the psychological side of people which make her books so darn good. I couldn’t wait to read this book proving once again she never disappoints with her ease of psychological suspense. She had my attention from the start, before I knew it the last page was turned, yes, I was that caught up in both characters and narrative.

Hardscrabble small mining town where everybody knows your name and business. You understand the hardships and struggles miners contend with, such dangerous and laborious work. Miner or not, just about every resident has major issues, fractures, secrets. A town where dreams include escaping as you pursue bigger and better things than a boring no thrills life in podunk where you grew up. Great feel of the atmosphere and its residents.

O’Dell paints such a psychological profile of her characters giving them such dimensionality. Danny had an extremely troubling childhood, we learn he’s never recovered and the scars run deep. Given his profession you would believe he would have dealt with his past, come to terms so to speak, but he hasn’t. Danny’s mother has her share of heavy issues, and last but not least we have the evildoer who is as messed up and demented as they come. The term bad seed can be put to use describing this person.

One annoyance I found grating my nerves – the continual references of designer clothing. Unnecessary and aggravating, talk about over done.

The writing, the psychological edge, the characters, the small town atmosphere all made for an irresistible fascinating read.

About Tawni O’Dell426795817

Tawni O’Dell is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels including Back Roads, which was an Oprah’s Book Club pick and a Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection. Back Roads is currently in development to be made into a film by Michael Ohoven, the producer of the Academy-Award-winning, Capote. She is also a contributor to several anthologies including Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female. Her works have been published in over 40 countries.

photoTawniBabyMomDadTawni was born and raised in the coal-mining region of western Pennsylvania, the territory she writes about with such striking authenticity. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and spent many years living in the Chicago area before moving back to Pennsylvania with her two children.

Review, Guest Post & Giveaway: White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume


Release date: November 19, 2015
at Le French Book
238 pages
ISBN: 978-1939474506

Website | Goodreads

About White Leopard

Everything is possible and nothing is certain in Bamako. A man torn between two continents finds himself in a dangerous confrontation between tradition and corruption. Solo is a former cop who ran away from a dark past in France to start his life over again in Bamako, Mali, as a PI. An ordinary case turns out to be not so ordinary. The drug mule gets her throat slit. The French lawyer is too beautiful and too well-informed. The cocaine is too plentiful. This is hard-boiled noir with a modern twist set in West Africa.

My Review

Admittedly the prologue snared my attention and never let go. The slow burning, yet fast paced unfolding narrative is gritty, and raw. A request for vengeance snowballs leading Solo to avenge for his own personal reasons with unleashed action and excitement. The lurid violence fitting, its towering edge in alignment with plot and players.

I was held hostage by Solo. Solo is the captor of this narrative. He’s part beast, part saint. We follow the scant tracks learning of Solo’s back story regarding his personal and professional life, enough arousing the reader for specifics, for now its mere foreplay. Solo is smooth, smart, gritty and reckless – on the precipice of life and death which translates to a death wish leaving him in a state of limbo making him lethal. As you learn of his loss, his hard exterior has fissures, in this wounded man there is a infiltratable center noticeable at poignant moments, his daily mask is ironhearted. Still grieving, Solo is a nomad drifting in the depths of his pain. He’s fascinating, an emotional wreck, he’s consuming. The supporting cast from angels to demons equally memorable, seemly in plot.

I wasn’t a fan of Solo striking Farah at all. No excuse. Even worse – Farah’s interest in him after the abuse. Wrong from beginning to end under any circumstances.

Guillaume’s law enforcement background along with his solid writing coalesces nicely. I will say the translation is excellent. Hardboiled, noir fans will appreciate Guillaume’s handiwork.


Guest Post

Homage to Bamako

Laurent Guillaume is a multiple-award-winning French writer and former police officer. In law enforcement, he worked anti-gang, narcotics, financial crimes, and served in Mali as advisor to the local police. His first novel to be translated into English is a hard-boiled PI story set in West Africa: White Leopard.

The main character in White Leopard, Souleymene Camara, aka Solo, embodies the issues faced by people who come from mixed backgrounds and cultures. He’s a man stuck between two continents, two cultures and two religions. All his life, he’s been asked to make a choice, to sacrifice one of his halves for the other. The other issue he faces is being a fugitive. He has a dark past. His exile in Mali follows a family trauma; it wasn’t a wholehearted choice, but more a better-than-no-choice choice. Little by little, he fell in love with the county, like I did personally, and he slowly realized that Bamako was his home. At the end of the book, he realizes that he cannot amputate a part of himself. The black and the white are mixed in him to create something else. I think that at the end, he finds a kind of peace.

The narrative is simple, linear. I wanted to write a contemporary hard-boiled mystery set in Africa, so I took the codes—an alcoholic PI, a sexy, ambiguous client, very twisted and violent bad guys, and cocaine trafficking—and transported them to Africa. I have a deep love for Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. Outsiders go there to soak up African wisdom, bringing with them their vision of the continent and looking to support their preconceived ideas. It takes time to see what lies behind the postcard image, the stark reality of the people who live there. More than a mystery, White Leopard is a homage to the people of Bamako, a mixed crowd in overpopulated streets, who never stop smiling and being happy, despite the harsh conditions of their daily life.



white leopard - Laurent_Guillaume©reservedLaurent Guillaume is a multiple-award-winning French writer and former police officer. In law enforcement, he worked anti-gang, narcotics, financial crimes, and served in Mali as advisor to the local police. He is now a full-time writer.


Sophie Weiner is a freelance translator and book publishing assistant from Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in French from Bucknell University and New York University, Sophie went on to complete a masterís in literary translation from the Sorbonne, where she focused her thesis on translating wordplay in works by Oulipo authors. She has translated and written for web-based companies dedicated to art, cinema, and fashion as well as for nonprofit organizations. Growing up with Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince, Sophie was bitten by the Francophile bug at an early age, and is fortunate enough to have lived in Paris, Lille, and the Loire Valley.


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Review & Giveaway: Natchez Burning (Penn Cage #4) by Greg Iles


Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Now Penn must follow a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe.

An exploration into the fragile, unbreakable relationship of father and son as well as our perception vs the actuality of how well we know our parents when harbored secrets and history threaten to reveal more than we ever imagined.

I enjoyed Penn, he’s attempting to figure out who his father is with great trepidation. Hesitantly Penn plunges in and starts and stalls as startling information about his father comes to light, mustering strength Penn digs deeper and deeper. You can understand Penn’s concern, his surprise, simultaneously struggling with disappointment and hope as he is seeing his father differently than his original perception lead him to believe.

Although I am a Penn fan there are so many others equally as captivating. Henry Sexton, Albert Norris and Caitlin Masters. Royal, Knox, Thornton evil doers you can’t wait to see pay for their heinous misdeeds.

As much as I found myself absorbed in the story, I had to pause on several occasions. The brutality was disturbing, a sad stain in history for our country, you find yourself reflecting on the past and present questioning how much has changed and how far we still have to go. The violence inflicted was downright depressing forcing me to close the book until my emotions were in check before I could continue. Iles is one masterful storyteller, obvious from the effect he produced upon me. Powerful scenes, disgusting people, innocents suffered.

Iles creates an amazing mystery with loads of historical references, the setting pulls you into the south and its environs and culture. You will not be bored, rather you will find yourself enthralled with the characters and all that’s unearthed. The ending is perfect, you’ll want to continue with the trilogy to see where Iles takes us as well as his memorable characters in the incredible journey. I rarely read series, this is clearly an exception as I anxiously await the next installment.


Enter to win 1 of 2 paperback copies of Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, please complete the giveaway form below. US residents only. Ends 10/19/15


Hardcover, 791 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by William Morrow (first published 2014)
ISBN13: 9780062311078