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Book Review: The Exes’ Revenge – Fast Paced Psychological Thriller Not to Be Missed

The Exes’ Revenge

By Jo Jakeman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Phillip is a jerk. To be completely honest, he WAS a jerk because he is dead now. His ex-wives are at his funeral, as well as his current wife. But technically she isn’t his legal wife because he and his second wife never finalized the divorce. But all in all it doesn’t matter because he cannot hurt any of them, physically or psychologically ever again. Perhaps the three women have crossed the line of good and evil just like Phillip or maybe their survival instincts just kicked in.

The Exes’ Revenge opens with the funeral, so the reader knows up front the man is dead. But the events that lead to this funeral unfurl in the coming chapters like a flag in a sweet summer breeze that turns into a hurricane.

The three wives are unlikely cohorts, but Phillip and fear bind them together in a way that can never be understood by outsiders. He manipulates them against each other until he crosses the line of no return. But will one of them turn on the other two because deep down she cannot live without him?

Ruby, his first wife has always been a mother figure to him. Even though she has been on the receiving end of his bad temper, she has always forgiven him. But how can she possibly forgive him after finding out one of his best kept secrets?

Naomi, his third wife, is young and beautiful. She is the perfect trophy wife for Phillip to drag around to parties showing off his masculinity to his friends and co-workers. He expects her to keep a perfect home. Of course if she doesn’t there are consequences. She dare not call the police – he is a cop.

Imogen, the second (and not quite divorced) wife is the only one Phillip has a child with. Alistair is young and impressionable. He is happy with Imogen and terrified of his father. How could anyone trust a man like Phillip with her child?

The three women don’t really like each other, but are thrown together because of Phillip. They soon realize that the three of them must work together to get him out of their lives forever before one or more of them dies at his hand. The closer they get, they realize he has taken something from each of them that can never be replaced. He seems to have a knack of finding their greatest vulnerabilities and then somehow look innocent when tragedy strikes. As the novel progresses, the three women find out how cruel he is and it might just be a race to kill or be killed.

Jakeman’s psychological thriller is a page tuner you don’t want to miss. The well-developed characters will pull you into their nightmare because you know them like your favorite neighbor. Pay attention to the easy to read plot because many bits and pieces that may seem irrelevant will turn up in the last chapters fully explaining the means and motives of the main characters.

This is the first book I have read by Jo Jakeman. I really enjoyed her fast-paced writing style. She brings full characters to life and puts them in a plot that twists and turns until the end. This is Jo Jakeman’s second novel. The first, Sticks and Stones, is on my list to read. I can’t get enough of this author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Thinnest Air – Superb Suspenseful Thriller

The Thinnest Air

By Minka Kent

Meredith knows everyone looks at her like she is an airheaded beauty. She makes the perfect trophy wife for her millionaire husband. By all accounts, looking from outside the marriage, she is nothing but another bauble for Andrew Price to show off to his friends and associates. They have grossly underestimated her.

Even Meredith’s sister Greer, who she has always shared everything with, didn’t think it was good to be married to this man. In the beginning things were great. It wasn’t just the exotic vacations, fancy restaurants and posh parties. Andrew couldn’t get enough of her. Mer felt loved and adored.

Then the boredom set in. There are only so many places to shop in the little ski town they lived in. Most of the neighbors and friends of Andrew had relationships with Andrew’s ex-wife, judging every move Mer makes without even caring to get to know her. When she finds a note on her car by a strange man, she is terrified. More incidents occur, each one a bit more unsettling. Surprisingly, her husband brushes them off. The only one that takes her seriously is a Ronan, a young cop determined to keep her safe.

Then Meredith goes missing. Everyone’s secrets suddenly start surfacing. No one is as they seem to be on the surface and even the closest relationships are not what they seem. Will Meredith be found alive?

This is the perfect psychological thriller. The twists and turns don’t stop as the emotions and terror ramp up. Just when I began to trust a character, they would do something making me think they were not the person I thought they were. I seriously did not know who was good and who was terrifying until the last chapters. The Thinnest Air is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it from the Kindle app on my phone, and literally read it while riding in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, at McDonald’s playground and during the Cub game.

Kent pulls you into the story making the characters real from the very first pages. She tells volumes with descriptive phases and dialog that stays with the reader long after the page has been turned. For example, when Mer thinks: “We’re powerless when it comes to our men. I’m just lucky I found a good one. The wrong one could easily be my undoing.”  The author perfectly lays out the foreshadowing quickly and quietly.  Once Mer goes missing, her sister Greer says to herself; I’m beginning to realize my sister was drowning in an ocean of secrets, and I was inland the entire time, clueless. These are just a few examples of this easy to read, page turning novel that will keep you breathless with every turn of the page.

This is the first novel I have read by Minka Kent. She has previously published two books, The Memory Watcher and The Perfect Roommate. She is a master of psychological thrillers, and I cannot wait to read her previous books and am looking forward to The Stillwater Girls scheduled for publication April 2019.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Hitting the Books – Perfect for Cozy Mystery Fans

Hitting the Books

By Jenn McKinlay

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Librarian Lindsey Norris is back for the ninth book in Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mystery series. Lindsey is a full time librarian and a part-time amateur sleuth. Lucky for her, the small town she lives in has its full share of nosy-rosies that feed her obsession with solving crimes. The only person it town that does not support her sleuthing is her friend Emma Plewicki, the chief of police.

Emma does not encourage Lindsey’s need to poke her nose in police business, but seems to tolerate it. As the top cop, Emma appreciates the help Lindsey gives her when solving cases. Of course the librarian is instrumental in finding crucial information to help solve the mysteries in this tiny town.

To be honest she doesn’t seek out drama. As Hitting the Books begins, Lindsey is working at the library, minding her own business, when someone runs down a friend of hers right outside. The case takes a nastier turn when someone tries to suffocate the convalescing friend; Lindsey is determined to get to the bottom of the murder attempts.

Aside from the mysterious attacks on her friend, Lindsey has a full personal life. She has recently moved in with Captain Mike Sullivan. Sully as he is called is an ex-Navy man, who loves her, but does not especially like the danger she flirts with while poking around in attempted murders. Lucky for Lindsey, he is supportive of all her endeavors and seems to always be in the right place and the right time to keep her safe.

It may sound like Lindsey is so busy solving crimes that she doesn’t spend any time in the library. That is far from true. She is busy managing the quirky characters that work for her. I would love to visit their library. They have a group that meets for “Crafternoons”. Think a book club on steroids.

The Crafternooners discuss a book they’ve all read, enjoy a delicious lunch and create a craft. I love the bond that is created in these gatherings. The characters share their lives and loves, worries and concerns all the while supporting each other. It is a great way for the reader to learn about the personalities and quirks of the characters.

enn McKinlay has written several different books in addition to the Library Lover’s Mysteries. This is the first book I have read by this author. Even though it was the ninth in the series, I did not feel lost or confused. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, I highly recommend Hitting the Books, as well as checking out McKinlay’s other books. There is nothing more fun than finding a new author with a long list of interesting books to enjoy.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Bookrevie: Blood and Wisdom – Must Read Debut Thriller

Blood and Wisdom

By Verlin Darrow

Aria Piper and Karl Gatlin go way back. They were both interns at a counseling center over ten years ago. Karl decided he was better at being a private investigator than a counselor. Aria has a private psychotherapy practice and runs a spiritual center. Some have called it a cult, others have called it a religion but those who are adrift in their lives see it as salvation.

Someone starts threatening Aria, so she calls on her old friend Karl to check it out. When a headless dead body shows up on her property, Karl jumps into an investigation that involves much more than he expects.

Bodyguards and global gangsters bump heads and draw guns. Everyone Karl encounters seems to have secrets in their past and deadly problems now. He has to dig deep, using all of his PI and psychotherapy training to find out who the bad guys really are before anyone else dies.

Karl’s part time sidekick is Larry. He is a shared custody dog, and both Karl and his ex-wife love and want him. I wanted Larry. At times I would almost forget he was a dog because he acts just like a human, except most humans don’t bite others to help defend those they love.

Blood and Wisdom is a fast paced thriller with as many twists and turns as Lombard Street. The plot is intriguing. Wrapped around the mystery are the intricate workings of the spiritual center. There are very interesting practices and beliefs that are touched upon. I love learning new things, and this book taught me new things that I wanted to learn more about.

All of the above makes Blood and Wisdom a fantastic read, but wait there is more! Darrow writes spot on descriptions and conversations. He drops in gems such as “If my mind was a magic eight ball, hers was a tilt-a-whirl”. Twelve words tell the reader exactly where these two characters are coming from.

If you are a fan of Tim Dorsey, you will like Verlin Darrow. His humor is very reminiscent of Dorsey, not quite as outlandish, but very amusing. I love the one liners tucked into the story. This is the first book he has written, so snatch it up now so you can say you were one of the first to discover this fabulous new author.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Other People’s Houses – The Perfect Summer Read

Other People’s Houses

By Abbi Waxman

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Neighbors can be ignored, acquaintances or befriended on levels from chit chats over fences to confidants. In Frances’s neighborhood, she has some of each of the above. As a stay home mom, she is the designated car pool to school kind of neighbor, so she knows anyone with small children pretty well. At least she thought so.

The day started out like any other day. Frances picks up her charges and heads to school with them. Kids are dropped off, piling out of the minivan like a clown car. That is until six-year-old Katie realizes she forgot her toilet paper rolls for her project. The last thing Frances wants to do is to drive back to Katie’s house, get the missing TP rolls and drive back to school again. But looking at Katie’s desperate little face she knows she will have to go back for them.

Getting back to the child’s house, Frances knocked, but when there was no answer, she figured Anne, Kate’s mom, had gone back to bed or was busy and didn’t hear the knock. She opened the door and saw the bag of toilet paper rolls right inside so she grabbed it and turned to make her return trip to school. That is when she saw Anne laying on the floor.

Frances immediately turned to her asking if she was okay, but suddenly it dawned on her Anne was not alone. And the person she was with was not her husband. Frances isn’t the type of person to blab all over the neighborhood. But even if she doesn’t tell anyone about Anne’s indiscretion, the wheels are in motion to change the dynamics of the neighborhood and their relationships with their families and each other.

Behind closed doors relationships thrive or wither, life changing decisions are made or sometimes made for you. As we learn about all of the neighbors no one may truly be the person they seem to be to the neighbors, even those close to each other. But when two of the children go missing, they will all have to rally together to find them.

Other People’s Houses is a very interesting, often funny book about people who would not necessarily be connected in any way other than buying a house in the same neighborhood. Abbi Waxman gives the reader little gems of character studies throughout the story. Her insight to human nature brings the neighbors to life on her pages. One of my favorites is when one of the kids was thinking about his mom, “His mom never seemed to worry, she was the trellis his little vines twined around.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and spend some time with Frances, her family and neighbors. This is the perfect summer read.

This is the first book I have read by Abbi Waxman. It is a gem, so I can’t wait to read her first book, Garden of Small Beginnings next!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Last Looks – Amazing Debut Novel

Last Looks

By Howard Michael Gould

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Charlie Waldo has as many layers as an onion. Most of those layers put people off, but he really doesn’t seem to mind. He lives as a minimalist in the woods away from society. But when the outside world comes crashing into his peace and serenity, he grudgingly decides he has to rejoin the human race (which he mostly despises) for a few days.

Waldo is asked to help clear an obnoxious, over-inflated actor of murdering his wife. He really isn’t a PI, but somehow the lawyer for the actor thought Waldo could and would take the case. When Waldo left the LAPD he was on the top of his game, but that game included a scandal within the ranks that Waldo could not live with, so he took them down just like any other criminal. To say he burned his bridges would be an understatement.

Finding himself back in LA on the set of a movie was not how he envisioned his life. But here he was, somehow too intrigued to go back to the life he chose until he finds the person who he thinks really killed the victim. This choice does not come easily. He is mentally and physically challenged by the reception he more or less expected from his former brothers in blue. As a matter of fact, they hate him, refuse to cooperate when he asks for information and harass him at every encounter.

Stoically, he just can’t shake the feeling that there is a bigger picture than the police and prosecutor are painting, and like a dog with a bone, he just can’t let go until he uncovers the truth – if he lives that long.

Waldo’s world is intriguing. As a minimalist, he only allows himself 100 Things. If he adds a Thing, such as a comb, a pair of socks or a gun, he has to give away one Thing to never have more than 100. This in and of itself makes him interesting, but he is so much more. One of his Things is a MacBook. He is not out of touch with the world or technology. He is quite current on events in the world and is very well read.

He has acquaintances, but not really friends anymore. Donations to charity are part of his monthly routine and he plays chess online daily. The only two people that don’t hate him are the sharp-witted six-year-old daughter of the accused murderer and her kindergarten teacher.

Last Looks is an interestingly multi-layered novel of murder and mystery wrapped in the Waldo’s cloak of minimalism and self-imposed exile from society. Love, lust and revenge are woven into the plot. There is a love scene that is quite possibly the best one I have ever read. It is sensual without being graphic, but not Victorian by any stretch of the imagination.

I loved this book. It has every element to keep a reader grabbing it to read a few pages, then chapters. Soon you realize you have spent hours with the characters and story that it is still impossible to put down.

This stunningly clever, often funny book is the first novel published by Gould. It is an interesting, amazing read – run, don’t walk to your computer to order it today!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Jar of Hearts – Nail Biting Page Turning Thriller – Read the First 3 Chapters Now

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

What would you do for love? Teenagers often think they have the world by the tail and are invincible. Unfortunately, due to lack of world experience they may choose the wrong crowd to hang out with, the wrong boyfriend or get themselves into a situation that will most likely have dire repercussions on the rest of their lives. But most of them don’t end up dead or in prison like Geo.

Jar of Hearts begins with the trial of a woman who seemed to have it all. A fabulous job and a huge diamond on her finger from a wealthy man. Unfortunately she also has a past with a connection to a serial killer that will take everything away she has worked so hard to get. Georgina Shaw sits listening to the horrific events of her best friend’s death fourteen years ago with her head down. Her ex-boyfriend, now commonly known as the Sweetbay Strangler, is on trial for the murder of her best friend Angela Wong and Georgina (Geo) is just as guilty. She’ll take a plea, go to prison and send Calvin James, the Sweetbay Strangler, to jail with her testimony.

But what really happened that night? Was Geo so involved with James she would have been a party to murdering the girl that had been her best friend? Why did she cover it up all of these years? What kind of monster kills her best friend and goes about her business day after day knowing where the body is buried while the entire community searches for years? When did she cross the line – or did she?

When she is released from prison, Geo harbors many secrets. Someone may kill her to keep those secrets buried in the past. Her other bestie from high school has become a cop. He seems to be around more than necessary, seemingly ready to pounce at the slightest infraction. To add to Geo’s stress and isolation, the Sweetbay Strangler has escaped from prison – will Geo be his next target?

Hillier’s latest psychological thriller is a tightly woven story of love and betrayal, the hunted and hunters. By covering up a horrific murder, the characters would seem to be contemptable, but all of them are not. They are masterfully created as someone you would have coffee with, sit in meetings at work with and invite over for dinner. That is what makes Jar of Hearts such a superb story. Evil lurks closer than you can imagine in everyday life. We can only hope it only touches us via engrossing psychological thrillers like this.

The publishers have graciously sent this link for you to read the first three chapters of Jar of Hearts now. I suspect you will be hooked by the first chapter and immediately need to finish – I was. Follow the link below:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/jar-of-hearts/

 

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

 

 

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