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review 2017-07-12 04:54
The Secrets She Keeps
The Secrets She Keeps - Michael Robotham

By: Michael Robotham 

ISBN: 9781501170317

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date:  7/11/2017 

Format:  Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

 

An avid Michael Robotham fan since his first book to his latest— and each one in between! The talented Australian crime fiction author returns following Close Your Eyes, landing on my Top Books of 2016, as well as Life or Death on my Top 10 Books of 2015 with his twelveth novel—yet another supercharged smashing hit THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS! 

5 stars +++ Let me say, there are some juicy evil secrets here . . . KILLER! Top Books of 2017. 

Set aside the time (unputdownable). Would make a fabulous movie! A story that will change the way you view other people’s lives. Fitting for today's world of social media. 

Two women. Two lives. Two worlds. Two pregnancies. Two sets of very different secrets. The dangers of envy and lies. 

Character-driven, skillfully-plotted —Robotham pulls you into the dark secret world of two different women in this riveting domestic suspense thriller.

Two pregnant women. Two women from different walks of life. How will their worlds connect?

The search for happiness. Survival. Managing expectations. Wishing for something someone else has.

Agatha watches Meghan from the window of the suburban London grocery store where she works part-time stocking shelves. She is pregnant. Her baby’s father is away. She leads a sad life. What an imagination! 

She desires a perfect life. She wants to be a perfect mother and wife. She will have this world. 

“We need the darkness to appreciate the light, and the bumps along the road to stop us falling asleep at the wheel.”

Meghan is chic, elegant, dazzling. Meghan has it all. Perfect children (Lucy and Lachlan), a handsome husband (sports reporter), Jack; stylish, nice friends, beautiful, plus she writes a mommy blog. She is pregnant. Meghan Shaughnessy is a former journalist but now a super-mom with tons of followers.

One follower is obsessed and carries it further.

Agatha is delighted to discover their two pregnancy dates are within the same month. She must figure out a way to get to know this woman. To get close to her.

What is Agatha's agenda? She is the more mysterious one.

Agatha is not so pretty. People do not notice shelf-stockers.She imagines herself friends with Meg. She soon learns Meg’s habits by the things she buys and shops for in the store. She wants to have a life like Meg. She waits for her man, Hayden to return from the Navy. He does not know she is pregnant. 

Despite her dead-end job and the desperate ordinary life, Agatha has her imagination and her dreams.

However, is Meg’s life as glamorous as Agatha thinks? 

Meg’s marriage is not so perfect. The happy go lucky easy-going Jack has turned into a brittle man whose emotions seem to be wrapped tightly in barbed wire that she cannot hope to unloop them. 

Agatha watches Meg, Jack and the children for hours. She stalks. She has been inside their home. The house next to the train track. She may see more than she wanted to. (loved this part with Jack/Realtor/Agatha).

Megan had an affair with Simon. Secrets to take to the grave. 

 




What is Agatha hiding? What does her Jehovah Witness childhood have to do with the present? The horrors and monsters. She is attracted to people. When it comes to her past, people get some of the truth, some of the time. 

Told in alternating voices, Agatha has a haunting past she hides. Meghan’s perfect life begins to unravel. What unfolds is heart-pounding chilling suspense! They may have more in common than they know. 

A top-notch thriller and a compulsive read. Dark, twisted, and emotionally charged! 

Am always amazed at how a man writes such strong women characters. He gets inside their heads—flawed characters, full of emotion, sprinkled with wit, humor, book titles, movies and lots of heart and intensity. 

The author mentions in the acknowledgments: . . . “The Secrets She Keeps, a novel whose structure, substance, and twin voices are the most ambitious I’ve ever tackled.” 

Congrats! Just when I think the next book cannot possibly be better than the previous, the author manages to create another intelligent award-winning psychological masterpiece!

Not only is Robotham one of the most talented writers, he could be a standup comedian. Hilarious one-liners. 

I love the Joe O’Loughlin series; however, the author’s stand-alone's are to be savored as well. One of the top crime thriller international authors today. As always, glued to the pages. (Your US fans adore you!) 

Looks like we will get to see more of Joe O’Loughlin, with The Other Wife, coming July 2018 (can’t wait). A pre-order for sure! 

Also purchased the audiobook (currently listening). Love narrator, Lucy Price-Lewis delivering a riveting performance. 

For fans of Karin Slaughter, Paula Hawkins, Paul Cleave, and Liane Moriarty. Highly Recommend. 

A special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for an early reading copy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/04/03/The-Secrets-She-Keeps
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text 2017-04-07 10:30
Book Haul!
Lincoln as I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies - Harold Holzer
The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books - J. Peder Zane
The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature - Jacob Lentz,Steve Nash
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) - Betty White
Living With Books - Alan Powers

So after all that cleaning and tidying of the library last weekend I felt the need to undo all my good work, and went on a small binge.  Ok, medium sized binge.  The first batch arrived today, which was pretty good timing because a trip to the city centre of Melbourne had me pretty cranky with humanity.

 

Normally, I'd include a pic of the books, but, while my library might be tidy, my coffee table is absolutely not and I'm not letting y'all see my mess.  

 

A bit of everything in this box, including Living With Books, which is probably what I'm looking forward to most, and the title that will surprise everyone the least. 

 

Here's hoping everyone has a lovely weekend!

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review 2017-04-05 17:42
Not a Sound
Not a Sound: A Novel - Heather Gudenkauf

By:  Heather Gudenkauf 

ISBN: 0778339998

Publisher: Park Row

Publication Date:  5/30/2017 

Format: Other 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

**Top Books of 2017** 

 
I am utterly speechless! Brilliantly crafted . . . 5 Stars ++++ LOVED. Just finished this incredible and compelling book. It may take some time to get my heart rate back to normal. My nails will never be the same.

Heather Gudenkauf returns following Missing Pieces landing on my Top 50 Books of 2016 with her "Best Yet," NOT A SOUND. Hands down, this is the "best book I have read in 2017!" I have no doubt by year end, it will still be the best of the year.

As the book opens we meet ER nurse Amelia Winn, specialized in domestic abuse. She has a patient, Stacey and she is leaving. Amelia walks with her to the car and another car is barreling at them, full speed ahead, which ends in tragedy. An unsolved hit-and-run. (hopefully another book here . . . )

Flash forward two years later, Amelia has found herself deaf, jobless, and now separated from her doctor husband, David, her home and her seven-year-old stepdaughter, Nora.

Life has not been easy. She is not able to continue her career as a nurse, and suffers from alcoholism, since the accident.

She has moved to a cabin in the woods and spends her time on the river, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, and running with her service dog, Stitch. She is trying to rebuild her life.

Amelia delivers all her commands in Czech to Stitch. His former trainer Vilem was originally from Prague and trained all of his police and rescue dogs using Czech commands, including Stitch and Jake’s K-9.

Jake a childhood friend (her brother Andrew's best friend), now Detective and her best friend. He too has experienced tragedy in his life with his wife’s suicide four years earlier off the Five Mines Bridge. He has helped pull her out of the gutter.

Just when Amelia thinks she is getting her life back on track with a job interview at the hospital (a file clerk), not what she was trained to do, but a step back in the direction, she stumbles upon a dead body in the river that same morning. The body turns out to be a fellow nurse, Gwen.



There are only three ways to get to this remote Five Mines River location: by boat, by four-wheeler, or by foot. She cannot believe Gwen Locke is dead and she cannot help but think of her own accident two years ago, which she is not convinced was an accident, after all. They met being sexual assault nurse examiners. Could it be a rapist or an abusive boyfriend for husband looking for revenge?

What if Gwen’s murder and her attempted murder are connected? She and Gwen both treated patients who were abused by very bad people. Would it be a stretch to think they would come after the nurses who were trying to gather forensic evidence to put them in jail for a very long time? Now she is a witness.

Turns out Amelia had pushed everyone away during the two years after the accident while she spiraled down with the devil (alcohol). In looking at some old emails, Gwen had tried to reach out to her. They had been good friends once before she got hit by a car. Before she lost her hearing and abandoned her family and friends for alcohol. They had daughters about the same age.

Presently, Amelia has not had a drink in eighteen months and determined more than ever to get her life back in order to spend time with Nora.

Amelia is one tough cookie (love her) . . . and she soon suspects there is more than meets the eye with the murder. Crazy things begin happening. There are tons of suspects. However, she keeps her suspicions to herself, after Jake tells her to let them handle the case.

She becomes obsessed with finding the killer and begins her own investigation (she is some detective –no slouch here). Her dog Stitch was a gift from her friend Jake and he is always at her side as her loyal companion. Being deaf really sets her back, working with her handicap--especially with a killer on a loose and she may be next.

Without her hearing, she has to rely on her vision to gauge the world around her.

Pretty soon, she begins suspecting things are not as they appear at work, plus she finds herself doing all sorts of illegal things to gather information. She is determined whoever murdered Gwen, is out to get her next. She will not look the other way.
 

She has two choices when she gets the urge to drink.  The devil is calling her in the back of the cabinet (booze), or she can do what she does to make the urge pass.  Go for a run.  However, when it is dark, remote, and a killer on the loose, the two choices are not so great.  She chooses the darkness and lurking danger outside, over the bottle.


It the meantime, the only person near her is her closest neighbor, Evan who owns the Five Mines Outfitters. She now is dealing with Peter, someone from Gwen's past. An obsessive-compulsive quasi-stalker (used bookstore owner) who lives in his parent’s house and spends his free time in a garage, pasting news articles about his murdered ex-girlfriend into a scrapbook.
 


She cannot seem to wrap her head around all that has happened. Gwen’s death, her mysterious email, missing records at the hospital, David’s newfound interest in her, not to mention Jake’s; the break-in at her house, the condition of David’s boat, Peter’s strange behavior and his cryptic statement making her suspect her ex-husband.

None of this adds up and she must do more digging. Is she missing something? Something very wrong is going on. Could her doctor ex-husband be involved in a murder? Complex. 

Plus, someone is trying to discredit her by breaking into her house (using her past alcoholism), and setting her up. Someone is trying to cover their tracks, and she may be next on their list. The closer she gets to discovering the truth, she and Stitch find themselves in a complex dangerous web of deceit.

A huge fan of this talented author; have read all her books and enjoyed them immensely; however, this one is particularly powerful, compelling, explosive, intense, and emotional . . . as the author mentions, her most personal; referencing "Amelia is one of her most complicated endearing characters to-date."

If you can only read one (moving and emotional) crime thriller this year— this would be the ONE. There is so much here on a number of different levels. Yes, you need to pre-order ASAP and count yourself fortunate if you land an early reading copy. (I am beyond grateful).

Readers, you will fall in love with Amelia and Stitch (side kick service dog). The most courageous (and intelligent), strong-willed, and witty duo I have ever met between the pages. The duo tackles a powerful sociopath on their own. A whodunit on steroids.

Well-written, to give you an idea: A mix of Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Amy Hatvany, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, Lisa Gardner (my other 2017 favorite), Jennifer Jaynes, and Michael and Daniel Palmer (medical thrillers), and of course the icing on the cake: Heather Gudenkauf's own signature trademark style. Top-Shelf.
 


Intricately plotted, fast-paced, memorable characters with realistic inner struggles; highly-charged subject matter, more twists than you can imagine . . . and the riveting taut suspense kept my heart beating non-stop (the scene by the riverbank in the snow) full blown, Tachycardia. This is what I call an "emotional thriller." I would not change one word.

As I mentioned in my comments while reading, I give first prize to Heather, for the "most catching" hook me, at first chapter ever. Jaw-dropping. It does not stop there. The same breakneck speed intensity continues to the explosive heart-pounding finale.

I can see why NOT A SOUND has received rave advance editorial praise. Believe every word. Impeccable research, from cancer, the medical profession, health care, whistleblowing, terminal illness, alcoholism, addiction, step-parenting, marriage, murder, domestic abuse, victims of violent crime, hearing impaired, service dogs, to so much more.

The setting, weather, and nature add to the mystery and intrigue. Reminded me of my days living in Big Canoe (North Georgia mountains) in my log cabin in the woods overlooking a lake; heavenly.

In addition, a huge medical thriller fan as well, and cancer is a topic close to my heart. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. A cautionary tale, (more realistic than we know), without saying too much - a timely subject.

I for one, hope we see more of Amelia and Stitch in future books. They are too good to end. If you have not read this author, what are you waiting for? A book to re-read and have also pre-ordered the audiobook (narrated by Julia Whelan).

Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Heather Gudenkauf and Lisa Unger in Conversation

A very "special thank you" to Park Row Books and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/01/01/Not-a-Sound
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text 2017-03-28 23:28
There is a Bird on Your Head! - Mo Willems

In another one of Mo Willem’s classic tales, There is a Bird on Your Head!, Piggie and Elephant are back again, but this time they have got trouble! A bird has decided to land on Elephant’s head, and it does not look like it will be leaving anytime soon. The first bird is joined by another bird, those birds make a nest, and before Elephant knows it, he’s got three baby birds on his head! But how can he make them go away? This book’s Lexile reading level is 210L, and it would be great for younger readers in preschool or kindergarten. This story would be great to talk about sequencing with students. You could print out pictures that are descriptive of the text, and allow students to put the pictures in the order in which they occur. This book is one that teachers should try and be theatrical with. Because it is a simple book to read and understand, teachers should really be over-the-top in how they read the story so it could be more entertaining for students. I would suggest maybe using some puppets to read, or making different expressions in your vocal tones.

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review 2016-11-07 22:35
Bronx Requiem
Bronx Requiem - John Clarkson
ISBN: 9781250047250
Publisher: St  Martin's Press
Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 11/8/2016 
Format:  Hardcover
My Rating: 5 Stars +++ 

Top Books of 2016

 

A special "big" thank you, to St. Martins' Press, Minotaur, and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 5 Stars +++

Talented crime writer, John Clarkson returns following the sensational thriller, Among Thieves (2015) with my favorite tough guy, James Beck, (My hero) who runs a slick operation in Red Hook, Brooklyn- to give employment and a second chance to his fellow ex-cons . . .

BRONX REQUIEM —Multi-layered, non-stop action, suspense, twists, adrenaline-fueled; a true “murder mystery,” with an unstoppable inner circle, of unconventional friends, led by Beck; you most definitely, want him in your corner. "I LOVE these guys!"

Top 10 Books of 2016!

Hard-boiled crime fiction, "at its finest." If you could only read one thriller this year, this would be "the one."

James Beck met Packy Johnson (Paco) in prison.

They forged a friendship and an unbreakable bond. Packy Johnson had been incarcerated for most of his life and had earned his status as a respected, righteous con. Beck had never asked Packy why he had decided to help him along ago.

Packy never questioned him. How a man with no criminal record had killed a cop? In Clinton maximum-security prison, James Beck learned the meaning and value of a true friend.

Beck knew two things: He would never return to prison. And no person, or institutions or circumstances would ever stop him from being the man he wanted to be.

Presently, as the book opens, it is nine years later. Packy was being released, after a seventeen-year sentence. Plans were made. Walter (parole officer) had taken care of the arrangements. Beck was to pick up Packy at the bus station. He was one of them.

However, he does not show.

Later they find out he has hitchhiked when the bus broke down. Now, he is dead. How could this have happened?

Why now, less than a day out of prison, not far from his mother-in-law’s apartment, beaten to death and shot in the head? No robbery (money in his pocket with his ID). Left in a gutter, seventeen hours later in Northern Bronx. What went wrong?

Packy had lived 42 years, 32 of which had been spent in juvenile institutions, foster homes, or prisons. 80% of his life confined, focused on simply surviving. Now was the chance to finally experience life. They have to make this right and find the killer. Justice for their loyal friend.

Who shot Packy Johnson? What made him risk his parole hitchhiking into town, and then rush over to the housing project minutes after he arrives, ready to take on a whole crew?

At the same time, there is a girl named Amelia Johnson(street name, Princess) who is trying to escape the clutches of an evil monster, Derrick Watkins—a pimp. A low-echelon criminal like many of the young men in her neighborhood – the Bronx River Houses-who dealt in drugs, theft, and prostitution. She knew the game.

When he took her in to give her food, clothes, and a place to stay, Amelia knew she had entered into a dangerous game. But knowing the game did not make her able to win at it.

A sixteen-year-old, girl trying to escape first her mother’s boyfriend at the age of twelve. A father she never knew who should have protected her. A hopeless selfish "drug addict" mother who died and left her alone. A crazy grandmother; angry, volatile, and a nag—a poor foster system which failed her and now- prostitution, control, and abuse.

Packy’s daughter (she is hilarious). He has not seen since she was three years old.

Her unstable grandmother, Lorena Leon told her she was useless, finally forcing her to be in this inescapable situation before they would finally kill her. She has to find a way to escape the clutches of Derrick, Tyrell, Johnny Morris, Eddie, Jerome, Eric Juju Jackson, and Whitey Bondurant. Someone had sent for her. A criminal enterprise.

 

 



Detective John Palmer is on the (Paco Johnson) case with his partner, Raymond Ippolito. Ippolito was the senior detective, whereas Palmer had been a detective for a little over a year. Palmer saw this case an opportunity for advancement – he was overly ambitious. (what a dick).

It ran in the family since Palmer’s father, John Palmer senior had a reputation for being a hard-charger, a well- known lobbyist, lawyer, and political operator. A well know advocate for law enforcement and his influence extended to the NYPD, the Department of Corrections, NY Police, the Justice Department, and Homeland Security. (do you smell corruption?)

There was no drugs or burglary involved. This is a homicide. Murder. The parole officer assigned to the case was Walter Ferguson.

James Beck and his team, (Manny Guzman, Demarco Jones, Walter Ferguson) have their offices out of an old oak bar on the ground floor of the building at the far end of Red Hook, on the waterfront, providing a measure of safety and security for them.

It had taken them a year to renovate the place with the help of local workers and ex-cons. He had restored the ground floor bar, gutted the second and third floors to add bedrooms, bathrooms, storage rooms, workout space, with an open loft, divided into an office space, kitchen/dining, and seating area. (What a cool place, adding to the intrigue)!

Walter, a distinguished African American man as part of their group is devastated since he was responsible for Packy. Packy was one of them. They have to call in the "big gun" for help: Ciro Baldassare, the strongest of the crew.

Beck and his team, who operate out of his Red Hook saloon, set out to find who killed Packy. In the meantime, they are trying to help Amelia and Queenie (older madam) who work for pimp Derrick Watkins, one of the Bronx’s most vicious criminals.

A race against time, Beck and his gang, not only have to face some of the most violent gang leaders, now they have to go up against politics, corruption, and power; Detective John Palmer, the ambitious cop not above skirting the law, who has his own agenda. He wants to send a cop killer back to jail. Forever. Does he know who he is messing with?

Intense, suspense, gritty! Wow, having read Among Thievesenjoyed listening to the interview with Clarkson afterward, and his inspiration for the character, James Beck, and his inner circle continuing with Bronx Requiem (see below). Please, please let there be more....Loving this series!

Clarkson has created a unique, captivating series, with believable topics and flawed characters--inspired by our society. You root for them. These guys (brotherhood) know the ins and outs of crime.

Beck is a complex character. He has a heart of gold. A loyal friend. A hero, even though he is not a bully and can stand up to bullies. Intelligent and street smart. He is not impulsive. He carefully plans, looking at all options before he acts. A man with a past, and relies on his group of friends for support—and did I mention, what an awesome backdrop setting?

So vivid and realistic, I want to pull up a bar stool, have a drink, and better still feel the spine tingling action within these walls, spend the night, and have their yummy breakfast the following morning, and be a part of the well-laid plans, to take down the bad guys.

Meticulously written, a plot "out of this world", and well-developed characters. Mixed with lots of humor, action, and emotion. The good (bad guys) taking down the (really) bad guys; and helping the innocent in the process.

The strong bond between Packy and Beck, the inner circle, the loyalty of friends, and the added addition of Amelia (so good)--with the crew taking her under their wing, which was quite challenging after she was set on revenge; Amelia, Queenie, and Lorena brought a nice balance of female kick ass emotion and which sets the novel apart from the norm.

All the ingredients for a blockbuster movie hit. (keeping fingers crossed)

Not only did I LOVE the book, and was beyond excited to receive an early reading copy; I always pre-order the audiobook, as well. Peter Berkrot is my all time favorite narrator. He was exceptional in Among Thieves, and cannot wait until Nov 8 to listen to the highly anticipated performance of Bronx Requiem. (stunning cover)

A huge Clarkson, Beck, and Berkrot fan! This is "as good as it gets, folks." A hero you will not soon forget. Fans of true crime, hard-boiled fiction, mystery, and suspense thrillers will devour! Move over Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Michael Connelly.

From the Author:

 

"Around 2011, John became interested in the fact that the US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. With 5% of the world’s population, we have 24% of the world’s prisoners. There are over 2 million people in prison and over 4 million on parole or probation.

How did this happen? What are all those people doing? How do they survive in and out of prison? Out of all this grew the idea of writing a crime novel with ex-cons as the heroes. The result: Among Thieves and Bronx Requiem."

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/07/02/Bronx-Requiem
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