The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell


891511BE-975B-4C97-B939-2852335A46F5From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

Get ready for it, libraries & book stores. This is going to be big.

Lisa Jewell has delivered a taut, nail-biting story of love, obsession, betrayal, and murder in a way that keeps you reading long after bedtime. Told from three perspectives – siblings Henry & Lucy and “the baby” Libby, this story winds back and forth between the 1980s/90s and the present, eventually revealing the truth about a suicide pact that killed Henry & Lucy’s parents and an unidentified man.

Relatively short chapters keep you riveted as you move between Henry’s caustic but helpless commentary on the subjugation of his family to megalomaniac David Thomsen, Lucy’s present-day struggles as a single mother and victim of an abusive relationship, and Libby’s experiences as she explores the house left to her in trust where, she learns, her “parents” died.

Jewell’s psycho-gothic story joins similar edge-of-your-seat books from Ruth Ware, AJ Finn and Gillian Flynn. Recommended.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last Thing She Said by Lauren Carr

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the last thingBook Description: ​“I’m working on the greatest mystery ever,” was the last thing noted mystery novelist Mercedes Livingston said to seven-year-old Chris Matheson before walking out of Hill House Hotel never to be seen again. For decades, the writer’s fate remained a puzzling mystery until an autographed novel and a letter put a grown-up Chris Matheson on the trail of a cunning killer.

With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris puts a flame to this cold case to uncover what really happened that night Mercedes Livingston walked out of Hill House Hotel.

It can be difficult to jump into later entries in a series, but this one worked. While the characters are the same from book to book, the plot here stands alone and it’s a good one. Carr writes with tongue firmly in cheek and skillfully blends mystery, humor, and romance in an entertaining romp.

The inventive plot focusing on a missing author and her whereabouts for 40 years held my interest to the point that I got cranky when I had to put the book down. I enjoyed the characters and their quirks, but I will admit that I found the whole subplot about the German Shepard shenanigans silly and pointless. Other reviewers found it charming, so to each their own, right?

Lauren Carr has written a lot of books, many of them featuring the characters included here. I enjoyed this one so much that I plan on dipping into some of her other series. Recommended for mystery fans.

Book Details:

  • Book Title:  The Last Thing She Said (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #3) by Lauren Carr
  • Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  386 pages
  • Genre:  Mystery Publisher:  Acorn Book Services
  • Release date:   July 22, 2019
  • Formats available for purchase:  paperback, ebook, audiobook (audible & itunes)
  • Tour dates: October 7 to November 15, 2019
  • Content Rating:  PG-13

Buy the Book:

  • Amazon.com
  • Add to Goodreads​​

Try these other titles by Lauren Carr!

Winds of Winter

Chris Matheson and the Geezer Squad, working under the guise of a book club, dig into the events surrounding his late wife’s supposed death halfway around the globe. A state department employee shoots himself in the back three times. A CIA operative goes missing. A woman is targeted by an international assassin three years after being declared dead in a terrorist attack overseas.  Nothing is as it seems.  In his most personal cold case, Chris fights to uncover why the state department told him that Blair, the mother of his children, had been killed when she was alive. What had she uncovered that has made her a target? Who terrified her so much that she had gone into hiding and why are they now after him?

 

ICE ​When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappeared, the court of public opinion found young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted.  With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

 

ICE is a strong start to a new series that will have fans of Lauren Carr thrilled to be introduced to another set of memorable and entertaining characters. Carr’s Geezer Squad has brought sexy back to mature men and women, whose kickass attitude and smarts sizzle as they melt the clues to those cold cases!
Laura Fabiani, Library of Clean Reads

Meet the Author:

2018_lauren_carr_pic Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns! Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor. Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook Instagram

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Doorways to the Deadeye by Eric Guignard


cover170618-mediumFrom the Publisher: Luke Thacker is a drifting hobo in Depression-era America, riding the rails of the nation and surviving by crumbs and hope. Along the way he learns the iconography of transients—the Hobo Code—better than anyone else and deciphers a secret that thrusts him into Athanasia, the middle ground of memories. He learns that Athanasia exists around us, a realm in which the deceased persevere by how they are remembered, and the memories Luke meets will do anything to not ever be forgotten, whether by trickery, violence, or daring.

Luke learns, too, that what’s remembered yesterday is not always the same as what will be remembered tomorrow, and he sets off to keep alive the memories of those he loves in the way a ’bo does best: telling tales of old legends, and making up new ones alike. Fifty years later, the tall crossbucks of Luke Thacker are repeated by homeless King Shaw, who’s struggling to keep Luke’s own legend alive and with it, perhaps, his own.

’Cause it don’t matter if you rob banks with a dead John Dillinger, are hunted over the years by vengeful Earp brothers, or go against the monstrous railroad guard, Smith McCain: When a story is told, all who are part of it become a little stronger.

It’s been awhile since I read a book that has stayed with me as long as this one. I picked this one up mostly because I’ve been fascinated by the Hobo Code since reading about something similar in The Adventure of the Dancing Men by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The idea that it is a secret code that leads to an alternate reality is fascinating, and the alternate reality, Athanasia, is utterly remarkable.

There is so much to unpack with this story, which, really, is about stories and how they are used to keep memories alive. Storytelling goes back to the earliest days of humans, where people used stories as a way to remember and to teach. Guignard uses that in a cautionary way when describing the inhabitants of Athanasia and how their actions cross over from memory to real life in very unexpected ways. I was particularly fascinated with the American Revolutionary characters included here, and Guignard’s presentation of how the memories of one particular Founding Father persist was rather frightening.

The commentary on truth and how storytelling is designed to take “truth” and make it bigger is something the reader will think about for a long time. The desire to be remembered is something we all experience, but some need more. In many ways, this story is an allegory for our current rabid social media culture, where people so crave attention that they make up personas and lifestyles just to be noticed and remembered.

This would make an excellent choice for book discussions. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: July 26, 2019
Published By: JournalStone
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Inland by Tea Obreht


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From the Publisher: In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.

Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek at last intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely—and unforgettably—her own.

Obreht’s storytelling is at its finest in this magical and gritty tale of two unlikely heroes who inhabit entirely different worlds. Obreht moves back and forth between Nora, a frontierswoman possibly abandoned by her husband and adult sons trying to keep herself and young son alive during a drought and Lurie, an orphan, outlaw, and cameleer trying to stay a step ahead of the law and alive.

Both Nora and Lurie navigate their way through life aided by “ghosts.” For Nora, it’s the ghost of her dead daughter and for Lurie, it’s primarily the ghost of his adopted brother who died of typhoid. Nora’s ghost, Evelyn, acts as a sounding board for Nora, allowing her to test ideas and often tempering her wilder ideas. Lurie’s ghost, Hobb, goads him into theft by instilling an undeniable want that Lurie cannot resist.

While I kept expecting the two stories to come together sooner and in a stronger way, the way things turned out was really pretty perfect. This stands tall along with recent American West stories News of the World and Whiskey When We’re Dry. Recommended.

Praise for Inland

“As it should be, the landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered throughout. . . . Here, Obreht’s simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West’s beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“Beautifully wrought.”—Vanity Fair

“Obreht is the kind of writer who can forever change the way you think about a thing, just through her powers of description. . . . Inland is an ambitious and beautiful work about many things: immigration, the afterlife, responsibility, guilt, marriage, parenthood, revenge, all the roads and waterways that led to America. Miraculously, it’s also a page-turner and a mystery, as well as a love letter to a camel, and, like a camel, improbable and splendid, something to happily puzzle over at first and take your breath away at the end.”—Elizabeth McCracken, O: The Oprah Magazine

Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Published By: Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden


cover165699-mediumFrom the Publisher: Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the Smiling Man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

Horror for kids is not an easy genre, but with this second book featuring Ollie, Coco, and Brian, Katherine Arden cements her place as the Queen of Shivers for middle grade readers. Picking up a couple months after the events of Small Spaces, we find our plucky trio trapped in a remote ski lodge by a doozy of a snowstorm. As the action progresses, the three find their courage and friendship tested again by the Smiling Man and a gaggle of ghosts.

Arden is adept at creating an atmosphere that will leave you shivering and glancing over your shoulder at every little sound. She makes this old ski lodge seem like the creepiest, scariest place ever, and that’s before she opens another dimension. The horror is countered by the solid friendship enjoyed by Coco, Ollie and Brian, and by the growing affection between Coco’s mother and Ollie’s father.

Arden also focuses the action on the kids using their brains to think their way out of the scary situations. Coco and Ollie especially rely on deductive reasoning to ultimately defeat the Smiling Man.

With this second entry in the series, Katherine Arden takes her place on my scary story bookshelves with Mary Downing Hahn, R.L. Stine, and Patricia Clapp. Recommended.

Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Published By: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson


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From the Publisher: An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other, from the New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

There are few writers who can tell the real, deep story of a family as beautifully as Jacqueline Woodson. Here, she takes a seemingly simple story of 16 year old Melody and her “coming of age” ceremony and uses it to reveal the passion, desire, betrayal, trauma, and love that led to the moment she descends the stairs of her grandparents home to the instrumental music of Prince.

Woodson exposes family history with a scalpel – lifting up a flap of skin to reveal the bloody but strong sinew underneath which tethers a family together. She does not shy away from hard things like racism, violence, sex, and lost opportunities but uses those common experiences across generations to demonstrate how damn hard it is to keep your children from repeating your own stories.

Give this book to every teen you know.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Published By: Penguin
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Tale of Witchwood Park by S.W. Develin


cover171821-mediumEmily Spellmaker is missing. She didn’t return to Witchwood Park Elementary and Kendra, the shy little girl she befriended, is heartbroken. Kendra waits alone after school each day until the Tuesday a troll walks out of the woods. He chooses Kendra, Jimmy (the school bully), and Daniel (an outcast) to come on a magical journey where they must overcome an evil queen and her Army of the Faceless to free an enslaved land. In the process they learn who they really are and what friendship means, while getting closer to solving the mystery of Emily Spellmaker.

This lovely tale about the power of storytelling will appeal to early-mid level readers who cut their teeth on animated fantasies like Frozen, Rapunzel, and Brave. We’re drawn in to the story as a troll appears in a schoolyard, looking for a Queen, a Knight, and Something Else. He connects with three misfits – Daniel, the boy who never gets picked for soccer; Kendra, a quiet little girl who can’t seem to function when around people; and Jimmy, the bully who can never do anything right.

The story moves quickly, as the troll leads the children into the Witchwood, where an amazing adventure awaits. Each child discovers something extraordinary about themselves as they work together to save the magical kingdom they’ve found.

I thoroughly enjoyed the premise that the Witchwood and the events of the story itself were created through Kendra’s storytelling, which she uses to cope with her every-day life. Relatively short, with a quick, action-packed pace, this will appeal to boys and girls alike.

Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

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cover161593-mediumFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, and The Death of Mrs. Westaway comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fifth novel.

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Ruth Ware is one of those authors who delivers clever, imaginative stories again and again. Turn of the Key joins her earlier work and more than lives up to the hype and anticipation surrounding its publication. With nods to classics like Turn of the Screw and Rebecca, Ware tells an imaginative tale of an emotionally damaged young woman dropped into the middle of one of the strangest family situations I’ve read in a very long time. Ware takes the remote-old-house trope and drags it into the 21st century by adding smart-house technology, thereby creating a truly all-seeing, electronic “Mrs. Danvers,” which is enough to make anyone shiver in their boots.

As she does, Ware drops bombs of information gradually throughout the story, which serve to keep the reader saying “just one more page,” and which had me reading well into the night. The final bombshell was one that I had thought about but dismissed as too awful, but there it was…making me put the book down, close my eyes, and sigh deeply.

One of the things I appreciate about Ware’s writing is her subtle but well-crafted attention to characters and their relationships. In Death of Mrs. Westaway, the relationship between siblings was key; here it’s the relationship between fathers and daughters that sparks and drives the action, creating layer upon layer of plot.

I look forward to more from Ms. Ware’s imagination! Recommended.

Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Published By: Gallery Pocket Scout
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


cover165563-mediumFrom the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom.

From the Publisher: Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a remarkable and important writer, perhaps one of the most important to emerge in the last few years. His first foray into fiction writing is a heartbreaking, uplifting, lyrical masterpiece. Family is the one thing that can keep people going, even through the hardest of times. Family today can mean many things, and people find family where they can. Coates gives us an intimate view of what family meant to slaves living on plantations in the South in the 19th century, where a child or a parent could be sold and sent away at any time. Try to imagine living under a condition like that. I cannot fathom it, and that makes me more aware of the science and research around post-traumatic slave syndrome.

Here, Hiram loses all memory of his mother when she is sold away, and he spends his life trying to recover from that loss. Along the way, he comes to understand that his people, the Taskers, have a unique relationship to the earth, the sky, the water, and to each other. Coates tells a story imbued with the magic of creation and re-building as we follow Hiram from South to North and back again, driven and guided by his own gifts and spirit.

This is not to be missed. Highly recommended.

Advance praise for The Water Dancer

“In prose that sings and imagination that soars, Coates further cements himself as one of this generation’s most important writers, tackling one of America’s oldest and darkest periods with grace and inventiveness. This is bold, dazzling, and not to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Coates brings his considerable talent for racial and social analysis to his debut novel, which captures the brutality of slavery and explores the underlying truth that slaveholders could not dehumanize the enslaved without also dehumanizing themselves. Beautifully written, this is a deeply and soulfully imagined look at slavery and human aspirations.”—Booklist (starred review)

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Published By: Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Old Success by Martha Grimes


9780802147400_250cdFrom the publisher: In The Old Success, the twenty-fifth mystery in the bestselling Richard Jury series by MWA Grand Master Martha Grimes, an unlikely trio of detectives teams up to solve three puzzling murders that span three counties across England.

When the body of a French woman washes up on a wild inlet off the Cornish coast, Brian Macalvie, divisional commander with the Devon-Cornwall police is called in. Who could have killed this beautiful tourist, the only visible footprints nearby belonging to the two little girls who found her?

While Macalvie stands in the Scilly Islands, inspector Richard Jury–twenty miles away on Land’s End—is at The Old Success pub, sharing a drink with the legendary former CID detective Tom Brownell, a man renowned for solving every case he undertook. Except one.

In the days following the mysterious slaying of the Parisian tourist, two other murders take place: first, a man is found dead in a country estate, then a holy duster turns up murdered at the Exeter Cathedral. Macalvie, Jury and Brownell set out to discover whether these three killings, though very different in execution, are connected. Written with Grimes’s signature wit, sly plotting, and gloriously offbeat characters, The Old Success is prime fare from “one of the most fascinating mystery writers today” (Houston Chronicle).

Reading an advanced review copy months before publication is always tricky. Sometimes the text is well developed and edited; other times you find the skeleton of a plot with some muscle and sinew but little flesh. That’s what I found with The Old Success.

The plot is classic Martha Grimes, featuring several mysterious deaths all eventually tied together by one long thread which is slowly untangled by the cast of characters. There is the usual witty repartee between series regulars Jury and Plant, mouthy kids, deceitful killers, and appearances by the Long Piddleton crew, the gorgeous Carolanne Palutski, and my favorite detective Brian Macalvie.

However, there’s so much connective tissue missing here that it’s like reading the graphic novel version.

As a decades-long Grimes reader, I can see the strong bones here and plan to buy this when it’s published, hoping that I will find a fully fleshed out story. The plot is every bit as clever as my all-time favorite Grimes book, The Old Fox Deceiv’d, and I do enjoy Jury & Plant in any form, but this needs more words. One final caveat: this is not a stand-alone novel since it references events and characters from previous books.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Published By: Atlantic Monthly Press
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy