Thursday 13 December 2018

Review: Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson

Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson
Publisher: Mulholland Books 
Publication date: December 13th 2018.
My rating: 4 stars

We all know someone like Becca. She has the job everyone wants, a designer wardrobe, a hot-shot lawyer boyfriend, holidays to exotic locations. And she flaunts her perfect life all over social media. It drove her colleague Lizzie mad, but she couldn't stop looking. They were never really friends - and yet Lizzie knew everything about her. Or did she? When chance, and a terrible mistake, pulls Lizzie back into Becca's orbit years after they lost touch, she'll realise that you can't always believe what you see online... and that finding out the truth might be the worst thing you can do. There's no such thing as a perfect life. Only a perfect lie.

I’m not normally one to pick up psychological thrillers, but when it comes to Alderson’s books, I have no hesitation in picking them up, and I’m glad that I ended up giving this book a go, because it seriously messes with your head (in the best way!). Alderson works the unreliable narrator role work so well here, the book starts off with a chapter from an unknown perspective, we don’t really know what’s going on, but as the book progresses you’re led to believe the narrator’s voice. She’s been through a rough time and you really have no reason not to trust her, so when we’re given a chapter from an alternative perspective, I was like no that can’t be true and to be honest I didn’t want to believe this side of the story at all. To the point that I got to right the end of the story and still couldn’t believe what had taken place.  

I don’t want to say too much without giving a lot away, but I’ve always assumed that I’m a pretty good judge of character, but with Friends Like These I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was so swept away by this character’s story and later ordeal that she had to go through because of this other person, that I was totally left dumbfounded by the end of the book. Once again, I have to praise Alderson here with messing with my head, as I could never have imagined that things would have gone down, the way that they had. On top of this my feelings were left all over the place with me wanting to take back all the anger and hate that I had directed at one character throughout the story towards the person that had deserved it all along.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book by Alderson, but thank you once again for luring me in with this masterpiece. The only reason I wasn’t able to give this book the five stars it deserves it because of the sick, yet gut wrenching ending, which I’m not sure I’ll ever get over. 

Monday 15 October 2018

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

I loved Rebecca so I'm excited to feature The Winters by Lisa Gabriele since the story was inspired by those classics.  The book description reads like a re-telling of Rebecca to me, and that story is classic suspense with a bit of romance.  Sounds like an exciting read! Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win a copy of The Winters!

Publication Date: October 16th 2018 by Viking
Purchase Links:

About the book:

“From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless. . . . A must read.” —Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a spellbindingly suspenseful novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can’t be escaped

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

A Conversation with Lisa Gabriele
Author of The Winters

  1. The Winters begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women—our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female relationships, power, and sexuality?

Yes. I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in Rebecca, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly The Winters became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. I mean, think about all the different ways patriarchy still shapes and molds our lives as women. My narrator certainly has agency, she has a job of her own that she’s quite good at, and a potential role model of a single working woman, but despite this, she’s still deeply susceptible to the lure of a “happily ever after.” And with Max’s daughter Dani, I got to play around with some of my worst fears around young women and social media, on the difficulty of getting your new boyfriend’s kid to accept you, and about feminism’s so-called generational divide. Dani is 15 going on 40, an heiress with a chauffeur, a tutor, and thirty thousand Instagram followers. She isn’t going to make life easy for her new stepmother-to-be. And what better wedge for her to use than the memory of her dead (perfect) mother, Rebekah? The relationship between her and the narrator was explosively fun to write. But this time, the primary question that hovers over the narrator’s image of the dead Rebekah isn’t about her sexuality, but rather her role as a mother—a much more loaded question these days.

  1. The Winters is inspired in part by Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca—an instant bestseller, first published in 1938, that has never gone out of print, reportedly selling 50,000 copies a year. And it’s obvious you’re a fan. What do you love about it, and what made you use it as the launching point for your novel?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Rebecca. My mother, who died almost twenty years ago, introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book, but anger drove me to write mine.

  1. Much of The Winters is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Why did you choose that setting?

I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast of The Great Gatsby, and the deceptively serene town in The Amityville Horror. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. However, to pull off the violent conclusion, I also needed a location that wasn’t only private, but remote. In the research stage, I visited the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead and read about Gardiner’s Island. It’s one of the biggest swaths of privately owned land in America, purchased by Lion Gardiner from the Montaukett Indians in the 1600s, in exchange for a large black dog and some Dutch blankets. Today it’s worth more than $125 million dollars so keeping the island in the family has driven generations of Gardiners to sometimes concoct nefarious plots. So Winter’s Island was born, as was a motive for murder. I changed some geographic details, but the rest of its history and topography, its dense forests, the old ruins, the private beach and thick, marshy shores, are the same. Then there’s the mansion. I love a looming turret, so I made Asherley a Queen Anne Victorian—spookier, in my opinion, than the typical center hall design from the Gilded Age. Entering the house, with its paneled walls, oak and marble floors and mullioned windows, the reader falls back in time. The only modern touch is a dramatic, star-shaped greenhouse, Rebekah’s pride and joy, lodged, incongruously and a little violently, against the house, a constant reminder that this was once her domain. 

  1. As our narrator spends more time at Asherley and begins to discover her new family’s dark secrets, The Winters becomes a gripping slow-burn thriller. What are your tricks for building suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat?   

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” With The Winters I never set out to “write a thriller.” I just metaphorically made my headlights a little dimmer and the road ahead a little snakier, but kept the speed the same, (barely) avoiding smashing through the guardrails. Also the whole story is told from one POV. The narrator’s. We are only in her head. We only know what she knows. And she’s fed different versions of the same stories. So who to trust? You can also use short staccato sentences. They ratchet up the tension. Sometimes.

  1. Like many fictional politicians—from House of Cards’ Frank Underwood to the Senator in Joyce Carol Oates’ Black Water—Max Winter is powerful, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. Why did you choose politics for Max’s career, and what made you want to dip into that world? 

As I mentioned above, the 2016 U.S. election consumed me, and the subsequent presidency has upended all norms. It’s been a struggle to keep up with the controversies, the news being, for this former journalist, a constant distraction. But it’s also a source of inspiration. So I stopped fighting it. Since I couldn’t get away from the news, I folded some of my current fixations into my book. I didn’t want to date the book, or bog it down in current affairs, but divisive politics, and the corrosive effects of both social media and (questionable) Russian money on modern American life all make cameos. Presciently I finished the book at the start of the #metoo movement, which, like my book, demonstrates how important it is to believe women.

  1. You’ve been a journalist and an award-winning producer, in both radio and TV, for more than twenty years. When (and how) does your journalism background seep into your novels?

It always does, sometimes subtly and sometimes more obviously, but I am first and foremost a journalist. The books I write require research to get the settings, tone, and era right, but it’s my favorite part of the job. And for me it’s unavoidable. My characters tend to arrive almost fully formed. So when the unnamed narrator of The Winters insisted she worked on boats, and Max decided to run for reelection in Suffolk County, I had some research to do. Learning about politics at the state level and proper boat terminology was interesting and fun. But I also consult experts. I reached out to a PhD in mortuary archeology to confirm how many years it would take for a body buried in a shallow grave to completely turn to skin and bones. And, thankfully, one of my best friends is a family lawyer, so I ran by her all the details about conservatorships and inheritances. The hardest part was trying to understand the murderous lengths to which some people will go to maintain their wealth and privilege, but one need only turn on CNN these days for that kind of research.

  1. The Winters takes many of its cues from classic novels—a plain unassuming heroine; a dashing older gentleman; a lavish estate; an inconvenient first wife. But the ending is decidedly more modern—even feminist. Without giving too much away, can you speak to how you went about crafting a contemporary version of these kinds of novels?

Writing a modern book that that still pays tribute to a beloved classic is a tricky balancing act. I am a huge fan of the ones done well: Jane Smiley’s King Lear redux, A Thousand Acres, Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea (which is actually a prequel to Jane Eyre, which du Maurier herself retold with Rebecca), Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible (a hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice), and Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility. The best ones preserve the original’s landmarks, though the terrain is completely different. They’re written in a contemporary style, though a sharp-eyed reader will spot my own iambic hexameter. And while the characters feel familiar, they’re not facsimiles. No character embodies all of these ideas more than Dani Winter, a 15-year old girl with all the traits of the average Millenial, minus any disadvantages. She has everything a girl her age could want, plus total freedom and the run of the house. She plays with her mother’s clothes and makeup, and the stories she tells about her run completely counter to her father’s. This presents a very current dilemma for our narrator. Does she believe the man she loves or his bratty kid? Dani becomes, then, a reminder that we longer live in an era where stories men tell about women take primacy over the ones they tell about themselves, as the #metoo movement is proving. Women just aren’t having that anymore. I know Dani’s generation isn’t.

  1. Finally, considering the evocative setting of The Winters, where do you think is the best place to read a book like this?

You should read The Winters at one of my favorite hotels, The Chequit Inn, on Shelter Island. You should be sitting on the deep front porch that overlooks the Peconic River, sipping sweet tea. Funny enough, in a very early draft I wrote a scene where our teary, breathless narrator, running for her life, bursts into the lobby of The Chequit Inn demanding to use their phone. They let her. They get her a glass of water and calm her down. They offer her a chair. In the end, the incredible staff at even my imaginary Chequit Inn sucked the tension right out of the scene, so I had to redirect.

A copy of The Winters has be kindly provided for a giveaway by Viking to one lucky reader.  The giveaway is open to US Residents only.  Simply fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win. Good luck!

Friday 12 October 2018

Box of Books Giveaway: 22 Books!

Hello fellow readers! It's been a while, but I'm back with a Box of Books Giveaway.  Twenty-two books this time, so it's a big one! The giveaway is open to US Residents only otherwise the shipping would kill me. :)  Just fill in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Good luck!

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion-Hardcover
Sick by Tom Leveen-Paperback ARC
Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor-Hardcover signed by author
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo-Paperback ARC
Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson-Paperback Copy
Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson-Paperback Copy
Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb-Paperback ARC
Balthazar by Claudia Gray-Hardcover signed by author to me
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-Hardcover
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins-Hardcover
Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins-Hardcover
Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones-Paperback ARC signed by author to me
Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan-Paperback ARC
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black-Paperback ARC
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas-Paperback ARC
Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock-Paperback ARC
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand-Hardcover signed by author to me
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand-Hardcover signed by author to me
Boundless by Cynthia Hand-Hardcover signed by author
The Young Elites by Marie Lu-Paperback ARC signed by author
The Rose Society by Marie Lu-Hardcover signed by author 
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler-Hardcover signed by author to me

Friday 14 September 2018

Review: Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle

Through the Fire (Rocky MountainK9 Unit #4) by Katie Ruggle
Publication date: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
My rating:  3.5 Stars
Pages: 416
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | TBD | Kobo

He's tall.
He's dark.
He's brutally handsome...
And he may be her only hope.

Kit Jernigan despairs of ever fitting in with her new tight-knit K9 unit—they've been through too much to welcome a stranger. So when a killer strikes, it's a fight to convince her fellow officers to trust her long enough to catch the woman she knows is responsible.

She can't do it on her own. What she needs most is a partner: local fire spotter Wesley March.

Wes knows in his heart that Kit is right, and he's willing to leave his lonely tower to help her prove it. But the more time they spend together, the hotter the fire smolders...and the more danger they're in. A member of the K9 unit's inner circle is determined to have her revenge—no matter who gets burned in the process.

This time, it's personal.

My Thoughts:
Kit has moved up to Monroe, Colorado to get away from a bad situation in her previous job as an officer with K9 companion.  But Kit doesn’t realize the drama that’s gone on in Monroe since she’s applied for and accepted her position.  It’s obvious when she first starts that it’ll be a while before her fellow officers accept and trust her, and this is a bit discouraging to Kit. They all seem to love her bloodhound Justice, though.  Then there’s Elena, also a new arrival who sets off all kinds of alarms.  Her damsel-in-distress act doesn’t fool Kit one bit, but just about everyone else including her fellow officers seems to buy her act. Despite some of these obstacles Kit is determined to work hard and gain trust. Plus, there’s Wes a gorgeous, but awkward forest ranger, as she’s arrived in to town doesn’t hurt. 

Really liked Kit and Wes.  The way she just got Wes and found him to be so utterly attractive even with his awkward social interactions.  Wes was immediately attracted to Kit and was over the moon that she didn’t seem repelled by his lack of social skills.  She seemed to understand and accommodate the fact he got overwhelmed in a group.  AND (!) he didn’t fall prey to Elena’s helpless girl act was a huge positive in my book!

Loved the relationship Kit had with her adorable bloodhound K9 tracker partner, Justice, and that she was willing to help Sam with his training of Fifi, another bloodhound.

I’ve really enjoyed Katie Ruggle’s romantic suspense stories, and her Rocky Mountain K9 Unit has been filled with thrills and danger! I had fun with Through the Fire, but I wasn’t pleased that Kit’s concerns over Elena were ignored or brushed aside. It seemed unbelievable in a few instances. Didn’t like that it took so long for the guys to believe Kit after enough red flags pointed Elena’s direction. Just the fact that Sam didn’t like her should’ve registered with Jules and the gang!  Still, the fact that I loved the awkward and sweet romance between Kit and Wes made up for the disappointment.


Tuesday 4 September 2018

Romantic Fantasy Giveaway & Spotlight!

Hi there. I'm super excited to feature this Romantic Fantasy Starter Kit giveaway, because it includes several of my favorite romantic fantasy series! Click HERE for the link to enter. 

You have a chance to win six first-in-series:

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh
Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews 
Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1) by Patricia Briggs
Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Wild Hunger (Chicagoland Vampires #1) by Chloe Neil

Today I'm spotlighting one of the books in the giveaway: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven!

Ace Trade Paperback | September 25, 2018

A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different. 

Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.

Praise for Phoenix Unbound:

New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews sums up the book:
 “Fierce and captivating, PHOENIX UNBOUND is the story of a gladiator and a fire witch fighting for their freedom against an empire that wants them enslaved.  With impossible odds, breathtaking battles, terrifying magic, and an unlikely love, this book is a must read. Grace Draven is a master of romantic heroic fantasy.”

Grace Draven is a Louisiana native living in Texas with her husband, kids and a big, doofus dog. She is the winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and a USA Today Bestselling author. Find out more about Grace Draven online at

Love Psy-Changeling, Kate Daniels, The Others, and Alpha & Omega series! Awesome giveaway, right?!  Click HERE for a chance to win all six books (listed above). Good luck!
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