“Still Missing”–Review

51lenbozeel-_sx304_bo1204203200_The story begins with Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, who had three goals for the day: sell a home, forget about that trivial argument she had with her demanding mother, and to be home on time to have dinner with her boyfriend.  After a slow day at the open house, Annie starts packing up to prepare for an evening with her boyfriend, Luke.  Then a van pulls up in front of the house and a good-looking, friendly man steps out and approaches the house.  Although Annie was all ready to head out, she figured giving a last-minute potential buyer a tour of the place couldn’t hurt.

But that turned out to be a mistake.

The story alternates between the year Annie had spent in isolation with her captor and her sessions with her psychiatrist.  She goes into the details of her being beaten, raped, and controlled by a psychopath who apparently had plans for her, including her escape and the ongoing police investigations leading to the truth about Annie’s captor.

This book had one surprise after another and I think it was worth reading.  Just when it seemed as if everything were going to be all right, another twist occurred.  Annie was struggling to put her life back together, yet it never seemed to be over.  I was definitely hooked.  If you’re a fan of thrillers, this may be for you.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

*I received this copy from St. Martin’s Press for review purposes.

About the author: Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. While holding an open house one afternoon, she had a terrifying idea that became the inspiration for Still Missing. Chevy eventually sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book. Still Missing went on to become a New York Times bestseller and win the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.  Chevy’s books have been optioned for movies and are published in more than thirty countries.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

You can also check out her page here.

Words of Discouragement? I Think Not.

I am participating in the writing contest, You Deserve to Be Inspired, hosted by Positive Writer.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my mother asked me when I was a kid.  “An author,” I said.  At that time, I was influenced by almost any books my older sister read when we were kids.  And then my journal writing began when I was in the fifth grade and I became addicted to writing every day.  Every now and then, I’d write a story or two.  But why I wound up throwing them away, afterward, was beyond me.  Perhaps the story ideas were just terrible or I feared embarrassment should someone discover what I’d written.

No matter, I stuck with my writing routine.  I daydreamed.  I wrote about what I liked, what I didn’t like, new ideas, etc.  In high school, I had a novel in progress, but I never told anyone about it.  I do remember rewriting it a few times.  Ideas were constantly changing and I didn’t know how to go about it, sometimes.  I was still unsure as to what I was going to do with it when and if it was done.  Fear may have been holding me back.  But what was scaring me?

When time passed, though, I put the story away, with the same idea that the story was terrible and wasn’t going to go anywhere, that the story was boring even me.  In November 2014, however, I’d surprised myself by bringing that novel back, just with a new storyline.  One year later—while I was tempted to quit dozens of times—the first draft was finally done.  What an emotional rollercoaster it was while typing up the last few chapters.

In my mind, I was thanking those who encouraged me to keep writing, including those with negative comments.  Yes, even those with negative comments because it made me think back to my sophomore year in high school.  I don’t remember which class it was, nor do I remember the teacher’s name.  During class, we were assigned something involving career choices.  All I remember was that the instructions looked as if they were written in another language.  Really, I could have asked questions, yet I was a bit of a lazy student.  Also, I was the type who was often afraid of asking questions.  So I marked off anything at random, with the assumption I knew what I was doing.

Afterward, the teacher had one-on-one discussions with us regarding the categories we selected.  Once she looked over my work, she appeared confused by my answers, but then explained how the assignment was supposed to be done.  Then she asked me a bunch of questions about my interests and that’s when I told her about my writing.  I don’t recall every question she asked, but I remember her asking if I spoke more than one language.  I said no.  Every answer I’d provided to every question, in the end, forced her to look right at me and say, “Then you can’t be a writer.”  This was coming from someone who’s never read anything I’ve written. I’ve had my share of teachers bullying me, but never has any one of them said what that teacher said to me.  But the worst part was that I didn’t even defend myself.  She must have thought I was a complete idiot.  So I’d spaced out in class.  Was I so terrible?

I never sulked about it, though, nor did I go home and cry to my mother.  Perhaps I was realizing that that was only one person’s opinion.  This teacher may not have been too fond of me, but that didn’t stop me from writing.  In fact, I never did tell anyone what the teacher said.  I suppose I really didn’t care what she thought.

So when the first draft of my novel was completed in October 2015, I thought, “I can’t be a writer, huh?  Hmm, I don’t know.  It may have taken a year of struggling, but somehow I did it.”  And I’ll keep doing it.  At times, I still can’t believe I made it happen. Who knows what’ll happen with my writing?  But after seeing all the progress I’ve made, I realized it’s worth the hard work.

Throughout this writing journey, I’ve learned some things:

 

  1. People will have their own opinions and that’s okay. We can’t please everyone, so don’t let their words stop you.
  2. Even if you have ideas you feel are terrible, hold onto them, anyhow; they may be helpful in the future. Never did I expect to bring back that story I’d created years ago and actually finish it.
  3. Although we all struggle with a particular goal, it’s important that we believe in ourselves. We’ll get there, eventually.

 

So to my high school teacher—whose name escapes me—thanks for your words, because I’m still writing, no matter anyone’s opinions.

“Behind Her Eyes”–Review

61gp9iiebal-_sx329_bo1204203200_David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling?

Louise is a single mom who has been in a rut since her divorce. One evening, at a bar, however, she meets an attractive man and they both hit it off. Even though they’d spent that evening only kissing, it was the first in a long time since Louise felt good about having someone touch her.

At the start of a new week, Louise begins her new secretary position at a psychiatrist’s office. And that’s when she meets her new boss, David: the man from the bar, who also happens to be married. Although they agree that their kiss was a mistake, neither one can stop thinking about the other.

When she least expects it, Louise bumps into Adele—David’s wife. Adele insists she’s new in town and seeking a friend. While guilt-ridden, Louise doesn’t feel right about accepting sweet Adele’s friendship.  However, the more time she spends with Adele, the more suspicious Louise becomes of Adele and David’s marriage. Adele doesn’t work.  She often appears anxious at certain hours when she’s expecting David’s phone calls. And her everyday routine is as if she has a curfew. And why is it that David never speaks of his marriage? And is David abusive, according to Adele?

While Louise struggles with her decision to tell David about her friendship with Adele, more strange behavior and secrets accumulate, putting the three of them at risk.  Because Louise constantly hears two sides to the stories, she realizes something isn’t right in this marriage and there seem to be more questions than answers. Although she’s advised to back off, Louise risks her life to get the answers she needs.

I think the storyline, itself, was pretty good. Each chapter speaks from Adele’s and Louise’s points of view, with the occasional chapters from Adele and David’s past. As for the ending, it did surprise me. To be honest, though, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole story. I didn’t love it, yet I didn’t hate it. I became curious about Adele’s plans and David’s reasons for his own behavior. Every chapter made me wonder whose side I should take. Even though there’s been a lot of hype about the ending, it just didn’t move me. But don’t let that discourage you from checking it out. You may enjoy it, perhaps.

Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

Behind Her Eyes will be released on January 31, 2017.

About the author: Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed adult and YA author based in London. Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development. Her next novel, Behind Her Eyes, coming for HarperFiction in the UK and Flatiron in the US (January 2017) has sold in over 20 territories worldwide and is a dark thriller about relationships with a kicker of a twist. Follow her on Twitter. You also can check out her page here.

“The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living”–Review

51whg08igcl-_sx328_bo1204203200_Good afternoon, fellow bloggers!  Here’s a review of one of my most recent reads for my online book club.  Enjoy.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope.

Olivia Rawlings is a pastry chef extraordinare for an exclusive Boston dinner club.  One evening, however, her flambéed dessert catches fire, including the rest of the building.  Feeling humilated, Olivia decides she needs to get away, so she packs a few things, including her dog, Salty, and drives out to Guthrie, Vermont—home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah.  Although her stay is supposed to be temporary, Olivia is offered a job as a pastry chef for Margaret Hurley, the uptight owner of the Sugar Maple Inn.  Assuming her days at the club are numbered—including the fact that she’s broke and can’t pay her rent—Olivia takes the job.

With a new job, including free room and board, Livvy creates her famous desserts for the Guthrie residents.  It isn’t long, however, before she learns of the reason for being hired: to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest. No matter, Livvy is a team player.

During her stay, she begins to grow accustomed to the country life.  Will it be worth staying?  Or will she eventually go back to Boston?  Then Livvy meets Martin McCraken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to help out his sick father.  As she gets to know Martin more, Livvy realizes she’s not as alone and confused in the world as she’d assumed.  Then an unexpected arrival occurs in Guthrie, leaving Livvy to decide whether to stay or go, and what it means to truly be home.

I think this was a great story.  It tells the reader that not only does life not turn out the way we planned, it could be even better than we’d expected.  Also, if you’re a foodie, this could be the book for you.  Honestly, my reading the parts where desserts were being prepared made me crave pie.  The only thing I’ve baked is a cake, which was years ago.  The corners of the cake were cracked, but I was happy for my progress.  Perhaps I’ll learn to bake a pie, one day.

As always, feel free to comment.  Happy reading!

About the author: Louise Miller is a pastry chef and writer who lives and works in Boston, MA. She received a scholarship to attend GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, a yearlong workshop for novelists. She is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is her debut novel.

“Not Exactly Love”–Review

41gn49ulxjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Part memoir, part warm-hearted look at the ’70s, and part therapeutic journey, Not Exactly Love: A Memoir is an intense and inspirational story of a woman who grew from her experience.

It was in 1969 when Betty—a single schoolteacher—met Jack, a handsome but edgy new teacher at her school.  When they got to know each other, they clicked instantly.  Their relationship was filled with happy times and Betty couldn’t ask for anything more…

But when they got married, Jack was a different person.  He was quick-tempered.  He’d easily get angry about anything, taking it all out on Betty.  His fits of rage constantly ended up in verbal and physical violence.  Every day seemed to be unpredictable.  Was Jack going to be in a good mood?  Was he going to be angry?  Betty had to live with her decisions on a daily basis.  When Jack was loving, Betty tried to assure herself that their lives would be better.  But when the rage would come back, she didn’t know what to do.

Because nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S. suffer from physical violence from a partner, Betty had to see the reality of her marriage and decide whether or not her marriage was worth saving or to save her own life.

This is great memoir.  It was almost like reading a thriller novel.  It’s just sad to think about situations such as these because, although it doesn’t excuse it, there’s always a story behind the violent outcomes.  This book is an inspirational read, especially because it raises awareness of domestic violence.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

About the author: Betty Hafner lives outside Washington, DC and has written a popular monthly book column for twelve years in The Town Courier newspapers in Montgomery County, MD. With a M.S. in counseling, she was a teacher and counselor in high schools and colleges for twenty-five years. She continues to lead workshops, give talks, and facilitate groups. She wrote two practical career-change books that stemmed from her workshops―Where Do I Go From Here? (Lippincott) and The Nurse’s Guide to Starting a Small Business (Pilot Books). Always ready to converse, she also loves telling stories through her drawings, photographs, and writing.  Follow her on Twitter and you can check out her website here.

“Above: The Broken Sky Chronicles”–Review

51vvhf8ulzl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Good evening, bloggers!  This will probably be my final book review for this year.  I can’t wait to read and share more reviews for 2017.  Here’s my review for the second book from The Broken Sky Chronicles, by Jason Chabot.

In the first book, Below, Hokk and his fox sidekick, Nym, are living in exile in the barren plains of Below, surviving on anything they can find.  Meanwhile, in the floating islands in Above, Elia works as a lowly servant girl in the Mirrored Palace.  The edges of the island have always been seen as borders that no one dares to approach.  However, when a natural disaster occurs, Elia falls down to Below.  And that’s where she meets Hokk.  Together, the two plan to escape the dangers of Below and get back to Above.

Now in the second book, Above, Elia and Hokk are separated after unusual circumstances.  For weeks, Elia tries to survive in the lands of Below, all the while trying to gain acceptance from the Torkin marauders, especially because she’s seen as a dangerous outsider.

Just when she starts to feel she’ll never return home, she and Hokk are reunited, and Hokk has a plan to get the two of them out of Below indefinitely.  Once they finally make it to Above, they realize it’s not over.  Their quest has become a lot more complicated than they’d expected.  They’re led into the scorching sand dunes, where the sun’s rays become a threat to Hokk’s life.  However, they are rescued by a privileged family who seem to have ties to those who Elia has tried to infiltrate.  During their stay with the family, though, Elia and Hokk stumble upon secrets that pose a threat to Elia’s plans to save Hokk, herself, and her own family.

Although I think the first book was quite interesting, this new installment was even better.  The secrets, along with the suspense, really had me turning the pages.  Now I’m really curious about the final book.  So if you haven’t, I recommend you read the first book.  Afterward, it gets better.  Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

Above: The Broken Sky Chronicles, Book 2 will be released on February 7, 2017.

*I received this copy from Turner Publishing, as part of the Review Team.

You can also follow Jason Chabot on Twitter.

“Skipping Christmas”–Review

41mpsbst04l-_sx312_bo1204203200_Good afternoon, bloggers! I can’t believe it’s already the week of Christmas. I hope you all are enjoying some great books. I, too, am hoarding books faster than I can read them, but it’s worth it. Anyhow, after stumbling upon a recommendation for Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, I immediately took an interest in reading it.

It’s a good plot.  With their daughter away in Peru doing work for the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank have different plans for the holidays. Every, single year, they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on holiday festivities yet not much to show for it. Now that it’s the two of them, the Kranks decide it’s time to do something for themselves, for once.  Instead of spending money on all the madness of Christmas, they’re going to spend ten days enjoying the warm weather on a Caribbean cruise.  What a wonderful way to treat themselves, right?  Wrong.

Once word gets out that the Kranks are cancelling their annual Christmas plans, the entire neighborhood is angry.  While preparing for their upcoming cruise, the Kranks endure harassment, rumors, gossip, etc., but that still won’t stop the Kranks from packing their bags.  Until they are hit with another surprise, making everything twice as messy.

Rarely do I read holiday-themed books, but I enjoyed reading this one.  I was curious to see how far the madness would go.  Some of the neighbors were so annoying, yet I couldn’t help wondering what would happen next.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading and Happy Holidays!