4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, F, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, TLC Book Tours

Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley


The Hunting PartyAbout The Hunting Party

• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (February 12, 2019)

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


Review:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

I eagerly snatched up the opportunity to read and review this book when I was originally pitched it. It sounded creepy, thrilling … and that cover! So I was really excited to finally get to dive into this one.

I will say … it is not very likely that you will like any of the characters in this book. They’ve all got secrets. Some of them are just plain mean. It’s pretty obvious early on (at least it was to me) which “friend” would be the one found dead, but it was a lot more difficult to figure out which one was the murderer. Almost every character has a “voice” in this one – chapters where you see their point of view. The secrets are slowly revealed and each one is even more shocking than the last it seems. Again – these are not likable characters! At all! But this book really captivated me. I was so wrapped up in this one and I couldn’t wait to figure out what had really happened! And then that ending … I definitely didn’t see it coming! It really added for an interesting twist at the very end.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was a really good thriller that kept me guessing until the end. Highly recommended!!


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Lucy Foley AP

About Lucy Foley

LUCY FOLEY is a former editor at Hodder Fiction and has been both a literary agent and a bookseller. An avid painter, she now writes full time and lives in London, England.

Follow Lucy on Twitter and Facebook.

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5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, S, TLC Book Tours

Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew HimAbout Before She Knew Him

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 5, 2019)

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .


Review:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

I have never read a book by Peter Swanson before, although I do have a copy of The Kind Worth Killing on my shelf. So I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review this book!

I am a firm believer that the less you know about this book going in – the better off you will be. It’s full of twists and turns, some you see coming … and some you don’t! There’s one particular twist that it was just like “WHOA! Stop the presses on that one…” I totally didn’t see it coming and it made the book even creepier than it was before.

I really, really enjoyed this one. I found it to be very fast-paced and thrilling. The characters were all well-developed and somewhat unreliable at times. That plot … it may seem like it’s a bit far-reaching (because, you know, most people don’t really think they live next door to a murderer), but Mr. Swanson definitely makes it work in this book.

Overall, a really great book that left me practically breathless! It was a race to the finish to see how it would all end up for Hen.

Highly, highly, highly recommended 🙂


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Peter Swanson AP Photo by Jim Ferguson.jpg
Photo by Jim Ferguson

 

 

About Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson is the author of three novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; and his most recent, Her Every Fear. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife.

Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top
by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top

 

Copyright: 2005

Pages: 321

Read: Feb. 10 – 20, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: Stephanie Plum is thinking her career as a fugitive apprehension agent has run its course. She’s been shot at, spat at, cussed at, fire-bombed, and attacked by dogs. Stephanie thinks it’s time for a change. So she quits. She wants something safe and normal. But the kind of trouble she had at the bail bonds office can’t compare to the kind of trouble she finds herself facing now…

Stephanie is stalked by a maniac returned from the grave for the sole purpose of putting her into a burial plot of her own. He’s killed before, and he’ll kill again if given the chance. Caught between staying far away from the bounty hunter business and staying alive, Stephanie re-examines her life and the possibility that being a bounty hunter is the solution rather than the problem. After disturbingly brief careers at the button factory, Kan Klean Dry Cleaners, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket, Stephanie takes an office position in security, working for Ranger, the sexiest, baddest bounty hunter and businessman on two continents. Tempers and temperatures rise as competition s up between the two men in her life – her on-again, off-again boyfriend, tough Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and Ranger. Can Stephanie Plum take the heat? Can you? Ranger.


Review: Stephanie Plum just can’t keep herself out of trouble. It’s rather ridiculous when a reader thinks back about how many times her car is blown up over the course of the first 11 books. Yet for some reason, it still works each and every time.

This particular installment saw Stephanie quit bounty hunting. I kind of liked the change in career. I secretly hope that she continuous on with Ranger’s company – I think it adds a new and interesting  dynamic to the series and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Overall I found this particular installment to be strong, interesting and fun. It definitely makes me look forward to the 12th book!

4.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, M, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams
by David McCullough

John Adams

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 651

Read: Jan. 4 – Feb. 19, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.


Review: After having read seven books on George Washington, I was ready to continue on to John Adams (although I am still kicking myself for not buckling down and reading the Ron Chernow book…ugh!). I chose this one to begin with since I figured it would be the easiest to read and a good jumping off place for me.

First I need to state that I knew very little about John Adams other than the fact that he was instrumental to the creation and execution of the Declaration of Independence, was our first Vice President, and our second President. Other than that I knew next to nothing. I mean, I didn’t even realize he was a one-term president! Oops? So I was eager to dive right in.

I have to say that I was really struggling with my decision to start with this book until I got about 200 pages in. I just found it really difficult to get into at first. I think it was the style of writing that really threw me for a loop. This is not your typical biography. At all. And on one hand I can really appreciate that, and as the book moves forward, I enjoyed the way the writing style handled everything. But at the beginning I had issues with it. I wanted more of a “John Adams was born on…” introduction. I guess more linear in timeline than what was introduced here. But I kept going and in the end I was pleasantly surprised.

I also struggled with the fact that Mr. McCullough made it appear to me that Mr. Adams could do no wrong. Everything seemed to be spun in a very positive light. As a student of history (literally, my bachelor’s degree is in history), I had issue with that. Not everything can be all sunshine and rainbows. There has to be some criticism at some point. Unfortunately, I did not see any criticism whatsoever in this book. That’s not to say that I wanted Mr. McCullough to rip Adams a new one – but I think it would have felt a little more realistic had some of the not-so-popular things about Adams been brought into a different light.

Overall this was a very good and well-researched book. If you can get past the informal writing style (or if that’s what you want in a biography), then this book will be quite enjoyable to you. I however wanted a little more analysis than this particular book provided. I can definitely see how and why it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Biography/Autobiography. And it definitely earned a high rating from me. I just wanted a bit more out of it than I got.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder
by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder

Copyright: 1997

Pages: 268

Read: Feb. 3 – 6, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: It’s back to school time in the peaceful Maine town of Tinker’s Cove, and for mother-of-four Lucy Stone it isn’t a moment too soon. But trouble at the local elementary school soon has the sometime crime-solver juggling family, job, and night classes with another mystery to solve. And it starts with a bang.

A bob goes off with the noon lunch bell, but not before all the kids are safely evacuated, and Carol Crane, the new assistant principal, is hailed as a hero. But days later, Carol is found murdered and everyone is stunned when the most popular teacher at the school is arrested for the crime. However, not everyone is buying the open-and-shut case, including Lucy Stone, who senses there’s more to things than meets the eye.

It soon becomes clear that Lucy is flirting with danger, as sizzling secrets and explosive surprises provide a primer for the most diabolical of motives. Hot on the trail of a clever killer, the dedicated mom and seasoned sleuth must harness the courage and cool aplomb to uncover a crime that just might give her an education in the fine art of murder.


Review: This is the 4th book in the Lucy Stone series. So far I’ve really enjoyed this “cozy” mystery series. (I feel a need to clarify “cozy” here, because while technically classified as a cozy mystery, these books don’t feel as cookie-cutter cozy as others do – that’s probably why I’m so drawn to these books!) I really enjoy Lucy’s character.

In this particular installment, Lucy is really struggling with herself as a woman – not just a mom. I can totally relate. However, she made some boneheaded moves in this book that I didn’t care much for … hopefully she got all that out of her system. Anyway. The one thing that I really struggled with in this book was who the killer ended up being. It just seemed a little far-fetched to me. There were three other perfectly good suspects … and yet the actual killer came out of left field. And it just didn’t feel right to me. I usually love a good twist, but this twist didn’t really work for me.

All that said, it was still a fun read. I enjoyed catching up with Lucy and I’m really looking forward to seeing her continue on at the newspaper in town. I think that will add a lot more depth to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing on. While this one’s storyline probably wasn’t up to par with the previous three, I did still enjoy it. Overall, a fun and easy read.

4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019, X-Y-Z

Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 272

Read: Jan 28 – Feb. 3, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn’t remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over.

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, the subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to each other. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to each other about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Anders is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?


Review: This book is the February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. It is an epistolary novel, a little romance, and WAY outside of my comfort zone. But I was definitely looking forward to giving it a shot!

First, it took me a little bit to get into the book. The first few letters are a little cumbersome feeling with the two main characters, Tina and Anders, not knowing what to expect out of the correspondence. But I found that once they got deeper into knowing each other their letters became a lot easier to read. On the other hand, I struggled with how things progressed for both characters. Anders was still grieving his dead wife; I felt like he was taking the correspondence as something tangible that he could hold onto and I could definitely see him falling for Tina. Then there was Tina, who was in a lukewarm marriage and obviously unsure of her life in general. I felt like she became so engrossed in these letters with Anders that she may have ignored her real life in some ways. It’s really difficult for me to properly say my opinion on how both characters handled themselves in their letters (ok – mainly just Tina…) because it hits a very personal nerve on something that I’m not comfortable sharing on my blog. Plus it also enters into spoiler territory to fully explain it.

Well, I’m sure that was clear as mud!

Overall I enjoyed the book quite a bit more than I had anticipated. I’m not a huge fan of the epistolary format in general, however I truly feel like this particular one was done “right.” I know that “right” is subjective and quite personal, but I don’t think that this story could have been as effectively told without the use of letters. I suppose it’s easier to just say that this format worked for me in this particular book. I also felt that the way the correspondence began felt totally believable to me, in addition to how the correspondence naturally continued. It just felt “right.”

I can definitely see how this little gem of a book has garnered attention. I unfortunately had never heard of this one prior to it being announced as a book club selection and I most likely would never have picked it up on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone for this one.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, J, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Injustice for All by J.A. Jance

Injustice for All
by J.A. Jance

injustice for all

 

Copyright: 1986

Pages: 376

Read: Jan 24 – 28, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: It was like a scene from a movie: the beautiful blond screaming on a Washington beach, a dead man lying at her feet; the dashing Homicide detective arriving to offer kindness and solace to the distressed lady. What it wasn’t was a restful vacation for J.P. Beaumont. And now a murderous mix of politics and passion is turning Beau’s holiday into a nightmare – and leading the dedicated Seattle cop into the path of a killer whose bloodlust is rapidly becoming an obsession.


Review: This is the second book in the J.P. Beaumont series. I read and enjoyed the first book, Until Proven Guilty, last year so I was looking forward to jumping back in with Beau.

Beau probably isn’t any different from any of the other male detective protagonists that I follow religiously, but he certainly feels different. I like his character. And his partner. And his attorney. Maybe that’s the difference … I really like all of the supporting characters in addition to him.

Either way, this book was an interesting storyline. Not necessarily all that surprising when the ending was revealed, but it was still enjoyable to work the case with Beau. He had a lot of obstacles that he had to work around in order to get to that final conclusion, so that was interesting as well.

Just a good, solid read in my opinion. Nothing truly new and exciting, but enjoyable and entertaining in my opinion. For a book published in 1986, it doesn’t have that dated feel that some of the other book series I read have. So I enjoyed this one and am definitely looking forward to continuing on with Beau in the future!

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stone Barrington, U-V-W

Review: Fresh Disasters by Stuart Woods

Fresh Disasters
by Stuart Woods

fresh disasters

 

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 277

Read: Jan 15 – 24, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library Book Sale

 

Blurb: Stone embarks on his most dangerous adventure yet when a chance encounter with the wrong man sends him straight into the heart of New York’s Mafia underworld.

It starts as just another late night at Elaine’s and ends with the hapless Herbie Fisher, the bane of his existence. Stone finds that what should have been a throwaway case instead leads right to a powerful mob boss with a notoriously bad temper and long reach. Fortunately for Stone, the twists of the case also take a more congenial turn – sending a little romance his way, and giving him another opportunity to try to rescue a beautiful woman in distress. But as the danger deepens, Stone is left to wonder if he can disentangle himself from this lawless mess before he winds up – as his friend Dino likes to put it – “at the bottom of Sheepshead Bay with a concrete block up his ass.”

With the often hilarious action, razor-sharp characters, and crackling dialogue that are his hallmarks, Fresh Disasters is Stuart Woods at the pleasurable height of his storytelling powers.


Review: This is the 13th book in the Stone Barrington series. I can’t lie … the Stone Barrington series is definitely one of my reading guilty pleasures. They’re definitely mindless entertainment. But they usually read relatively fast and are enjoyable.

This particular installment I had a love-hate relationship with. First, we find Stone sleeping with 3 different women in this book. Clocking in at 277 pages, that’s got to be some kind of record, even for Stone Barrington’s standards. I’ll give him the first two, but it was the third one that bothered me the most. I’m no prude, but come on, at some point it doesn’t feel believable that Stone can (and does) hop into bed with almost every woman he encounters. But then you’ve got the Herbie Fisher character … and it kind of makes up for it. Stone groans every time Herbie comes into his life, and as the reader, I can’t help but giggle. He’s a likable character who keeps things interesting for Stone.

So yeah, I’d say another decent installment in this series. As I’ve said before of these books, they are no literary feats … but they are just plain fun!

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

Harry’s Trees
by Jon Cohen

harry's trees

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 428

Read: Jan 4 – 14, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy – Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world.

After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past. In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements – a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive – come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life.

Harry’s Trees is an uplifting story about the redeeming power of friendship and love and the magic to be found in life’s most surprising adventures.


Review: This book is the January selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. As usual, this selection is way outside my normal reading. It’s billed on Goodreads as magical realism. I was a little leery to take this one on, but having skipped the last few months I knew I wanted to at least give this one a shot – it didn’t sound terrible, just not necessarily my norm.

So what did I think? Well, ultimately, it wasn’t a bad book. In fact the first half of the book really swept me up and I was really enjoying it. And then right around the time that Oriana and Harry put their “scheme” into motion it kind of dropped off for me. I think it was right around that time that I could see the obvious about how the ending would happen – and for the most part, I nailed it. I don’t like predictability in my endings, and this one was just a little too predictable for my personal taste.

The book itself is well written and thought out.  The characters were all well-developed and each had their own interesting story. The character development was definitely a big part of this book and that was probably my favorite part about the entire book. I can definitely see the “magic” of this book, but I had a hard time buying into it personally.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Dirk Pitt, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES

Review: Treasure by Clive Cussler

Treasure
by Clive Cussler

Treasure

Copyright: 1988

Pages: 547

Read: Dec. 24, 2018 – Jan 2, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: Charts of lost gold … breathtaking art and rare volumes … maps of hidden oil and mineral deposits that could change the world’s balance of power. Now Dirk Pitt has discovered the secret trail of the treasures of Alexandria – a trail that plunges him into a brutal conspiracy for total domination of the globe. Zealots threaten to unseat the governments of Egypt and Mexico, exposing America to invasion and economic collapse. Suddenly, from East to West, anarchists reach their deadly tentacles into the heart of the United States. And Dirk Pitt, the hard-hitting hero of Clive Cussler’s Deep Six and Raise the Titanic! is up against the most feared assassin known to man. An international band of terrorists is making its play for world power on the high seas – and Pitt is the only man alive who can stop them!


Review: I try and read one Clive Cussler book every year, but I kept putting this one off every time I thought about needing to get my yearly Dirk Pitt fix in. 😦 For some reason this one just didn’t call to me the way the other installments have. And for the most part, my original assessment was pretty close to spot on.

There were a lot of things going on in this book with multiple storylines. Some of those storylines I loved and yet the other one… not so much. It all came together in the end in an interesting way, but there was a lot of political scenes that I could have done without. I just found it a little bit of a stretch to believe what Dirk Pitt went through in this book (which I think is pretty par for the course for any Dirk Pitt novel).

So while overall I’m glad that I was able to cross this one off the list, at 547 pages it was a little long and it dragged in a few places. But I’m still looking forward to continuing on with this series! There’s just something about Dirk Pitt that keeps me coming back for more.