Watching Glass Shatter

Watching Glass Shatter
Watching Glass Shatter

The Girl on the Velvet Swing

The Girl on the Velvet Swing
The Girl on the Velvet Swing by Simon Baatz

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz- Feature and Review


From New York Times bestselling author Simon Baatz, the first comprehensive account of the murder that shocked the world.

In 1901 Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl in the musical Florodora,dined alone with the architect Stanford White in his townhouse on 24th Street in New York. Nesbit, just sixteen years old, had recently moved to the city. White was forty-seven and a principal in the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. As the foremost architect of his day, he was a celebrity, responsible for designing countless landmark buildings in Manhattan. That evening, after drinking champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness and awoke to find herself naked in bed with White. Telltale spots of blood on the bed sheets told her that White had raped her.

She told no one about the rape until, several years later, she confided in Harry Thaw, the millionaire playboy who would later become her husband. Thaw, thirsting for revenge, shot and killed White in 1906 before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance in Madison Square Garden, a building that White had designed.

The trial was a sensation that gripped the nation. Most Americans agreed with Thaw that he had been justified in killing White, but the district attorney expected to send him to the electric chair. Evelyn Nesbit's testimony was so explicit and shocking that Theodore Roosevelt himself called on the newspapers not to print it verbatim. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw later attempted suicide, and Evelyn Nesbit struggled for many years to escape an addiction to cocaine. The Girl on the Velvet Swing, a tale of glamour, excess, and danger, is an immersive, fascinating look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes and by the the women who were their victims.



  The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth CenturyThe Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder and Madness at the turn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz is a 2018 Mulholland publication.

What an incredible true story!

‘These crimes, worse than murder, must be avenged. That there are men of large wealth in this city who have made it a business to degrade womanhood- backing plays and players and using art studios to procure poor young girls… is a new revelation to the public: a new story that wealth has turned its rotting force to the corruption of innocent girlhood, whose misfortune is poverty.”

Sounds eerily familiar to current events, but this story for all intents and purposes begins in 1901, when sixteen-year old actress, Evelyn Nesbit, finds herself wined and dined by one of New York’s premiere architects, Stanford White, a much older man.

One night, Stanford finally got the young beauty alone, plied her with alcohol, possibly adding something extra to her champagne.

Evelyn woke up in White’s bed, naked, obviously having been taken advantage of. She never spoke of it, and even continued what appeared to be a mutual friendship with White.

But, when Evelyn caught wealthy Harry Thaw’s attention, the two became inseparable, despite the dark rumors surrounding Harry. However, when Harry proposed, Evelyn demurred until he finally coaxed her into confessing that Stanford White had raped her.

Harry and Evelyn did marry, but Harry became obsessed with White, and what he had done to Evelyn. Fuming with rage, Harry shot and killed Stanford White in front of a crowd of theatre goers.

Thus, began a long legal battle where Evelyn was forced to publicly testify to what happened that fateful night with Stanford White, which was so shocking even Theodore Roosevelt implored the press to refrain from printing her testimony verbatim.

However, the bulk of the book is centered around the long legal battle Harry Thaw waged in the attempt to avoid both prison and the mental institution.

I was completely unaware of this case. I can see how it captivated the public as I too was absolutely amazed at the many shocking twist and turns the case took, before Harry Thaw's final verdit was announced, years later. It was the ‘crime of the century’ of its time and morphed into the ‘trial of the century'. It was eventually the basis for a movie made in 1955 starring Joan Collins.

While the details of the case caused a huge sensation, and understandably held the public spellbound, the lurid rumors about Harry were not common knowledge at the time. The public seemed very sympathetic towards Harry, who as they saw it, killed the man who raped his wife.

But, for me, what I found so interesting was all the legal wrangling that decided Harry’s fate, and how that decision caused even more complications years later. Harry was really an enigma, a man who did indeed appear to be demented, but was also crazy like a fox. Some may find the legalities and trials dull by comparison to all the other shocking elements of the crime, but I’ve always enjoyed the legal dramas, which is something we rarely these days.

Evelyn’s story is equally compelling, and there is much mystery surrounding her, as well. What was the truth? I believe her story was sincere, not something made up to cover for Harry, which has been suggested. Although there are large chucks of this book dedicated to the trials, mental stability, apprehension, and future of Harry Thaw, it was Evelyn and all that she endured, and the way her life played out post trial that haunted me.

There are a few issues I feel could hamper the reading experience with this book. Sadly, the author had to piece events together in an unconventional way, which had direct consequences when it came to the organization of facts and the fluidity of the writing.

Many readers have become spoiled to true crime stories that read more like a novel. Unfortunately, this book does not have that smooth quality, and as a result some readers will no doubt find areas of the book tedious, as though reading dry history from a text book.

However, because I was completely unfamiliar with these events, the book held my interest from start to finish. I thought it was a pretty wild ride and the outcome left me shaking my head.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice that despite the era of time in which these events took place, there are stunning parallels to current headlines, concerning men of wealth and power, taking advantage of women, which is disturbing on so many levels!!

I didn't search this book out due to recommendations or promotions. I simply stumbled across it in my Overdrive library, thought it sounded interesting and checked it out on impulse. I'm glad now that I did!

If you enjoy reading history or true crime you will want to check this book out.






Simon Baatz was born in London and studied at the University of York and Imperial College London. He first came to the United States for graduate work in the history of science at the University of Pennsylvania and he subsequently taught United States history at George Mason University in northern Virginia. 

His most recent book, THE GIRL ON THE VELVET SWING, was published on January 16, 2018 by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown & Co. 

Principato-Young Entertainment, a film and television production company based in Beverly Hills, has optioned his previous book, FOR THE THRILL OF IT, a history of the Leopold-Loeb case. FOR THE THRILL OF IT, a New York Times bestseller, was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Simon has lived in Tokyo, Frankfurt am Main, and Washington DC and he now teaches American legal history at John Jay College, City University of New York.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney- Feature and Review


The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family.

Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death.

We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you'll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits.



Watching Glass ShatterWatching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney is a 2017 Creativia publication.

Engrossing family drama!

I love family secrets and conflict because in real life we all know that family can be hard, but at the end of the day, they are still family, which is the most important thing. But, what is great about books like this one is watching how a fictional family responds to disappointments, mind blowing and life altering secrets, and how they deal with internal conflict and matters of conscience.

Olivia and Ben raised five sons and after many years of marriage are very happy together. But, when Ben dies suddenly, Olivia learns her beloved husband harbored a monumental secret regarding a decision he made many years ago. Now it is up to Olivia to handle this highly emotional bombshell that will forever change the family dynamics if it ever comes to light.

As the story proceeds, the reader learns about each of Olivia’ sons, their wives, girlfriends, their past and current mistakes, desires, and dilemmas. Each of them has a major problem, or two, they must overcome or cope with and some of them will make stunning choices that further complicated an already delicate situation.

As Olivia proceeds to honor her husband’s will, she slowly begins to take charge of her life and make decisions about her own future, as well as a few controversial ones regarding her sons.

But, will her sons manage to salvage the mess they’ve made of their own lives and will Ben’s shocking secret finally be revealed?

Whew! This is one seriously complicated family!! There is a large cast of characters, which normally causes a problem for me, especially with books, but somehow, I managed to keep everyone straight without losing track of the threads that connected them to the story.

Some of the characters I love, some had to grow on me, and the jury is still out on a few others. But, the novel is absolutely absorbing, and hard to put down. I kept worrying about the characters or found myself fuming about something they did or said.

There are some pretty heavy issues to resolve, some tears will be shed, and you will probably need a box of tissues close by on a few occasions, but have no fear, the story ends on a positive note as most of the characters make great strides in either their professional, or personal lives- or both.
The outcome of Olivia’s quest turned out far differently from the way I imagined it might. I kept wondering how each of her sons would react if they discovered their father’s secret. This scenario kept me on edge all the way from the start to very emotional conclusion.

For some reason, while reading this book, I was reminded of a popular weekly family drama which aired on television a few years back. My husband I got hooked on it and never missed an episode. It was very high in dramatics, with a large, loaded cast. The initial set up was slightly similar to the one in this book, and like this novel, was highly addictive. My husband and I were always talking about the characters and wondering what would happen on the next episode, which is very unusual for us.

This book had that same effect on me, and it got me to thinking…. since life is full of surprises, conflicts, dramas and tragedies, maybe the author will keep readers updated on this family from time to time. I’d love to catch up with them someday.




James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I've traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is 'Watching Glass Shatter,' a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I'm an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

Friday, March 16, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin- Feature and Review


As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

We are not quite novels.

We are not quite short stories.

In the end, we are collected works.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming.



  The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a 2014 Algonquin Books publication.

Thanks to my Goodreads friend, Carol, for introducing me to this book!

Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999

“No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World”

This is the second ‘books about books’ novel I’ve read this week, and I have to say, it’s nice to know so many people share the same enthusiasm for books that I do.

This story is poignant and bittersweet, but is also charming, touching and heartwarming. It’s a reader’s paradise and will soothe the brow of any book nerd who can’t help but feel a strong kinship with the characters, and maybe even recognize yourself in them just a little bit.

A.J. owns and operates the independent books store, “Island Books”, located on Alice Island, Massachusetts, alone after his wife is killed in a car accident. As he stumbles through each day in a fog of bitter grief, a series of events snaps him to attention and his life takes on a new direction, one he never could have imagined.

The first part of the book kept me in stitches. I’ve known literary snobs, and A.J. is one. I laughed out loud at his aversion to stocking Young Adult and children's books, and his opinion on series, and vampires. Then we got to the part where A.J. deals with customers and if you have worked in a bookstore or library you’ll relate, and again I’m laughing hysterically.

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

But, A.J.’s persnickety personality is soon softened by a very special surprise delivery to his shop, which gives him a new perspective on life and relationships, including one with the book sales representative, Amelia, who warms up to A.J. after getting off to a pretty rough start, and the local chief of police who becomes one of his best friends.

The story is like an homage to book lovers, reading, and the way books shape us and the impact they can have on our outlook on life, even in our relationships, our attitudes, and how they can inspire us through good and bad times.

I loved A.J. right from the start. I understood where he was in life at that very moment, and while I snickered at his drollness, his deadpan introverted nature, my heart broke for him.

It was an honor to watch him come back to life and embrace it with as much gusto has he could muster. Seeing his life enriched in such an amazing way was only part of the story. A.J. and his little bookstore also touched and enriched other’s lives all of them had a life much better than the one they would have had without him. He built an important legacy over the years, and that legacy, thanks to those he loved, will go on to extend the love of books and reading to people for a long time to come… even to those who love vampires, series, Young Adult, and Children’s books about orphans.

This a delightful story that lifted my spirits and warmed my heart.





Gabrielle Zevin is the New York Times Best Selling author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Her ninth novel is Young Jane Young.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Here we Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard- Feature and Review


A riveting novel about how the past never stays in the past, from the critically acclaimed author of The Drowning Girls and The Mourning Hours 

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. But in 1999, Megan and Lauren become college roommates and, as two young women struggling to find their place on campus, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship. The two quickly become inseparable, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before their senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. The weeks go by, filled with fun and relaxation, until late one night at the end of the vacation, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of the girls' friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, in the midst of a political scandal, Megan finally comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth about Lauren's family and threatening to expose their long-buried secrets.

In this captivating and moving novel of domestic suspense, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the power of friendship and secrets and shows how betrayal can lead to disastrous, and deadly, consequences.



Here We LieHere We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here we Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard is a 2018 Park Row Books publication.

A timely topic mingled with a bittersweet ode to friendship-

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey come from entirely different backgrounds, but when they end up being college roommates, in the late 1990s, the unlikely pair forge a strong bond.

But, when Megan is invited to spend the summer with Lauren at her family’s private retreat, something happens that forces a wedge between the two girls and their friendship never fully recovered.

Now, Megan is married, having put that summer and Lauren out her mind all these years, until a startling news report regarding a serious allegation against a member of Lauren’s family brings the past sharply into focus. After a flood of memories overwhelms her, Megan knows she can’t stay quiet. She must come forward with her story, forcing her to reveal long buried secrets and shocking, undeniable truths to herself, her family, and the world.

The subject matter at the center of the story is so timely and the scenario is so familiar, so plausible, this story could make tomorrow’s headlines and we’d believe it was a real news story.

The events surrounding the summer of 1999 may be the center of the story, but the heart of the story is about a friendship that manages to survive against incredible odds.

This review has been a difficult one to write, not just because this is an uncomfortable topic, because it happens to be very, very important to me, and I am quite vocal about it on social media, but mainly I’m worried about giving too much away. But, I must say, I think the author did a terrific job of laying out all the angles and complexities without passing judgement on the characters for their decisions and choices.

I also don’t’ want to get preachy about victim blaming, or lecture on spouting platitudes about not facing adversity head on. I think enduring something that traumatic, in a situation where you feel especially powerless and vulnerable, with added emotional connections, could make facing things ‘head-on’ a thing that is easier said than done. Sometimes the mind is so stunned and shocked, the only way to cope is to the bury things deep in the subconscious mind until we are strong enough to face it, to admit it, to deal with it. Not only that, we should all know by now there are many psychological reasons behind these actions, as well as the threats demanding silence, and the disbelief and monumental scrutiny one will most certainly face.

Yet, I am of a mind that you should never keep quiet. Run- don’t walk- speak up and speak out- immediately!! Your voice just might be the one that gives someone else the courage they need to do the right thing and you may prevent someone else from becoming a 'survivor'.

This book highlights the plethora of complexities of situations like this one, adding areas of gray, blurred lines, and the difficulties of calling out men of power. This book could open up a much- needed discussion on this issue, perhaps making it a good book club selection.

But, at the end of the day, the book is also about the mysterious bonds of friendship. Lauren and Megan’s relationship had a rocky foundation, was built on lies and misrepresentations, and both girls are deeply flawed in their own way.

However, once you strip away all the complications that got in the way, the friendship was sincere and legitimate at its core, which gives the book a positive spin, rather than one that leaves you feeling angry or hopeless.

Overall, this is a compelling novel, a cautionary tale, and one that addresses the need to be more informed, educated, less judgmental and a whole lot more supportive of those who come forward, no matter when they find the courage and strength to do so. Maybe this would make it easier for more people to speak up, hopefully sooner, rather than later.





Paula Treick DeBoard is a writer, latte drinker and all-around slave to public education. Her first novels—written in the back seat of a 1977 Chevy Caprice station wagon where her parents let her jostle around, unprotected by a seatbelt—were sadly lost in one cross-country move or another. 

After earning a BA in English from Dordt College in 1998, Paula thought, “I’ll teach high school during the week and write fiction on weekends,” a delusion which persisted for a decade, during which time she wrote exactly one short story. In 2010, she earned an MFA in Fiction from the University of Southern Maine and discovered a passion for staring at a laptop screen for long hours. 

Paula’s short fiction has appeared in The Sycamore Review, deCOMP, Cantaraville and The Shine Journal. Occasionally, her work has appeared in venues that have later closed—although surely this is only a coincidence.

These days, Paula splits her time between teaching (at the University of California, Merced) and writing. Her novels are The Mourning Hours, The Fragile World and The Drowning Girls (April 2016). 

Her heart—and any remaining spare time—belongs to Will and their four-legged brood.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron- Feature and Review


An addictive novel of psychological suspense from the award-winning author of Night Night, Sleep Tight, about three generations of women haunted by a little girl’s disappearance, and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to the truth . . .

Seven-year-old Lissie Woodham and her four-year-old sister Janey were playing with their porcelain dolls in the front yard when an adorable puppy scampered by. Eager to pet the pretty dog, Lissie chased after the pup as it ran down the street. When she returned to the yard, Janey’s precious doll was gone . . . and so was Janey.

Forty years after Janey went missing, Lis—now a mother with a college-age daughter of her own—still blames herself for what happened. Every year on the anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places a classified ad in the local paper with a picture of the toy Janey had with her that day—a one-of-a-kind porcelain doll—offering a generous cash reward for its return. For years, there’s been no response. But this year, the doll came home.

It is the first clue in a decades-old mystery that is about to turn into something far more sinister—endangering Lis and the lives of her mother and daughter as well. Someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and is desperate to keep it hidden.



You'll Never Know, Dear

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron is a 2017 William Morrow publication.

Deceptively addicting-

Three generations of women work to find the answer to a forty- year old puzzle in which the biggest, most important clue is a priceless porcelain doll.

Miss Sorrel, is a doll maker and collector, who at one time had a booming doll making business and made a name for herself among collectors. But, the doll that means the most to her, the one she is always in constant search of, is the one that disappeared along with her daughter, Janey forty years ago.

Lissie never got over the disappearance of her younger sister and always blamed herself for what happened. The incident has haunted her all her life, even through marriage, divorce, and motherhood.

Vanessa is Lissie’s only child, a sleep/dream researcher who returns home after her grandmother has a health scare. Little does she know her area of expertise will come into play while she is there.

With all three generations now under one roof, the women are ready to seriously consider the possibility that Janey’s doll has found its way back to them and that the doors of the decades old cold case are about to blow wide open.

I thought the cover of this book was a little creepy, and the title was intriguing. While the missing child theme is hardly a new one, I always find this to be a compelling storyline, and also falls within my favorite mystery trope- the cold case.

This book also appealed to me in a way because my grandmother made her own ceramics, and on occasion made porcelain dolls, as a hobby. Not only that, my daughter had a nice doll collection we displayed behind glass when she was younger, so I could understand the value and work that goes into the making of these dolls.

The mystery is intriguing, and kept me interested, and guessing for a good while, but I did guess who was behind the kidnapping before it was revealed. Still, I couldn’t figure out the motive, so there was still an element of mystery to keep me invested in the story. There were a few too many conveniences, and for some reason the dream thread didn’t do anything for me.

But, I did like the way it all came together in the end, although one may have to suspend belief a little for it to work. However, the feel good, grab a tissue, emotional parts won me over, causing me to overlook a few implausibilities.

I’ve never read anything by this author, so didn’t have any expectations one way or another, but I liked this book well enough to give the author’s other work a try. Even though it wobbles here and there, I enjoyed the book, overall.





New York Times best selling author Hallie Ephron loves suspense, and her suburban-based thrillers draw you in and keep you turning the pages. She grew up in a Hollywood family of writers in a household filled with books. Her parents wrote screenplays for classic movies like THE DESK SET. Hallie was the last of their four daughters (Nora, Delia, Hallie, Amy) to start writing or, as she calls it, succumb to her genes. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When I Wake by Jessica Jarlvi- Feature and Review


'Why won't Mummy wake up?'

When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife's secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy. 

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she's lying silent in a hospital bed...



When I Wake UpWhen I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi is a 2017 Aria publication.

This book is a bizarre, twisty, little thriller that caught me off guard.

When a popular, dedicated teacher is savagely beaten, leaving her in a coma, her family and colleagues are shocked and devastated.

Investigators seem stumped. By all accounts Anna was highly regarded, lived for her job, and lead a quiet life. Who would want to hurt her? But, as the case unfolds, it becomes obvious that several people closely connected to Anna, has secrets. We also learn that Anna’s marriage wasn’t exactly charmed, her parents are apathetic and her kids are lost and confused. But, Anna, may be harboring the biggest bombshell secret of them all. The mystery deepens as the story unfolds and more and more suspects are added to the list. All we can hope for is that Anna will awaken and name her attacker-

I added this book to my ‘currently reading’ list with the best of intentions, as always, but for some reason I kept putting it off. The cover, while eye popping, is similar in design to a few other thrillers I’ve read, which left me thinking this book was most likely a ‘been there, done that’ type thriller, probably generic, the type that is entertaining enough, just not much of a challenge.

Adding to my lack of enthusiasm was my mistaken impression that this is a psychological thriller, a genre I am still very burned out on right now. However, I knew I needed to get this book read and reviewed, so I admit I pretty much forced myself to start reading it.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong about this book. First of all, this not a pure PT, although it does have that tone or atmosphere running through it. However, it is more accurate to say this novel is a dark, cleverly plotted whodunit, and is far from ‘run of the mill’, or generic. I can’t recall reading anything quite like it, at least not recently. So, suffice it to say, I was more than adequately entertained by this one.

Interpersonal issues, family dramas, and marital discord always grab my attention and this book has all these elements in spades. So riveted was I to all the secrets, jealousies, sexual games and manipulations, and unexpected character developments, that I was totally blindsided by the conclusion.

I’m not a big fan of multiple points of view, but in this case, I didn’t find it confusing, annoying or distracting. The only issue was that the story did drag in places. The sexual exploits and games only held my attention for so long before I began to lose patience with it, but the twists always came along just in time to placate me.

The author did a fabulous job of luring me into her trap, leading me willingly down the paths and corridors she wanted me to take. I was so taken aback by my failure to puzzle everything out in advance, I felt embarrassed. That’s what I get for being so over confident!! LOL!

In my defense, the formula is not exactly a new one, but because I had somewhat underestimated the book, so sure was I that I’d sail through it on ‘auto-pilot’, I let my guard down. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

Overall, this is a short, wildly entertaining, offbeat mystery you will not want to take lightly!!





Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London before her career in publishing, editing and PR took her to the USA and the Middle East. Having also completed her Masters in Creative Writing and taught journalism to undergraduate students, writing is her true passion. Jessica won a Montegrappa First Fiction award at the Emirates Festival of Literature in 2016, catching the eye of her agent Luigi Bonomi. Having since secured a multiple book deal, Jessica, known by friends to be infectiously positive, balances her time between her writing and her growing young family.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper- Feature and Review


Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?



Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Force of Nature by Jane Harper is a 2018 Flatiron Books publication.

A solid, gripping, edgy thriller-

When five women go on a team building expedition out in the unforgiving and dangerous Australian Giralang Ranges, which was also once upon a time, the stomping grounds of a serial killer, whose son may be following in his father’s footsteps, things immediately go awry.

Among the group, is whistleblower Alice Russell, who is attempting to divulge to Aaron Falk and his partner, Carmen, information regarding a massive money laundering scheme her bosses are running through their company.

But, while the men’s group makes it through the retreat unscathed, the women didn’t fare quite as well. Not only are they late getting back from camp, they come back without Alice, who allegedly took off on her own. Alice, if left out in the elements for much longer, could die.

After receiving a puzzling and cryptic call from Alice, Aaron and Carmen arrive on the scene to help with the rescue efforts while also trying to determine if their investigation may have put Alice in danger.

Along the way, they learn that Alice was not well liked at all by her colleagues, due to her mean and cutting remarks, bullying, and brash attitude. Not only that, her co-workers arrived back from camp injured, edgy, and tense. Could they have something to do with Alice’s disappearance?

‘The Dry’ was one of my favorite thrillers last year. As a result, I’ve been sitting on pins and needles awaiting Harper’s follow up novel, which also features Aaron Falk.

While I must admit right up front that I didn’t find this book to have the same hyper intensity or the same tautness as Harper’s debut novel, this follow up thriller is still a very original and atmospheric tale.

The story is more focused on the women, and what happened during that three -day retreat while they were lost out in the wilderness, running low on food and other supplies and dealing with Alice, who seemed determined to make everyone as miserable as she is. Aaron and Carmen’s investigation, and the rescue efforts, seemed to take a back seat, simmering in the background.

The Australian landscape once again provides an intense environment and plays a large role in creating just the right atmosphere, while the serial killer thread ramped up the apprehension, adding a creepy feeling to go along with the jittery suspenseful adventure and disquieting psychological drama.

I enjoyed touching base with Aaron, who seemed a little fragile still, and I truly like Carmen and the way she so easily reads Aaron. Too bad she’s engaged to someone else. However, they do make a great team and I am just as excited about a third installment featuring Aaron Falk as I was about this one.





Jane Harper is the author of Australian atmospheric thrillers, The Dry and Force of Nature.
Winner of numerous awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Australian Book of the Year Award, The Dry is Jane’s first novel, with rights sold in 29 territories worldwide and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. 
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. 
Her second novel, Force of Nature, was published in September 2017 in Australia and will be released in the US and UK in February 2018.