The Night Olivia Fell

The Night Olivia Fell
The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The Poison Flood

The Poison Flood
The Poison Flood by Jordan Farmer

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald- Feature and Review


In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?



The Night Olivia FellThe Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald is a 2019 Gallery Books publication.

Engrossing and emotional mystery-

When Abigail Knight learns that her seventeen- year- old daughter, Olivia, is lying in a coma after a fall, her life turns on a dime. Noticing some marks on Olivia's body which suggests the possibility of foul play, Abi works tirelessly to discover what really happened to her daughter. Yet, she is met with one brick wall after another and resistance from law enforcement when she pushes them to pursue the case fully.

Meanwhile, we hear directly from Olivia, who fills in the blanks about her home life, introducing us to her friends, and romantic interests, while explaining the events leading up to her fall.

Her haunting voice reflects on her relationship with Abigail and the usual teenage dramas, which eventually leads to some hard and serious questions about her absentee father.

This is a very impressive debut novel by Christina McDonald. I was immediately invested in the story and remained riveted all the way through to the heart-rending conclusion. The mother/daughter dynamic is explored as long buried secrets float to the surface, highlighting the similarities and differences between Adi and Olivia. The taut atmosphere kept me on edge, despite sensing the direction the story was going to take me.

The questions Adi has about what led to Olivia’s fall, the lies and secrets that plague Adi and the teenage angst, makes the mystery compelling, with several surprising revelations, that kept me guessing until the big reveal, which did, but didn’t surprise me, if that makes any sense.

Teetering on the literary line, the story delves deeply into the various insecurities and vulnerabilities of the characters touching the need for belonging, the ways we detach to protect ourselves, and how we deal with life’s curveballs and the lessons one takes away from adversity and tragedy.

It’s not often that a mystery novel is as thought provoking and stirring as it is suspenseful, but McDonald manages it masterfully!



Christina McDonald is the USA Today bestselling author of Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. Her third book, Do No Harm, is available February 2021. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England.

Friday, July 31, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory - Feature and Review


A generations-spanning family of psychics--both blessed and burdened by their abilities--must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.

The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there's Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?



SpoonbendersSpoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is a 2017 Knopf publication.

This book was a real treat for me! It’s eccentric, hilarious, a madcap family saga, and a thoroughly entertaining fantasy.

I am showing my age here, but I do remember stage shows during the 1970’s where people performed variations of telekinesis, such as bending spoons with their minds. I had forgotten all about these stage/magic shows until I saw the title of this book and I knew I had to read it.

This story is centered around ‘The Amazing Telemachus family’, featuring Teddy Telemachus, the family patriarch, who is, in truth, a con artist. But, his wife, Maureen, is the real deal. She really is psychic and their children have inherited her paranormal abilities. Irene can tell if someone is lying or telling the truth, Frankie can move objects with his mind, and Buddy can see the future.

The family stage act was amazing indeed, until they were outed as frauds on the ‘Mike Douglas Show’.
From there the family tragically spiraled into relative obscurity.

The book is set in 1995, where we find that Maureen has passed on at a tragically young age, Teddy is still running his tried and true scams, Irene is a divorced single mother who has moved back into her family home with her son, Matty, and Frankie is married with three daughters. But, Buddy, seems to have lost his sanity, constantly beginning a project, but never finishing it, and is pretty much mute. No one seems to know quite what he’s up to.

Employing the use of flashbacks, we learn how Teddy and Maureen met, and how the government became aware of her unique gifts, why she decided to work with them, the profound affect her life and death had on her children, and how their unusual abilities shaped them into the adults they became.

Matty becomes a central character in the story as he is seemingly the one grandchild who has inherited his family’s paranormal gifts. He is the one who needs to discover his family history, especially that of his grandmother, and must be protected from government employees who would like to use his abilities to their advantage.

In one way, this is Matty’s coming of age story, but it is mostly a family saga, which spans over three generations.

I loved the nostalgia this story brought back. The seventies, The Mike Douglas Show, the hardcore fascination with psychic phenomenon and ESP and so on, but the nineties! OMG! AOL disc, online chat rooms, Gateway computers and VHS tapes- no- I can’t say I miss any of those things, but it was fun to have a book set in this decade.

“Nothing killed nostalgia for your childhood home like moving back into it”

This family is not exactly role model material. They have trouble with the mob, run cons, and curse up a blue streak sometimes, and many other quirky flaws and general strangeness.

‘Once a man had committed emotionally to the con, it was near impossible to claw his way back to objectivity.”

At the heart of the story is the emerging connection between Maureen, who, although she’s been gone for many years, still communicates with Teddy, via letters that arrive in blue envelopes, and her grandson, Matty.

The author did an amazing job of building a charming and fantastical story around connecting time frames and family generations.

I rarely say anything about content, mainly because we are dealing with art and context, but I couldn’t help but think how much broader the reach such a book might have if not for the language used. It wasn’t necessary, in my opinion, and took away from the story’s charisma.

There were a few other questionable scenes, but with just a small tweak here or there, this book really could have a mass appeal, for young or old alike.

Besides this one complaint, I thought the characters are very well constructed, believable, and although quite dysfunctional, I liked them, warts and all.

There are a few poignant moments, a little romance, and some hilarious antics and dialogue, a little mystery and suspense, plenty of action and adventure, and lots and lots of intrigue, mingling with the paranormal whimsy I found myself completely wrapped up in.

“The thing about skeletons was, you never knew how much space they were taking up in the closet until you got rid of them.”

The plot may appear to ramble down various dead -end paths, making one wonder where all this is leading, but amazingly, the threads all converge into one huge grand finale that really did feel like pure magic.

Overall, this is an offbeat, but utterly charming and delightful tale. Even if you don’t normally indulge in the paranormal or fantasy genres, I think the deeper implications will resonate, and before long you just might find yourself as enchanted by it as I was.



Daryl Gregory is an award-winning writer of genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His latest novel, SPOONBENDERS, about a down-on-their-luck family with psychic powers, was published by Knopf in June, 2017, and is being developed for television by Paramount and Anonymous Content.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Poison Flood by Jordan Farmer- Feature and Review


A captivating, gritty, and tender story of a reclusive musician and the environmental disaster that threatens his small town and changes his life forever.

Hollis Bragg lives on the fringes. The hunchbacked son of a West Virginia hill preacher, he now resides in rural isolation next to the burned-out husk of his father's church, and earns his living ghostwriting songs for a popular band that left the poverty and corruption of Appalachia and never looked back. It's the life he prefers, free from the harsh glare of the spotlight and attachments that lead only to heartbreak.

Then, much to his consternation, he's discovered by Russell Watson, a local musician and fan who also happens to be the rebellious son of the local chemical company magnate. When a devastating toxic spill at the Watson chemical plant poisons the local water, it sets off an unpredictable series of events as Hollis witnesses a murder, faces a shocking betrayal, and begins to come to terms with his body and his past. Soon Hollis will find that in losing his anonymity and reclaiming his music, he can transform his future; and in opening himself up to the world, he might find redemption.



The Poison FloodThe Poison Flood by Jordan Farmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Poison Flood by Jordon Farmer is a 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Son’s publication.

Disjointed, by very innovative…

The premise of this book intrigued me because I thought the story would primarily focus on environmental issues.

However, the plot is mostly centered around Hollis Bragg, a musician whose ghostwritten songs have provided his childhood friend, Angela, with a successful and lucrative music career.

Hollis, however, is isolated, living off the beaten path in West Virginia. His hunchback is a source of great physical pain and mental anguish at times, and is a major factor in his decision to stay in the background and avoid taking credit for his music.

But, when a combination of events take place, almost simultaneously, one being a massive chemical spill, and the other being recognized by a fan, which leads to even further complications, Hollis’ quiet life is suddenly upended.

Despite the stress of the upheaval, which forces Hollis out of his protective bubble, he finally receives long overdue liberation and confidence.

The story is offbeat, original, and truly shines in some ways, but is often uneven and fails to connect the various themes in a solid cohesive manner.

Still, at the end of the day, Hollis’ journey is a wonder to behold. He battles demons from his past, copes with romantic entanglements, and dubious characters out to use his talent to their advantage.

As Hollis takes stock of his life, he steps outside of his comfort zone and learns to take up for himself and forge his own little place in the world with a stronger sense of self worth.

This is a quick read, somewhat erratic and unstable with all the subplots and eccentric characters, but despite some rough edges it works for the most part. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was a rewarding read, overall.



Jordan Farmer was born and raised in a small West Virginia town, population approximately two thousand. He earned his MA from Marshall University and his Ph.D. at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg- Feature and Review

A detective’s brutal first case could make or break her career in an exhilarating thriller by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg.
A video of Deputy Eve Ronin’s off-duty arrest of an abusive movie star goes viral, turning her into a popular hero at a time when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is plagued by scandal. The sheriff, desperate for more positive press, makes Eve the youngest female homicide detective in the department’s history.
Now Eve, with a lot to learn and resented by her colleagues, has to justify her new badge. Her chance comes when she and her burned-out, soon-to-retire partner are called to the blood-splattered home of a missing single mother and her two kids. The horrific carnage screams multiple murder—but there are no corpses.
Eve has to rely on her instincts and tenacity to find the bodies and capture the vicious killer, all while battling her own insecurities and mounting pressure from the media, her bosses, and the bereaved family. It’s a deadly ordeal that will either prove her skills…or totally destroy her.



Lost Hills (Eve Ronin #1)Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg is a 2020 Thomas & Mercer publication.

This new series is off to an impressive start!

Eve Ronin has leveraged the viral YouTube video of her off duty arrest of a famous Hollywood actor into a promotion to robbery/homicide. Everyone knows that, although she might be capable, her promotion was mainly police department cosmetics, and her colleagues don’t bother trying to hide their resentment towards her.

Eve is partnered with a jaded, worn out, veteran detective about to retire. Her first case brings her to a home saturated in blood- but the occupants- a mother and her two children, and the family dog, are nowhere to be found.

As Eve doggedly pursues leads, slowly building her case, she must also contend with her mother’s constant criticisms and aspirations, while wildfires rage in the background.

I’ve read this author’s books for years, but mostly his lighter fare. So, this book came as a bit of a surprise.

This is a dark, gritty police procedural which captured the essence of California, which hides a seedy underbelly behind it’s glamorous façade. The story is realistic and very graphic, so be aware- there is blood- buckets of it!

Eve is a great protagonist, though, and I instantly like her. Her inexperience causes her problems, but she’s tenacious, and determined to prove herself, despite her self-doubt. I think she could become a huge fan favorite in the crime fiction category.

Overall, Goldberg has ramped up the ordinary police procedural by mingling vivid scenery with realistic crime procedures and well-drawn characters, along with a tension filled, edge of your seat conclusion. Looking forward to Eve's next case!

*This book is available with your Kindle Unlimited Subscription- with audio. I switched back and forth between reading on my Kindle and listening to the book on my echo device. The audio is very well done too- so if you have KU or subscribe to Audible,  be sure to give the audio a try




#1 New York Times Bestselling author Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee whose many TV writing and/or producing credits include "Martial Law," "SeaQuest," "Diagnosis Murder,""Hunter," "Spenser: For Hire," "Nero Wolfe," "Missing." "Monk" and "The Glades." He's also the co-author of the Fox & O'Hare series with Janet Evanovich (The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam, The Pursuit etc), "The Walk," "Watch Me Die," "King City," the "Dead Man" series, as well as the "Diagnosis Murder" and "Monk" series of original mystery novels.

Friday, July 24, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The EX by Alafair Burke: Feature and Review


Twenty years ago she ruined his life.

Now she has the chance to save it.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?


The ExThe Ex by Alafair Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The EX by Alafair Burke is a 2016 Harper publication.

The legal thriller has gone through many adjustments, especially over the last five or six years. Courtroom dramas appear to be dead in the water as fewer attorneys actually step foot into a courtroom anymore.

Now, so called legal thrillers have lawyers doing all the crime solving, making them more like amateur sleuths than attorneys. No one ever sits on the stand, there are no judges or juries and the nuances of criminal court trials have disappeared entirely.

But, that is not the case with this book and for that reason alone, I intended to give the book a solid rating, but as it turns out this was a very compelling read that went beyond the legal wrangling.

Olivia had a five- year relationship with Jack, but the two were incompatible and she wound up hurting Jack very badly by making some very bad decisions. She hasn’t seen Jack in many years, but she knows he eventually married and has a daughter. However, his happiness was short lived due to the tragic shooting death of his wife.

Now the man Jack holds responsible for the shooting has been shot and killed and of course Jack is suspect number one. Olivia agrees to take his case, despite the obvious conflict of interest, mainly due to her feelings of guilt about how things ended between her and Jack.
Olivia is positive Jack could never do what he is accused of, but the more evidence that pours in, the more people who come forward with tales of Jack’s dark side, the more Olivia begins to suspect her client is guilty.

I was riveted to this story from the get go. The plotting and planning is very rich in details, with several breathtaking twists and turns along the way. I have read many legal thrillers in my day, and I have to admit I had suspected what the outcome would be, but I was never over confident about that, always having a reasonable doubt about what really happened.

Olivia is a character I couldn’t help but like, despite some things she did in her past that were really terrible. She still has some morally questionable traits when it comes to relationship choices and she drinks a lot, beats herself up over how she treated Jack, something I suspect has left her unsettled for many years, but she does her job exceptionally well. She grows as a person throughout this case, and I think maybe she was able to put some lingering demons to rest at last.

This case is perhaps a little bit of a cautionary tale, proving cause and effect. One person’s actions can cause a chain reaction that not only affects their lives but many others. Despite what one might think, at the end of the day, the outcome really gave me something to think about. Of course, I can’t expound on that here without giving anything away, but I think this story has some deeper messages beyond what appears on the surface.

The atmosphere was heavy and tense from the beginning and the conclusion is creepy, and left me feeling as though Olivia will have to deal with the fallout of this case for a long time to come and that someday another shoe will drop and when it does, it won’t be pretty. But, until then, I think Olivia came out of the situation a much more balanced person with a more settled life and at long last has put the past in its proper perspective and place.

I wouldn’t mind seeing her in action again someday.

Overall this one gets 4.5 stars.



Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of "two powerhouse series" (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair's novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure. Her books have been translated into 12 languages.

Alafair's work has been praised by some of the world's most respected crime writers, including Gillian Flynn, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, and Nelson DeMille.

Learn more about Alafair at

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien - Feature and Review


The Ho-Lee Noodle House takes its business to the next level―only to end up in hot water.

It was supposed to be a fancy, intimate dinner party by the pool. Instead, Lana Lee’s first-ever catering event turns into full-course madness when a domestic worker is found dead. Is the party’s host Donna Feng, the sweet-and-sour owner of the Asia Village shopping plaza where Ho-Lee is situated, somehow to blame? That’s what Lana―whose plate is already plenty full with running the restaurant, pleasing her often-disapproving mother, and fretting over her occasionally-serious boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau―must find out.

Before the police arrived at the crime scene, Donna had entrusted an odd piece of evidence to Lana: a thumb drive shaped like a terra-cotta soldier. Now it’s up to Lana to lead her own investigation, digitally and in real life, into a world of secrets involving Donna’s earlier life in China, whether the victim had a dark agenda, and if the killer is still out there. . .and plans to strike again.



Egg Drop Dead (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #5)Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien is a 2020 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Fantastic! This series just keeps getting better!

Lana’s first catering job is for a fancy dinner party, hosted by Donna Feng. But things go horribly awry when Donna’s Nanny is found dead. Donna once again becomes a prime suspect, and is counting on Lana to solve the mystery, while somehow managing to keep her secrets from coming to light. Lana promises to help, but soon finds herself in way over her head …

If you have been following this series, you’ll remember Donna from the previous installment. She’s an intriguing character and I was happy to see her character return. I’m loving the way Lana is progressing with her sleuthing skills and how realistically she approaches this case, knowing she won’t be able to work this one all on her own.

While part of the charm of cozy mysteries is in touching base with the recurring characters, often times the mystery elements run in the background, and can be a little thin. That’s not the case with this series though. This mystery was very well plotted and almost had the tone of an old-fashioned crime drama. It was really good!

Chein creates a nice balance between the Lana’s sleuthing and her personal life, which complements the series’ fresh contemporary approach to the cozy genre.
Overall, I enjoyed this latest installment and am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.



Vivien Chien first started writing simple stories about adventures with her classmates when she was in elementary school. As she grew up, her love of books and the written word increased, leading to the attempt of her first novel at age 16. After many struggled beginnings and several different genres, she found her passion in the mystery world.

When she's not writing, she can be found frolicking in the bookstore or searching for her next bowl of noodles. She has a soft spot for doughnuts, a healthy love for coffee, and an extreme need to participate in random acts of crafting.

She currently lives in Cleveland where she is hard at work on the fifth book in her Noodle Shop series, and writes side-by-side with her toy fox terrier.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior- Feature and Review


In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.



Ellie and the HarpmakerEllie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior is a 2019 Bantam Press publication.

Dan, is a Harpmaker who spontaneously gives one of his harps to Ellie, a woman visiting his little out of the way shop one day.

Ellie’s husband, however, insists she return the harp. Instead, she winds up storing it at Dan’s place, scheming behind her husband’s back to visit the harp regularly, secretly learning how to play it. While Ellie and Dan begin developing a friendship, Ellie discovers a shocking secret that will change Dan’s life forever.

Meanwhile, Ellie struggles to convince herself she loves her husband that she is happy in her marriage, all while walking on eggshells around him, hiding her relationship with Dan and her harp lessons from him. But, sooner or later everything comes into the light putting Ellie and Dan’s friendship in jeopardy.

While this is mostly a light, charming tale, it is also one of those stories in which the presentation prevents serious subjects from becoming too heavy, insulating the darker topics behind a whimsical veneer. However, these topics never dig too far beneath the surface, giving the story just the right amount of depth, allowing it to balance the dark undertones and the lighter overtones.

Dan's big, open heart made me want to reach through the pages and hug him. It was easy to see why Ellie was drawn to him.

This is a cute, offbeat romance, a feel good story that is warm and touching, with a sweet ending that will leave you with a smile on your face. Everyone needs a story like this one from to time to take the edge off life’s trials for a while.

Overall, quick, easy, and very enjoyable!



Hazel Prior is the author of ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER and AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS (UK title)/HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA (US title). She is also a freelance harpist. She lives in Exmoor, in England, with her husband and a huge, ginger cat.