She Rides Shotgun

She Rides Shotgun
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper


UNSUB By Meg Gardiner

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

UNSUB By Meg Gardiner- Feature and Review


A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?



UNSUB (UNSUB, #1)UNSUB by Meg Gardiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

UNSUB by Meg Gardiner is a 2017 Dutton publication.

Solid, intricately plotted, and smart serial killer crime thriller-

Confession: This is, to my knowledge, the first book I’ve read by this author. I see she has a healthy back list, and I wasn’t unfamiliar with her, but for some reason, which was not at all intentional, I just never got around to trying one her novels.

But, when several Goodreads friends left some very positive reviews for this book, and since it was the first book in a new series, I felt like now was the time to introduce myself to Meg Gardiner.

Like the infamous San Francisco serial killer, ‘The Zodiac’- ‘The Prophet’ went on five year killing spree, but then suddenly stopped. The case went cold, but it left detective Mack Hendrix a shell of the man he once was.

Now, his daughter, Caitlin, who is working her way up the law enforcement ladder, finds herself promoted to homicide when it appears that after a twenty-year absence, ‘The Prophet’ is back… with a vengeance.

It's been a long while since I read a traditional ‘serial killer’ crime novel, and this one caught my attention because it made reference to ‘The Zodiac’, which creeped me out, maybe more than any other serial killer case, because no one was ever arrested, and for years, an uneasiness simmered in SF, with residents wondering if the killer was dead or alive - or if he might come out of hiding when least expected.

So, a setup which features a diabolical serial killer who reemerges after a lengthy silence, was too good to pass up.

The novel seemed to follow a well- worn path along ' procedural avenue', until it steadily morphed into a very smart, very detailed, and atmospheric thriller which puts a fresh spin on an old familiar trope.

As with any thriller in which a serial killer is at work, the crime scenes are graphic, and not for the faint of heart. But, if you are thinking about some deranged, sicko, lunatic with the tried and true profile, thing again. This is not your usual baddie, not by a long shot.

While there are some weak moments, overall this novel was cleverly crafted, with expedient and hair-raising twists, and a stunning conclusion that will segue nicely into the next installment.



Meg Gardiner is the author of thirteen thrillers. UNSUB, her latest novel, features homicide detective Caitlin Hendrix. Don Winslow says, “Like The Silence of the Lambs, this novel scared the hell out of me. I dare you to try putting it down.” The novel has been bought for development as a TV series by CBS. 

Meg was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She's also a three time Jeopardy! champion. Meg lives in Austin, Texas.

She's the author of the Evan Delaney series and the Jo Beckett novels. China Lake won the 2009 Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original. The Dirty Secrets Club won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper- Feature and Review

A propulsive, gritty novel about a girl marked for death who must fight and steal to stay alive, learning from the most frightening man she knows—her father
Eleven-year-old Polly McClusky is shy, too old for the teddy bear she carries with her everywhere, when she is unexpectedly reunited with her father, Nate, fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car. He takes her from the front of her school into a world of robbery, violence, and the constant threat of death. And he does it to save her life.
Nate made dangerous enemies in prison—a gang called Aryan Steel has put out a bounty on his head, counting on its members on the outside to finish him off. They’ve already murdered his ex-wife, Polly’s mother. And Polly is their next target.
Nate and Polly’s lives soon become a series of narrow misses, of evading the bad guys and the police, of sleepless nights in motels. Out on the lam, Polly is forced to grow up early: with barely any time to mourn her mother, she must learn how to take a punch and pull off a drug-house heist. She finds herself transforming from a shy little girl into a true fighter. Nate, in turn, learns what it’s like to love fiercely and unconditionally—a love he’s never quite felt before. But can their powerful bond transcend the dangerous existence he’s carved out for them? Will they ever be able to live an honest life, free of fear?
She Rides Shotgun is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains, and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.



She Rides Shotgun: A NovelShe Rides Shotgun: A Novel by Jordan Harper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper is a 2017 Simon & Schuster publication.

Steel forever, Forever Steel

This is the creed of the Ayran Steel white supremacist gang, which is run out of a prison cell by Crazy Craig Hollington, whose power and reach seemingly has no bounds.

So, when Nate, kills Craig’s brother, he is tipped off, right before his prison release, that Crazy Craig has fingered him, and has sent out orders to exact his revenge. It’s too late for Nate’s ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, but Nate manages to nab his eleven-year old daughter, Polly, before the ‘Steel’ manages to find her.

Thus, begins a most unusual father/ daughter road trip, chock full of adventure, danger, and gruesome criminal acts. But, Polly appears to take it all in stride- like father- like daughter, all the way down to their shared ‘gunfighter eyes.’ Although they are strangers to each other in the beginning, their connection is instantaneous, as only blood relations can be, but their bond only solidifies as they fight for their very lives.

Will they manage to make it to safety before the ‘Steel’ catches up to them, or is their fate already sealed?

I heard many good things about this book, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I gotta tell you, this one deserves all the kudos and accolades it receives.

This book has a noir-ish atmosphere, but is a dark and gritty crime novel, that climbs into the disturbing mindset of gangs, and the price paid for living by the sword. Nate’s own background is harsh, and he doesn’t have the verbal or emotional ability to express his feelings to Polly, but in his own way, he does the best he can for her, by putting his own life on the line to save hers. But, Nate also has his own demons and ulterior motives, exposing his flawed and selfish characteristics.

However, it is most definitely Polly, who steals the spotlight in this story. She’s vulnerable, clinging to her beloved teddy bear who often speaks or communicates on her behalf, but quickly takes to her new life on the run, almost like a duck to water. She is loyal to her father, and two make quite a team.

We see Nate teaching Polly things no eleven -year old should have to know, while Polly studiously observes and even participates in things no child should ever witness, much less be allowed to ‘ride shotgun.’

Along the way, in this very unusual coming of age tale, Polly learns how to cope in an uncertain world, to stand on her own two feet, using the skills her father taught her, but also by realizing her own inner strength, and we know she’s going to be a survivor. Despite her exposure to the mentality of hardened criminals and the underbelly of society, she walks away, miraculously, with her principles in tact.

The story also has a strong supporting cast, with people playing both sides and a detective who is perhaps rooting for Nate and Polly, even while he tries to locate them.

While this is a brutal and very violent crime thriller, there is an underlying theme that centers on family connections and bonds, which are unbreakable ties, even under the most extreme circumstances.

The characterizations blew me away, the pacing is very brisk, and action packed, the dialogue is outstanding and the prose is stunning. If you enjoy crime novels, I don’t see how you could go wrong with this book.



Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He's worked as an ad man, a rock critic and a teevee writer. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Windfall by Diksha Basu- Feature and Review


For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.

The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters..



The WindfallThe Windfall by Diksha Basu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Windfall by Diksha Basu is a 2017 Crown publishing publication.

What a delightful tale!

Books can take you anywhere and everywhere, without leaving the comfort of your own home. I’ve been trying to incorporate more ‘cultural’ books in my reading diet, and have been loving it, but the synopsis for this book had me feeling a little nervous. I passed on the book several times, because I know so little about the manners, customs and culture of India, I was worried I wouldn’t ‘get’ the humor or understand the complexities of the novel.

But, the book just kept showing up on my radar like it was begging me to try it. So I gave up and checked it out of the library.

Naturally, you will probably enjoy this book more if you are familiar with the customs of India, but you don’t have to be an expert to get the general gist of the story.

What really sold me, was the characterizations and dialogue, which, despite my unfamiliarity with Indian culture, was hilarious and utterly charming, and pretty much spot on, when it comes to how one handles a sudden overnight accumulation of vast wealth.

The most puzzling character was the Jha’s son, Rapak, who is attending school in America. He seems to adapt well, for the most part, to America, and even has an American girlfriend, but, while he wishes to totally embrace his new life, he is still tied to the traditions and values he was raised on, which becomes such a conflict for him, he can't decide who to be, and winds up struggling with his studies and relationships. I’m not sure I liked him, especially, because he was too wishy washy and lacked depth. But, he does eventually pull his head out enough to pacify me.

One of my favorite parts of the book, features a young, childless widow, who longs to embrace life again, but is terribly lonely, wistfully dreaming of a love match. I loved the unexpected romance that develops for her which was quite lovely.

But, at the center of the story is the jarring adjustment the Jha’s must make as they leave their close- knit housing community, where everybody knows each other, (and your business), to a quiet, wealthy neighborhood. Mrs. Jha misses her friends, and does not embrace the trappings of wealth in the same way her husband does, which of course reveals much about how money has affected their marriage and individual priorities.

A bit of a competition arises between Mr. Jha and his new neighbor, Mr. Chopra, which is the best part of the story.

No matter how hard you try, or not- acquiring sudden wealth will change you to some degree. It will have an effect on your relationships, your perspectives, or even your value system. The Jha’s find that money- surprise, surprise- does not bring true contentment after all. Perhaps they had been rich all along, only didn’t appreciate it until their monumental shift in fortune begins to bring about more stress than happiness.

While cultural, gender, and social conflicts are evident in the story, the family dynamics are at the very heart of the matter. The family must work together to hold on to all that is dear, help each other through giant, swift changes in order to keep the family unit functioning, while they find a way to adapt.

There is an underlying current in the story at times, that hums alongside the hilarious one-upmanship games, which suggests that beneath the veneer of societal expectations, is a pressure cooker of tension and fear, that threatens to explode, but in this case, it ultimately dies out with a whimper instead of a roar. This approach kept the tone light, and the tension muted, which was in accordance with the atmosphere and tone of the novel, but perhaps it may have dulled the dramatic elements just a little bit.

The ending is warm and satisfying, even though the story kind of lost a little momentum there at the end for some reason, but overall, I found it to be enlightening, an easier read than I was expecting and I really enjoyed learning about New Delhi and more about Indian customs.



Diksha Basu is a writer and occasional actor. 

Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and now divides her time between New York City and Mumbai.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

SATURDAY SERIES SPOTLIGHT: Mr. Churchill's Secretary By Susan Elia MacNeal

Welcome to The Book Review's SATURDAY'S SERIES SPOTLIGHT !!

What is a series spotlight, you ask?

I am always starting a new book series, but I also have a habit of starting long running series, which means I get to hunt down all the volumes, hoping to read them from start to finish.  This means I get to enjoy older books that are a new discovery for me.  Unfortunately, older =books don't get the same interest as new releases, which means my readers may be missing out on some really great books.

So, each Saturday, I will feature a book from a series I am working my through them. Mostly, I  will highlight a long running series, but I will also feature new ones too, and keep you posted on the latest installments.



The first book in the series is:



For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne PerryMr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.



Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery, #1)Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is a 2012 Bantam publication.

I enjoyed this first book in the Maggie Hope series.

Set in Britain, just as the country enters the second world war, Maggie Hope is asked to work as a secretary for Prime Minister Churchill.

Maggie had arrived in Britain to sell the old Victorian house she inherited from her grandmother, but ended up living in the home with an eclectic group of roommates.

Although with her incredible mathematical abilities, she is very over qualified for her new job, as a woman, she finds herself relegated to taking dictation, but before long, Maggie begins to decipher codes, while also inadvertently discovering a shocking family secret.

Before she knows it, she is helping to flush out a spy, and doing a little investigative work concerning her own family, which is somehow connected. When all is said and done, Maggie’s life will have taken a turn into a new and unchartered course, not only with her career, but in her personal life, as well.

This novel is, of course, a mix of fact and fiction. There are ‘real life’ characters in the story, but it is not intended to be taken too literally.

I liked Maggie, who is a person well ahead of her time, is quick on her feet, and very smart, which earns her the respect of her male friends and colleagues, albeit, grudgingly at times.

The plot moves along a quick pace, but the characters have time to develop, which is especially important in the a ‘first in a series’ novel.

There were several ‘whiplash’ twists and surprises I never saw coming, which I loved, plus, I liked the tone of the story, which includes some interesting dialogue and political debate, a mountain of intrigue, with a little bit of romance blended in for good measure.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book, but this series starter, was interesting enough, and the spy angle was a nice surprise. Overall, I think the series got off onto solid footing, so I’ve queued up the next three books from the library.



New York Times-bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series from Bantam/Random House. She is the winner of the Barry Award, and her books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Agatha, Thriller, and Dilys Awards.

The first novel in the series is Mr. Churchill's Secretary. It won the Barry Award and was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Mystery Readers International's Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel. It was also nominated for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's 2013 Dilys Award for "the mystery title of the year that booksellers have most enjoyed hand-selling," Mr. Churchill's Secretary was also declared one of Suspense Magazine's Best Debut of 2012, Deadly Pleasures's Best Paperback Original of 2012, and chosen as one of Target's "Emerging Authors" series. 

The sequel, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, was a New York Times bestseller and chosen by as "Mystery of the Week" and one of "7 Compulsively Readable Mysteries (for the Crazy-Smart Reader)," as well as Tagret's "Emerging Authors" series. It was nominated for the Macavity Award's Sue Feder Historical Memorial Award.

His Majesty's Hope made the New York Times- and USA Today-bestseller lists and was chosen as one of Target's Emerging Author Series.

Books #4, The Prime Minister's Secret Agent, will be published in spring of 2014.

Susan graduated cum laude from Wellesley College, with departmental honors in English Literature and credits from cross-registered classes at MIT. She attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University.

Her first job was as an intern at Random House for then-publisher Harold Evans, before moving her way up the editorial ladder at Viking/Penguin and McGraw-Hill, then becoming an associate editor at Dance Magazine.

Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Fodor's, Time Out New York, Time Out London, Publishers Weekly, Dance Magazine, and various publications of New York City Ballet. She's also the author of two non-fiction books and a professional editor.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Feature and Review


Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. 

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.



What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty is a 2010 PanMacMillian Australia publication.

With so many books out there, there is bound to be an author that slips by unnoticed, and for me, sadly, Lianne Moriarty falls into that category.

I knew her books were well received and popular, but I could never seem to find the time to fit one into my schedule. But, my local overdrive library heavily promotes her books, so finally, I took the plunge and put a couple of them on hold.

This book turned out to be an excellent introduction to this author’s work and I can certainly see why her books are well liked. I absorbed this story like a sponge, savoring every nuance and subtlety.

It was a coincidence, this book has an underlying Mother’s day theme, so it was fitting I found myself reading it this week. The story centers around Alice, a woman on the cusp of her fortieth birthday, who takes a serious tumble, and hits her head hard enough to cause severe memory loss… ten years of lost memories to be exact.

Alice believes it is 1998, while in reality it’s 2008. A lot can happen in ten years, and for Alice it’s confusing, heartbreaking, scary, and sad.

Also contributing to the story is Alice’s sister, Elisabeth and her adopted grandmother, each realizing, via Alice’s switch back to 1998, how they have lost their way or let time slip away from them.

Amnesia plots are tricky in many aspects, but this story has a definite whimsical quality to it, despite the heavy issues at hand, and was handled adeptly.

Alice and Nick are on the brink of divorce, but why? A tragedy has occurred, but what happened? Will Alice get her memory back? If she does, will she change or go back to being her old self again?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to go back in time and basically get a do-over? What changes would you make? Were you a better person back then than you are now, or vice versa?

It’s so easy to allow our careers, and other outside forces, to take over, slowly infiltrating our lives, changing us and bending us until we lose sight of our true goals and priorities. If we were given the opportunity to see ourselves a decade into the future, would we like the people we became? Would be proud of our accomplishments, or would we feel sad by the way we traded love and relationships off for money, houses, and careers or allowed others to interfere or invade the goodness we had? Would we regret our choices?

This story will challenge you to take a good hard look at your life and the choices you have made. Don’t forget the things that matter most, like your marriage, your children, and your family. Friendships are important and work is a huge part of our lives, but they shouldn’t be the most important thing, nor should they become an undue influence on our relationships or personality.

Many will see themselves in this story in one form or another, and can relate to busy, busy, busy lives, the irritants that pop up in married life, the ups and downs, the resentments that can settle in, the trite grudges, the awkwardness of coping with friends who split up and feeling loyalties divided, or maybe from having to compete with a friend for your spouse’s attention, with jealousy rearing its ugly head as a result. How common is Alice and Nick’s story?

But, Alice is not the only one who has gone through incredible changes. Her sister’s struggles with fertility have left a mark on her, which has changed her personality and the dynamic of her own marriage. My heart went out to her, but I’m happy she considered all her options and was so proud of how she persevered in the end.

The other story regarding Alice and Elizabeth’s adopted grandmother was also poignant and sweet, but I do wish we had been given more one on one conversations with her, instead of merely reading her thoughts via letters written to an old beau who died many years ago.

Overall, this is a unique and thought provoking story, and perhaps a cautionary one too, but one that is full of second changes and hope that left me feeling at peace now that all is as if should be. I am really excited about this author now and have already queued up another of her novels.



Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of six internationally best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and the number 1 New York Times bestsellers: The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies.

The Husband's Secret has sold over three million copies worldwide, was a no. 1 UK bestseller, an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and will be translated into over 40 languages. CBS Films has acquired the film rights. 

With the launch of her novel, Big Little Lies, which has sold over one million copies in the US alone, Liane became the first Australian author to have a novel debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. An HBO series based on the book is currently in production with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley playing the three lead roles.

Liane’s newest novel, Truly Madly Guilty, will be released in July 2016. 

Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter. You can find more at and

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware- Feature and Review

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister...

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


MY REVIEW: The Lying GameThe Lying Game by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware is a 2017 Gallery Scout publication.

This latest thriller, by Ruth Ware, is an all- consuming, riveting tale, full of mind games and edgy suspense.

Isabel, Kate, Fatima, and Thea became fast friends while attending Salten boarding school, as teenagers. They began ‘the lying game’ to liven up their stay at the school, garnering them a terrible reputation on campus. But, ironically, their practice of lying came in handy, when they found themselves involved in a scandal that forced them out of the school.

Now, as adults, the women have moved on with their lives the best way they can, but they all live in fear of the day they will be summoned back to Salten to answer for their crimes. That day has finally arrived. Isabel, Fatima and Thea all receive a text message from Kate-

‘I need you.’

This story is moody and atmospheric, with a heavy feeling of foreboding percolating in the background. Ware had me on edge right from the start and kept me there until I crossed the finish line.

The consequences of lying are numerous, and we all know that lies cultivate more lies. It’s a vicious cycle. But, it’s especially brutal for Isabel, Kate, Thea, and Fatima, who have all lived with their lies, precariously balanced on a precipice, knowing their dark secret could be discovered at any moment. When it looks like their worst fears are about to be realized, it forces them to polish up their lying skills once again… only this time, it’s not a game.

‘When you define yourself by walls, who’s in, who’s out. The people on the other side of the wall become, not just them, but THEM. The outsiders. The opposition. The enemy.’

Isabel is the narrator of this story, and gives an accounting of the girl’s pasts, and the events of the present that brought them back together after all these years.

“What am I coming to? I am as bad as Kate, haunted by ghosts of the past. But, I remember lying here, one night, long ago, and I have that feeling again, of the record skipping in its groove, tracing and retracing the same voices and tracks.”

With her stable home life at stake, Isabel has a great deal to lose if the truth were ever exposed.
But, all the characters are complex and flawed, nervous, and jumpy, and under an equal amount of pressure. But, with their reputations preceding them, it is impossible to completely trust any of them.

“A wall, after all, isn’t just about keeping others out. It can also be for trapping people inside.’

I enjoyed the setting in this one, the guessing game, the dramas, confessions, and the surprising twists, all of which are important for any psychological thriller, but this book almost has a Gothic undertone, which of course, I found very appealing.

The suspense is mostly derived from the foreshadowing of doom, and is much more psychological than thriller, if that makes sense. Ware’s style, after only two novels, won her the moniker of ‘the Agatha Christie of our time’, but, this one may seem like a kinder, gentler version of Ware, who seems to have altered her style of writing just a little bit with this one.

This one is not quite as gritty as her previous novels have been, but I liked the more in -depth characterizations and the clever way she creates long lasting suspense that hangs in the air like a mist that refuses to burn off, becoming murkier and more intense as the story proceeds. But, never fear, there are still lots of surprises and twists that will catch you off guard.

Overall, this is another very solid performance from Ware, and I enjoyed this one, especially appreciating the tone, which is very much the style of suspense I enjoy most.



Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer, and is the internationally bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and the forthcoming The Lying Game (July 2017). She is married with two small children. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @RuthWareWriter.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house.

When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted.

It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other.

And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible.



Beach House for Rent (The Beach House, #4)Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe is a 2017 Gallery Books publication.

I’ve been dying to sink my teeth into this latest installment in the ‘Beach House’ series by Mary Alice Monroe!

I’ve never been disappointed by one of MAM’s novels, but this one is especially poignant and is simply storytelling at its finest.

Once again, we return to the magical beach house filled with special memories of Lovie, Cara’s mother, who stubbornly refused to sell it, eventually handing it down to her daughter. Over the years, Cara’s often overbearing and obnoxious brother, Palmer, has pushed her to sell the prime location, but Cara has firmly refused him.

However, dark and ominous financial clouds are gathering over Cara and her husband, Brett, which makes selling the house very tempting, indeed.

Yet, Cara stands firm against Palmer’s aggressive, hard sell, and declares the house is for rent. She just never thought she would find a renter so fast…

Heather has been commissioned to do bird sketches to be used as models for United States postage stamps!! While she is very excited about this honor, her extreme social anxiety, and panic disorder keep her from living life to its fullest. To top it off, her father recently remarried- to a much younger woman, who does not want Heather living at home any longer.

So, her father gently nudges Heather out of the nest by renting her Cara’s beach house for the summer. This will give Heather time to work with her birds, get her job done, and maybe learn to live on her own- at least for the summer.

But, when a horrific and cruel twist of fate occurs, Cara finds she really needs to recover in the peace and comfort she can only find at the beach house. However, with Heather living in the house for the summer, Cara must make a compromise that will suit them both, which soon becomes the foundation for a very special bond between these two unlikely friends.

I always find myself totally wrapped up in the drama, love, laughter, and friendship exhibited in this series.

The characters are so real, they feel like people you would meet anywhere, or that you might know personally, which makes their stories feel so real, raw, and emotional.

I really took to Heather right away, understanding what it is like to live with a disorder few people understand, and are so quick to make judgements about. The more I learned about her, the more I liked her. She made so much progress, and Bo was a big part of her journey. But, what really sold me on her character was the way she took Cara in her arms and became a rock for her, even though Cara wasn’t having any of it in the beginning.

( I found her jealousy of Heather both amusing and curious- but it eventually it all becomes very clear what is bothering Cara)

But, Cara’s story is the one that was the hardest to go through emotionally. Her fiftieth birthday has her taking stock of her life and her future, as she realizes that something is missing, something that has her feeling restless, and keeps her from feeling completely content. She’s been struggling to help Brett keep his business afloat, living out his dreams and passions while hers have all but disappeared.

I think many people wake up at some point and realize that life’s twists and turns took them onto paths they weren’t expecting. While they may have found more happiness because of those surprising developments, it may also mean one's dreams were placed on hold or never realized.

For Cara her hopes for motherhood were dashed,and she had also left her high- powered career behind to make a life with Brett, so she ended up working at a ‘job’ helping to make ends meet, but did not find it all that fulfilling.

So, in part, Cara’s story is about her journey toward the discovery of her one true passion, even at this stage in her life. We all need something we are passionate about to keep us focused and centered no matter what other ups and downs, triumphs and failures, life throws onto our path. Of course, the story is also one of friendship and loyalty, about helping people through difficult periods, and coming together in times of need.

This is a wonderful, heartwarming story, and it had the same effect on me as comfort food might, or chicken soup for the soul or something. I absolutely need these types of stories to lose myself in, to take me away from the world’s hardness for a while. No matter what, I always feel better after reading one of MAM’s novels.

One more thought, before I finish- I can’t write a review about this series, without mentioning the ecology and animals the author weaves into her stories, which educates, but also serves as a reminder, that we are responsible for the well being of birds, and all beach life and aquatic creatures, no matter how superior you may feel, or how entitled you may feel about using the beach for your own enjoyment.

As always, I came away from this story feeling humbled and deeply satisfied. Another outstanding job by this author! I do hope, like Cara promised, she will be back soon!



Mary Alice Monroe is known for her intimate portrayals of women's lives and keen eye to setting. Monroe brings to life the many colorful people and the compelling story layers of her home--Charleston and the the beaches of the lowcountry. 

Mary Alice Monroe's books have achieved several best seller lists including the New York Times, SIBA, and USA Today. Mary Alice has received numerous awards, including the 2014 SC Book Festival Award for Excellence in Writing, the 2015 SW Florida Book Festival Distinguished Author Award, 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, The RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. She serves on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust, and the Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. Her children's books received several awards, including the ASPCA Henry Bergh award. 

Her recent novel is the final book in a trilogy set in the lowcountry: THE SUMMER GIRLS, THE SUMMER WIND, and THE SUMMER'S END. Her next novel, A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDING, continuing the popular series, will be released in May 2016. Monroe's novel, THE BEACH HOUSE, will be made into a Hallmark film starring Andie MacDowell.