Thursday, October 31, 2019

Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas

If it's the last thing she ever does, Iris will find Sophie's killer and make her pay.

On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappeared with three-year-old Sophie Flynn. The next day, the child's body was found on a riverbank in Penhale Wood.

A year later, Sophie's mother, Iris Flynn, appears on the doorstep of investigating officer Rob McIntyre, determined to make him reopen her daughter's case. McIntyre has his own personal demons, but Iris hijacks his life in order to find the woman she thinks is responsible for Sophie's death. Following the slimmest of leads, they are soon confronting ghosts from the past and a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.
Publisher: Audible | Narrator: Ana Clements | Length: 8 Hours, 17 Minutes  | Genre: Contemporary Thriller/Mystery | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For:  - 2019 Try Something New: New-to-me Author
I wasn’t sure what to expect with one as I had hadn’t heard about the book or the author. I took a chance and found this one to be a gripping mystery.
Here’s what’s going on. A year after her daughter’s murder, Iris Flynn is back in the U.K. and determined to find her child’s killer. Unrelenting in her pursuit, she’ll do everything in her power to force Rob McIntyre to reopen the case. Rob has his own problems; a relationship that crumbled, a life nowhere near what he imagined, and a case he hasn’t been able to solve. He knows he doesn’t need Iris in his life but when they stumble upon a new lead, there’s no way he can let Iris down or let Sophie’s killer go free.
This one was a bit different from the normal mysteries that I’ve been reading. Yes, it was mystery, a solid one at that, but there was a different layer to this one. It was also about the characters discovering who they were and what they wanted.
My heart hurt for Iris. She’s lost a child, she has a husband who never really cared about anything but himself, she’s estranged from her mother and siblings, and she’s been living a Gypsy life for so many years she not sure what it’s like to establish roots. She had to leave her two remaining children behind in Australia to return to the U.K. in order to press the police into reopening her daughter’s case. She failed Sophie before and she’s determined not to fail her again.
Rob, while he has his work life under control, his personal life is in a bit of a tailspin. He’s attempting to get over his breakup but there’s a part of him that’s holding on to his ex, and that was a bit trying at times given his ex could care less. He’s also seeing the life his brother has and wanting that sense of family. While he’s reluctant to let Iris in, there’s something about her that makes him want to protect her. He’s also ready to tear everything apart in order to find her daughter’s killer.
While I liked both Rob and Iris, they both had their flaws. I couldn’t understand why Iris was so willing to stay with a worthless husband or why she made her kids live a vagabond life. Rob was an arse at the start. He was constantly going on about the woman who left him and how inconvenienced he was at having to tote Iris around. Thankfully, his character did a 180 and I ended up liking him. They both needed each other to heal and to become whole. While there was no cheating, there was definitely a bond that was formed between them and it changed both of their lives for the better.
The mystery in this one isn’t going to be for everybody. It was a heavier mystery yet not gruesome. There were things that I questioned such as why a mother would agree to bring a woman into their home that she didn’t know and why would she let her young children go with this woman. I also questioned some of the policing in this one. Like why wasn’t CCTV consulted as soon as the nanny vanished? Why did it take a year for visas to be checked out?
Even though the murderer was known from the start of the book, this was one twisty mystery. There were a few things that I had figured out early on yet some of the others caught me off guard. There were also a few questions I had that were either partially answered or unanswered.
This was my first time listening to Ana Clements and I found her to be enjoyable. She was brilliant with the narrations and bringing the characters to life. While I did enjoy her narration, I think this one should have had a male narrator as well. I think I’ve just grown accustomed to dual narration and miss it when it’s not there.
Overall, I do wish that some of the aspects would have been expanded on a bit and the ending could have been little lengthier but it was still a brilliant mystery. If you’re a fan of British crime dramas/mysteries you’ll want to pick this one up.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favourite literature.
To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn't hers, left on the page of an old diary: "Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me."
Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?
Publisher: HMH | Genre: Gothic Mystery/Thriller | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3 Cups

How could I resist a gothic novel where the character’s favorite horror story is played out right in front of her?
Since her divorce, Clare Cassidy has focused her attention on two things: her daughter and the life and work of Gothic writer R.M. Holland. When her best friend, and fellow teacher, is murdered and a quote from Holland’s horror story, The Stranger is found next to her body, Clare becomes a person of interest. Although things take an alarming turn when Clare discovers someone, possibly the killer, has been writing in her journal. As events play out, Clare starts to realize that her favorite horror story is coming to life.
This one arrived, unexpectedly, a few months ago and I immediately added it to my FraterFeastRAT pile. I picked this one up the second day of the readathon and, I have to say, I was a bit surprised at how hard I struggled to get into the book. I was a good 30-40 pages in before this one caught my interest, which I found a bit odd because Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway mysteries hook me from the start.
The book is told from three different POVs. We have Clare, the teacher, who is sorting out her life after her divorce. She’s thrown a good amount of her time researching the life of R.M. Holland almost to the point she’s obsessed with this man. Clare’s not unlikable but I found her a bit hard to warm up to and I think that’s because there’s two parts to her: the reserved one she shows the world and the, I think, real part of herself, which she shares only with her diary.
Then there’s Georgia, Clare’s fifteen-year-old daughter, who is dating an older guy. She’s dabbling in a few secretive things that her mother doesn’t know about and trying to figure out her own path. I found Georgia to be a bit odd. She would say or do something then follow it with an internal thought, “that’s how a normal teenager would act” or “that’s what a normal teenager would do”. It was almost as if she was playing the part of a teenager rather than being one.
Finally, we round out the book with DS Harbinder Kaur, the lead investigator. She’s very judgmental towards Clare from the start due to Clare’s ‘upper crust’ style of clothing and the way she presents herself. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Harbinder, but as the book progressed, she became my favorite. It almost seemed that her story was a bit more layered than Clare’s and Georgia’s.
There’s a few mysteries going on. The first is the brutal murder of Ella, Clare’s best friend and fellow teacher, which happens to follow the murder in the (fictional) story The Stranger, wrote by the (fictional) gothic author R.M. Holland. Because Clare has studied Holland and The Stranger so closely, she immediately becomes suspect number one. Then we have the ‘Holland’ mysteries. There’s the mysterious death of his wife—did she trip or was she murdered? There’s also the mystery of whether or not Holland had a daughter. If he did have a daughter, what happened to her?
All of those threads are strung throughout the book; sadly, not all are handled with the same care. It irritated me because the author spent so much time crafting this fictional horror story and life of the author just to have it fall by the wayside because the ending and the reasoning came out of left field. I needed more from the ending or rather the reasoning.
While this has gothic elements, it almost seems like it’s a modern police procedural masquerading as a gothic novel, which is often the case of modern gothic mysteries. Having read the Ruth Galloway mysteries, which I feel is heavy on the modern gothic vibe; I was a little letdown by this one.
Overall, when I finally got into the book I like the story but the ending ruined the book for me. It left me disappointed as it felt like the author was running out of steam and just picked a random reason.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses Hallmark Movie and Mini Book Review

Hello Lovelies,

I hope you’re all doing well! If, like me, you missed the original airing of Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses on Hallmark (sadly, my DVR failed to record it) I wanted to let you know that Hallmark is re-airing the show on October 31st at 8 PM Eastern. If you’re unable to catch it then, here’s the complete listing of showtimes (please note, the times are Eastern)

If you’d like to purchase the DVD, it’s a Wal-Mart exclusive, at the moment it’s currently sold out but you can sign up for in stock alerts HERE.


Here’s more about the show:

Weeks before Christmas, Abbey is hired to decorate the estate of businessman Nick. She must break down the wall between her and Nick, all while keeping the holiday spirit alive. Starring Jill Wagner, Matthew Davis, and Donna Mills.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale
Publisher: Forever | Rating: 4 Cups
Christmas magic happens when a family focused single mom meets a work-driven man determined not to let love in.
When single mom Abbey gets her chance to fulfill her dream of becoming an interior decorator, she jumps at the chance. The only hitch in her plan is that she’s falling for Nick, the handsome, broody, and somewhat reclusive millionaire. While Nick’s always been work-driven, he finds himself falling for Abbey and her son as they decorate his home. Will Nick allow himself to fall for Abbey or will the next work deal be too tempting to refuse.
While this one had a few flaws, it’s still one of my favorite Christmas romances. Abbey and Nick were two very different characters, which made this book so much more interesting.
If you like sweet heroines and gruff, broody heroes, this book’s for you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

#FraterfestRAT Book Bingo Challenge

Hello Lovelies,  

I’m so excited to be a challenge host for this year’s Frater Fest Readathon. If you don’t know what Frater Fest is let me introduce you to this thrilling readathon hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer.  

Frater Fest runs from October 10th until 11:59 pm October 15th (your time zone). The goal is to read or listen to as many Thrillers, Urban, Paranormal, Cozy, Suspense, Zombies, Horror, Dystopian, Ghosts, Serial Killers, Supernatural, novels, novellas, and/or graphic novels as you can during the challenge. All formats count and the fear level is up to you.  

When sharing your progress on Twitter or Instagram, don’t forget to use the #FraterfestRAT hashtag.

Now…on to #FraterfestRAT Book Bingo Challenge

It’s time to scour your shelves, e-readers, and audiobook collections for titles that coordinate with the bingo prompts.   Any type of bingo counts: horizontal, diagonal, vertical, or postage stamp. Or go wild and fill the entire card! The choice is yours.

To enter, you must be signed up for the Frater Fest Readathon. Please leave your answers in either the comment section below or post a link to your own post in the comment section below. 

Season of the Witch: Witch/Wizard/Warlock

Superstition: Black Cat

Thriller: Zombie or Ghost

Werewolves of London: Werewolves or Shifters

Free Space: Your Choice

Spooky: Paranormal Romance

Somebody’s Watching Me: Thriller, Suspense, or Mystery

Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Themed or Horror

Moonlight: Vampires

I thought that I’d spice this challenge up a bit more and make each prompt a song title! Below you will find YouTube links to each song!
Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Spooky (Dusty Springfield)
Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones) Moonlight (Stevie Nicks)

Terms and conditions: One lucky winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter to win a $10 Amazon gift card. The giveaway is open international and runs from October 10, 2019 to October 16, 2019. The winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected. Must be 13 or older to enter or have your parents/guardians permission. More information can be found in my Terms and Conditions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway