The Killing Type by Jane Corry

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The Killing Type is a short story about two sisters named Susie and Danielle. The barely speak to one another, but Susie is the first person Danielle turns to when she becomes convinced her husband, Simon, is trying to hurt her. Neither Susie, nor the police, believe Danielle’s claims. A few months later, someone dies, and only one question remains. Was it an accident—or murder?

This is one of the best short stories I’m truly impressed that such a compelling story with amazingly clever twists was accomplished with such brevity. I’ve read full-length novels that were nowhere near this unputdownable.

If you’re a fan of short stories, do give this one a try. I have a feeling you’ll love it!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of  Penguin via Netgalley.

Author: Jane Corry
Title: The Killing Type
Genre: Short Story
Published: May 17, 2018 by Penguin
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

A TWISTED TALE FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF MY HUSBAND’S WIFE AND BLOOD SISTERS – THE PERFECT TRAIN-RIDE READ

Susie and her sister have never been close. These days they barely speak. So when Danielle messages her out of the blue and begs to meet, Susie knows something must be wrong.

But what Danielle tells her seems crazy. Her husband, Simon, may be a bully, but surely he wouldn’t hurt her?

Then the accident happens. And Susie is forced to rethink everything.

Who is lying?
Who is telling the truth?
And who, really, is the killing type?

About the Author

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist who has written regularly for numerous newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph Weekend section, the Mail on Sunday and Woman. She has spent time working as the writer-in-residence of a high security prison for men – an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her début thriller which was a Sunday Times best-seller.. ‘I love twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the very end! My husband says I’m a nightmare to watch dramas with as I love to work out who did it before the final revelation!’

You can find Jane on Twitter at @JaneCorryAuthor and on Facebook at JaneCorryAuthor.

Jane runs regular writing workshops and speaks at literary festivals all over the world, including The Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. Until her recent move to Devon, she was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University. She is also an associate member of the Royal Literary Fund.

Many of Jane’s ideas come during her morning dog-jog along the beach followed by a dip in her wetsuit. (She’s an all-year-round swimmer provided the sea isn’t dangerous.) Jane also loves tennis, walking, reading, yoga, the ‘Quiet’ train carriage (a great ‘office’ for writing) and her family. She’s still coming to terms with being an empty-nester but makes up for it with lots of long-distance nagging! Jane’s second husband was a bachelor family friend who is also Godfather to her children. He makes her laugh every day although they can’t agree on how to load the dishwasher!

 

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34 Days by Anita Waller

 

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There’s very little I can say about the specifics of this book, since the blurb gives only the broadest overview.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so this is going to be a tricky review to write… but I’ll do my best to entice your reading appetite.

The morning of their 35th anniversary, Anna left her husband, Ray, who is an abusive, controlling man. Days later, she is stunned when someone close to her confides a shocking secret about Ray.  Anna finds herself swept away by a force she can’t control, knowing it will change the lives of everyone she loves, but is utterly powerless to prevent what’s coming.

34 Days has a swiftly moving plot, and it kept my eyes glued to the page (er… screen). I finished this one over the course of a single day, anxious to see what would happen next. I enjoyed reading the story, and cared about Anna, hoping that all would end well for her, despite the crazy circumstances she found thrust upon her life.

As I reflect upon the story as a whole, however, there were a few things I found wanting. Anna’s decision to leave Ray happens immediately, so there was no opportunity for the reader to want this to happen. We’re told Ray isn’t a good guy, and there are examples of this given later on in the story, but I think I would have preferred to figure this out for myself—perhaps in a brief chapter or two that took place in the early years of the marriage—rather than being plunged into the midst of her decision in the opening chapter of the novel. I wanted to cheer her on for being courageous enough to leave… but I knew absolutely nothing about her marriage, so I wasn’t sure if I should be happy for her or not.

I often wished the characters had been fleshed out a bit more, as so little is known about many of them. Particularly Ray, since he is the root cause for much of what happens in this book. The story revolves around two particular characters, but even with them, I found myself wishing I knew more about them—by what I was shown, not told. Several of the characters felt like window-dressing, and had very little impact on the story as a whole.

Many novels drop you right into the action, without giving the reader a chance to get to know the characters, and—depending on the story in question—can work well. I think 34 Days, on the other hand, would have benefited a great deal by doing the opposite. I would have felt infinitely more connected to Anna and other characters if I’d had time to get to know them prior to the main events being kicked off.

Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy reading this novel. I thought the premise was very good, and was excited to see what happened. There were a couple of explosive twists at the end that I loved, because they were so surprising. But I can’t help but regret not being able to truly connect with Anna on such a level as to deeply care what happened to her—to be rocked to the core when something didn’t go well for her. Even though I cared, it wasn’t to that degree.

I definitely had a mixed reaction to this book, but I’m glad I read it.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Bloodhound Books via Netgalley.

Author: Anita Waller
Title: 34 Days
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: October 3, 2017 by Bloodhound Books
Rating: 3 stars

About the Book

34 Days: A gripping psychological thriller from an international best-selling author
How much can your life change in just 34 days?
Anna and Ray have been married for thirty-five years. They are parents and grandparents and appear to be a normal couple. But behind closed doors something isn’t right.
On the day of their wedding anniversary Anna makes a decision that changes everything and throws her family into turmoil. Anna will discover that she is not the only one who has suffered and by leaving Ray she sparks a series of events so awful that it might just end in murder…
34 days is a stunning psychological thriller from the best-selling author of Beautiful & Angel. It will appeal greatly to fans of Kathryn Croft, Rachel Abbott, B A Paris & Louise Jensen.

Mini-Review: The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

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A thousand dead starlings fell from the sky in Mt. Oanoke, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t long before an more disturbing event rocked the small town. Lucia, a high school student, claims to be having an affair with popular teacher/baseball coach Nate Winters, outraging the town. When she disappears, everyone suspects Nate except his colleague, Bridget Harris, who will stop at nothing to discover the truth.

Told from multiple points-of-view—Nate, his wife Alecia, Bridget, and Lucia—and in varying time periods (time being marked as before and after the birds fell), The Blackbird Season is a slow burning story that gradually reveals the truth of things. The circumstance of the dead birds quickly takes a backseat to the mystery of Lucia’s disappearance and the question of whether or not she and Nate really had an affair—I tended to forget about the birds, actually, as I didn’t care as much about that. The resolution of Lucia’s disappearance was not at all what I expected, and I loved being surprised by what really happened.

This is the first book I’ve read by Moretti. I truly enjoyed her writing style, and found the overall story to be captivating. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work in the future!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Kate Moretti
Title: The Blackbird Season
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published: September 26th, 2017 by Atria Books
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alicia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alicia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.
Told from the alternating points of view of Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.

About the Author

Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser #Review @MetropolitanBks

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How much do you know about Laura Ingalls Wilder? If you’ve only read her Little House books and/or watched Little House on the Prairie on television, you probably don’t know as much as you think you do. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder explores the life of the beloved author (as well as that of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane). Shedding light on little-known facts about the Ingalls and Wilder families—as well as the history of the times they lived in—will allow Little House fans to understand Laura in ways they never imagined.

What I Liked

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At 640 pages, Prairie Fires is a BIG book—a tome, if you will—and I was as excited about that as I was about the subject matter. It’s been a while since I indulged myself in a lengthy read, so I was looking forward to spending some quality time with this book. It needed every single one of those 640 pages, because there was a lot of fascinating material covered in this book. It isn’t a book solely about Laura—in order to get a better understanding of her life, Fraser included bits of history throughout that allows the reader to have a complete picture of what things were like during a particular time. The amateur history buff in me adored reading those portions, because I love learning about history.

I loved learning things about Laura I never knew, such as finding out she was a descendant of Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier—hanged as a “witch” during the Salem Witch Trials. Another fascinating tidbit was about her uncle, Tom Quiner, who in 1874 ventured into the Black Hills—part of the Great Sioux Reservation established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868—inciting the gold rush that would ultimately culminate in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.

It’s simply not possible for me to write about everything I liked about this book, because there are far too many things to list. Suffice to say that I was thoroughly engrossed as I read, and finished reading with a greater knowledge of who Laura Ingalls Wilder truly was—flaws and all.

What I Didn’t Like

Hmm. Well, I can tell you one thing: I definitely do NOT like the fact that I don’t have a hardcover edition of this book sitting in a place of prominence on my shelves! I shall have to give myself a stern talking-to about it, and hang my head in shame for failing to acquire it, because—obviously—my shelves demand to be adorned by a copy of this wonderful book!

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What do you mean it doesn’t count?! It’s all I’ve got!

*sigh*

Okay. FINE. There is nothing I didn’t like about this book. Now, go engage the Borg or something, will ya, Captain? I hear they want Locutus back…

(I have no idea where all that came from, but it amuses me, so I’m going to leave it in the review. Ha!)

Final Thoughts

Fraser’s impressive research is evident throughout, and makes for a captivating read. Relevant historical information is seamlessly blended in with the biographical aspects of the book, and that information serves to enrich the reading experience and provides clarity for matters that the modern reader may not fully grasp without that lens into the past.

I feel this is a book every Wilder fan would enjoy reading, and I highly recommend it not only to them, but to any reader who has an avid interest in the history of homesteading pioneers in America.

A word of caution, however, for Little House fans—Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote beautiful stories that we all treasure, but she was only human, and had her share of foibles and flaws, as we all do. Like anyone, if she’s been put on a pedestal, she will tumble to the ground… so don’t be surprised if you find she had certain attitudes about things that you find disagreeable.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Metropolitan Books via Netgalley.

 

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Author: Caroline Fraser
Title: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Biography
Published: November 21, 2017 by Metropolitan Books
Rating: 5 stars

WINNER OF THE 2018 PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY
WINNER OF THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY

About the Book

The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books
One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.
Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.

About the Author

Caroline Fraser was born in Seattle and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in English and American literature. Formerly on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, she is the author of two nonfiction books, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church and Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, both published by Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books.
She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside Magazine, and The London Review of Books, among other publications. She has received a PEN Award for Best Young Writer and was a past recipient of the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writer’s Residency, awarded by PEN Northwest. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, Hal Espen.

Drop by Drop by Morgan Llywelyn #Review @torbooks

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In the small town of Sycamore Falls, strange things are happening. ATM cards, pens, and various other plastic items have begun to dissolve. Before long, the word is out that “the Change” is affecting plastics worldwide. Initially regarded as a curiosity that would sort itself out, alarm spreads as vital items—phones, computers, tires, engine parts, and even asphalt roads—becomes puddles of ooze. Technology has become useless, and crime is on the rise as unemployment soars. As people speculate on the cause of the Change and governments scramble to find ways to fix the problem, the threat of war is on the horizon.

What I Liked

I loved the concept of this story! Think about it for a moment: how many things do you depend on for normal, everyday life? Did you know plastics are petroleum products? It’s a little shocking, how many things are made from petroleum that you may not know about. That’s what makes the premise of this book so intriguing—it would have a major impact on everything you can think of, and a whole lot more.

I liked seeing how different characters responded to the catastrophe. Some people responded well, looking to the past for ideas on how to survive this new normal—for example, horse-drawn carts and carriages. Others didn’t adjust very well to the Change, and it brought out the worst in them. A group of friends gathered regularly to consider things that might have caused it, as well as ways they could adjust now-obsolete technologies with new, non-plastic materials.

The story ended on one heck of a cliffhanger, and the cause of the Change was never disclosed, but I was fine with that. This is the first book of the series, after all, so I knew better than to expect the mystery of the dissolving plastics to be wrapped up in a neat, little bow, with all questions answered.

About that cliffhanger: I already knew I wanted to read book two in this series whenever it comes out. But with such a fantastic cliffhanger, it’s going to feel like an eternal wait for the next book!

What I (Sort of) Didn’t Like

I don’t have any strong dislikes, but there is one thing I wished for, that I’ll share in this space.

There were times I wished there were fewer characters involved, so that I could see more from the perspectives of the select few I was most interested in. This story is loaded with characters who each have alternating chapters dedicated to their perceptions. While I liked each character and was interested in their point-of-view, the down side is that there was far less time, overall, to be spent in each of their heads.

Final Thoughts

I found Drop by Drop to be a fascinating story, with a unique concept that was very enjoyable to read. It perfectly illustrates how heavily dependent we are on plastics and technologies in every area of our lives, and how lost society would be without all those creature comforts we’re so accustomed to having. Llywelyn has created a cast of character that are easy to relate and believable in their reactions to the world being turned upside down—or melting away, as it were.

Fans of speculative fiction will not only be intrigued by the premise of this novel, but will likely find it hard to stop reading once they start.

As for me, I can’t wait to read the next book in this series… may it be released soon!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Tor Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Morgan Llywelyn
Title: Drop by Drop
Series: Step by Step #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Expected Publication: June 26, 2018 by Tor Books
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

From Morgan Llywelyn, the bestselling author of Lion of Ireland and the Irish Century series, comes Drop By Drop her first near-future science fiction thriller where technology fails and a small town struggles to survive global catastrophe.
In this first book in the Step By Step trilogy, global catastrophe occurs as all plastic mysteriously liquefies. All the small components making many technologies possible—navigation systems, communications, medical equipment—fail.
In Sycamore River, citizens find their lives disrupted as everything they’ve depended on melts around them, with sometimes fatal results. All they can rely upon is themselves.
And this is only the beginning . . .

About the Author

Morgan Llywelyn (born 1937) is an American-born Irish author best known for her historical fantasy, historical fiction, and historical non-fiction. Her fiction has received several awards and has sold more than 40 million copies, and she herself is recipient of the 1999 Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award from Celtic Women International.