Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

Hello Kittens! I hope you and yours are all doing well as we enter the 15th year of Quarantine. Just kidding! Things will be getting back to the new normal soon and I hope that if you, like me, are going to be forced back into the real world, that you can do so in as safe a manner as possible. For today, I have a murderous distraction of a book for you. If any of you read Adrian McKinty’s The Chain last year, then I think you will really like this story. There’s a murder, there’s a recording of the murder, there’s a creepy Irish setting, and plenty of suspects to keep you guessing. This one first hit my radar when it was reviewed over at Crime By The Book, which is any excellent blog for mystery/thriller/nordic noir fans. Enjoy and take care!

Title: RewindRewind

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Author website: https://catherineryanhoward.com/

Publisher: Black Stone Publishing

Publish date: September 3, 2019

ISBN: 9781538519684

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

 

Summary

It all begins with a gruesome murder. Picture it: a woman is sleeping in a dark room and suddenly a figure appears along the side, obviously intent on harm. But wait, you don’t have to picture it, because it is all on tape. Why is it on tape? Who is she? Why is she being murdered? All of these questions will be answered in good time, but two questions are going to chill your bones as you finish the first chapter: why does the killer destroy the camera and how did they know the camera was there?

In Rewind, the reader is going to meet Natalie, a social media influencer who appears to be living her best life. But looks can be deceiving, especially on the internet. In reality, strange things have been happening around Natalie, seemingly as a result of her fame. Her husband won’t take any of it seriously and questions her commitment to her job. Her best friend thinks her work is a hobby and that her life is a breeze.

We also meet Audrey. Audrey is a wannabe serious reported who is currently trudging her way through an assignment in the Entertainment department of an online magazine. Her soul crushing job everyday is to create short, pithy, click-baity stories regarding celebutantes. She is aching to be promoted to the hard news division, and with her living situation deteriorating and her finances draining fast, she could really use the extra money. When her boss tasks her with looking into the social media disappearance of a well-known star, she jumps at the chance.

We are also going to meet Andrew. Andrew runs a set of vacation cottages in a remote area. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t get cell reception and where wi-fi spots are limited. Andrew is a loner who local townspeople regularly gossip about and who fails to put his latest guest at ease. Andrew is a man with many secrets and we learn a good bit about his life in all of this.

Why I liked it:

A really compelling story. Fast-paced plotting. We start at the end of things and work our way back and forth in a way that makes it hard for the reader to piece everything together too quickly. I also loved the way the story ended with the structure of a published news article. I thought that was a particularly nice touch given how most of the story plays out.

***Spoiler alert: I will say this, I called a major twist really early on…like 4 chapters in early. That being said, I absolutely loved the story anyway.***

What I would like to change:

I actually didn’t love the structure of the story as much. It reveals itself as though it was a videotape, with chapter headings such as “Fast-Forward”, “Pause”, etc. I loved that we started with the murder, but the non-linear structure was hard for me to follow at times, and since it had non-traditional chapter titles, it was even harder. I think I would have liked all the “before” chapters grouped together and all of the “after” chapters grouped together just as much.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I borrowed this title digitally for free from my local library.

My library rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

There are scenes involving child rape, pedophilia, sexual blackmail, gaslighting, and we get a fairly graphic description of a murder. That’s a lot in one book, but the majority of the scenes involving those first two take place off the page or using a fade-in technique.

My personal preference rating: I gave this one 5 stars. I was totally hooked on this one from the first chapter and basically flew through it in a day and a half (Goodreads will say it took me 5 days, but I was a little behind on my reading and didn’t really start until a few days later). I’ve already added Howard’s backlist to my TBR.

Notes: Billed as Pyscho meets Fatal Attraction. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen either movie so I can’t comment on the accuracy of that. 😦

Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

Hello Kittens! I hope everyone is adjusting to life under quarantine as best as they can. I have to admit that I am starting to go a little stir crazy. As much as I love reading, eye-strain is real, so even I have to take a break every now and again. Things are so off-balance for me that I did something that I have not done in a really long time…two things actually. I accepted a book recommendation from someone who’s tastes I know are different from mine and I started a book that was in a series without knowing anything about the series or having read any of the previous books. It turned out to be a great move. Readers, I stayed up all night to finish this book. I literally read the whole thing in a 12 hour span with a few breaks in between. I was up until 4am because I couldn’t make myself put it down (although it probably didn’t hurt that I knew I didn’t have to worry about going to work that morning). This one came out a little over two months ago now and it wasn’t really on my radar, but it is a sweet and simple read that I think is just the ticket for these stressful times. Pick it up if you get the chance.

Title: Sisters by ChoiceSisters by Choice (Blackberry Island, #4)

Author: Susan Mallery

Author website: https://www.susanmallery.com/

Publisher: Mira (imprint of Harlequin)

Publish date: February 11, 2020

ISBN: 9780778310020

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

I should start off by revealing that I am not a Susan Mallery fan. I don’t have anything against her, I just tend to prefer a grittier kind of writing and I’m not a huge romance reader. That being said, i’ll be giving her releases a little more of my attention in the future. I don’t know why, but I had pegged her in my mind as more of a Danielle Steel-type writer. This book actually reads more like a Jenny Colgan novel, so if you like her work, definitely give this one a try. Also, if the world is just all too much right now, this is a great escape.

We start off by meeting Sophie Lane, a type-A personality who is on an unimaginative and fairly uninteresting second date. Then she gets a phone call that changes her entire life. The business that she has built from the ground up has just gone up in flames. No one was hurt, but she’s going to have to start all over again, and to make matters worse, when she relocates to a new factory to get started, none of her former employees are willing to go with her. Fortunately for Sophie, the new location is in her hometown, a sweet little coastal area of Blackberry Island, Washington. Who needs loyal employees when she’s got family, right?

Kristine Fielding is Sophie’s cousin and long-time Blackberry Island resident. She is married with three young sons and seemingly has the perfect home life. She also has a small successful baking business on the side that she runs out of her home kitchen. She does it all… but her boys are growing up and she’s starting to want more. When a local property that’s perfect for a bakery storefront comes on the market, she desperately wants to expand her baking dream. She does the research and prepares to discuss the plan with her husband. She’s supported his dreams for their entire marriage, so he’ll be happy to help her build hers, right?

Amber Sitterly is Sophie’s cousin. Amber and her daughter, Heather, begin working for Sophie once she gets her factory up and running, but just because they’re family doesn’t mean all is right in paradise. Amber has a victim mentality about all aspects of her life, nothing is good enough for her, she deserves more than she gets, and she shouldn’t have to work hard for any of it. Heather supports her mother, depleting her savings to give her mother what she wants, but Heather has bigger dreams. She wants to get away from her mother and her negative influence and make something more of her life. Heather works hard and sees working for Sophie as an amazing learning opportunity, as long as Amber doesn’t screw it up for both of them. Amber wouldn’t do anything to undermine Heather or hurt Sophie’s business, right?

And then there’s Dugan. He’s a sexy tai chi instructor who might be just the relaxing no-strings man that Sophie needs. He’s simple and good in bed and seems to be willing to keep their relationship in the “with benefits but no emotional attachments” category. At the same time, he seems to know a lot about her business, and he’s always butting in with advice that she didn’t ask for. When it turns out that Dugan’s more than a pretty face, Sophie has trouble fighting the urge to cut her losses and move on.

This is book 4 in the Blackberry Island novels, and despite having not read any of the other novels, I was able to follow the story line without confusion. Actually, this book was so engaging that I may be picking up the other books in the series the next time that I get a chance. My one issue, if you can call it that, is that these characters are prone to making the same mistakes over and over again, which stretches the believability aspect a little. But that was it. If you are looking for a good escapist novel over the next few weeks, this one would be a good option.

Disclaimer: None needed this time. I picked up this title from the library pre-quarantine.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

This was a great book but it definitely has a few steamy scenes. Unless you know the person, I would be cautious about a recommendation without a heads up about the steam-factor.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Guten Tag Kittens! I don’t know about y’all, but Fall is just starting to make its presence known here in the South. Whatever the calendar might say, it’s been hot as Hades around here and I am loving the 15 degree drop in temperature we got this weekend. When the heat gets too oppressive down here I like to dive in to a read that gives me the heebie jeebies. Thankfully, I won a copy of Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall which cooled me down quick by giving me goosebumps for hours. This YA horror title came out just a few weeks ago and deserves some attention.

Title: Rules for Vanishing

Author: Kate Alice Marshall42872940

Author website: http://katemarshallbooks.com/

Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Randomhouse imprint)

Publish date: September 24, 2019

ISBN: 9781984837011

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

If you’re looking for a YA horror novel going into the haunting season, this one is a good bet. Rules for Vanishing follows two sisters, Sara and Becca, in Briar Glen, MA, in the spring of 2017. Told in the form of interview transcripts from a Dr. Ashford, first-person accounts from a number of teenage participants, and text messaging/email transcripts from the involved teens. One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca disappeared in the woods near the hometown. She was rumored to have been involved in a game related to a local legend about another teenage girl who disappeared in those woods named Lucy Gallows. For some reason, people in town believe that Becca ran away with a boy that she was dating, but Sara doesn’t buy it. She can’t figure out why people aren’t taking the legend seriously, but despite her own doubts, the legend of Lucy Gallows is her only lead, and she’s determined to follow that road in the woods wherever it may lead.

When all of the students at the local high school get a text message challenging them to solve the clues and go to the woods to free Lucy Gallows, many believe that Sara is behind taunt, but a few of her friends from before Becca disappeared are less certain, and they want to be there for Sara in any way they can. So, on the preordained night, the teens meet in the woods and the road appears to them. The rules for the road seem simple: stay with your partner, stay on the road, don’t let go, thirteen steps, get through all of the gates and you’ll be able to leave. The road is not easy and the teens are in for a horrifying trip from which they will not all return.

This read reminded me a lot of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. You’ve got teens in the woods on a magical and terrifying journey where they are in over their heads and being influenced by forces beyond their comprehension. The narrative style of Rules for Vanishing is unique, blending a little of the Blair Witch Project with modern technology to an enthralling effect. The paranoia builds and the reader is on the road just as much as the teens are, trying to figure out who to trust and keeping track of all of the major players and their motives. There’s more than just horror in this story however, as it also addresses the bonds of sisterhood as well as the evolving nature of multiple relationships.

The road gets real pretty fast, and while the copy I’ve got lists the ages as 12 and up, I would probably say 15 and up would be more appropriate. But then again, I’m a scaredy cat who won’t watch horror films and will only read YA horror, nothing more hardcore. The characters are well developed and the setting is richly detailed. The set-up is also there for additional books, focusing more on the mysterious Dr. Ashford than the sisters in this case. The ending is a little ambiguous for my taste, but the storytelling was masterful and I truly didn’t see any of the twists coming. If more titles are coming from this author, I definitely want to read them.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers’ Edition of this title from the publisher via BookishFirst with the expectation that I would write an honest review.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

This one gets a lower lemonade rating because there are some gruesome deaths and there’s a homosexual relationship. Before you get your pitchforks, remember that I am a Southern Librarian talking about the recommend-ability of this book to potential patrons. I loved this book, but I would hesitate to recommend it because of those two things unless I had a clear idea of the patron’s comfort level with those topics.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Hello Kittens! This week I have a book that is making some headlines down south. Currently, a police union in South Carolina is protesting the inclusion of this book on a high school reading list. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been on my TBR list for a while. I started hearing about it shortly after it came out and the cover was intriguing. It’s coming to theaters in October and the first trailer that is out for it looks fantastic. This story is one of those that I struggle with as a Librarian, because the book and its story is so important, but I live where I live, so…it’s a difficult choice.

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give

Author website: http://angiethomas.com/

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Publish date: 02/28/17

ISBN: 9780062498533

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The Hate U Give tells the story of a teenage girl named Starr Carter and the way her life changes dramatically when she witnesses the shooting death of her childhood friend by a police officer. As she struggles to deal with the death of her friend she is also confronting issues with her identity and her desire to support the activism in her community while maintaining her own security. She has a lot of difficult decisions to make in this book, decisions that no teenage girl should have to make. She is torn between the desire to defend her friend’s memory, protect her family, and protect her identity. She faces threats that are very real as she prepares to speak her truth to the courts in the hopes of gaining justice for her friend.

The subjects that this book tackles are incredibly timely. There are some objections to this book out there, mainly they argue that it encourage distrust of the police. I don’t see that argument being made in this book. I think Thomas managed to convey an honest evaluation of the feelings these incidents incite, both at an individual and a community level. A lot of the book is written in Starr’s vernacular, and I will admit that I didn’t quite get all of the references, although that could be my age. I was able to get the sentiment even if I couldn’t connect all of the dots.

The writing is strong and I think any judgments that are made are balanced. Ultimately, I just think this book is important. It reads as hauntingly real. I think when the film version comes out, the response is going to be visceral.

Disclaimer: Not needed. I got this book from my library.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

Let me be clear here, I LOVED this book. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I think that everyone should read this book. That being said, from a professional point of view, there are people in my community who would be outraged to read anything that suggests that not all police officers are without guilt in these circumstances. Also, there was a fair amount of cursing throughout the book.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Hello Kittens! Sometimes I Lie is one of those books where I thought I knew what I was getting into before I even opened the cover, but the reading experience ended up being completely different from expectations. This title was everywhere for a while and it has been out for some time now, so I am extremely grateful that no one ruined the plot twists for me. This is a twisty plot with an unreliable narrator who will have you guessing what is real many times before the end. For fans of modern psychological suspense, this is a definite must-read and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story transformed for the screen sometime in the next few years.

Title: Sometimes I LieSometimes I Lie

Author: Alice Feeney

Author website: https://www.alicefeeney.com/

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publish date: March 23, 2017

ISBN: 9781250144843

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Amber Reynolds is 35-years-old, is married to Paul, and is in a coma. Thus this book starts off with the first twist from the very first chapter. The reader will follow Amber backwards in time, unraveling the lost memories of what led to her coma along with flashes from her childhood which help the reader get to know who Amber really is. Amber is in a coma, aware of everything that is going on around her but unable to move and unable to remember how she got in this situation. Her husband, Paul, and her sister, Claire, are frequent visitors in her hospital room, and Amber believes she has reason to fear them both…if only she could remember why. Lastly, a mysterious visitor who she can’t identify is sneaking in and out of her room whispering sinister things in her ear…if he is real and not one of her dreams that is.

As you read, you won’t know who to trust. Did Paul hurt Amber? Did he cheat on her? Why is Amber afraid of her sister? Why does her childhood factor into this? Is Amber guilty of cheating? What is real in Amber’s life and what has she imagined and why? Who is the mystery man in her room? Did Amber bring this on herself? I loved how much tension the dream sequences in this book built up. Just when you think Amber is remembering something significant, you discover that she is dreaming, but her dreams are all significant, with specific takeaways. The ending weaves all of these differing pieces together and answers so many questions. It was highly satisfying in that respect.

Sometimes I Lie is the debut title from writer and journalist Alice Feeny. Considering how much buzz I have been hearing about this book for the past several months, I was surprised by how slowly it started off. There are a lot of important foundation points that are built in the first several chapters, but there are so many competing narratives, and with an unreliable narrator who can’t trust herself to parse out what is real and what is not, it can be a little tedious for the reader. That being said, even now, several hours after having finished the book, I am still doubting that I understand everything that happened in the end. I have seen some people compare this book to Gone Girl, and I can see that in the sense that it almost reads as though it were two different books. Half the book is spent positing potential theories of what is going on, and the other half is spent allowing the mind to unwind the truth that is stranger than fiction. An extremely engaging ending, and a very promising start from this writer.

Disclaimer: Not necessary. I waited so long to read this one that I was able to get it from my library.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

There are definitely some disturbing scenes in Sometimes I Lie, including stalking, rape and murder. I know murder isn’t generally mentioned when it comes to thrillers, being somewhat expected, but the murders in this book were a little ghastly. While the writing is strong, the content could make some uncomfortable. Keep the recommendations on this one to those whose reading preferences you know well.