Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review: A Map of the Dark (The Searchers Book 1) by Karen Ellis

Release Date: March 12, 2019
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Format: ebook
Pages: 320 pages
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Buy: Kindle | Paperback


Even as her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, FBI Agent Elsa Myers can't ignore a call for help. A teenage girl has disappeared from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads obscures the fact that she did not go willingly.

As the hours tick by, the hunt for the girl deepens into a search for a man--who may have been killing for years. Elsa's carefully compartmentalized world begins to collapse around her. She can find missing people, but she knows too well how it feels to be lost. Everything she has buried--her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother's death--threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.


This is the first book in the series.  I read the 2nd one first but this one really gives me some background on Elsa and NYPD detective Lex Cole. Elsa is an FBI agent in charge of helping find missing kids.  She should probably be on leave since her father is dying and she is trying to split her attention between her father and her case. Lex Cole is the detective in charge of the case, he asked for Elsa's help on this case and so far hasn't been disappointed. He does however keep trying to break through her walls to form a friendship.

As Elsa's father declines she keeps being brought back to the past, her abusive mother and why her father never helped her. This is a good book that not only focuses on the mystery of who kidnapped a young girl on her way home from school but also what happens when we revisit our past. The scars they create and how hard it is to break down walls and let others in. Well written characters, interesting story line.  I wish I had read this one first but either way works, they can easily stand alone but you get much more insight into the characters when you read them in order.

Trigger warning there are scenes related to cutting. 

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Book Review: The Competition by Cecily Wolfe

Release Date: August 9, 2018
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Format: ebook
Pages: 306 pages
Genre:  YA
Buy: Kindle | Paperback 


For Mary Sofia, The Penultimate writing competition is more than a chance at a free college education; she wants to show her younger siblings that they can all rise above their violent family history. For Raiden, the pressure to succeed comes from within, although he knows that family traditions play a part in his determination. For Camara, writing fiction is almost compulsive, but her own dark secret may be the best story she can ever tell. For Michael, swimming and writing fit his introverted personality perfectly, but meeting a smart and beautiful girl at The Penultimate makes stepping outside of his comfort zone easy. All four will compete against each other along with 96 other high school juniors for the chance of a lifetime: a full scholarship to a prestigious private college. Some students will do anything to win, but others may pay the price.


This is a good solid story about several different teenagers from different schools coming together to compete in a writing competition that could give the winner a full scholarship. Some of the kids need it others don't but would like the honor of it. Of all the teens competing we learn about Camara, Raiden, Jada, Mary Sofia, Michael and Julia.  Mary Sofia and Camara have secrets that they are worried about people learning about, Julia and Jada are their best friends and share a knowledge about their friends secrets. Michael and Raiden both have their own struggles.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book which basically takes place over a 2 days but it dug deep and Wolfe really created fully dimensional characters that spoke to me. I could feel their angst, their struggle, their insecurities, and their bravery.  I loved that Julia is probably on the autism spectrum and frequently doesn't stop talking about inappropriate things but after the initial shock these kids just accept her for who she is. Some of the kids are shy others are more outgoing just like in real life. I feel like I really got to know these characters, like they were real people which I appreciated. This is a really good book that deals with some tough topics but in a gentle way. 

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through Book Sirens in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Audio Book Review: Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Hatchette Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 5 hours 48 minutes
Narrator: John Lee
Genre: Fiction
Buy: Audible | Kindle 


A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.
The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough - an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside - for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker's cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings surface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.


This is the story of a family consumed and destroyed by a house that they supposedly love. The house although it is not a person is a big character in the book for without the house this family wouldn't be who they are.

John Campbell inherits Dulough castle but its care and upkeep take a toll on the family finances leading him to turn the castle over to the state to help with the upkeep although they retain ownership. The family moves into the caretakers house as the house undergoes changes and visitors invade what was once their family home.

This was an interesting character study of how a house could suck the life out of a family. As one tragic event leads to another it seems that the bond of the members of the family isn't as strong as the bond they have with Dulough. Beautifully written scenes that make you feel the wind across your face and the lush green of the countryside.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Audio Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel by Matthew Sullivan

Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 9 hours
Narrator: Madeleine Maby
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Buy: Audible | Kindle | Paperback


When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this “intriguingly dark, twisty” (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.


The death of a young man in the bookstore where Lydia works opens up a pandoras box of memories.  Lydia left town with her father and lived in the woods for most of her life. Running from the fear that the Hammerman, a murderer who killed her best friend and her family while she hid under the sink in the kitchen, would return. While Lydia is content with her life she has an estranged relationship with her father and a strange relationship with her boyfriend. When Joey commits suicide in the bookstore she works in she finds a picture of herself as a child in his pocket and winds up with her picture in the paper leading childhood friends to find her.

Unraveling the mystery of who Joey is and why he left her his belongings starts occupying Lydia's mind, but as it does so do the nightmares of the worst night of her life. Her childhood friend helps her try to figure out her connection to Joey and who the woman is that Joey wants her to find. When the story finally comes around the revelations are startling and scary.

I really enjoyed this book, the mystery of Joey and the clues he left behind are interesting and really spoke to me. The characters were well fleshed out and many were damaged by the secrets of the past. Secrets always come back, and our past has a strong impact on the decisions we make and how we interact with the world.

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