The Boat Runner Review & Giveaway

The Boat Runner: A Novel (Paperback)


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Full disclosure: Devin is a friend of mine.  When I found out he was going to have his debut published, I was beyond excited for him.  He promised me an early copy, and I was thrilled to receive it.  I even got choked up reading the acknowledgements because most were such close friends.  But then I had a thought: What if I hated it?  How would I tell him?  So I left it to sit on my nightstand, where day in and day out I looked at it, afraid to pick it up.

But then my mom asked if she could read it.  And my husband.  So of course I had to read it before they did, so I finally started, and boy, am I glad I did.

I guarantee this is a WWII story you haven’t read before.  It introduces Jacob Koopman, a teenager living in a small Dutch town with his older brother, Edwin, and his parents.  His father owns a lightbulb factory and in an attempt to secure more business, he decides (without his wife’s permission) to send the boys to a German youth camp just as Hitler and the Nazis are coming into power.  Jacob’s story is followed through the war as he grapples with which side is doing the right thing and how far he will go to protect his loved ones.

It is obvious to see the amount of research that went into this book.  I quickly formed an emotional connection with Jacob and could sympathize with his plight.  It’s hard enough to be a teenager.  But just try to deal with that as war is breaking out.  I believe he tried to see the good in everyone, even those who we would now call “enemies” in our history books.

If you enjoy books like All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, Once We Were Brothers, and City of Thieves, be sure to give this one a read.

If you ever get the chance to meet Devin, at an event or book signing, please go.  Aside from the fact that he’s the nicest person ever, you’ll be fascinated by his family history and his past that all shaped this story.

Thanks to Devin, I have 2 signed copies to give away to lucky readers.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Fourth Monkey Review & Giveaway

The Fourth Monkey (A 4MK Thriller) (Hardcover)


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It has been a long time since I read a gritty serial killer novel.  The last series I recommended was the Smoky Barrett series starting with Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen.  I had heard The Fourth Monkey was good, so I was excited to read it.  And I was pleased to find that it was fantastic!

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We are first presented with the 4MK killer by finding his signature white box tied with black string.  Inside is either his victim’s ear, eyeballs, or tongue.  He follows the “Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil” mantra.  You’ll have to read the book to find out why it’s called The Fourth Monkey.  And the Chicago detectives searching for him assume he’s a vigilante killer.

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What I loved so much about this book and made it so readable was that interspersed throughout the search is the killer’s diary.  It starts with him as a young boy and takes us through a creepy period in his life to give us a glimpse as to why he does what he does.  I found the diary to be as page turning as the rest of the book!  I couldn’t wait to get back to the back story to read more.

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If you are a fan of Dexter (the books or television series), You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes or James Patterson, this book is a must read.  With an open ending, I sure hope J.D. Barker adds another to this series.  I’d love to find out what trouble these characters find themselves in next.  My thanks to Maxine Groves and HMH for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Today for one lucky winner I have a #4MK Killer Swag Bag which features a hardcover book and more fun prizes!  U.S. and UK residents only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Follow Me Down Review & Giveaway

Follow Me Down: A Novel (Hardcover)


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When I saw one of my favorite thriller writers, Chevy Stevens, call this new psychological thriller “clever and remarkable,” I knew I’d be in for a fun ride.  And that cover!  This book was one I didn’t want to miss.  It lived up to the hype and made me a new fan of Sherri Smith.

Mia Haas gets a phone call from the police department in her hometown that her twin brother, Lucas, is missing and she needs to get there immediately.  When she arrives she finds out that in addition to his disappearance, he’s a suspect for murder.  Knowing in her gut that he is not capable of murder, she sets out to prove him innocent, find him, and uncover the truth.

Having grown up in this town where everybody knows everybody’s business, it makes it hard for her to investigate.  On top of that, the police seem to be holding a grudge against Lucas.

One thing I loved about this book was how each character was flawed in some way or multiple ways.  Including Mia.  Not one person was presented as perfect.  It was so true to reality that it kept me eagerly turning the pages.  As Mia gets closer to finding the truth, more and more secrets of small town life and the people living it come pouring out, which exceeded this thriller lover’s expectations.

This story was told in a linear fashion, too, and I know many readers don’t like going back and forth in time, so for those who don’t, be sure to pick this one up.  For a debut suspense novel, this has all the makings of a blockbuster.  I was genuinely surprised by the ending and think you will be too.  I’d love to see some of these characters return in a new book and eagerly look forward to what Sherri comes up with next.

Thanks to Tor/Forge for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to the publisher, I have 2 copies to give away to lucky readers.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Best Books of 2016

I know 2016 was a great year for books when all but one of these selections published for the first time this year.  This list contains multiple genres, everything from memoir to YA and even a new one for me, sci-fi.  So grab a cup of coffee and get your holiday gift lists ready!

The Sound of GravelThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner: A fascinating memoir about growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico and it’s one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction.  Beautifully written considering the author’s trials and tribulations and a perfect book for fans of The Glass Castle.

All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson: This beautiful and All the Winters Afterhaunting novel is not just words written on paper, but a multilayered story of a family and their grief over time.  At its heart is also a love story, not only between two people, but one between a person and his home.  The setting is chilling and the story is full of hope and promise.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I truly was holding my breath in spots as I turned the pages of this book.  It had a hold on me that didn’t let up until I finished the entire thing.  For a debut author, that’s quite an accomplishment.  This is the one thriller I’ve recommended to everyone this year.  I guarantee you won’t think of a “perfect marriage” the same way after finishing this book.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: When I think of outstanding YA, my brain automatically goes to John Green for The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park.  Make room on your The Serpent Kingbookshelves for Jeff Zentner.  He had me laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next.  I was so emotionally invested in these characters.  They were extremely well drawn out that I couldn’t help but form a tight connection.  I was sad to see them go as I turned the final page.

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult: As important as this novel is, so is the author’s note at the end.  Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace and credibility.  You know a ton of research went into creating them.  It’s a story of race relations and it couldn’t have come at such an important time in our history.  I applaud her for not shying away from writing this story, which needed to be written, when she knows people will react with hatred.  I know when I pick up one of her books I will never be disappointed.

Aftermath by Clara Kensie: Lots of books have been written about a tragedy, where something Aftermathhappens to a family as they all have to deal with it.  Aftermath takes place when a tragedy is resolved, and the repercussions of a kidnapped child and how the family handles it today.  I loved the short chapters which made it easy to keep reading.  The story itself was compelling and there were plenty of surprises along the way.

The One ManThe One Man by Andrew Gross: Mix historical fiction with a thriller and you have this hard-to-put-down novel.  Gross used to co-write with James Patterson but he clearly deserves the individual accolades for this one.  It is an extremely well-paced story about trying to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and then having to break out.  So far, this is the defining book of his career.

Center Ring by Nicole Waggoner: Nicole jokes that she was so homesick when she moved away from her hometown that she invented 5 best friends to keep her company and that’s how this Center Ringstory was born.  I related to multiple characters in this book, especially when they were trying to balance it all, like the circus theme suggests.  It ends with a cliffhanger but happy to report Book 2 in the trilogy, The Act, releases in February!

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A beautiful reflection of living life and living it to the fullest told by this neurosurgeon as he faces his imminent death from cancer.   Yes, the story is heartbreaking, but his words will move you.  This is a tiny book but it sure packs a powerful punch.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin: I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this debut was recommended and blurbed by both Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favoriteThe Forgetting Time authors.  This has one of the most unique storylines I’ve ever read and had me spellbound.  It even has a mystery embedded in the story.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Emmy & OliverEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: A sweet and fun contemporary YA.   Oliver is kidnapped by his father and reappears years later in his hometown when all his elementary school friends are now teenagers.  Emmy’s personality is full of wit and snark and just jumps off the page.  A truly heartfelt read that answers the question, “Does absence make the heart grow fonder?”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Sci-fi is not a genre I normally read but when I heard all the raveDark Matter reviews for this one, I knew I had to pick it up.  It is a complete mind warp that has your brain working in new ways.  As I was reading, I was envisioning it playing out as a movie right in front of me.  So even if this isn’t normally your cup of tea, if you like thrillers and fast-paced books, please give it a try.

 

Did you read any of these books and feel the same way?  What were your favorites of 2016?  I’d love to hear and welcome any comments.  Have a Happy New Year!

 

 

19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads

Oftentimes with the first book of an author, you might not be very impressed and hope that in time their writing and stories improve.  In the cases of these talented novelists, I couldn’t wait for their next release because the debut was incredible.  Here are my 19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads in no particular order.

imageCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to give it a hug and never let go.  This was the best women’s fiction novel I had read in years.  It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time.  Aside from the main story focusing on race relations, it tells a story of an unlikely friendship between a young and old woman as they take a road trip.

imageThe Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister

I’ve always been fascinated by illusionists and magicians, so I knew this story of a female illusionist would be a perfect match.  I read this in 24 hours because of how compulsively readable it was.  If you liked The Night Circus, don’t miss this one.  So excited to see a movie in the works too!

imageBeautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Imagine being a teenager and having to move to a new city.  You’re the kind who doesn’t intentionally draw attention to yourself but now you are befriended by the most popular girl at school.  Would you trust her to keep your secrets? This is a true “not everyone is who they seem” story.

imageJulia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

Once I finished this book, I became a lifelong fan of Cathy Lamb.  She puts so much love and personality into her characters.  After leaving her abusive fiancé at the altar, Julia is on the run.  This novel has a hopeful message but is filled with funny and unusual characters and scenarios along the way.

imageOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

A legal thriller and a story of a family torn apart during the Holocaust, this book had me flipping the pages to discover what happens next.  It was originally self-published but came so highly recommended and popular that St. Martin’s Press had to publish it under their imprint.  If the WWII era is a must read for you, don’t miss out on this one.

imageWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This novel asks the question, What defines “motherhood”?  Is it the act of giving birth or raising a child?  Can it be one or the other?  Book clubs will have lively discussions surrounding those questions as they learn a 4-month-old baby is kidnapped from a shopping cart and raised by a woman eager to have a baby.

imageBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley

Have tissues handy.  The protagonist in this novel, Daisy, beats cancer once only to find out it has returned and she only has months to live.  In her short time left, she wants to make sure her husband is taken care of, so she sets out to find him a wife.  Oakley sprinkles some humor throughout so the book isn’t a complete downer and had me thinking of what I would do in a similar situation.

imageThe Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Another great read for book clubs, this thought-provoking novel is a ripped from the headlines story and has you questioning your beliefs.  Sibley is a former nurse and writes from experience.  As a family is torn apart dealing with an ethical dilemma, the reader is left wondering how it will play out.

imageStill Missing by Chevy Stevens

This disturbing thriller put Stevens on the map for page-turning mysteries and now I won’t miss one.  If you want an easy to read book, the short chapters make for one that won’t take you forever.  If you like shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, be sure to give this author a try.

imageA Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Art, antiques, love, Paris.  That was enough to win me over.  But I loved how Gable combined two storylines, one historical and one in the present to unearth the truth.  So much of that reminded me of a favorite author, Sarah Jio.

imageShelter Me by Juliette Fay

I was worried a book about a widower and her young children wouldn’t be able to hold me captive but I was glad I was wrong.  You will find yourself cheering for this flawed mother as she takes the year to reflect on heartbreak and forgiveness and realizes you don’t have to do it all alone.

imageLetters from Home by Kristina McMorris

In this day and age, when we so commonly communicate with emails and texts, reading this historical fiction told through handwritten letters was refreshing.  The story is based in part on the love story of her grandparents. So if you need a book to pull you out of your fast-paced and hectic life into a romance of an earlier generation, this is it.

imageThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

As soon as I finished reading this one, I started recommending it to friends.  It is absolutely going on my best reads of 2016 list, as it had the most unique storyline I’ve ever read.  I was completely caught up in this spellbinding premise and loved how Guskin was even able to incorporate a mystery.

imageRoses by Leila Meacham

Roses is a saga in every sense of the word, one that spans three generations of three families over the 20th century.  Even though it’s hefty at over 600 pages, it reads quickly because you’ll be eager to learn the fates of these families.  Gone with the Wind fans will especially enjoy this one.

imageThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

When you see a psychological thriller debut being compared to Gone Girl, you are likely to be skeptical.  But Kubica really hit it out of the ballpark with this novel and did it with such ease.  New writers will be having their books compared to hers in the future.  Read more about this book and Kubica’s writing process in my interview with her here.

imageA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I did not know what to expect when I received this book. Hailed as an international bestseller, this novel from Sweden didn’t seem like it was up my alley. It follows Ove, a grumpy widower not sure how to spend his days other than doing daily neighborhood inspections. As the book quickly grew on me, so did Ove. I dare you to read this and not feel good when you’re done.

imageA Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

This is a beautifully written story about an extremely ugly topic, human trafficking.  Addison seamlessly weaves an important message throughout this story.  With a background in law and activism, his books always teach me something new.

imageFive Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

When a new book is blurbed by Jodi Picoult, I know I’m in for a treat.  And sure enough, this didn’t disappoint.  Told in two separate storylines of two characters with five days left before the world they know is changed forever.  This novel constantly had me asking myself, what would I do in their situation?

imageHush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

This emotionally charged story of domestic violence had me so captivated that I neglected my responsibilities while reading it.  It was one of those books where you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t know when or how, like a car crash you can’t turn away from.  All the characters felt so real to me.  It’s impressive when fiction reads like it could be nonfiction.

What debut novels did you love that didn’t make the list?  I would love to hear your recommendations and your reviews on the ones I loved.

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