REVIEW: DEAD LETTERS, BY CAITE DOLAN-LEACH

Ava has her reasons for running away to Paris. But when she receives the shocking news that her twin sister, Zelda, is dead, she is forced to return home to her family’s failing vineyard in upstate New York. Knowing Zelda’s penchant for tricks and deception, Ava is not surprised when she receives her twin’s cryptic message from beyond the grave. Following her sister’s trail of clues, Ava immerses herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers, and soon finds herself confronted with dark family legacies and twisted relationships. Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending? Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller is a literary scavenger hunt for secrets hidden everywhere from wine country to social media, and buried at the dysfunctional heart of one utterly unforgettable family.

Dead Letters begins with some background into the lives of the twins, Ava and Zelda, and how they were named. We learn that Ava has received a notification of Zelda’s presumed death in a fire. Soon we begin seeing a series of letters from Zelda to Ava, dated a few years before…and then the letters start coming from the present. Is Zelda still alive? And if so, what kind of game is she playing.

The story slips between the past and the present, and we slowly learn more about the dysfunctional Antipova family. Dementia and addiction seem to have marked them, but the most notable relationships are those between the twins. They were close, but their relationship was marred by the games they played.

What will eventually reveal itself? Will Ava return to Paris and the life she was building there, or will she settle for adjusting to her life as part of the family?

Just when I thought that I had figured out Zelda’s game, everything turned upside down and we were forced to accept some stunning truths. I enjoyed the characters and trying to sort through the puzzle pieces, but parts of it dragged on too long for my taste. The writing was great, however, and earned 4 stars from me.

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SEARCHING MY BACKLOG…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today’s feature is a book I purchased on March 26, 2017.  Yes, I definitely have been neglecting this one, and I downloaded it based on recommendations.  So I really must read it soon!

All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg, “tells the story of an adult woman who wants what she wants, not what she’s supposed to want.” — Marie Claire

Here’s the description:  Who is Andrea Bern? When her dippy therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh—that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have a different idea of what it means to be an adult, though. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes, All Grown Up is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s powers as a storyteller and a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.

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What book have you been neglecting?  Come on by and share.

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GOODBYE TO JUNE!

Another month has sped by, and so many great books were enjoyed.  Here are the two favorites I picked, but the task was challenging.  I loved all of them!

 

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Genres:

     Suspense/thriller/mystery:  8

Contemporary fiction:  2

Literary fiction:  1

Fictionalized biography:  1

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Here are my books.  Click titles to read my thoughts.

JUNE 2020:

1.After Anna (e-book), by Alex Lake – (407 pages) – (thriller) – 6/2/20

2.A Piece of the World (e-book), by Christina Baker Kline – (325 pages) – (fictionalized biography) – 6/5/20

3.A Week at the Shore (e-book), by Barbara Delinsky – (406 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 6/13/20

4.Closer You Get, The (e-book), by Mary Torjussen – (351 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 6/12/20

5.Flatshare, The, by Beth O’Leary – (325 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 6/9/20

6.Golden Cage, The (e-book), by Camilla Lackberg – (352 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 6/30/20 – (NG-7/7/20)

7.Guest List, The (e-book), by Lucy Foley – (320 pages) – (thriller) – 6/27/20

8.Pretty Things (e-book), by Janelle Brown (474 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 6/19/20

9.Swan Song (e-book), by Lisa Alther – (240 pages) – (literary fiction) – 6/20/20

10.This Is How I Lied (e-book), by Heather Gudenkauf – (336 pages) – (thriller) – 6/10/20

11.Watch Me Disappear (e-book), by Janelle Brown – (176 pages) – (domestic mystery) – 6/6/20

12.You Can’t Catch Me (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie – (327 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 6/22/20

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN JUNE 2020:    12

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN JUNE 2020: 4039

BOOKS READ YTD:  72

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How did your month unfold?

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REVIEW: THE GOLDEN CAGE, BY CAMILLA LACKBERG

Faye has loved Jack since they were students at business school. Jack, the perpetual golden boy, grew up wealthy, unlike Faye, who has worked hard to bury a dark past. When Jack needs help launching a new company, Faye leaves school to support him, waitressing by day and working as his strategist by night. With the business soaring, Faye and Jack have a baby, and Faye finds herself at home, caring for their daughter, wealthier than she ever imagined, but more and more removed from the excitement of the business world. And none of the perks of wealth make up for the fact that Jack has begun to treat her coldly, undermining her intelligence and forgetting all she sacrificed for his success. When Faye discovers that he’s having an affair, the polished façade of their life cracks wide open. Faye is alone, emotionally shattered, and financially devastated—but hell hath no fury like a woman with a violent past bent on vengeance. Jack is about to get exactly what he deserves—and so much more. In this splashy, electrifying story of sex, betrayal, and secrets, a woman’s revenge is a brutal but beautiful thing.

 

There is something cold and calculating about Faye, in The Golden Cage. Yes, her husband Jack, is a monster. And so was her father all those years ago. But has she taken her need for revenge to a whole new level?

Watching the drama of Faye picking up the pieces after her mother’s presumed death; then following the way she dealt with inconvenient people along the way; and then how she almost immediately knew how to plan what to do about Jack felt like a bridge too far. But it was also delicious!

Who doesn’t want to root for a woman like Faye, especially after the betrayals she has suffered?

Even though I had guessed how some of the revenge would play out, I couldn’t wait to watch it all unfold. Definitely an intriguing tale that kept me glued to the pages. 4.5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

ADDING ANOTHER BOOK FROM THE BACKLOG…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today I scrolled through my book purchases from 2017, and discovered Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach.  I downloaded it on 2/27/17.

 

I purchased it because I had heard good things…and now I simply must read it!  Here’s the description:

A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel with eccentric, dysfunctional characters who will keep you guessing until the end—for readers of Luckiest Girl Alive and The Wife Between Us.
 
Ava has her reasons for running away to Paris. But when she receives the shocking news that her twin sister, Zelda, is dead, she is forced to return home to her family’s failing vineyard in upstate New York. Knowing Zelda’s penchant for tricks and deception, Ava is not surprised when she receives her twin’s cryptic message from beyond the grave. Following her sister’s trail of clues, Ava immerses herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers, and soon finds herself confronted with dark family legacies and twisted relationships. Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending? Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller is a literary scavenger hunt for secrets hidden everywhere from wine country to social media, and buried at the dysfunctional heart of one utterly unforgettable family.

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Now I am intrigued again!  Off to add it to my list of upcoming reads.

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REVIEW: YOU CAN’T CATCH ME, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

Twelve years ago Jessica Williams escaped a cult. Thanks to the private detective who rescued her, she reintegrated into society, endured an uncomfortable notoriety, and tried to put it all behind her. Then, at an airport bar, Jessica meets a woman with an identical name and birth date. It appears to be just an odd coincidence—until a week later, when Jessica finds her bank account drained and her personal information stolen.

Following a trail of the grifter’s victims, each with the same name, Jessica gathers players—one by one—for her own game. According to her plan, they’ll set a trap and wait for the impostor to strike again. But plans can go awry, and trust can fray, and as Jessica tries to escape the shadows of her childhood, the risks are greater than she imagined. Now, confronting the casualties of her past, Jessica can’t help but wonder…

Who will pay the price?

 

You Can’t Catch Me is a cat and mouse game that kept me hooked from the beginning. Just when I thought I knew how it would all play out, I was fooled.

I especially enjoyed the first- person voice of Jessica, as she shares the story of her childhood and the horrific cult to which her parents brought her.

Liam was her rescuer, who helped her escape just when everything was turning especially dark. He was also there for her when other events unfolded. She had come to count on him. But there are many secrets she is keeping.

All the Jessicas were a few steps too far, but it was fun to watch our Original Jessica as she tried to catch the grifter she called Jessica Two.

But what has Jessica One been hiding? What unexpected secrets will be revealed at the end? A brilliant five star read.

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ANOTHER BOOK FROM THE BACKLOG…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

I found another book from 2018, which I bought on January 7.  As it turns out, it is actually on my device, and I scroll past it frequently.  I must move it forward, as I’ve heard good things about it.

The Sixth Window, by Rachel Abbott, is a “gripping psychological thriller.”

Synopsis:  Every instinct told her to run…

Natalie Grey is living a nightmare. She has discovered a disturbing website link on her new partner’s computer and fears he has a dark side, and even darker intentions. When her husband died in a hit and run accident, Ed had seemed like a safe harbour. Now where can she turn?

Concerned for the safety of her fifteen-year-old daughter Scarlett, she moves them both to a new home beyond his reach, unaware that the apartment holds secrets of its own. Left alone during the long days of the school holiday, Scarlett investigates strange sounds coming from the other side of the wall, never anticipating the danger that awaits her there.

DCI Tom Douglas’s investigation into the apparent suicide of a teenage girl draws him ever closer to Natalie and Scarlett. But will he be too late to protect them from the danger they face, or from the truths that will tear their lives apart?

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I am hoping to start reading it soon.  What have you discovered on your shelves?

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REVIEW: THIS IS HOW I LIED, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

Everyone has a secret they’ll do anything to hide…

Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.


From the beginning of This Is How I Lied, I was rooting for Maggie, even though there were moments along the way when she seemed to be culpable of something. Perhaps not what she thinks she has done, but at the very least, she has kept dark secrets.

Then there is Nola, and she presented as a monstrous person from the beginning. At the very least, crazy. She always seemed to be lurking, and that habit led her to listen in on conversations and present distorted truths to Maggie and others.

The story was told by multiple narrators that swept back and forth in time, and through this device, we ultimately learn the truth of what happened to Eve. 4.5 stars.

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ADDING ANOTHER BACKLOG BOOK TO MY DEVICE…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Another scroll through the TBR found several discoveries, although I am slowly reading some I found in recent weeks!  Today’s feature is a short little book that I am embarrassed not to have read yet.  And I recently read a new book from the author, so this one should be a perfect selection.

After rereading the description, I know why I selected it.  My kind of read!  So here I go, it is moving up on my stack.

Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown, was downloaded to my TBR on August 18, 2017.  With only 188 pages, I should be able to finish it in one sitting!

Description:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The disappearance of a beautiful, charismatic mother leaves her family to piece together her secrets in this propulsive novel for fans of Big Little Lies—from the bestselling author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and the upcoming Pretty Things.

Watch Me Disappear is just as riveting as Gone Girl.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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What are you bringing out of hiding today?  Enjoy!

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GOODBYE TO MAY!

What a great month of books!    It was difficult to pick one favorite, so I chose these two thrillers:

 

 

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Genres:

     Mystery/Thriller – 6

      Contemporary Fiction – 5

      Nonfiction – 1

      Fictionalized Biography – 1

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Here are the books I read; click titles for the reviews…

MAY 2020:

1.A Good Marriage (e-book), by Kimberly McCreight – (387 pages) – (murder mystery) – 5/26/20

2.Big Summer (e-book), by Jennifer Weiner – (352 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 5/6/20 – (NG-5/5/20)

3.Crime Scene (e-book), by Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman – (381 pages) – (mystery) – 5/23/20

4.Dilemma, The (e-book), by B. A. Paris – (384 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 5/31/20 – (NG-6/30/20)

5.Girl in White Gloves, The, by Kerri Maher – (364 pages) – (fictionalized biography) – 5/9/20

6.Have You Seen Me? (e-book), by Kate White – (384 pages) – (thriller) – 5/8/20

7.Hungry Heart (e-book), by Jennifer Weiner – (402 pages) – (memoir) – 5/16/20 – (Nonfiction Reading Challenge)

8.Last House Guest, The (e-book), by Megan Miranda – (353 pages) – (suspense thriller) -5/22/20

9.Little Secrets (e-book), by Jennifer Hillier – (338 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 5/12/20

10.My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell – (369 pages) – (contemporary/literary fiction) – 5/30/20

11.On Ocean Boulevard (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe – (384 pages) – (contemporary fiction) 5/2/20 -(NG – 5/19/20)

12.Sea of Lost Girls, The (e-book), by Carol Goodman – (315 pages) – (thriller) – 5/28/20

13.Sweeney Sisters, The (e-book), by Lian Dolan – (304 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 5/20/20

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN MAY 2020:    13

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN MAY 2020: 4,717 pages

BOOKS READ YTD:  60

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What did your month look like?

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