Blog Tour | Stranger In the Lake | Review

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

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This is the first book I’ve read from Kimberly Belle and based on her writing style alone I will be picking up other books from her. I enjoyed the way the story slowly unwound through both modern day and flashbacks, though there were some portions that I felt were a little slow.

I loved the setting and the descriptions of the environment, town and their house. I definitely had a creepy shiver when thinking about those big windows that weren’t covered in any way. So many secrets and moments of deception wove things together and really were the meat of the story, it definitely kept me wondering and on my toes.

All in all I really enjoyed this psychological thriller and will definitely be checking out more of Belle’s writing in the future.

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links | Author website | Facebook: @KimberlyBelleBooks |
Twitter: @KimberlySBelle | Instagram: @kimberlysbelle | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Review | Out of Body

A small-town librarian witnesses a murder at his local deli, and what had been routine sleep paralysis begins to transform into something far more disturbing. The trauma of holding a dying girl in his arms drives him out of his own body. The town he knows so well is suddenly revealed to him from a whole new perspective. Secrets are everywhere and demons fester behind closed doors.

Worst of all, he discovers a serial killer who has been preying on the area for over a century, one capable of traveling with him through his dreams.

This book definitely went places I was not expecting it to. I didn’t know much going in except that it had to do with sleep paralysis and out of body experiences, but it definitely took a lot of twists and turns from there. From the very start unexpected things are happening to the main character, Owen, whose life is rather mediocre and unexciting. He goes through a traumatic experience and suddenly his life becomes much more active and full of adventure. Each night he learns more things about people and the world as it lives at night, as well as what dwells in the dark.

The writing flowed well and the descriptions were fledged out, but I did feel that the story might have benefited by being a little longer. When the climax happened it felt like everything suddenly happened all at once and was wrapped up rather quickly. I would have liked a little more in depth into the ‘big bad’ and what their actual purpose was, rather than a sudden climax and conclusion. Still it was pretty fast paced and an enjoyable read overall.

Thanks so much to Tor.com for sending me an ARC of this book, it’s expected to be released July 28th. Happy reading!

Blog Tour | This is How I Lied | Excerpt

Hey there! Today I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf and to be sharing an excerpt from the book which was kindly provided by Harlequin/Park Row Books. I’ll have a review coming in the future. Be sure to check it out if it sounds like something you would enjoy.

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

Buy Links | Harlequin  | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |
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Excerpt:
Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe
Monday, June 15, 2020

As I slide out of my unmarked police car my swollen belly briefly gets wedged against the steering wheel. Sucking in my gut does little good but I manage to move the seat back and squeeze past the wheel. I swing my legs out the open door and glance furtively around the parking lot behind the Grotto Police Department to see if anyone is watching.

Almost eight months pregnant with a girl and not at my most graceful. I’m not crazy about the idea of one of my fellow officers seeing me try to pry myself out of this tin can. The coast appears to be clear so I begin the little ritual of rocking back and forth trying to build up enough momentum to launch myself out of the driver’s seat.

Once upright, I pause to catch my breath. The morning dew is already sending up steam from the weeds growing out of the cracked concrete. Sweating, I slowly make my way to the rear entrance of the Old Gray Lady, the nickname for the building we’re housed in. Built in the early 1900s, the first floor consists of the lobby, the finger printing and intake center, a community room, interview rooms and the jail. The second floor, which once held the old jail is home to the squad room and offices. The dank, dark basement holds a temperamental boiler and the department archives.

The Grotto Police Department has sixteen sworn officers that includes the chief, two lieutenants, a K-9 patrol officer, nine patrol officers, a school resource officer and two detectives. I’m detective number two.

I grew up in Grotto, a small river town of about ten thousand that sits among a circuitous cave system known as Grotto Caves State Park, the most extensive in Iowa. Besides being a favorite destination spot for families, hikers and spelunkers, Grotto is known for its high number of family owned farms – a dying breed. My husband Shaun and I are part of that breed – we own an apple orchard and tree farm.

 “Pretty soon we’re going to have to roll you in,” an irritatingly familiar voice calls out from behind me.

I don’t bother turning around. “Francis, that wasn’t funny the first fifty times you said it and it still isn’t,” I say as I scan my key card to let us in.

Behind me, Pete Francis, rookie officer and all-around caveman grabs the door handle and in a rare show of chivalry opens it so I can step through. “You know I’m just joking,” Francis says giving me the grin that all the young ladies in Grotto seem to find irresistible but just gives me another reason to roll my eyes.

“With the wrong person, those kinds of jokes will land you in sensitivity training,” I remind him.

“Yeah, but you’re not the wrong person, right?” he says seriously, “You’re cool with it?”

I wave to Peg behind the reception desk and stop at the elevator and punch the number two button. The police department only has two levels but I’m in no mood to climb up even one flight of stairs today. “Do I look like I’m okay with it?” I ask him.

Francis scans me up and down. He takes in my brown hair pulled back in a low bun, wayward curls springing out from all directions, my eyes red from lack of sleep, my untucked shirt, the fabric stretched tight against my round stomach, my sturdy shoes that I think are tied, but I can’t know for sure because I can’t see over my boulder-sized belly.

“Sorry,” he says appropriately contrite and wisely decides to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator with me.

“You’re forgiven,” I call after him.  As I step on the elevator to head up to my desk, I check my watch. My appointment with the chief is at eight and though he didn’t tell me what the exact reason is for this meeting I think I can make a pretty good guess.

It can’t be dictated as to when I have to go on light duty, seven months into my pregnancy, but it’s probably time. I’m guessing that Chief Digby wants to talk with me about when I want to begin desk duty or take my maternity leave. I get it.

It’s time I start to take it easy. I’ve either been the daughter of a cop or a cop my entire life but I’m more than ready to set it aside for a while and give my attention, twenty-four-seven to the little being inhabiting my uterus.

Shaun and I have been trying for a baby for a long, long time. And thousands of dollars and dozens of procedures later, when we finally found out we were pregnant, Shaun started calling her peanut because the only thing I could eat for the first nine weeks without throwing up was peanut butter sandwiches. The name stuck.

This baby is what we want more than anything in the world but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a little bit scared. I’m used to toting around a sidearm not an infant.

 The elevator door opens to a dark paneled hallway lined with ten by sixteen framed photos of all the men who served as police chief of Grotto over the years. I pass by eleven photos before I reach the portrait of my father. Henry William Kennedy, 1995 – 2019, the plaque reads.

While the other chiefs stare out from behind the glass with serious expressions, my dad smiles showing his straight, white teeth. He was so proud when he was named chief of police. We were all proud, except maybe my older brother, Colin. God knows what Colin thought of it. As a teenager he was pretty self-absorbed, but I guess I was too, especially after my best friend died. I went off the rails for a while but here I am now. A Grotto PD detective, following in my dad’s footsteps. I think he’s proud of me too. At least when he remembers.

Last time I brought my dad back here to visit, we walked down this long corridor and paused at his photo. For a minute I thought he might make a joke, say something like, Hey, who’s that good looking guy? But he didn’t say anything. Finding the right words is hard for him now. Occasionally, his frustration bubbles over and he yells and sometimes even throws things which is hard to watch. My father has always been a very gentle man.

The next portrait in line is our current police chief, Les Digby. No smile on his tough guy mug. He was hired a month ago, taking over for Dexter Stroope who acted as the interim chief after my dad retired. Les is about ten years older than I am, recently widowed with two teenage sons. He previously worked for the Ransom Sheriff’s Office and I’m trying to decide if I like him. Jury’s still out.

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Social Links| Author Website | Twitter: @hgudenkauf |
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf | Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Review: The Cheerleaders

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

I found this book to be a fun mystery that was definitely full of twists and turns, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. There were a number of plot elements that I felt were unnecessary and didn’t really add anything to the story, but rather detracted from it. Also I kind of felt like the Monica at the beginning of the book was a completely different person to the Monica at the end of the book, and not just because she grew as a character.

I did definitely enjoy the twists and turns, as well as the constructing of the puzzle as more and more of the mystery regarding the deaths of the cheerleaders was revealed. Everything was resolved at the end in a satisfying way and I did feel like everything was answered. The writing was easy to read and engaging. Overall I think a lot of people will enjoy this book, but it just wasn’t entirely for me.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour: First Cut

Wife and husband duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell first enthralled the book world with their runaway bestselling memoir Working Stiff—a fearless account of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner. This winter, Dr. Melinek, now a prominent forensic pathologist in the Bay Area, once again joins forces with writer T.J. Mitchell to take their first stab at fiction. 

The result: FIRST CUT—a gritty and compelling crime debut about a hard-nosed San Francisco medical examiner who uncovers a dangerous conspiracy connecting the seedy underbelly of the city’s nefarious opioid traffickers and its ever-shifting terrain of tech startups.

Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals—on both sides of the law—that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.

BUY LINKS: Harlequin Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million
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I won’t lie, part of the reason I was drawn to this book was because it is set in the Bay Area and that is one of my favorite settings for a book, but I was also really interested in the plot. I have not read from the M.E.’s point of view before, especially one that dives into cases and tries to unravel the mysteries of them. Needless to say I was intrigued.

This story was full of twists and turns, sometimes due to Dr. Teska’s decisions and assumptions, sometimes because of the actual crimes and criminals. I really enjoyed how things starts falling into place throughout the story. I also loved the personal touches such as Teska’s propensity to curse in Polish, her interactions with her brother and the hijinks of her dog.

I would keep in mind that this is told from the point of view of a M.E. so there are autopsy descriptions that are graphic, though matter of fact. If that kind of thing makes you squirmish please be aware of that.

Judy Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.

T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.

Social Links:
Twitter: Judy: @drjudymelinek TJ: @TJMitchellWS FB: @DrWorkingStiff

Instagram: Judy: @drjudymelinek

Goodreads:
Judy: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7382113.Judy_Melinek
TJ: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1899585.T_J_Mitchell

Happy reading!

Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

Buy Links: Harlequin  Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble 
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Good Girls Lie is set at an all girls boarding school, which already has me taking interest. Boarding school stories, especially those with secret societies or similar aspects are typically must reads for me. This one did not disappoint. It had a lot of twists and turns, some that I predicted but also some that threw me for a loop.

I did really enjoy the format with the flashbacks that suitably built up the backstory. It was like puzzle pieces falling into place as each different perspective and scene was revealed. The suspense and pacing of this book was also really good as it was a relatively fast read for me.

This was definitely a win when it came to suspense and creepiness, a lot of the time you are left wondering just who certain people are and what they have as motivations. And there are definitely moments of misdirection that I loved.

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville’s premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Social Links: Author Website Twitter: @thrillerchick
Facebook: @JTEllison14 Instagram: @thrillerchick Goodreads BookBub

Happy reading!

Review: Provocation

Doctor Victoria Ward has been killing men for over thirty years. Her victims all have one thing in common: they’re abusive. Righteousness is a close companion—it helps her sleep at night—and she holds the virtue closely as she defends the innocent, upholding the law when it won’t rise to protect those who need it most. When she meets a young girl named Kelly, and follows her down a twisted path of deception, Doc Ward finds herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. Never before has she wavered in her resolve—but can she defend another against someone she loves?

This book was definitely a wild ride and not what I expected. It was far more gritty and dark than I expected, so keep in mind that this includes murder, torture, abuse and assault of all kinds. I enjoyed the switching back and forth between the past and present as it really explained Victoria’s psyche and motivation for her actions.

Though the content is darker and there are a lot of heavy subjects, it could be an important discussion regarding domestic abuse in some ways, but the actions portrayed probably shouldn’t be used as the model of behavior. I did feel that the ending was very abrupt and wished it had been drawn out just a little bit more, a deeper look into the motivations of others besides Victoria.

If you’re a fan of Dexter or serial killer stories this would probably be right up your alley. Happy reading!

Review: Swipe Right For Murder

Synopsis: On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

I didn’t know what to expect with this book just picked it up based on premise alone. It was a fun and twisted ride of betrayal, mistaken identities and a deadly terrorist group which may have had a noble cause at one point early on, but has become twisted.

I loved the friend group in this book, everyone in Aidan’s inner circle truly cared about him and accepted him as he was. Those moments were some of my favorite in the book. I also truly enjoyed the fast paced nature of the book, it was almost non-stop and keeps you guessing the whole time. The author does a really good job of making you wonder if you can truly trust anyone.

You do have to suspend disbelief with this book, but that’s ok. If you’re looking for a sometimes sassy, sometimes hilarious crime adventure, you should definitely check this one out.

Happy reading!