Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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Annie Hewitt is down on her luck. Her mother passed away, leaving her a secluded island house in Maine, and since Annie is broke and jobless she has no choice but to sort through her mother’s things and decide what to do next with her life. Unfortunately, the island has many bad memories for Annie, mostly attached to the house next door, a giant mansion where her mother was briefly the lady of the house.

Is the current man of the house responsible for her near death as a teen? Is he a sadistic murderer, waiting for his next victim? Or is he just a dark, brooding, reclusive writer with serious sex appeal? The line is getting blurry for Annie, especially when she is very limited on social company…with the exception of her 3 larger-than-life puppets, of course.

I didn’t know what to make of this book at first-I truly thought I was stepping into a serious “unreliable narrator” situation, which is great because I have a penchant for that type of literature. But as the story unfolds, there are others on the island who might not have pure intentions, and evil is lurking in the corners. Annie has to use her humor and wits to shake down the community and figure out just what is going on there on Peregrine Island..And where is the legacy her mother claimed to have left her at the cottage? Does someone else want it, too?

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a darker sense of humor and a taste for sarcasm. It is a combination of romance, comedy, suspense and drama, all tied together. I plan to read whatever else Susan Elizabeth Phillips has to offer the world, after reading Heroes Are My Weakness. Highly recommended!

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

This book will creep you out. I mean seriously. I read Gone Girl a couple years back and when I saw that the movie was coming out this year, I decided to check out what else Gillian Flynn has been up to. Sharp Objects came onto my radar since it was available in audiobook from my library and I was in need of some new listening. So here it is:

Camille Preaker is a journalist who grew up in a small southern town. She is mostly estranged from her family, but her boss sends her home to cover story-girls keep going missing and when the bodies appear, they are missing teeth. Camille will stay with her overbearing, narcissistic mother and horribly spoiled half sister while she talks to community members and the police about the missing/dead girls.

Going home is never as simple as it seems to be, however. Things aren’t quite right in the small town, there are secrets and somehow Camille can’t help but feel they are somehow tied into her own past. And Camille may not be what she originally seemed, either. What is true and what is warped out of focus? Who is telling the truth and who is hiding something? Who would kill a young girl? Multiple young girls?

I like mysteries, and I LOVE unreliable narrators. If you liked The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry, or if you enjoyed Gone Girl as much as I did, let this book leave you sleepless and horrified. I’m pretty tough and I have to say, Gillian Flynn, you really know how to leave readers looking for psychopathic killers around every corner. If you think you can handle it, pick up Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn today.

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

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Kate has finally escaped from her miserable life and found the man of her dreams (on the internet, of course), and after a passionate courting, she finds herself married and moving to Iowa to be the lady of his farmhouse. Except when she arrives, she has a rude awakening. Her new husband Joe wasn’t as forthcoming about his living situation as she would have desired. Her marriage is off to a very rocky start, people keep insinuating that her home is haunted, and she is about to learn that the wives of Braxton County face struggles that she never could have imagined, going back generation after generation.

Can Kate solve the mystery of the farmhouse and the murder that once occurred within its walls? Will she face the same fate as the previous owners? Is the family cursed? Can she find her place in Braxton County, or will she be defeated? What secrets are locked away, just out of Kate’s reach?

The Widows of Braxton County, by Jess McConkey, is a novel about old family secrets, the trials of marriage and the complicated relationships between women, and asks a very serious question : Is it possible for a man to avoid becoming his own father, in the end?

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

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Ruby Rousseau dropped out of her all-girls university less than a year ago, and thought she would never have to look back. But one day, a suitcase was delivered to her by mistake-a suitcase belonging to a girl from her old dormitory, Beth Richards. She finds herself pulled into the mystery of a missing person, and forced to deal with the ghosts from her recent past, including a love affair with a Professor that went terribly wrong.

The Butterfly Sister is a mystery novel with a distinctly feminine flair, and for those of you who love literature or poetry, the references to Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Woolf, and other notable female literary geniuses (who were deeply disturbed) is a refreshing and intellectual pleasure, especially for a mystery novel.

I will confess that I was probably the perfect reader for this novel, being interested in tragic literary figures, feminism, and also being an avid mystery reader. This novel may not be for readers who do not share my interests. But if you do, you do not want to miss The Butterfly Sister, by Amy Gail Hansen.

 

 

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

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Sylvie Mason does not live a normal life. Her parents are in the business of paranormal activity-they offer “Help for the Haunted” to those in need, offering prayer and peace to souls in torment. They call themselves demonologists. This, of course, means that Sylvie has never been able to hold onto friends, and she has a hard time fitting in. Critics constantly attack her and her family wherever they travel, and they travel regularly to do talks about the paranormal at conventions and events. Strange people are always seeking the help of the Masons for loved ones who are “haunted” or “possessed”. Sylvie accepts the life she has been born into, but her sister, Rose, is not only skeptical, but highly rebellious and confrontational. Life is strained in the Mason household, and on a night like many others, the Masons receive a phone call and tell Sylvie she is to load up into the family car, without much explanation. Her parents left that car, but they never returned. When Sylvie wakes up, she finds that her entire world is gone, and the mystery surrounding the deaths of her mother and father hangs over her heavily.

When the man originally cleared for the murder of her parents is suddenly cleared by an alibi, Sylvie goes on a mission to find out what truly happened to her mother and father that night, and what has been kept from her by everyone around her for her entire life. This takes her down a path with a conclusion so shocking, readers will be stunned. If you like the paranormal, you will be enthralled by Help for the Haunted, by John Searles, through to the very last page. Readers who love the mystery of Emily Arsenault (Miss Me When I’m Gone and In Search of the Rose Notes) will also enjoy this wonderfully eerie novel. Top marks from this reviewer.

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb

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A newly divorced art dealer has been commissioned to write a book about renowned artist Charles Aubrey, and he decides to travel to the town where the artist spent summers with his exotic mistress and two daughters, to see if he can find information that will set his book apart from all others. He finds Mitzy Hatcher, who claims to have been in a relationship with Charles Aubrey one summer before tragedy struck and he went off to fight in the war.

The quaint little fishing village seems to be full of secrets, however, and the locals are less than welcoming towards outsiders, especially outsiders who ask a lot of very personal questions about long-standing residents.

Traveling between the present and the past, lacing together the generations, A Half Forgotten Song, by Katherine Webb, is full of mystery and suspense, and just enough historical fiction to be perfection. If you loved The Unseen, by the same author, or you adore pretty much any of Kate Morton’s novels (The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton, The Secret Keeper), you will NOT want to miss this author or her works.

The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison

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Neil Kazenzakis does whatever it takes to have a normal life…He is a popular coach and teacher, and a single father to his son, Christopher. A few years back, a terrible accident left his wife severely disabled and in a nursing home, an unimaginable tragedy and nightmare for any parent and spouse. But he’s keeping everything together…Sortof. His son has had a few struggles, there are politics in his neighborhood that he’d like to avoid completely,  and he has been spending time with his ex-mother-in-law’s nurse on the sly. When he breaks up a fight one day after school, everything starts to go downhill. A video is posted online that can quite possibly cost him his job and mean a possible law suit, his girlfriend has a surprising announcement, someone has started sending him horrible harassing emails, and, in short, his life is about to shatter into a million pieces. Can Neil sort out everything before he loses everything good in his life?

The Banks of Certain Rivers, by Jon Harrison, is a heart-wrenching, gut-punching dose of the harshness that is real  life, and the struggles we much through trying to stay afloat when everything seems to go against us. A touch of mystery and suspense mixes with true humanity in an excellent example of modern fiction that just about any reader will enjoy. If you need reading material about humanity, in all it’s pain and beauty, The Banks of Certain Rivers is an obvious choice. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

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Architecture scholar Annie Kendall has just been given an opportunity to re-start her career and work on the project of her dreams : researching the possible existence of a very important Jewish icon during the Cromwell Period. This discovery would be very exciting, because anyone who practiced a religion other than that of the Church of England during this time period was persecuted as a heretic, and an influential Jew who was allowed to flourish during Cromwell’s rule could not have done so without being very, very special…

In the process of her research, however, Annie begins to wonder about the motives of the man who has assigned her the task. Ancient Judaica seems to be the motivation behind the research. Handsome investigative reporter,  Geoff Harris, seems to think that something is pulsing under the layers of intrigue that could take a very dangerous man out of the equation, if he could only get to the facts. The two decide to work together and find solutions to mysteries that have been protected for hundreds of years.

This novel has a touch of romance, is laced with the supernatural (the place where Annie is staying seems to be haunted by a monk with a story to tell), and is loaded with suspense and mystery. If you like books like The DaVinci Code or similar scholarly mysteries, and you like a bit of the supernatural, be sure to give Bristol House, by Beverly Swerling,  a try for yourself!

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

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Edward Glyver grew up believing himself to be the son of an authoress and a drunkard, living in near poverty, with no title or status in society. Upon the death of his mother, however, he discovers in her diary that his origins are actually much more scandalous and that he may actually be entitled to much more in life. Before he can claim his status in the world, especially with his true-blood family, he is going to need proof to back up his (and his dead mother’s) claims. So Edward sets out to find solid evidence of his birth and birthright for once and for all, leaving behind his entire life and following leads obsessively. He learns that an old schoolmate-turned-enemy is standing between him and what is rightfully his, and he realizes that by whatever means necessary, his arch-nemesis must be “removed” from the equation.

The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox,  is a novel of obsession turned psychosis, set in Victorian London. If you love fiction set in the Victorian period, especially of the mystery variety, you will enjoy this novel, but don’t expect the hero to be what you generally expect…This is a tale that smudges the line between protagonist and antagonist, turning the best of men into criminals and making light of serious crimes throughout. The reader will end this book shaking his head and blinking, trying to figure out the puzzle that is this novel, which plays with your sympathies and confuses your sensibilities. Can you feel sorry for a murderer?

 

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

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Flavia De Luce is back in this 5th novel in the Flavia De Luce series, which some of you may know is about a precocious young girl who is in love with crime solving and chemistry, and who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Historians are coming to Bishop’s Lacey to dig up the remains of a Saint who is buried there, and Flavia can’t stay away-of course, the dead body of a church member wasn’t something she was expecting to sight when they opened the tomb. A murderer is at large, quite possibly a church member she sees every sunday, and a stranger has come into town who shares her love of botany and detective work, and somehow knows her father from deep in his murky past.

Who is the killer? Is Bishop’s Lacey safe? Does the murderer have unfinished business? Strange things are happening about town, and strange characters are around every corner. With Flavia on the job, however, things are sure to sort themselves out in the most entertaining way possible.

These Alan Bradley novels are humorous and a little dark, and the cast of characters in the novels is rich and diverse, creating a novel full of entertainment that will entertain mystery-loving anglophiles world-wide. If you have read other novels of the Flavia De Luce series, the 5th installment, Speaking from Among the Bones will not disappoint. If you have not read the novels, you can definitely start them out of order, but I would recommend starting with the first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and working your way through.