Penny For Our Thoughts

Traveling Sisters Book Reviews. Join us on our adventures through the books we read

Brenda’s thoughts

Hot smoking dang!!! My fingers were on fire, turning the pages as fast as I could!! This one is not just another horror story. It is a one-of-a-kind exciting READING EXPERIENCE!!

Richard Chizmar is a genre blending genius and one brilliant author. He combines horror fiction, a small-town mystery, with true crime that uniquely defies any tired, overused tropes around murdered girls and small towns. He creates one of the most clever, haunting, and terrifying stories I have ever read. For this reason, only I think this is one not to be missed.

What I loved

Richard Chizmar is the main character in the story, and the setting is his hometown in Edgewood, Maryland, in the 1980s. It also reads like a memoir as he shares his history and relationship with the town and its people.

Suspense is created with a unique hook by telling us what to expect right off the bat. Chizmar drops little clues for us but are not that obvious. The ending is not a shocker but isn’t predictable either.

The photos, I won’t say any more about that.

What I didn’t love as much

Richard Chizmar takes a long chapter to invoke that sense of place with some history of Edgewood, and I probably would have lost patience if Lindsay hadn’t warned and told me it picks up. This creates an exciting dimension and dynamics between the reader and the town. He paints a clear picture to visualize the events as they play out. It is important to the story to pay attention as it is rewarding to do so.

Reason to read this one

If you like an out-of-the-box compelling, tension fuelled, suspenseful, and terrifying story that blends horror and true crime. If you are not a fan of true crime, you might find the “telling” of the story as exciting as we did.

Lindsay’s thoughts

Brilliant! Shocking! Clever! Terrifying! Engrossing! Phenomenal!!

Best book I’ve read in a long time! All time favourites shelf!

This is a unique and captivating genre mash up. Part true crime, part memoir, part psychological horror. This was insanely brilliant and refreshing! This was a large step outside of my usual reading genres and I LOVED EVERY SINGLE PAGE of it! I was quite literally addicted to this book from start to finish. When I had to stop reading (life really gets in the way sometimes!), I was counting down the minutes until I could pick it back up again. I have not felt so obsessed with a book in years.

This isn’t an easy read – there are plenty of gruesome and highly uncomfortable scenes. I was hanging on every single word even if I found myself cringing and holding my breath at times.

Bottom line — READ THIS BOOK!! I promise it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before!

Penny after zoomies and tipping over her crate by spinning around in it

Penny for your thoughts!! Have you read this one? Adding it to your TBR list?

Brenda’s thoughts

What the book is about

Five years after Camille’s daughter is killed at a fraternity party, the young man responsible lives a privileged life without ever being brought to justice. Camille is obsessed with grief and anger. She attracts the attention of a secret group of women,” the collective,” and is drawn into the darkest corners of the internet, the dark web where mothers who have lost their children due to the actions of others share their rage and desire for justice without mercy.

Things turn dark when Camille is asked to complete some tasks, unaware of why and things turn deadly.

Things I loved

Alison Gaylin boldly explores the darker side of grief, playing on our heartstrings while blurring the lines with the desire for revenge, making this a dark, uncomfortable, and engaging revenge thriller. Camille’s pain and anger felt so real and contagious.

Alison Gaylin adds a unique spin to tropes of obsession by exploring grieving mothers as avengers. She plays on their grief and obsession with the person responsible for their children’s death, creating a great sense of dread and a thought-provoking, emotionally-charged page-turner.

I enjoyed trying to piece the clever well-plotted tasks Camille was asked to complete and why. I questioned along with Camille whether the women were avenging angels or monsters. It all comes together brilliantly, unpredictably, and unexpectedly.

What I didn’t love as much

While I thought the story’s climax was exciting with escalating stakes and wrapped up in a twisty way, the motivation didn’t pack the punch I was looking for.

I received a copy from the publisher on EW

Lindsay’s thoughts

Easy and entertaining!

Camille is introduced to an online group for grieving mothers who have lost a child and struggle move on. Camille finds comfort knowing she is not alone. This group shares their emotions and thoughts encouraging and empowering the members to create retribution fantasy situations where they seek vengeance on the person responsible for their child’s death.

A truly unique, dark and enthralling plot. The book started off strong! Although it lost steam for me after halfway, it kept me interested and entertained from beginning to end. The writing was smooth, making it easy to fly through the chapters. I liked the characters but never felt connected or truly invested in them. For me, it was a matter of enjoying this as being a fun, escape read, not a gripping, believable one. It wasn’t as intense as I had expected, but it was a solid suspenseful story that I enjoyed escaping into.

Overall, it was a good experience reading this author for the first time. Go into this one expecting a fast paced, unique, entertaining read. Nothing deep or gripping, but extremely easy to escape into and get lost in.

Penny for your thoughts!!! Have you read this one? Want to add it to your TBR list?

I love best books of the year lists from around the internet, and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro appeared on many of those lists. Even though it was not one I thought I would like, curiosity got to me, and I decided to see what all the buzz was about. Well, I am excited to say I loved it, and if you love to delve into human behavior and question what it means “to be human” through how we connect with others, come to understand ourselves and each other, this is one not to be missed. It is an excellent one to think deeply about, and of course, I couldn’t help but take the internet and search what I could about this moving and profound story. I will back in another post where I will be thinking deeply and geeking out, with my thoughts along with what I picked up around the net.

What the Book is about

The story is set in the future, where children no longer go to school. They learn on devices at home. They are prone to isolation and loneliness, much like in the real world. Technology has replaced jobs, and many people are unemployed.

Sounds familiar!? A few elements to the story feel like pandemic life; however, Ishiguro says that’s purely coincidental.

“I finished the book before the pandemic, and I have to say, [the pandemic] took me completely by surprise,” he says. “I couldn’t have dreamt that something like this would happen. … In the novel, I’m talking about a society that is undergoing profound changes, and it doesn’t quite know how to reorganize itself.” ~ Ishiguro from an interview I found.

We meet Klara, a solar-powered artificial friend designed to be companions to children. She becomes a companion to Josie, who has a mysterious illness. Through the view of Klara, who has a talent for her perception and observation, themes of love, parenting, loss, sacrifices, loneliness, and class are explored.

Parents can have their children’s “intelligence” genetically enhanced called “lifted” A caste system has been created with the lifted on top, giving the “lifted” children more advantages than those who are not.

What I loved

Ishiguro uses artificial intelligence to explore what it is to be human. Klara is an unforgettable, almost perfect character because she is artificial, and here she is used metaphorically. She has a talent for her perception and observation, and I was fascinated by Klara’s emotional intelligence depth. She experiences positive emotions like empathy, compassion, and kindness and lacks darker ones like jealousy and selfishness. I enjoyed seeing her perception of the events she sees and muses over. She inspires us to muse about ourselves and others. She is a metaphor for what it’s like to love unconditionally and be a perfect parent. I loved the insight Klara teaches us about humans and the themes explored in the story.

“It shouldn’t be that surprising, really, though, that an artificial creature could actually solicit our sympathies as much as a human one. Because after all, characters in books are artificial. We’re making that kind of leap anyway. When we read books and you get weepy over the fate of some character, we’re not weeping over a real person. We’ve put ourselves into some kind of space where we’re relating to created beings. At some level, we’re responding metaphorically because we think that it impinges, in some metaphorical relationship to our real lives, I suppose. I never thought it was going to actually be an intrinsic problem in terms of how my readers would feel because my main character was artificial” ~ Ishiguro

“The more I observe, the more feelings become available to me.” ~Klara

Loneliness is one of my favorite themes to explore, and here Klara observes how humans try to fight off loneliness and hide their vulnerability to it.

“They fear loneliness, and that is why they behave as they do” ~ Klara.

What I didn’t love as much

Josie has a mysterious illness is from being “lifted”. Neither is fully explained and for us to draw our conclusions. I was confused and frustrated that I didn’t understand what “lifted” meant. While I love to draw my own conclusions at times I would of liked this explained more in the story.

Klara is almost childlike and naive as she learns the darker things about the human world and sometimes can come across as unconvincing with her childlike faith as she tries to protect Josie.

Ishiguro referred to the story as “a cheerful, optimistic book .”I won’t describe it the same. I thought it was a realistic, profound, and insightful look at the truth that humanity is fundamentally selfish. It’s hard to be optimistic about that, but maybe there is hope for humanity.

Quotes found

https://news.wsiu.org/arts/2021-03-17/kazuo-ishiguro-draws-on-his-song

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978138547/kazuo-ishiguro-draws-on-his-songwriting-past-to-write-novels-about-the-future

Penny for your thoughts. Have you read this one? Want to read it? I will be back with a discussion post.

Brenda’s thoughts

Lisa Gardner introduces us to a new tough, intriguing character Frankie who has found her way by searching and finding forgotten missing persons.

“So many of our children have vanished. Too many will never be found, often based solely on the color of their skin” ~ Frankie.

Things I loved

While it took me a bit into the book to warm up to Frankie, I liked that her demons were her regrets and guilt, and she used that to drive her to search for the lost. I felt this gave that broken, tough side a little something different from your typical “broken women” trope. Gardner brilliantly and realistically illustrates Frankie’s struggles with her addiction to alcohol. I loved that Frankie doesn’t fall into those overused tropes used for characters with addiction. While Frankie is an outsider and a loner, she uses that to her benefit to find out what she needs. She is a wise-ass but not cringy, broken but not self-destructive, and tough as nails but not invincible.

“average, middle-aged white woman with more regrets than belongings, more sad stories than happy ones.” ~Frankie

Frankie travels the world searching for missing people cold cases. At first, I questioned who would do that for no money, no recognition, and most of the time with no help. Gardner has taken inspiration from real-life people and shows us through Frankie why.

Frankie searches for teenager Angelique, who doesn’t fit the profile of a typical runaway or type of character often used while relying on the girl missing trope to drive the story forward.

The use of the setting in and around Mattapan. We get a strong sense of community, the streets and what I loved the most is the food. I like to see what and hear what characters are eating and enjoying.

What I didn’t love as much

Here the mystery is solid, something a little different, unpredictable, engaging, and I have no idea how realistic it could be. However, the mystery overshadows the developing characters and their dynamics. I would have preferred a stronger connection to the characters. Often I become more focused on the characters and find them the most appealing part of the story, and the crime becomes second to them.

At times the crime blogged down the story and felt repetitive as Frankie and Lotham hash out what they learn, the clues, and their theories. I wanted to see more into Frankie’s past and what drives her demons of regret and guilt. The pace picks up with the story’s climax, and I enjoy the race against time, and we see Frankie relive some of what drives her guilt

Reason to read this one.

For a solid unpredictable, not what you might expect mystery that even a seasoned reader could be left guessing while trying to figure out the clues as Frankie does. The twists and turns are not shocking or rely on out of the blue didn’t see that coming. It’s a go with the flow and figure out the clues along with Frankie.

Penny for your thoughts!! Have you read this one? Want to?

My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle

January 4, 2022


Happy New Year, my fellow bookworms, book nerds, and geeks!!!! Brr, we had an extremely cold Christmas here in Alberta, Canada, and we are starting the New Year the same. This morning it is-37°C  (-34°F) with the wind chill. While we could not go outside, I had the perfect book to keep me entertained by one of our favorite authors Kimberly Belle.  

So how do we keep a border collie puppy active in that weather and not have her destroying the house?? Well, Penny has been doing surprisingly well being coped up. We did have a break at New Year and were able to take her outside, and she had some playtime with her sister and parents! We have been taking her on the treadmill twice a day, which has been helping. I think the secret to a border collie in the house is to teach them how to relax. It seems odd, but they really don’t know how to relax and always want to be busy. 

Anyways back to books. Lindsay and I are kicking off the New Year with a winner My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle. You will want to start this one when you have some time to yourself. Once you start you won’t want stop reading till you are done.

Lindsay’s thoughts

Pulse-pounding from start to finish!

Jade comes home with her two young children to find a masked gunman waiting. The gunman has Jade call Cam, her celebrity chef husband, demanding $750,000 by 7pm. Jade and her children are held hostage while Cam has three hours to deliver the money and save his family.

This was addictive, gripping and tension-filled. The suspense and tension starts from the very beginning and doesn’t let up AT ALL! I was on the edge of my seat for this entire book. Perspectives change from Cam, Jade, the gunman and snippets of a social media interview with Cam after the incident. Each perspective was done brilliantly keeping me completely consumed and not wanting to put the book down.

I’ve read most of this authors work and am a huge fan. I’m excited to say that this is her best yet! Highly recommend!

Brenda’s thoughts

Hot Diggity Dang!! What a way to kick off the new year, with a book that grab me by the throat and held on till the last page!!

3 Things I loved

The hook that sets up the tension and suspense that increases with every scene, making this a tightly woven twisty page-turner you will not want to miss.

Kimberly Belle is known for her strong female characters who are put in a challenging situation where they fight for survival or right the wrongs done to them. She has created an unexpected female strong character here that steals the show. I suggest being careful what reviews you read if you want this character and her actions to be a surprise as she was to me.

Jade, at first, might seem like an unlikable charmed character; however, I loved her character and her fierce instincts to protect her children and survival. I found it hard not to love and root for the unlikable darling husband who is keeping secrets and races against time to save his family.

3 Things I didn’t love as much

Hmm I got none

3 reasons to read this one

For a perfectly paced, compelling domestic suspense with solid convincing characters, you might find yourself sympathetic to and will want to root for.

For the cat and mouse game of survival with an intense race against time elements to the story

For the easy to read action-packed, exciting plot with secrets, betrayal that explores something a little heavier with a strong feeling of parent love and what they will do to save their children.

We received copies from the publisher

Penny for your thoughts. Is it on your TBR? Have you read it?

Do you have a Christmas book gift card you are itching to spend? Well, here is another bold, high tension, and original, suspenseful story by one of our favorite authors. Nobody can spin those twists like Charlie Donlea can.

Brenda’s thoughts

3 Things I loved

Charlie Donlea always has a few things going in his books to keep up with, and here it’s all about the many subplots bouncing around. It can be a bit much; however, he keeps all the balls in the air and somehow manages to bring them all together.

I love how he leaves a few clues to pick up on and figure some things out and then pulls the net out from under us with an exciting and surprising twist in the end.

I love that past characters make appearances in his books. It’s always nice to see what they are up to.

3 things I didn’t love as much

The story is not as tight as I would have liked and pacing is off. There is a bit of telling us things the characters do that weren’t all that interesting and felt repetitive

I feel like I shouldn’t have liked this one as much as I did because of using the tragedy of 9/11 as a plot device to drive the story forward. I read another book using 9/11, and I was not too fond of it because of that.

I didn’t find the character engaging as much as I liked due to the many subplots. Not as much time was spent on developing them to really engage in them. However, it’s all about the suspense and unexpected twist in the end that makes this an exciting one.

3 reasons you should read

If you love to follow clues and try to figure things out along the way to be surprised with how it turns out in the end. Or maybe to see if you did figure it out.

You like bold stories that might be questionable by their use of them. Here 9/11.

You are a fan of Charlie Donlea. If you haven’t read anything written by him, I highly recommend giving it a try!!

Lindsay’s thoughts

Gripping. Twisty. Edgy.

Avery Mason is a famous tv host who is investigating the story behind a victim of 9/11 identified by a bone fragment found twenty years later. Breakthrough technology allowed scientists to determine the DNA within a tiny piece of bone sifted out of the large pile of rubble left after the twin tower attacks. Twenty years later, there remains a team that is still trying to find answers and give closure to the many families who never heard from their loved ones after that devastating day. Avery’s investigation brings forth far more detail and answers than she ever anticipated.

It’s brave for an author to take on 9/11 as a subplot. It’s a tragedy that many of us still cannot process and will never fully understand. I felt the author did an excellent job weaving this devastating part of history into the story.

I enjoyed the tv show angle. It kept the plot fresh and relevant. I really liked the main characters and how their own unique back stories brought suspense and tension to the storyline.

The ending was shocking and highly entertaining! Loved it! Readers will definitely have a “love” or “hate” feeling for the conclusion. For me, I felt it was clever, twisty and absolutely perfect!

We received copies from the publisher

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