Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly @MConnollyAuthor

Norma’s review

Heart-wrenching, authentic, & compelling!

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY is a steadily-paced, gripping, dramatic, raw, enigmatic, and dark suspenseful psychological thriller that deeply affected me. This heartbreaking story totally consumed my thoughts and my heart. I was fully engaged right from the very start and my mind didn’t even waver once while I was reading this book.

MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY delivers an intense, well-crafted, believable, and beautifully written story here with absolutely fascinating, complex, and well-portrayed characters. I am not normally a fan of an overly descriptive writing style but I thought the descriptions here were absolutely beautiful and something to savour. Initially though I’d say that I did need to get into the flow of the narrative though and once I did it totally settled down for me and I was able to be fully absorbed in this story.

I absolutely loved Jay’s character and thought that the addition of his Native American folklore was fascinating and added in this extra layer of intrigue and mystery to the storyline.

Brenda’s review

Sometimes we make choices, and sometimes life chooses for us, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Little Lovely Things explores a bit of both here while exploring grief, loss and guilt after a devastation twist of fate shatter a family. It is a beautiful and insightful story that is devasting yet hopeful. Claire’s chance decision that left her family shattered had me thinking about how sometimes life throws us the unthinkable and what we do with that creates the story we must live.

As lovely and lyrical the writing it, I did find it distracting from connecting to the story on more of the emotional level I wanted. However, this is a personal thing as a reader and I still highly recommend this one.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A relevant, fitting, effective, palpable, and intriguingly obscure representation to storyline.
Title: Intriguing, palpable, worrisome, obscure, and a fantastic representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, gripping, descriptive, beautiful, and suspenseful.
Plot: Tragic, mysterious, suspenseful, believable, obscure, entertaining, captivating, intense, dark, distressing, emotional, and steadily-paced.
Ending: An unforgettable, hopeful, moving, emotional, and satisfying end that absolutely wrecked me and left me in a blubbering mess!
Overall: Such a tragic but yet hopeful story! I highly recommend it!

Thank you so much to Maureen Joyce Connolly for our gifted copies!

From Goodreads

A mother’s chance decision leads to a twist of fate that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Claire Rawlings, mother of two and medical resident, will not let the troubling signs of an allergic reaction prevent her from making it in for rounds. But when Claire’s symptoms overpower her while she’s driving into work, her two children in tow, she must pull over. Moments later she wakes up on the floor of a gas station bathroom-her car, and her precious girls have vanished.

The police have no leads and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

Little Lovely Things is the story of a family shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. Played out in multiple narrative voices, the novel explores how the lives of those affected fatefully intersect, and highlights the potential catastrophe of the small decisions we make every day. 

Not To Be Missed Monday: Death in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1) by Tessa Wegert @tessawegert @BerkleyPub

Hot Golden Diggity Dang! Death in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1)
by Tessa Wegert is one well written, exciting modern-day take to a locked room /impossible crime mystery. If you are looking for something a little different from those dark and twisted thrillers that is well-plotted and draws you into an interesting puzzle to solve, this is one not to be missed.

Norma’s review

Atmospheric, compelling, & characteristic!

DEATH IN THE FAMILY (Shana Merchant #1) by TESSA WEGERT is a gripping, thrilling, dark, twisty, and entertaining whodunit locked-room mystery that was an absolute pleasure to read. Right from the get go I knew that I was going to thoroughly enjoy this one. It has this classic whodunit vibe going on here that I find so appealing and absolutely love.

The mystery takes us to a remote private island and has this absolutely perfect story setting. I loved the dark, dreary, and rainy atmosphere.

TESSA WEGERT delivers a slow burn, classic, well-crafted, and well-written read here that builds suspense and intrigue slowly as the story progresses. It was quite an effective way to envelop me fully into this mystery and I absolutely loved the unsettling feeling that this produced. Even though the story has a large cast of characters I didn’t find myself confused once at keeping them all straight. Our main character here, detective Shana Merchant is a strong flawed female lead, and she has her own story to tell here. This leaves us with unanswered questions but definitely entices us and leads us into the forthcoming books in this series.

Brenda’s review

This was another pleasant surprise for us from the stack of not our normal books Elisha from Berkely sends our way. When that happens, I am like this excited kid running around with a big bag of candy, wanting to share it with everyone who will come and chat about all the different flavours in the bag with me.

The story has the elements of an impossible crime mystery here and is not your typical twisty read. There are no shocking reveals or turns that will come out of nowhere to surprise you. It follows the classic detective fiction with a locked room crime. Author masterfully presents us with a puzzle and clues to solve a mystery before the dramatic solution is revealed in the end by our Senior Investigator Shana Merchant.

You can’t spell family without lies and secrets and Shana needs to level up to figure out who is hiding what dirty and messy secrets in what laundry basket that are hidden away in the closets of these eccentric characters. The members of this family are not the only monsters here that are trapped in this moody, stormy private island. Shana has an inner monster from her past that adds some tension and suspense to the story.

I missed some clues along the way and didn’t solve all the pieces to this puzzle and need Shana to pull it all together for me in the end. I thought the mystery came together so fun and exciting but what I loved the most is how I am left wanting to know so much more about Shana and her past. I can’t wait for the next one in this series.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An intriguing, eye-catching, bleak, claustrophobic, revelant, and fitting representation to storyline.
Title: Intriguing, foreboding, worrisome, straightforward, and a fitting representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, gripping, engaging, readable, and suspenseful. I absolutely loved the writing style!
Plot: Intriguing, mysterious, suspenseful, slow burn, unsettling, atmospheric, entertaining, captivating, intense, dark, and steadily-paced.
Ending: A surprising, exciting, pleasing, and satisfying conclusion.
Overall: I pretty much found myself suspicious of almost every character and honestly when we got to the reveal I was totally taken by surprise. Well played! I highly recommend it!

Behind the Pages Q & A with Tosca Lee Author of The Line Between & A Single @ToscaLee

Tosca Lee joined us in our Behind The Pages Goodreads group and shared some insight into her writing process and her The Line Between Series The Line Between & A Single Light. I am excited to share some of Q & A here today on our blog.

Brenda: Thank you, Tosca for joining us!

Tosca: Hello, Traveling Sisters!! Thank you for inviting me to join you this evening!! It’s been such a pleasure to get to interact with you this last year as these books have come out, and I so appreciate your readership, reviews, and the way you advocate for books, readers and authors!

Brenda: How did you choose the names for your characters? I personally love the name Chase. It’s my son’s name.

Tosca: I’m starting with the question of how I come up with character names, and the answer is that some of my choices are very deliberate, and some just happen. On the deliberate side, there’s Wynter, who is named after my step-daughter, who was the same age when I began writing The Line Between. Chase (love this name!) was a name that came along as I was looking for something that would go with his rugged but restless spirit.

Then there is the Reverend–a minor character who was named Carolyn Richtel after the real Carolyn–a hospice worker in AZ–bought the spot in a charity auction. I haven’t always gotten to do this, having written books that were biblical or historical in nature in the past, so it was really fun for me to be able to offer a spot up in this way.

One of my favorite names was for Piper’s husband, Jax–nicknamed Jax Daniels. Btw, Piper was original Carolyne before the charity auction happened.

Brenda: How did you go about creating your characters? Were any of the characters harder for you to write than others? Do you have a favourite character that you liked writing more than any others?

Tosca: In the sequel, my new favorite character, Otto, was named after one of my longtime fans’ last name. I really love incorporating the first and/or last names of fans and sometimes post while I’m writing asking for volunteers–with the caveat that I reserve the right to make them jerks or kill them. ;D

I really like the idea of slipping into another character’s shoes and skin. Generally, writing characters is one of my favorite parts of creating stories because it seems like you can never make them too complex or multi-faceted–because real people are like that. Every now and then I have to revisit a character because I just know there’s more to them–and I need to dig that out a bit more. This was the case with my initial pass with Wynter. I had to find where she was walking that line between knowing something was off in the cult, but also trying to adhere to the only world system she knew. It took a few tries, and ultimately I had to rely on my own very strict and sometimes difficult religious upbringing for reference. It was hard to go there, but once I did… things made more sense. That’s the common ground I met Wynter on.

As for favorites… Otto in A Single Light has become my new favorite. I knew there would be someone to come along in that story–I just didn’t know who or what he’d be like until I got there. And then there Otto was. I don’t think I’ve giggled quite as much as I did writing his scenes

Brenda: What does your writing day look like to you? What is the one thing you struggle with the most in your writing process?

Tosca: I don’t have much of a typical writing day–every day can be different depending on what stage of writing I’m in: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, rewriting, editing… And often in between books, I don’t write–mostly because I’m playing catch up with everything else and trying to pick up all the balls I dropped while working. That’s the hard part for me: I seem to only be able to focus well on one thing at a time!

The other thing that makes my schedule unpredictable is that when I married my single father husband (you can learn more about him at @TheFarmerBryan on Instagram), I became an insta-mom to four. So this-single-city-girl-turned-farmer’s-wife-and-mom-of-four has had some steep learning curve lessons in country life, kids, and trying to find time for everything! 😀 But I’ve loved every minute of it

I can tell you that drafting is probably my least favorite part of writing. I know that’s where the magic happens–and fun, unexpected things do occur! But it’s also a very messy process and is the least contained part of it. I really love rewriting because finally those sentences start to sound smoother and things make more sense. 🙂

As for “typical,” though, don’t be fooled by images from awards banquets and trips to NYC–98% of this job involves sweatpants with dog goobers on them and ponytails with dirty hair. 😉

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for this series?

Tosca: I was on my way to meet with my publisher about what my next two books should be and I had just seen a headline a few nights before about a reindeer in Siberia that melted in the permafrost. The carcass turned out to be filled with anthrax and a nearby village got sick and a young boy died. I remember thinking this was fascinating and terrifying, and added the idea of a disease coming out of the permafrost to my list of idea scenarios–which also included a story about a young woman leaving a cult and starting over in the outside world, among others.

My publisher, when we met, said, “I like these two. I think you should put them together!” I thought he was crazy at first. But then I went home and started putting it together, and really enjoyed the story!

Brenda: Did you plot out the stories or did it come together as you were writing? Did you have The Line Between completed and then wrote A Single Light or did you mapped out them together?

Tosca: Hahaha, I ought to let my editor friend who goes through all my manuscripts before I turn them in to my publisher answer this.

The short answer is that I normally plot a little more than I did on my initial draft of The Line Between. There are two genera camps in the novel-writing community–the plotters and panthers (who write by the seat of their pants). I am a plotter with some pantsing tendencies. But I still have to plot. So the initial draft of The Line Between did not come together. It was a mess. I had to rewrite it from the ground up a couple times before it finally worked.

My editor friend said, “Um, we need to talk before you start the sequel.” And we did, and I laid that baby out in enough detail that I knew what was going on and the writing flew by and was SO much easier. You’d think after a dozen books (I’ve got a couple that haven’t sold yet) I’d know better, but we all keep learning along the way.

To the other part of your question: the smart thing to do would probably be to plot the second book before writing or at least finishing the first one. But in both my duologies, I did not do this. So by the time I finished the first one, I knew I had written myself into a challenging corner, and that my job in the second book was to write myself out of it–preferably at a faster pace with higher stakes than the first book, if possible. 🙂 And I think that was kind of the fun of it–that I was in the same situation as my characters. But I have to admit that it has made for sleepless nights. I remember gearing up to write Firstborn (the sequel to The Progeny) and thinking, “How does one take down an entire European cabal???” 😀

Brenda: Things get pretty intense in A Single Light and became quite the action-packed race against time. How were you able to maintain that tension? Was that something you mapped out or did the story guide you?

Tosca: So this time I mapped it–mostly. I always leave some wiggle room and I didn’t realize that there’d be as much to the drama underground at the beginning of the book. But when I got in there, I really loved exploring it and the claustrophobic feeling of the situation. So there’s always a little discovery along the way, but in order to make up for the time I spent rewriting the first book so many times and to maintain the relentless pace of the action, I had to be very cognizent about events and the passage of time vs. the stakes Wynter and Chase were up against. It was a very intense three months of writing for me with a lot of all-nighters or 4am bedtimes.

Brenda: Is there anything you hope readers will get from your books?

Tosca: The first thing is entertainment. I really hope readers who come to my stories get the escape that we look for in fiction. Beyond that, I hope they get a few heart palpitations (:D), or that they sigh or laugh or are just so in the moment that time slips by and suddenly it’s well past bedtime. I hope they’re inspired and learn or think about something new, too. But above all, I hope they enjoy themselves.

To read more of our Q & A with Tosca Lee you can find here

Thank you so much Tosca for our copies of both books!

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica @HarlequinBooks @parkrowbooks

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica is now available and even though Norma and I both recommend this story for a fun and entertaining read are thoughts on this one are like oil and water. I am the oil and Norma’s the water. Our reviews might not mix but we sure had fun!!

Norma’s Water

Compulsive, twisty & wholly absorbing!

There is a reason that I have been an avid fan of this author since her debut novel, The Good Girl. She writes these extremely unsettling and twisty thrillers that are absolutely hypnotic to read. She has this ability at setting the mood that hooks me in almost immediately. There also is this strong sense of foreboding that I find extremely appealing making it quite the suspenseful read.

THE OTHER MRS. by MARY KUBICA is a fast-paced, chilling, dark, psychological thriller that is absolutely unputdownable. Even though I had some things figured out quite early on in the novel MARY KUBICA has this way of keeping you fully engaged that it doesn’t matter one iota that you think you know where the story is headed. For some reason she makes it fun to figure it out on your own and then when that final jaw-dropping twist comes out you are completely gobsmacked and blown away. Well I was anyway. I find this technique extremely satisfying and rewarding. It’s like she hides things in plain sight and then as you are puzzling things together you are totally taken by surprise because you were focused on that one area and not actually what was happening on the whole.

MARY KUBICA delivers an atmospheric, clever, intense, well-crafted, and executed tale here that seamlessly moves forward without ever breaking stride. The story is told in three alternating POV’s between Sadie, Camille, and a young girl named Mouse. Each of these characters have their own unique and distinct voice that definitely brings out something mysterious and appealing into the storyline. Unreliable characters are my absolute favourite and add in a dose of secrets and lies then I am one happy reader!

Brenda’s oil

Hot Diggity splat! The Other Mrs. is a twisty yet convoluted psychological thriller that did have me thinking I was quite clever for picking up on those clues along the way. It does require suspending disbelief, and as I was reading this one, I found it fun and entertaining. The ending pushed things a little over the edge for me and that over-thinker in me took over and ruined it all for me.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Love this chilling and beautiful cover!
Title: Intriguing, effective, fantastic, and fitting representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, gripping, gifted, and suspenseful.
Plot: Intriguing, foreboding, suspenseful, entertaining, captivating, intense, dark, disturbing, twisty, and fast-paced.
Ending: An unexpected, jaw-dropping, twist ending that totally blew me away!
Overall: 4.5 Stars! It was an extremely entertaining, twisty, and enjoyable psychological thriller that ended up totally taking me by surprise. I absolutely loved the ride and I highly recommend it!

Thank to you the publisher for our copies to read and review.

Get it Today Tuesday: Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin @CeladonBooks

Some books are just meant to be discussed and Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin is one of them. It is a book club gem with so much to talk about. Celadon Books gifted the Traveling Sisters copies of this book club gem to read and discuss in our group. Overall we struggled with the wordiness of the book that distracted us from the story, however, by reading it in a group, each of us picked up on different things and brought them to the discussion. We started to see more insight into the story making this a fascinating and meaningful discussion. Now on to our review

Brenda’s review

Saint X is a detailed character study with a mystery layered in.  It’s a slow burn and takes some patience here with just how wordy it is.  The story is told through a few different characters with each bringing some details to the mystery. There is a bit of dancing around there and I struggled with keeping my reading groove going.  For this busy reader, it slowed down the story for me and I lost some patience. I wasn’t sure what to pay attention to or not, however, the thing is every detail adds to the study of the character here.  This is where our discussion became valuable as I picked up on some different things that I missed in the “dancing details”. 

The real strength of the story here for me is the two settings used.  The luxury resort adds complex and complicated dynamics here with the characters as themes of class, race and obsession are explored.  I loved how that added tension to the serene atmosphere of the island. Now I have to admit I am getting a little tired with the whole “privilege” storylines out there that are starting to feel a bit stereotyped to me.   Well here is in Saint X, Alexis Schaitkin takes a look through the setting of the beautiful and serene luxury resort, and we see “different people” brought together who are not so different but who are people living their lives.  They are bonded together by a tragedy that takes place on the island and then they go back to living their daily lives as they deal with the tragedy in different ways. 

The ending didn’t come together as well as I had hoped it would have with one of the reveals that felt it was used for shock value, however that was not how all the Traveling Sisters felt.  For them, they didn’t see it as shock value. I suggest giving this a try and see where you fall with the ending. I especially recommend it for Group reads.  

Norma’s review

Emotionally-charged, descriptive & powerful!

SAINT X by ALEXIS SCHAITKIN is a slow burn psychological tale that often meanders. It has quite the interesting and fascinating premise though but didn’t always possess my full attention. I think this is my very first book that I found myself wanting to skim as I was getting a little impatient at getting to the climax of the novel. The pacing was extremely slow at times and I definitely got a little bit annoyed with all the extremely wordy and long passages. The writing in itself though was quite lyrical and beautiful but it wasn’t quite enough to make this a thrilling or exciting book for me to read. I was interested and engaged enough though that I needed to know how the story ended.

ALEXIS SCHAITKIN delivers quite the interesting character study, thought-provoking, powerful and well-written story here that had extremely long chapters, was a little bit overly descriptive and dense to make this a fully enjoyable novel for me. I think the author totally excelled with how exceptionally well-developed and portrayed these mostly unlikeable characters were though. I also thoroughly enjoyed the true crime atmosphere to the storyline and loved how we got an inside look into how all the pertinent characters were affected by this tragedy at the end of each chapter.

Lindsay’s review

College student, Alison Thomas, is found dead after disappearing while on vacation with her parents at a prestigious tropical resort. Two employees of the resort are taken in for questioning but released due to lack of evidence. This story follows the aftermath of Alison’s death showing multiple characters’ perspectives of the impact Alison’s death held on them.

The flow and narration of this novel is extremely unique. I was intrigued by how this story was unfolding for the majority of the book, but closer to the end it became overdone and drawn out. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into multiple characters lives and views, however, I did find a lot of the detail to those side stories unnecessary and repetitive. The narrative became too wordy and overly descriptive which took away from my enjoyment. I did enjoy the feel of suspense throughout that kept me curious until the end.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and found it to be a unique reading experience, just not as gripping or impactful as I had hoped.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Love this beautiful cover!
Title: Intriguing, effective, and a fitting representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, lyrical, beautiful, wordy, and overly descriptive.
Plot: Interesting, thought-provoking, emotional, powerful, meandering, and a little monotonous at times.
Ending: Hmmmm, I’m not exactly sure what I think of this ending. Did it give me all the answers? I think so. Did it satisfy me fully and do I really care? Not really.
Overall: I think there is definitely lots to talk about with this one and I think the reading experience would have been so much better if I had read this in a group environment. I think it would make a great book club book. Would recommend it!

Not To Be Missed Monday: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James @BerkleyPub

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is available tomorrow February 18, 2020 and it’s one not to be missed. Read this one, eat, drink and be scared!! We highly recommend!

Brenda’s review

Boo Hah! Hot spooktacular Diggity dang that was one fa-boo-lous scary good read that had me shaking my boo-ty to the creepy good vibe to this story. (I know how many puns can I get in one sentence) Hehee! It is one not to be missed!

The Sun Down Motel is an exciting, gripping, entertaining supernatural thriller, with one of the best characters here with the setting that I have read. The rundown motel takes on a life of its own and had me wanting to pull the covers over my eyes while reading it.

This is some excellent storytelling by Simone St. James that doesn’t tell a story but draws you into the story and makes you feel you are living in it. It had my heart pounding right from the start with the suspense and tension that rises with each page. It has a cinematic feel to it that makes it exciting and entertaining.

The mystery and secrets hidden in the walls of this eerie and haunting setting are brilliantly woven together. The characters are interesting, quirky and are so fun and entertaining. I loved everything about this story!!

Norma’s review

Spooky, spine-tingling suspense, and creepy!

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by SIMONE ST. JAMES is an engrossing, dark, gripping, chilling, and fabulous gothic mystery/thriller that I was immediately drawn into. I was totally immersed in this tale and completely devoured the supernatural aspects in this story. The story was so darn entertaining with that creepy and eerie haunted motel setting that I found this to be absolutely irresistible and un-put-down-able!!!!

SIMONE ST. JAMES delivers quite the atmospheric, captivating, engaging, mysterious, suspenseful and well-written story here told in dual timelines and perspectives between the past and the present. I sometimes enjoy one timeline and perspective over another but this one I am happy to say that they both equally intrigued and fascinated me.

Lindsay’s review

A dark, engrossing, chilling, gothic, suspenseful, atmospheric, mysterious thriller! Loved it!!!

After her mother’s death, Carly moves to the small town of Fell, to investigate the disappearance of her mothers sister, Vivian. Decades earlier, Carly’s aunt Vivian took a job as the night clerk at the remote Sun Down Motel. Unexplained strange things happen at this motel including the disappearance of Vivian from her shift one night. Police investigation provides no answers as to what happened to Vivian. Haunted by the tragedy that happened before she was born, Carly begins her search at the Sun Down Motel, only to be offered a job as the night clerk. Carly finds herself in the same role that her aunt Vivian had before she vanished. Will Carly be able to uncover the long buried secrets and get the answers she hopes for?

I loved this book! The atmosphere was thick! I felt every spine-tingling scare that Carly felt. I was with her there in that run down motel, holding my breath in anticipation of what would happen next. The author, Simone St. James, created a storyline that completely engrossed me within the suspense and mystery. I felt like I truly knew the characters, the small town and the motel. The story is brilliantly narrated in two timelines/perspectives – through Carly in 2017 and her aunt Vivian in 1982. Loved the pace and flow – it kept me curious and hungry to read “just one more chapter.” My one tiny critique is that I felt a couple things near the end were a stretch for me to accept.

I will warn you that this novel is quite ghost-y. I am not one who generally attracts to ghost-y type novels, however, this story simply felt so real and kept me fully immersed and invested that I never doubted the supernatural element.

I read and loved Simone St. James’ previous novel, The Broken Girls. This book was just as good! I’m a huge fan and look forward to what this author comes out with next! I must make note of how much I LOVE THIS COVER!!

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: That cover is absolutely perfect for a creepy and haunting story!! I think it is such a striking & welcoming design that immediately caught my eye and definitely enticed me into needing to read this book.
Title: A simply perfect, chilling, impactful and fabulous representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, fluid, suspenseful, and engaging.
Plot: Engrossing, creepy, captivating, haunting, interesting, riveting, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: Whoa! Absolutely loved it!
Overall: 4.5 Stars! This was an all around fabulous book for me and the perfect ghost story! Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for gifting us a copy!