She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker @jdbarker

Hot Diggity Dang! If I were to describe She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be in one word, it would be MASTERFUL. But of course, I have many words, and so much I want to say about this one. I just had to ask J.D. Barker about his books and he joined us in The Behind the Pages group for a Q & A. I will be posting the Q & A here soon!

I am always intimidated by longer books, and J.D. Barker has intimidated me a few times with the length of his books. Even the title is long for this one! Lol, I am slow to start, but once I do, I can’t wait to finish but don’t want them to end.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is one of a kind here and there are a few things going in the story that is weaved together so brilliantly. A twisty romance, mystery, unquie characters, a little horror to the story and enough suspense that will have you asking many questions. Making this one a great for a group discussion. I read this one in The Traveling sister group and we had a lot to talk about.

Things start a little strange, and I had no idea what was going on here with the characters, and the suspense that created had me turning the pages as fast as I could. It’s all about the characters here for me, and J.D creates a wide variety of characters here with conflicts that all come together so well. The characters are multidimensional, and through their actions and decisions under pressure, I changed how I felt about some characters as they developed. They were characters we wanted to talk about.

The story reaches an exciting, dramatic climax that had me at the edge of my seat, flipping the pages as if my fingers were on fire. After finishing, I was left wanting more from the characters, and I thought about them long after finishing the book. We did ask J.D. if he has plans for a sequel with these characters, and this is what he said “I have no plans to revisit them in a sequel at this time. Too many other books to write!” I am looking forward to those many other books he has in store for us!

I received a copy from J.D. Barker on NetGalley

Beach Read by Emily Henry @BerkleyPub

Happy Book Birthday to Beach Read by Emily Henry!

Brenda’s review

Beach Read by Emily Henry is witty, entertaining and fun. Romance writer January strikes up a deal with Literary writer Gus that made the story feel a little different to me and I was intrigued by that. January and Gus are two very different writers and people yet they have one thing in common, they both are experiencing some writer’s block. There is some rivalry between them, that is nicely balanced with the snarky yet caring and honest banter between them. The dynamics between them felt refreshing and real to me and I loved the characters. They both have a conflict within themselves and I like how they developed and grew as the story progressed. There is substance to the characters and plot with some heavy themes yet still kept to a lighter read. I highly recommend

Norma’s review

Deeply moving, heartwarming, and a captivating page turner!

BEACH READ by EMILY HENRY is a perfectly paced, cleverly layered, compelling, emotional, sweet, and fun rom-com that absolutely stole my heart. The snarky banter, witty plot, and great characters was exactly what I needed at this time to fully immerse myself in this tale.

EMILY HENRY delivers an engaging, well-written, and thought-provoking read here that totally enveloped me into Gus and January’s love/hate relationship as well as in all the secondary characters’ lives. The extremely fun buildup and their character montage was so easily visualized and definitely planted me firmly in a front row seat as I watched their dynamic relationship grow. The author does an awesome job with totally investing us in their relationship and I was definitely rooting for a happily ever after ending for the both of them.

The sarcastic and witty exchanges between Gus and January is what I absolutely loved and couldn’t get enough of. Their attraction towards one another was undeniable and the tension between the two of them was so palpable that it gave me all the feels.

I would say that somewhere near the end of the book though it lost a little bit of steam for me but I’m not exactly sure if it was because I knew that their story was coming to an end and I was resisting it or if I thought that something was missing in the storyline. I think there were some plot points that weren’t totally wrapped up perfectly but I totally believe that this was January’s story and who we were really paying attention to. There were some extremely thought-provoking and great themes explored in this book with our self-worth and accepting who we are to opening ourselves up to be loved.

Thank you to Elisha at Berkley Pub for our copies

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @HarperCollinsCa

Lindsay and I have been teaming up together to get to some of those titles we have been meaning to for awhile now. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was on the top of our list and we are so glad we read it. It was the right one that we were looking for right now with the something different to it. We highly recommend this unique and clever story that might just be a different pace from what you are used to.

Lindsay’s review

A refreshingly unique, suspenseful, clever and addictive mystery!

This was my first Peter Swanson book and I loved it! I connected with the writing, characters and storyline immediately and that connection remained strong throughout.

Malcolm owns a small bookstore with a loyal customer base. Years ago, he started a blog for the store and his first blog post outlined his list of eight of the most cleverly written murder mysteries. Years later, Malcolm is approached by the FBI who are investigating a string of murders that seem to be copying the murders within his list of eight books. These eight books do not appear together so concisely anywhere else.

There is a lot of reference to this list of eight murder mystery books, some of which are, Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders and Patrica Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train. Though I hadn’t read any of the books listed, the story outlines the theories and outcomes in each book — some might consider these spoilers, but for me with my terrible memory, it didn’t bother me. I’ll be able to read those books down the road and be shocked and surprised at who the murderer is.

There is something so very refreshing about the way this novel is written. None of the plot was filler. I hung onto every word and felt the tension and suspense in every chapter. The narration was one of my favourite parts of this novel – I adored Malcolm who guides us through the story. There was a secretive side to him that kept my curiosity building from start to finish. Malcolm was an extremely likeable character.

I adored the bookstore setting! And Nero the bookstore cat. The pace and flow were perfect. I did find it slightly confusing at times to remember which book or murder was being referred to but nothing that I couldn’t sort through quickly.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes murder mysteries with a classic feel.

Brenda’s review

Lately, it’s has been all about the characters for me, and I find myself drawn to characters with something a little different from them. Eight Perfect Murders is all about the way it’s narrated through our lone narrator Malcolm (Mal). He is compelling odd, exciting and entertaining with his unique voice, and I enjoyed being drawn into his unique voice. At times he is unreliable, at other times, he gives us information and then second guesses himself. This kept me on my toes and had me asking questions that created some excellent suspense for me.

Peter Swanson delves into some classics here, and there are some spoilers to them. This is the center of the plot here, but for me, it lagged in places and slowed down the story for me. I am sure I missed some important clues to the story. An exciting game of cat and mouse develops between Mal and the killer, and I do love a good one. Even though I saw some of those reveals coming, I was left surprised in the end.

I highly recommend to readers who love an exciting narrator to their stories.

We received copies for the publisher on Edelweiss

Behind the Pages Q & A with John Marrs @johnmarrs1

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is now available! It’s one not to be missed! John Marrs joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group for a Q & A and answered our questions about his books and writing process. I am excited to sure some of the Q & A with you today!

Brenda: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us and answering our questions!! What does your writing day look like to you? How has it changed for you?

John: My first four books were written on trains as I commuted to London from my home an hour and a half away. When I gave up journalism two years ago, I write from 10am until 6pm most days in my office at home. It took quite some getting used to being in the quiet compared to what it was like being on a train.
Since our son was born last year, I now grab the hours when I can and they are usually in the evenings and at weekends. I have to be flexible and work around him for now.

Debra: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us! I just read an ARC of What Lies Between Us and loved it. I know you were a journalist for twenty-five years, during that time did you want to write books, was that always a thought in the back of your mind or a natural progression?

John: No, I never had any plans to be an author, I just came up with an idea for a book and thought of it as a fun project. I wanted to know if I could write a book that people should enjoy. Two years later, When You Disappeared was complete and it’s gone on to sell more than I could have ever imagined.

Debra How do you come up with the ideas for your books?

John: Ideas vary. One came from a conversation with a friend whose partner was a helpline phone operator, another was based on a newspaper article, one was a dream I had, and another appeared one night as I was on the train going home. They can come from anywhere at any time!

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea of Maggie and Nina in What Lies Between Us? Did the idea of them come first or did the plot?

John: After The Passengers I wanted to go back to writing a character led story and had an idea about two women who shared a house but who hated each other. I wanted to write something that felt claustrophobic , that was twisty and turny and in which the reader never knew whose side to be on. This was one of those books that kind of wrote itself, I really enjoyed the process. It brought out my devious side and I’m not sure I’ve been able to bury it since… lol

Brenda: In the voice of your characters Maggie and Nina can you tell us a bit about them in a couple of sentences?

John: Maggie: My daughter is a complex character, but one whom I love dearly. Her decisions are questionable but I know that deep down, the beautiful child I raised and loved still exists inside her.

Nina: She is never going to leave this house after what she has done to me. If it’s the last thing I do, she will spend the rest of her solitary life paying dearly for robbing me of the life I deserved.

Brenda: Was there one character between Maggie and Nina that you enjoyed creating more than the other or you struggled with?

John: I enjoyed writing them both equally. Maggie is a little more wistful, the voice of experience but is thrown into a situation that she has no frame of reference for. Whereas Nina is just full of anger, spite and self satisfaction. Now I think about it, I probably enjoyed writing Nina more as she gets to be callous and cruel and we all know it’s more fun to write from the perspective of a baddie!

Debra: I loved the twists, turns and reveals in What Lies Between Us. Are these easy to come up with? Do you know what they are going to be before you begin writing your books or do they come naturally as your writing progresses?

John: As for twists, I have some ideas ahead of writing, but often, the best twists are those that come to you when you’ve already started writing. In What Lies Between Us, the very ending came after I’d finished the original ending. It was a sudden flash of inspiration

Norma: Hi John, What Lies Between Us was quite the impressive, twisty and gripping read. I absolutely loved both characters and their voices.

The title of this book is absolutely brilliant, clever and such a fitting representation to the storyline. Did the title come first or after?

John: Thank you! For a long time the working title was The Woman Upstairs, even though variations of that have been done to death. I met with my editor for lunch and we brainstormed ideas but came up with nothing. The next day this title came to me in a flash. I love it as it’s so fitting.

Brenda: What research did you do for The Passengers? What were some challenges you faced there with the tech side of it while creating an entertaining read?

John: I knew nothing at all about driverless cars when I started to plot this book. So I basically read everything I could about them, watched a lot of YouTube videos and traveled to the Geneva motor show in Switzerland to see first hand what these cars were about. Once I learned how they operated and had a factual knowledge, then I slipped into gear and started using my imagination to come up with the scenarios in which I could use them to tell my story.

Brenda: Of course, we have to talk about the social media side of the story. I thought you did a brilliant job there. You had me horrified at the thought of voting for the characters live on social media yet I found myself caught up in tension you created there and I was rooting for the characters. As I learned more about each character I changed who I was rooting and that was entertaining for me. Your pacing was spot on there!!

How did you pull that all off? lol, Why did you use social media to create that tension?

John: That’s really kind of you to say. I love social media, I waste many an hour getting lost in rabbit holes on Facebook, instagram and Twitter. But I know a lot of it can be toxic and it seems like it is getting worse. So for this book I decided to capitalise on it, to show social media at its bleakest and to use the public and their inability sometimes to realise the people they are bullying are still human beings. Like I say in the book, it’s pack mentality and it’s a disturbing trend.

Brenda: I loved that your stories are unique and different from each other as well as your characters. In The One and The Passengers, there are a few characters. How did you go about creating your characters and capturing their voices? How did you keep their character traits straight and their storylines especially with The One?

John: There is a lot going on in my head when I’m writing multiple characters at any one time! It doesn’t help that I tend not to write methodically. I’ll do bits here and there and then tie everything up at a later date. I don’t keep loads of notes on each character, I store them in my head and I prefer to work organically and let the characters alter and shift as the story goes on. The One was easier because they are five separate stories under the umbrella of one book. But in The Passengers, their stories or at least the situation the characters fine themselves in, are linked so it was more complex remembering who was doing what in which chapter and linking them together.

Norma: I noticed on Social Media that you were asked a question and I think it such a great one that I’m going to ask something similar here for you to comment on. What does it feel like to hurt a character in your book? Do you know a character’s destiny before you start writing or does the flow of the narrative guide you there? Have you ever hurt a character that you absolutely loved? Was it hard for you to do or you accepted it as it was written? 🙂

John: Have no guilt or qualms about hurting a character, making their lives miserable or killing them off! I have killed off a fair few leading characters in my time and it always keeps readers on their toes. Sometimes I know their destiny from the start but much of the time, I will just start writing and see where the words take me. It’s more fun and spontaneous like that.

Norma: I wish you all the success with The Lies Between Us and look forward to your next release. Do you have anything in mind yet that you are able to share with us? A little tidbit….LOL

John: It’s all been written and comes out in the uk this July and probably next year in the US and Canada. It’s called The Minders and is in the same universe as The One and The Passengers, a five minutes in the future style thriller. It’s very different to What Lies.

For more of the Q & A you can find it here

Blog Tour: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf @parkrowbooks @HarlequinBooks

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf I am excited to share our reviews with you all.

Book Summary:

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. 

Brenda’s review

This Is How I Lied has a little something different here with the creep level to the story and Heather Gudenkauf had me a little worried as she created a sense of dread for me like I haven’t felt before while reading. I enjoyed that feeling of not knowing what to expect with that sense of dread. I put my trust in her and was rewarded with a chilling, dark and twisty entertaining read.

For me, this one was all about Nola. She is one odd, dark character with an interesting creepy side to her. She has an exciting, mysterious side to her that created some great tension and suspense to the story that had me turning those pages as fast as I could. She brought something a little different to the story and she was a character we wanted to talk about.

The crime here centers around the murder of Eve, Nola’s sister and her best friend, Maggie. Well, things didn’t really add up the way I would have liked them to, I loved the dynamics between Nola and Maggie. Maggie also brings something a little different here with the tension in the story with her pregnancy and I feared the danger she might be in. I enjoyed how things came together with Nola and Maggie and thought it all wrapped well with them. I recommend it!

Norma’s review

Gripping, absorbing, and an irresistible page turner!

THIS IS HOW I LIED by HEATHER GUDENKAUF is a cleverly layered, compelling, dark, and suspenseful psychological thriller that meanders and holds you tight in its grasp without you even realizing it. This definitely sets the tone for an immersive and unputdownable read.

What I absolutely love about HEATHER GUDENKAUF’S storytelling is that she hooks you in almost immediately and then the story makes its way under your skin as the story progresses. I find this so intriguing and keeps the suspense high for me. Then when you hit the ending it is so unexpected that it leaves you feeling exhilarated in the end.

There is a character in this book that is so creepy and disturbing but definitely ups the creep factor to the storyline.

There is a reason why I love this author so much….she keeps knocking out fabulous psychological thrillers that have a natural ability to get right under your skin, that’s why! Read this book!!

Lindsay’s review

Maggie is seven months pregnant and easing off her heavy workload as one of the two detectives in her small town. She reluctantly takes on desk duty and is assigned the cold case of a local young girls’ murder that devastated the town over twenty years ago. This case is close to Maggie as the victim, Eve, was her fifteen year old best friend and neighbour. Digging into the past brings up old memories while new clues surface.

This was entertaining and fast paced, each chapter leaving a little cliff hanger of curiosity. The characters and mystery were interesting and unique. I loved the small town atmosphere.

Even though this was a quick and action filled journey, I never felt fully invested or engaged. There were several questionable plot points and too much drama for my liking. Though there was an air of suspense created in the prologue, it didn’t carry forward or pull me deep into the story. I enjoyed this for being an entertaining, quick, surface level story that was an easy read during quarantine.

Author Bio: 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.

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

Publisher: Park Row Books

Buy Links:  Harlequin  Barnes & Noble Amazon Books-A-Million Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @hgudenkauf

Instagram: @heathergudenkauf

Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor

Goodreads

Thank you to Park Row Books, for inviting us to be a part of this exciting Blog Tour and for our copies on NetGalley and EW.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker

I decided to request Godshot by Chelsea Bieker after seeing a few reviews from my Goodreads friends and dived into it right away, looking for a deep connection to a story and the characters. I started to get a little worried about the way it started and wondered what I got myself into. I hung in there and was rewarded with an unquie look at the bond between our main character 14-year-old Lacey and her mother.

The story is set in drought-stricken cult ran town by Pastor Vern, who preys on the vulnerabilities of the members, especially with the children. He promises them rain for doing assignments that I felt were too bizarre by the way the story was told, and the cult storyline wasn’t a convincing part of the story for me. I did read this one on my own, so I didn’t get the chance to talk about that with anyone. Maybe I would have felt differently after chatting about that.

What did create that emotional response I was looking for was with Lacey’s growth throughout the story. Lacey’s mother is banished from the community. Instead of Lacey holding feelings of abandonment and anger towards her mother she becomes determined to find her. Lacey develops some interesting friendships and through some unquie women, she learns something about herself and sees her mother differently through them.

The story unravels slowly and, at times, almost lost me, however, Lacey’s observation of the world around her and her sense of humor under all the pressure and her will to survive kept me hanging in

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley