#5 On My TBR – Death

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Death. El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the souls of loved ones departed. It follows the Aztec tradition of honoring the dead by setting up family altars, enjoying your loved one’s favorite foods and visiting their graves with marigolds and gifts. The Day of the Dead is held November 1st and 2nd this year. If you are interested in participating you can find additional info and future prompts here.

#1 – Men We Reaped

From Goodreads: In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth–and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. 


#2 – Death in Her Hands

From Goodreads:

A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body”. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to area, having moved her from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she’s a little shaky even on best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home.

A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, ‘Death in Her Hands’ asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both guide us closer to the truth and keep us at bay from it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, only this time the stakes have never been higher.


#3 – Dog Flowers

From Goodreads:

A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to confront her family’s troubled history and retrace her mother’s life—using both narrative and archive in this unforgettable and heart-wrenching memoir.

After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of a withdrawal from alcohol during a period of homelessness, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins on a journey of confronting her family’s history and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation.

Geller masterfully intertwines wrenching prose with archival documents to create a deeply moving narrative of loss and inheritance that pays homage to our pasts, traditions, heritage, the family we are given, and the family we choose.


#4 – Monkey Beach

From Goodreads:

Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different.

Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can’t escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother’s tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie’s parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for “grandmother”), a guardian of tradition.

Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson’s startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing older–a multilayered tale of family grief and redemption.


#5 – In Cold Blood

From Goodreads: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged for the crime on a gallows in a warehouse at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas.

In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.

Blog Tour: Confessions on the 7:45

Synopsis

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you should never, ever make conversation with strangers.

Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.


Review

“Sometimes a stranger was the safest place in your life.”  

And sometimes there is danger lurking in the unknown.  


When working mom Selena confides her suspicions with a stranger on the train she feels a momentary release from the burden of her secret.  Oddly, she feels a connection to this woman even though she she doesn’t quite understand why.  Her brief meeting leaves her feeling uneasy especially after the woman starts texting her.  But Selena has bigger problems to deal with.  Her nanny has gone missing and the police are asking questions.  Questions that if answered truthfully could put her and her husband in hot water.


The twists in Confessions on the 7:45 come early and hit hard.  For a moment you are both intrigued and unsettled.  You may not yet have a clue as to where the novel is headed, but you are certainly anxious to find out.  Loosely based on Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Confessions reminds us how much of our lives are on display for the world to see and how this technology may be used against us. 


In Confessions on the 7:45 Unger delves into those liminal spaces where things are neither black or white.  People are not all good or all bad.


The found family trope takes on new meaning when you have a psychopath at its center.  For each character Unger shows how they were shaped by their childhood experiences.  Family secrets are not just burdens for those who hold them; their price can be meted out upon the heads of those kept in the dark.

Adding to this mystery are the layers of metaphor Lisa Unger weaves into her writing.  People are like pine seedlings on a forest floor.  They appear to be refuse, litter to be consumed by fire. But instead that pressure and heat is the spark they need to blossom and flourish and start on their path in life.  This sentiment is repeated with the myth of the phoenix rising out of the ashes to fly unburdened into the sky.

Confessions on the 7:45 is my third Lisa Unger book. I find her work to be intelligently written with much thought given to the development of her characters. Readers are pulled in to the stories because her characters are relatable. They can be you or me or someone we know. Their past lives are given enough attention that you understand what makes them tick.

The plot is full of twists and turns and plenty of salacious details. I was riveted to my seat all day long.

Highly recommended for thriller and mystery fans.


Meet the Author

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.


Buy Links

Series Saturday: Lucas Page

Who is Lucas Page?

Lucas Page is a retired FBI agent. During his tenure he survived a horrific blast that claimed his eye, an arm and a leg. He struggles with PTSD and suffers flashbacks from the incident. Understandably, he is a bit of a curmudgeon and does not warm up to people easily. Yet he has a heart of gold, which is evident by his opening up his heart and home to several adopted children. Having been a foster child himself family means everything to him. To say that Page has a brilliant mind would be an understatement. By day he works as an astrophysicist and university professor. By night he solves crimes no one else can.


Why Do We Like Him?

I just loved Page’s wry sense of humor. His dry wit kept me laughing even though instances where people had died in the book. His relationship with Whittaker was a special one. They seemed to understand what the other one was thinking without having to say anything.

Page is an overcomer. We are given enough details to know that he had a hard childhood but we see him giving back rather than dwelling on the past. He pushes through his flashbacks and his pain. He never makes excuses. Instead he searches for a means to work around his problems. Page has an uncanny, perhaps supernatural, ability to see patterns amidst chaos. His analytical mind can map out a space in seconds and quickly recreate crime scenes.

Book 1: City of Windows

During the worst blizzard in memory, an FBI agent in a moving SUV in New York City is killed by a nearly impossible sniper shot. Unable to pinpoint where the shot came from, as the storm rapidly wipes out evidence, the agent-in-charge Brett Kehoe turns to the one man who might be able to help them–former FBI agent Lucas Page.

Book 2: Under Pressure

On a beautiful October evening, New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum is closed for a tech company’s private gala. Until an explosion rocks the night, instantly killing 702 people, including every single attendee—yet the damage to the building itself was minimal.

An explosion of that precision was no accident and, in response, the FBI mobilizes its entire team — but the sheer number of victims strains their resources. Were all 702 victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there only one target and 701 unlucky bystanders? With too many victims and no known motive, the FBI turns once again to Dr. Lucas Page.


My Thoughts on the Series

This series was brought to my attention by Joseph Bresnan from Minotaur books. I enjoyed both books in this series and would recommend them to fans of Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series. I appreciated Pobi’s representation of a disabled character and how he showed readers his challenges but also allowed us to see his talents. Throughout the books there were several extremely clever plot twists and as a woman in STEM I liked how he incorporated the science and technology.


Meet the Author

I found Lucas Page to be such a curious character I really had to find out more about the man who created him. Pobi seems to be quite a recluse and likes to have a bit of mystery surrounding him:

From Pobi’s author page: “He lives in the country, but spends most of the summer and fall months at his cabin on a lost lake in the mountains. He does not have telephone, internet, or television at the cabin; if he needs to check email, he has to drive eight miles to a tiny town hall for the free wifi at the picnic table inhabited by a gang of octogenarian chain smokers. When the cold starts chewing on the trees, he heads to a place he has on the beach, where his nearest neighbor—a retired cop who shares the same first name—makes the best whiskey sour he has ever tasted.” 

He writes at a desk that once belonged to Roberto ‘God’s Banker’ Calvi, and has (or definitely doesn’t have) a small collection of shrunken human heads (known as tsantsas in anthropological and collector circles) that continually weird out his housekeeper. He owns too many fountain pens and is constantly making notes in old-school Mead marble composition books.”

From Goodreads: “ROBERT POBI has fished for great whites off Montauk, chased coyotes with a dune buggy in the Mojave, and spelunked caves in the former Yugoslavia. He is a renowned expert in English period furniture and makes a mean coq au vin.”

Mermaid-A-Thon TBR

I am late to the game with this Readathon. I first saw it on Twitter on Deja (I hope I spelled her name right.) Diary of a Reader‘s page. This is the third round of Mermaid-A-Thon. It is hosted by Fernando of Fernando’s Mermaid Books.

Dark World Challenges


Read a Book That Features War

Read a Book with a Badass Female Main Character

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Trojan War from a female perspective. Short listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, “A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.”


Read a Book By a Black Author

Read a Predicted 5 star Read

In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, “the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.”


Read a Horror Middle Grade Book

Dead Voices is the spine tingling sequel to Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces. When I read this book a few years ago I got so swept up in the story that I forgot it was supposed to be a family read. LOL Looking forward to see where Arden takes Ollie and friends in this next chapter.


Read a Book with Revenge

In this first installment of Robert Pobi’s Lucas Page series, former FBI agent Lucas Page must find a sniper bent on revenge before his family find themselves in the sniper’s lens.

Blog Tour: Someone’s Listening

Synopsis

You’re not alone. Someone’s waiting. Someone’s watching…Someone’s listening.

In SOMEONE’S LISTENING (Graydon House Books; July 28; $16.99) Dr. Faith Finley has everything she’s ever wanted: she’s a renowned psychologist, a radio personality—host of the wildly popular “Someone’s Listening with Dr. Faith Finley”—and a soon-to-be bestselling author. She’s young, beautiful, and married to the perfect man, Liam.

Of course Liam was at Faith’s book launch with her. But after her car crashes on the way home and she’s pulled from the wreckage, nobody can confirm that Liam was with her at the party. The police claim she was alone in car, and they don’t believe her when she says otherwise. Perhaps that’s understandable, given the horrible thing Faith was accused of doing a few weeks ago.

And then the notes start arriving—the ones literally ripped from the pages of Faith’s own self-help book on leaving an abusive relationship. Ones like “Secure your new home. Consider new window and door locks, an alarm system, and steel doors…”

Where is Liam? Is his disappearance connected to the scandal that ruined Faith’s life? Who is sending the notes? Faith’s very life will depend on finding the answers.


Review

Faith Finley is a successful psychologist with her own radio show named “Someone’s Listening”. She has built a reputation for helping the abused escape from their dangerous relationships. Her whole world comes tumbling down when a former patient accuses her of sexual misconduct. Although this type of delusional behavior fits his pathology, doctor-patient privilege prevents Faith from using his diagnosis to defend herself. As the news outlets increase their coverage she sees bits of her life being wrestled away from her. So when her husband Liam disappears the night of her book signing it is no surprise that detectives assume he has flown the coop.

Her credibility shot, Faith knows that she is on her own. If she wants answers into Liam’s disappearance she needs to get them herself. Throughout her dogged pursuit Faith proves herself to be relentless and reckless. I struggled with her character at times. Even though I applauded her persistence, I felt that as an educated smart woman she made some really stupid decisions. When she started calling Carter after his accusations went live, I could have reached into the kindle and smacked her. I just felt like someone should have been there to knock some sense into her. But ultimately she chased down the leads that no one else would.

For a debut mystery novel, Seraphina Nova Glass does a fine job of introducing doubt into the cast of characters’s motives. She offers up many suspects to keep readers guessing. And I have to say, if a book gets you so invested in the character that you fell the need to intervene as you would on behalf of a friend that says a lot about the novel’s character development and relatability. I look forward to reading Seraphina Nova Glass’s next novel The Seduction which is scheduled to be released Summer 2021.


Meet the Author

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Texas-Arlington, where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and has optioned multiple screenplays to Hallmark and Lifetime. Someone’s Listening is her first novel.


Where You Can Find Her

Blog Tour: This is How I Lied


First of all I would like to thank Lia Ferrone at Harlequin Trade Publishing for inviting me on to this blog tour. This is How I Lied was a thrilling page turner that kept me up all night.

Synopsis

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. 


Review

I’ve been having trouble concentrating lately. How to entertain my children while stay at home orders are in place. The uncertainty of our household finances as our jobs take on different dimensions. The fear of what will be waiting for us on the other side of this pandemic – what world we will be stepping out into. I say this to say that as a bibliophile reading is usually my therapy, my escape from the travails of life. Recently I find that most books haven’t been able to clear the clouds that are in my head. But Heather Gudenkauf’s This is How I Lied was able to transport me to another place. For a moment (or a fast-paced thrilling day), I had a reprieve. My mind was in small town Grotto with pregnant deputy Maggie Kennedy- O’Keefe.

New evidence has popped up in the murder case of her best friend Eve Knox. Maggie’s emotions surrounding the case are further compounded by the fact that it was she who discovered the body 25 years ago. This was a bit of a sticking point for me. I had some trouble suspending disbelief here because we all know in real life this wouldn’t happen. Maggie was too involved with the victim and too involved with the case to be considered for the assignment. But let’s face it the real world sucks right now so I’m down for making exceptions. If you think that Maggie is intriguing, wait until you meet Eve’s baby sister Nora. She is a nut I’m sure you would like to crack. Her character adds many suspenseful moments and plenty of twists and turns. I wonder if she will pop up in any of Gudenkauf’s future work. I certainly would read anything with her in it.


Meet the Author

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. 

Where to Find Heather

Where to Find This is How I Lied (ISBN: 9780778309703)