Tag: 5 stars

The Couple Next Door

Author: Shari Lapena
Audiobook

Published: August 23, 2016
Dates Read: June 11-20, 2017

My Rating:  5 stars

Book Description from Amazon:

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

My Review:

I loved The Couple Next Door!  I listened to the audio book version. It was intriguing, there were twists, and I never wanted to stop listening to it!  You really get a sense of human greed, selfishness, and self-centeredness all while dealing with a parent’s worst nightmare: something happening to their child.

The basic premise is this: Anne and Marco Conti go next door to a ‘party’ and leave their child home alone.  They do check on the baby often, but once they get home for the night the baby is gone.  Baby Cora is just six months old, so it isn’t like she got up and walked away; something happened to her. The rest of the book centers around the police and the parents trying to figure out what happened to Cora.  There are many twists and you don’t really know what is going to happen next.  Once everything is revealed you are left with a ‘OMG’ feeling as everything comes together and makes sense.

I did have some issues with the parents and feeling sympathetic towards them.  It was their fault for leaving the baby alone. What parent leaves their baby alone to go to a party? Also, the novel kept referring to it as a ‘party’.  For me it wasn’t really a party; it was two couples having dinner and hanging out into the late hours of the night.  I did not understand why the neighbor would not let them bring the baby with them after finding out the baby was left alone.  To me that is not a friend if they won’t let you bring your child. This comes back to the greed and self-centeredness shown throughout the novel.

You could feel Anne’s anguish as the novel progresses. She was really suffering at the loss of her daughter. Once I was over my initial dislike for her over leaving Cora alone, I felt sympathetic towards her.

I had suspicions early on with one character’s involvement in the disappearance, I just was not sure what the motivation was. I was never sure what direction the novel was going to go in and what the conclusion was going to be. I had no idea if Cora was going to be found or not. And if she was to be found would she be ok or not?

I listened to the audiobook version of The Couple Next Door and really enjoyed the narrator.  To me she sounded like Diane Sawyer, so it was like I was listening to an episode of a true crime story on 20/20 or Primetime Live.  For me, that enhanced my experience of the novel and almost gave me an ‘after the fact’ feeling to the novel. The only thing was when the ‘F’ word was said I giggled because to me it was like it was Diane Sawyer saying that which wouldn’t be professional for a reporter. I found it entertaining.   The ‘F’ word was said maybe a handful of times in the novel.

My interest was held for the entire novel up through the final twist at the end.  I had to listen to that final track again once the book was over, as my mouth dropped at the unexpected ending.

The Couple Next Door is recommended, and I would also recommend the audiobook version.

Blog Tour: The Fourth Monkey

I am very excited to be the stop for the blog tour for J.D. Barker’s upcoming novel The Fourth Monkey. It will be available next week.  I loved this book! My review and more is below:

Pre-order The Fourth Monkey
Amazon US
Amazon UK

 416 pages in Paperback

To Be Published:  June 27, 2017
Dates Read: May 30-June 12, 2017

My Rating: 5 Stars

Book Summary from Amazon:

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

Review:

The Fourth Monkey (4MK) was my first novel by J.D. Barker and it will not be my last!  It was brilliantly disturbing and I loved every page of it!  4MK is about a serial killer who has terrorized Chicago for five years, but then he is found dead and it appears he has taken one final victim.  It becomes a race against time to find 4MK’s latest victim before it is too late.

There are multiple narrators in this novel, and if you follow my reviews then you already know I enjoy those types of novels.  The main narrators are Detective Sam Porter, the final victim, and even 4MK through diary entries.  We get to know Detective Porter well and learn about his private life, which is not perfect.  Porter has been on this case since the beginning and he wants to end this case for good.

This is a very intense, dark and disturbing novel to read. The chapters are short, which gives you that “just one more chapter” feeling and I did not want to put it down. EVER.  4MK is being compared to Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, and like both, 4MK has very graphic violence in it, so it will not be for everyone.  J.D. Barker is vivid in his descriptions.  For example, at one point I was reading a scene that involved a rat and could picture everything clearly in my mind. I cringed as I was reading because I thought the scene was going to go in a certain direction and could see that direction in my head.

The diary entries are very unsettling as we see the influences that show how 4MK became what he is today.  I believe a person can have a tendency for things such as violence, but one’s environment can also affect a person.  4MK never had a chance to become anything other than what he did.  That is what makes those diary entries so disturbing.  For me the diary entries were more violent and troubling than the current case.

4MK takes place over a very intense and short time period. Barker does a remarkable job pulling you in and taking you for this ride with Porter as 4MK reaches its conclusion.   I thought I knew what the ending was going to be about 125 pages in, but I am glad to report that I was wrong.

I am very selective with my choice of five star reviews, and 4MK receives one!  In fact, I think it will be in my list of top reads of the year.

4MK is very highly recommended.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my arc review copy and for Booklover Catlady Publicity & Reviews for having me on the blog tour!


If you like the idea of The Fourth Monkey and think it should be a film, then you are in luck! Barker has sold publishing rights for The Fourth Monkey in America and other countries, and also has a TV and movie deal.

Do you want a draft copy of The Fourth Monkey? Check out this contest HERE that is going on!

Do you want to be a character in J.D.’s next book? Check out this contest HERE he has going on right now!

About the Author

Barker was born January 7, 1971 in Lombard, Illinois and spent the first fourteen years of his life in Crystal Lake, Illinois. A staunch introvert, he was rarely seen without a book in hand, devouring both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series by the age of six before moving on to classics such as the works of Dickens and Twain. The discovery of Shelley, Stoker and Poe fueled a fire and it wasn’t long before he was writing tales of his own which he shared with friends and family. These early stories centered around witches and ghosts thought to inhabit the woods surrounding their home.

At fourteen, Barker’s family relocated to Englewood, Florida, a climate better suited to his father’s profession as a contractor. He attended Lemon Bay High School and graduated in 1989. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in the arts but unsure of a direction, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he later obtained a degree in business. While in college, one of his writing assignment found its way into the hands of Paul Gallotta of Circus Magazine. Gallotta reached out to Barker and asked him to join the staff of 25th Parallel Magazine where he worked alongside the man who would later become Marilyn Manson. Assignments dropped him into the center of pop culture and by 1991 Barker branched out, interviewing celebrities for the likes of Seventeen, TeenBeat, and other national and local publications. In 1992, Barker syndicated a small newspaper column called Revealed which centered around the investigation of haunted places and supernatural occurrences. While he often cites these early endeavors as a crash course in tightening prose, his heart remained with fiction. He began work as a book doctor and ghostwriter shortly thereafter, helping others fine tune their writing for publication. Barker has said this experience proved invaluable, teaching him what works and what doesn’t in today’s popular fiction. He would continue in this profession until 2012 when he wrote a novel of his own, titled Forsaken.

Stephen King read portions of Forsaken prior to publication and granted Barker permission to utilize the character of Leland Gaunt of King’s Needful Things in the novel. Indie-published in late 2014, the book went on to hit several major milestones – #2 on Audible (Harper Lee with Go Set a Watchman held #1), #44 on Amazon U.S., #2 on Amazon Canada, and #22 on Amazon UK. Forsaken was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (Best Debut Novel) and won a handful of others including a New Apple Medalist Award. After reading Forsaken, Bram Stoker’s family reached out to Barker and asked him to co-author a prequel to Dracula utilizing Bram’s original notes and journals, much of which has never been made public.

Barker’s indie success drew the attention of traditional agents and publishers and in early 2016 his debut thriller, The Fourth Monkey, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set to publish in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the UK. The book has also sold for both film and television.

Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.

Contact J.D.
Website
Facebook
Twitter @jdbarker
Goodreads

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Just a Normal Tuesday

Author: Kim Turrisi
252 pages in Paperback

To Be Published: May 2, 2017
Dates Read: April 15-19, 2017

My Rating: 5 Stars

Book Summary from Goodreads:

It’s just a normal Tuesday for sixteen-year-old Kai, until suddenly it’s anything but. She’s received a letter from her beloved older sister, Jen, a letter that begins, “My very bestest sister, Kai, if you are reading this, I am already gone.” From that moment on, Kai’s life will never be the same, as she is forced to deal with the shock and horror of losing Jen to suicide.

Consumed with grief, Kai looks for answers, lashes out at people who love her and eventually turns to excessive drinking and drugs, all with disastrous results and no relief from her suffering. Struggling with their own sorrow, Kai’s parents realize she needs more help than they can give, and they enroll her in the Tree House, a “grief camp” for children. Though reluctant to go, once she’s there, Kai finally finds others who truly understand her loss. No longer alone, she’s able to begin dealing with her pain. And to see light at the end of the dark tunnel.

My Review:

This will be a difficult review to write as Just a Normal Tuesday is difficult to read. It deals with the issues of death, suicide, and teens. Kai is sixteen and comes home from school and finds a letter in the mail from her sister Jenn. She finds this strange as no one write letters any more when they can call or text, especially when Jenn lives close by. Then Kai opens the letter and her life changes forever as it is a suicide note from Jenn. Kai rushes to her sister’s apartment but it’s too late. This is just the beginning of Kai’s story.

This is Kim Turrisi’s first novel and what a debut it is! Just a Normal Tuesday is raw, gritty, and real! After her sister’s death Kai spirals out of control. She drinks heavily and begins taking drugs, including the prescription drugs her sister took. The feelings Kai has feel so real! Once her family and friends realize she needs serious help she is sent to a grief camp against her will.

The second half of the book focuses on the grief camp and we see the transformation Kai experiences as she gets comfortable with her group she is assigned to. We see all the teens change for the better as they go through camp. We come to care about them all and want them to all overcome their grief from their various losses. Just a Normal Tuesday ends with a positive note towards the future.

In the Author’s Note Kim Turrisi shares that when she was fifteen her sister committed suicide. She shares how writing Just a Normal Tuesday helped her with forgiveness and the loss of her sister. Everything feels so authentic that it seems like she took the feelings Kai had when she was out of control from her own experiences. The words she wrote could only come from someone who had experienced that kind of grief. With that you feel a connection to the author. At times it felt like these were Kim’s feelings and experiences. Just a Normal Tuesday is that real.

I want to share that I lost my dad just a few days after my nineteenth birthday. It was not in the way that Kai lost her sister, but it was still a heavy loss that I still feel at times. Reading Just a Normal Tuesday brought back that time for me and the memories and feelings from then and because of this at times it was difficult to read. I knew it was going to be difficult when I began it, but it is a book you do not want to put down.

Just a Normal Tuesday is very highly recommended for anyone who has lost someone, especially at a younger age. The target demographic is 14-18 but anyone could read this book and take something away from it.

I want to end with this: My dad passed away on May 4, 1999 which was a Tuesday.

“It was just a normal Tuesday. And then it wasn’t.”- Kai

**Special thanks to Kids can Press and KCP Loft for sending me an arc. Just a Normal Tuesday deeply touched me and it was a pleasure to review it.

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