Sunday, March 24, 2019

ARC Review: The Woman in the Lake

ABL Review At-A-Glance

Ø    Title:  The Woman in the Lake           
Ø    My Rating: 4.5       
Ø    Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery
Ø    Author:  Nicola Cornick
Ø    Format:  Paperback ARC*
Ø    Publication Date:  February 26, 2019

Compare To:

Goodreads Synopsis

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can't tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

My Thoughts...

This book opens with a unique voice.  To set up the multi-narrator format, Nicola Cornick introduces multiple characters.  However, instead of simply using the different characters to advance the plot, she as different characters retell the same moments and the same space of time.  This only really happens in the beginning, but it’s incredibly powerful.  I could understand each character so much more deeply by seeing how they felt in what were the same exchanges.  This style helped shape the characters in a way that describing them could not have achieved.  I now understood why the servant felt resentment during an exchange, but from the Lady’s POV, she seemed reasonable and sympathetic.  Further proving the point that the majority of communication is nonverbal, and why it’s so important as an author to be good at both dialogue and descriptions.

Without spoiling too much, the ending was wonderfully and deliciously satisfying.  After the events that take place in the book, the author gave a perfect conclusion that was neither corny nor disappointing.  As for the mystery plots, I was constantly guessing and didn’t want to stop reading until I figured everything out.  Tidbits of information were sporadically provided, which generated just enough interest without giving any real answers.

My only criticism, and this is a pet peeve of mine, were the realistic descriptions.  At one point a character gets on a train and is described as smelling of stale sweat.  Now, I know that smell.  I get it.  When someone sits next to you on a train after they have hurried to make it, the body odor is noticeable but usually (hopefully) temporary.  But when I’m reading, and that description is used, I am instantly taken out of the fictional world.  Some people think this makes a story more realistic.  I’m just not one of those people.  All I could think about was the smell of the guy and how much I would want to get out of there, but this was a major plot point and the characters needed to have a longer conversation, so I just had to get through it.  Maybe this means I need to be a little less intense about my reading, or find authors that don’t create such great scenes that I get engrossed in them?

To sum up, I loved this book.  I loved the cover.  I loved the story. And as it turns out, I loved the author.  Unbeknownst to me, I have read another Nicola Cornick book.  I didn’t realize it until I was writing this review and thinking of books to compare it to.  I thought of a book called The Phantom Tree, and discovered that it not was only written by the same author, but #2 of this series.  Needless to say, I have added the first book to my TBR.  Each book in this series is a stand-a-lone read, but dual time traveling is used as a series theme.  Awesome concept with great execution.

* Special thanks to Nicola Cornick, Grayden House and TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of The Woman in the Lake in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: A Killer's Alibi

ABL Review At-A-Glance
Ø    Title:  A Killer’s Alibi
Ø    My Rating: 4
Ø    Genre:  Mystery, Legal Thriller
Ø    Author:  William L. Myers, Jr.
Ø    Format:  Paperback ARC*
Ø    Publication Date:  February 19, 2019

Compare To:

Goodreads Synopsis

For attorney Mick McFarland, the evidence is damning. And so are the family secrets in this twisty legal thriller from the Amazon Charts bestselling author of A Criminal Defense.

When crime lord Jimmy Nunzio is caught, knife in hand, over the body of his daughter's lover and his own archenemy, he turns to Mick McFarland to take up his defense. Usually the courtroom puppeteer, McFarland quickly finds himself at the end of Nunzio's strings. Struggling to find grounds for a not-guilty verdict on behalf of a well-known killer, Mick is hamstrung by Nunzio's refusal to tell him what really happened.

On the other side of the law, Mick's wife, Piper, is working to free Darlene Dowd, a young woman sentenced to life in prison for her sexually abusive father's violent death. But the jury that convicted Darlene heard only part of the truth, and Piper will do anything to reveal the rest and prove Darlene's innocence.

As Mick finds himself in the middle of a mob war, Piper delves deeper into Darlene's past. Both will discover dark secrets that link these fathers and daughters--some that protect, some that destroy, and some that can't stay hidden forever. No matter the risk.

My Thoughts...

 It’s important for me to point out that I didn’t read the first two books of this series.  So, I can’t really talk about the series as a whole or how this book would have felt with the full knowledge of previous events.  Having said that, I wish the author had put a little more detail into recaps of previous events.  I felt like the other books were alluded to or mentioned, but not summarized in a way that I felt fully connected to.

Otherwise, this was a very enjoyable and engaging read.  I’m a big fan of James Patterson, and I felt like this was a step beyond that.  There was more to the legal terminology, but also, the characters were more fully developed with integral backstories and real emotions. 

I never felt like I knew what was going to happen or who was going to do it.  It’s hard to surprise me anymore, but honestly, I was so caught up in the events as they happened and the characters that they were happening to, that I forgot to wonder about the bigger questions: who done it and why?  And honestly, isn’t that why we read?  To get so caught up in another world that we forget to think?  Just let it go and let someone else do the thinking for a little while?

On the technical side, the tone of the book fit perfectly with the story.  Sometimes sentimental, sometimes biting, always entertaining, I will definitely be reading the first two in this series and all of the books that come next.

* Special thanks to William L. Myers, Jr., Thomas & Mercer, and TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of A Killer’s Alibi in exchange for an honest review.

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