‘Just Like the Other Girls’ by Claire Douglas a suspense-filled mystery

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

Sometimes, we read a murder mystery, and almost from the start, we feel as if we know who did it. Don’t worry. “Just Like the Other Girls” by Claire Douglas is not like that. Douglas does present us with several red herrings, and a few seem as though they just must be the real killer. But then she reveals more and more about the characters’ backgrounds and motivations, and boom—what we thought we knew is wrong.

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‘Lucky’ by Marissa Stapley is a story about love, deception, and family

Lucky by Marissa Stapley

The best books are often the ones that grab you by the collar and hook you so thoroughly that you can’t stop reading, no matter the time of day, no matter other pressing responsibilities. Sometimes, we need books that don’t present complex philosophical insights or force us to consider world problems, but rather books with a wonderful story that is engaging and fun to read. “Lucky,” by Marissa Stapley is a perfect example of a novel in which the main character, Lucky, is a sympathetic and likable person. We like her immediately and want to keep reading to see where her madcap life will take her next. We learn about her at three stages of her life: as an infant abandoned in front of a church; as a child growing up with her charming grifter father; and in her current situation as it grows more and more dire.

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‘No Beauties or Monsters’ by Tara Goedjen is filled with surprise and mystery until the lovely ending

No Beauties or Monsters

“No Beauties or Monsters” by Tara Goedjen is the ultimate mystery novel. For most of the story, we have little idea what is happening. Why does main character Rylie lose track of time—for hours—and have no recollection of what happened? What is going on in Twentynine Palms and the nearby military base to which her mother was just transferred and where they visited her grandfather when Rylie was a child? And, in fact, what happened when Rylie was a child to estrange them from her grandfather?

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‘Billy Summers’ by Stephen King is a brilliant study about what makes a “good” person

Billy Summers by Stephen King

How do we know whether an individual is a good person or a bad person? Children like my five-year-old grandson know that there are heroes and villains — interestingly, he chooses to be the villain in his fantasy play. But we adults know that there is more to “goodness” than a superficial title. And in “Billy Summers,” Stephen King forces us to consider whether a hired killer can be a good person or must always be a villain by virtue of his profession.

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‘Spy School at Sea’ by Stuart Gibbs is the latest in the middle grade series for lovers of espionage and good writing

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs

I asked a student who was a huge fan of the Spy School series if I could jump into the Stuart Gibbs Spy School series without having read the first few novels. He said that I’d be too confused. I believed him. Shame on me. I jumped into the series with “Spy School at Sea,” and I was not confused. At all. To the contrary, I was charmed and engaged in the fabulous writing, clever plot, and absurdly silly and yet deadly events that befall our main character. Granted, Gibbs does reference past exploits of main character Benjamin Ripley, and we know that he has a past with his nemesis, Murray Hill, but the fast-paced action and the witty dialogue, not to mention the teenage foibles, all make for a story that is funny, clever, and exciting. No preparation necessary.

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‘Hostage’ by Clare Mackintosh is a seat-of-your-pants thriller about betrayal, love, and family

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

With “Hostage,” Clare Mackintosh gives us a thriller with nonstop action and not one set of hostages, but two. The family at the center of these hostage situations is the Holbrook family: Adam, MIna and Sophia. Adam is a police inspector and Mina is a flight attendant. Sophia is their adopted daughter, and we learn a lot about the harmful effects of neglect in the first year of a child’s life. Sophia has an attachment disorder which makes her difficult at times, and she is also extremely bright. Mackintosh does a fabulous job introducing the three main characters, and we learn about them from the first person narratives Adam and Mina provide, each chapter detailing the time and the narrator.

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‘False Witness’ by Karin Slaughter is a brutal and compelling account of what we will do for love

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

With her latest thriller, “False Witness,” author Karin Slaughter creates three characters we can’t stop thinking about. We meet sisters Callie and Leigh, both raised by a brutal, uncaring mother in extreme poverty. Both abused physically, sexually, and emotionally. What is different is how Callie and Leigh react to that abuse; what is the same is that the abuse ends up controlling both their lives—just with vastly different outcomes. She also explores the psychology of our brain after trauma. How do we know our memories are true? What does trauma or abuse do to our personality, our brain? And with the third character, she explores what a psychopath is capable of—in horrifying detail.

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The Devil for Sure: “The Devil’s Hand” by Jack Carr

The Devil’s Hand by Jack Carr

Author and ex-Navy Seal Jack Carr’s latest action novel, “The Devil’s Hand,” boasts something for everyone — that is, something for everyone who loves books filled with violence, war, gore, and the thirst for revenge. But this very authoritative and authentic-sounding novel is about much more than the taste for blood. It’s also a history of America’s quest for global dominance versus the Muslim world’s quest for the international triumph of Sharia law, the destruction of democracy everywhere, and the humiliation and ultimate defeat of America the Devil.

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‘A Stranger in Town’ is the newest Rockton novel by Kelley Armstrong in a thrilling series

If you haven’t started the “Rockton” series by Kelley Armstrong, you are missing out on a wonderful detective series with a setting that is unique and that makes each mystery in the series much more than a typical whodunit. “A Stranger in Town” is the sixth book in the series, and Casey and Eric, the detective and the sheriff in this Northern Canadian, off-the-grid town of Rocton, made up of people hiding from something in their past, come across a woman who has been attacked and is in desperate need of medical care. Continue reading

‘Twenty’ by James Grippando is a thrilling story of fanaticism, marriage, and mystery

twenty

In “Twenty,” the newest Jack Swyteck mystery by James Grippando, there are important questions that arise at the very start of this gripping mystery/thriller. Who was the shooter who killed students at the tony private school in Miami? Whoever it was was covered from head to toe: goggles, face mask, tactical vest, even booties covering the shoes. But when one of the students, Xavier Khoury, confesses to the shooting after the gun used was discovered to belong to his father, the community closes ranks against him and his family. Continue reading

‘The Girls I’ve Been’ by Tess Sharpe is a surprisingly touching YA story of friendship, love, a bank robbery and much more

The Girls I’ve Been

In “The Girls I’ve Been,” Tess Sharpe’s brilliant writing draws us into the lives of the three teens at the center of this young adult thriller. We meet them just as they are on the cusp of being held hostage at their local bank in rural California, and from the first chapter (the chapters are labeled with the time, and the amount of time that has elapsed since they were taken captive), we are mesmerized by Nora and her extraordinary narration of the events that are happening both in the present and also as she intersperses the present narration with snippets of her past that serve to explain who Nora is now.

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‘The Historians’ by Cecilia Ekbäck: A history of racial prejudice in a WWII thriller

“The Historians” by Cecilia Ekbäck presents readers with a historical thriller that also encompasses the history of racial prejudice and eugenics that permeated Scandinavia even before Hitler’s rise to power. The story begins in April, 1943, when Laura Dahlgren receives a phone call that her best friend from college has disappeared. Before the actual beginning of the story, Ekbäck provides short passages about events from January, February, and March of that year. Two of those are about mysterious events that seem unrelated to the main story, but give a hint of what is to come.

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