Today marks the official half-year mark. I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the best suspense books I've read so far in 2018. Plus, I'm sharing a look at a suspense novel I can't wait to get my sweaty little hands on!
I'm not much for cozy mysteries, I tend to like things a little darker and grittier. And while Mister Mottley Gets His Man isn't entirely cozy, it is a fun read--definitely more on the light-hearted side. It was also one of my favorite reads so far this year.
The author, Ellen Seltz, does a brilliant job of keeping everything perfectly balanced. Like a just-right meal, the book has a lot of action, humor, extremely fun characters with lots of quirks, and a rollicking "who dunnit" mystery that I couldn't solve. Plus, since Ms. Seltz has a background in the film/theater industry, the book reads like a movie script (in a good way). Thoroughly enjoyed.
The Bullet, is a novel of suspense and intrigue. It's written by a VPR commentator, Mary Louise Kelly. It was eerie and fast-paced. The storyline follows a young college professor who discovers she has a bullet lodged in the base of her neck. She has no idea how it got there.
From that MRI, the young woman's perfect life starts to crumble around her. The harder she looks for answers, the more frightening her situation becomes. Excellent read! I look forward to more by this talented author.
I so enjoyed this quick read, The Yellow Room, by vintage author, Mary Roberts Rinehart. I can't believe that it's taken me so long to read one of this legend's books. Wasn't she named the "Queen of Suspense," before Mary Higgins Clark took over the title?
This was a great, gothic suspense story and had just enough spine-tingles to keep you flipping pages. Also loved the time period it was set in (1940s).
Listen to this opening paragraph:
"As she sat in the train that June morning Carol Spencer did not look like a young woman facing anything unusual. She looked merely like an attractive, and highly finished product of New York City, who was about to park her mother with her elder sister in Newport for a week or two, and who after said parking would then proceed to Maine, there to open a house which she never wanted to see again."
Already there are questions to be answered. Why doesn't Carol want to see the house again? If she doesn't, why is she opening it? What unusual thing is she facing? Love the hook.
All right, I admit it: I'm cheating here a little. This miniseries, And Then There Were None, based on the novel by the same name by Dame Agatha Christie, was a must-watch for me. In fact, it had been on my wishlist on Amazon for more than a year!
While the script deviates in some ways from the original book (one of my very favorite of Christie's novels), it was similar enough in the most important ways. The director did a great job of climax and tension, and the house and setting were completely atmospheric and just creepy enough to be delicious.
And a suspense book I'm looking forward to reading...
I am so, SO looking forward to reading this new thriller/suspense by Jenny Milchman. I recently learned about it's release from writer/book reviewer, Beth Kanell, who maintains an excellent site, Kingdom Books, that you should visit. Ms. Milchman and I were featured in the same post--her for this book and me for Shadow in the Woods.
You'll remember in my last post I was discussing the reasons that I don't like writing book reviews, and what I like to do instead.
This isn't to say that I don't like reading some book reviews. I find sites like I Wish I Lived in a Library and Kay's Reading Life and Rebel Mommy Book Blog to be great places to find new-to-me-books/authors to check out. Each of these reviewers does a fantastic job of writing good reviews. They also include just enough information about their personal life that you feel like a close acquaintance is sharing information with you on coffee break. Want a straight book review site for mystery and suspense reads? I recommend Mysteries in Paradise or Bitter Tea and Mystery, both of which use straight review format.
Even if they didn't particularly like a book, these reviewers make sure to point out its good qualities. They also state that the parts they didn't enjoy are because of their own reading preferences, not because they believe they are the end-all and be-all of book reviewers. I respect that very much.
Oh, and I'd be remiss not to send you to check out the clever and well-rounded book review site by writer/author/editor Beth Kanell, Kingdom Books. It's a fantastic resource for any reader who is a fan of mystery, suspense and great thrillers.
What book review sites do you rely on? Or are you an Amazon, Goodreads or LibraryThing-only type of review reader? Please share in the comments.
All right fellow booknerds and bookworms: I have a pressing question for you today: what are your special reading habits?
The topic of this post is similar to one I wrote about recently on the blog, "Do You Have a Reading Ritual?" It's also in the same vein as this post, "Do Your Suspense Tastes Change with the Seasons?"
I was inspired to write this post after reading a great one called, "My Reading Habits," over at I Wish I Lived in a Library. Katherine offered some great behind-the-scenes info about her own reading habits. I thought it would be fun to do something similar here.
In no specific order, here are five questions about my own reading habits. Please chime in and share your answers in the comments!
Q1: What time of day is set aside for reading?
A: I have a fifteen-minute block of time after lunch when I most enjoy reading. I have been doing it for years and it is very relaxing. I sip my (decaf) coffee and let go of the morning busyness and just unwind...ahhhh. Lovely!
Q2: Where do you most enjoy reading?
A: I usually read curled up in a corner of the couch. I also like to read in bed before sleeping if I'm not too tired.
Q3: Sticky note, scrap of paper or proper bookmark?
A: Sadly, you'll find the most ugly things marking my place. I have been gifted with pretty, REAL bookmarks over my life, but somehow my books end up with scraps of junk mail, crumpled post-it notes or (ahem) as is the case right now, a piece of a tissue. But at least it's a CLEAN tissue.
Q4: How do you choose your next book to read?
A: This is tricky! I will sometimes pick up a book if it's recommended to me by a friend. I'm also part of a mystery/suspense online readers' group and sometimes I get ideas from there. I also love browsing used book shops and used book sales and admit that I will frequently pick up a book due to its cover.
I went through a minimalism phase where I donated about 75 percent of my books (!). Now I'm back to collecting them, but with care. I still don't like clutter and figure I can get most at the library when I'm ready to read them.
Q5: If you start reading a book and don't like it, do you plow through anyway or give up on it?
A: Give up! This didn't used to be the case though. When I was younger (teens) I would keep going no matter what. But then college came and then work, family and other things that take up my time. Now my reading time is so limited/precious that I will only read things that I really enjoy.
Now it's your turn, readers. Please answer these questions in the comments below. I can't wait to find out more about your reading habits and preferences. :)
I'm a bit late for Women's History Month, but have been thinking about sharing some of my favorite women suspense authors with you here on the blog for some time. Today, we're going to go back in history and learn more about three authors who changed the literary world. They are: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Agatha Christie and Patricia Clapp. Like any good journalist, I'm going to cover the Five Ws: Who, What Where, When and Why...the last "w" being why you might want to pick up one of their books.
Who: Mary Roberts Rhinehart had an interesting start in the literary world: she became a writer because of financial need. This in itself might not be so surprising, except that she was married to a doctor. Apparently, the couple was in financial distress and Mary Roberts Rhinehart began to write and sell her fictional articles in magazines.
What: The author of 60 mystery books, nine plays, and many short stories published in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post.
Where: Mary Roberts Rhinehart was originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but later lived among homes located in Bar Harbor, ME, and Park Avenue in NYC.
When: She was first published in 1908 and continued to write prolifically until her death in 1858.
Why: Mary Roberts Rhinehart wrote books that evoked suspense and oozed atmosphere all without going into the gory details of a story. Her book, The Yellow Room, was a fascinating read and would be a great introduction to her work.
Oh, Mrs. Christie: what can I say that hasn't been said a million times before? Let's cover the five W's and see if we learn anything new, shall we?
Who: Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.
What: A prolific writer, Agatha Christie penned more than 70 mystery novels during her lifetime. She also wrote romance novels under a pen name (Mary Westmacott), many short stories and plays, too. Several of her books have gone on to become movies, and of course, her most famous characters, Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple had their own TV series.
Where: Christie was born in in Torquay, Devon, (England) and later lived in her beautiful "dream home," Greenway. (You can tour Greenway if you'd like!)
When: Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and was named dame in 1971. She passed away in 1976.
Why: So many reasons to enjoy Agatha Christie's books: one of my top ones? Because I have yet to figure out "who did it," and the motive both, a sure sign of a great mystery writer.
Who: Patrica Clapp was something of a mystery herself. She was born in 1912 and her first work was the novel, Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth.
What: Unlike the other two authors above, Ms. Clapp was not a prolific writer. She is credited with 10 published works, most of these children's books. I was introduced to her by a wonderful friend with similar reading tastes. Ms. Clapp's book, Jane-Emily, was probably my favorite read of 2017. According to her biography via Harper Collins, the author actually identified as more of a "theater person," than a writer, and worked in community theater for 40 years.
Where: Patricia Clapp was born in Boston, MA, and lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.
When: The author was born in 1912 and passed away in 2003.
Why: Jane-Emily is a Gothic-suspense that will draw you in from the very first page. I believe in today's classification system, it would be considered Juvenile Fiction, but I enjoyed it greatly. It's spooky and haunting with beautiful prose and, oddly, a bit of humor that somehow works perfectly.
Who did I miss? This is just a short overview of three of my favorite vintage female suspense authors, but who would you add to the list? Share you thoughts in the comments.
When you were a kid, did you like being read to? I LOVED it. Not only did my older sister, Aimee, read to me all the time but sometimes my father read to all of us. Those are some really great memories. (If you'd like to start a read-aloud tradition in your family, C.W. Hawes has some great ideas to help.)
Happily, being read to doesn't have to stop just because you're a grownup. Audio books are in fact the fastest growing segment of the digital publishing industry right now. And Americans are listening in droves. According to the Audiobook Publishers Association, 26 percent of the U.S. population has listened to an audiobook in the last 12 months. (Read the blog post where I pulled this information from.)
You can often borrow audio books on CD from your local library. If you're not a fan though, (too cumbersome, perhaps?) there are other options. You could choose a Playaway--a pre-loaded, small listening device which you can use with earbuds or plug in to your car's auxiliary jack. Or get a subscription to Audible, Amazon's popular audiobook service. There is also another option and this one is completely free: radio dramas.
When I was working full-time at a mind-numbing job, I used to listen to radio dramas like "Suspense," which are really well done. Picture creaking doors, the sound of bat wings flapping, the drip, drip, drip of a leaky roof when a young couple takes refuge in an abandoned house after their car breaks down...great stuff!
This blogger put together a list of Top 10 Best Fiction Podcasts which you might find helpful. I'm sure there are also a lot of fiction podcasts if you search on iTunes, too.
How do you like to listen to books? Please let me know in the comments section.
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