“If She Wakes” by Michael Koryta

“If She Wakes” by Michael Koryta

Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Tara Beckley is a senior at idyllic Hammel College in Maine. As she drives to deliver a visiting professor to a conference, a horrific car accident kills the professor and leaves Tara in a vegetative state. At least, so her doctors think. In fact, she’s a prisoner of locked-in syndrome: fully alert but unable to move a muscle. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone powerful wants her dead – but why? And what can she do, lying in a hospital bed, to stop them?

Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired by the college to look in to Tara’s case. A former stunt driver, Abby returned home after a disaster in Hollywood left an actor dead and her own reputation – and nerves – shattered. Despite the fog of trauma, she can tell that Tara’s car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hit man named Dax Blackwell hard on her heels.

This story is fascinating, thrilling, and a little bit creepy. All the things I look for in a thriller. There is an urgency to the story from the very first words. A sense of something ominous about to happen. Tara is just trying to be friendly with the guest speaker she is escorting to the college event. Then it all goes terribly wrong.

I love the way the author uses Tara to push the investigation forward, even though she is suffering from locked-in syndrome and seemingly has no way to communicate. I really appreciated how he explored what was going on in her thoughts, the feeling of indignity when the nurses talked about her like she wasn’t in the room, the desperation she feels when she realizes that she can’t communicate, and the relief when her sister fights for her rights when she is helpless. This aspect of the story is a reminder that just because a person is medically unable to talk to you doesn’t mean that you can treat them with disrespect.

Abby, the investigator, is a whole different kettle of fish. She is intent on finding the truth but must confront her internal demons in order to get through this investigation alive. The path to the truth is twisted and full of the unexpected. When she finds herself at the mercy of a serial killer she uses every resource she can muster thwart his deadly intentions. I found it easy to identify with Abby and cheer her on. Her methods may be unorthodox to some but they are definitely effective.

I listened to the audiobook version of this story and was on the edge of my seat throughout. The narrator’s pacing was excellent and it was a real pleasure to listen to. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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“Running Blind” by Lee Child

“Running Blind” by Lee Child

Narrated by Johnathan McClain

Across the country women are being murdered by a killer who leaves no evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to a motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. In fact, the only thing that links the victims is the man they all knew: Jack Reacher.

Warning: this story has a lot of potentially triggering scenes about crimes against women. Jack Reacher is my latest fictional hero. “Running Blind” is his 4th story. The FBI suspects him of murdering women across the country who had, while in military service, reported sexual assault. Reacher had been the investigator in all the cases, therefore he must be guilty. Then the tables turn and he’s helping the FBI find the real killer.

I find Jack Reacher so fascinating because I just can’t quite figure him out. Every book reveals a little bit more about him and just when I think I’m starting to understand him he throws me another loop. This is a character that keeps my interest. In this book, he’s paired with an FBI agent who, I’m sorry to say, has no redeeming qualities in my mind. She’s just way more nasty than she needs to be, but Reacher just takes it all in stride.

The plot of this one really had me guessing. I’d say I was about 85% through the book before I started to think that maybe I was wrong about the suspect and of course I was. Because Lee Child is good at unexpected twists, there are plenty of them. I was also impressed with the way the author handled the trauma that the women experienced. He doesn’t dismiss or trivialize what happened which I appreciate, especially from a male author.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook version of this story. I think Mr. McClain did a great job of voicing this one. The characters are distinctive and his narration is very well paced so you don’t have a chance to “zone out”. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one.

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Other books in this series:

“The Only Child” by Mi-ae Seo

“The Only Child” by Mi-ae Seo

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

I find myself on a bit of an international tour with my reading. Recently, I was in Nigeria with a police procedural and now I’m visiting South Korea with this intense psychological thriller. I had a little difficulty getting going with the story at the beginning because of the names but once I decided in my head on a pronunciation this book was hard to put down. The writing also struck me as a little stiff at times but I’m wondering if that is due to translation rather than any failing on the part of the author. The author so effectively takes the reader into the minds of her characters that is was impossible for me not to be impressed.

What really fascinated me with this story is the psychology behind the three main characters. The reader gets to go right along with Seonkyeong as she works her way through her own reactions to Yi Byeongdo and Haeyong and tries to use her training as a psychologist to understand how each of them has been shaped by their experiences. There are unexpected twists along the way and the ending could have gone a few different ways and wasn’t quite what I expected. Overall, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Even though the story is set in South Korea, the issues addressed are universal.

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Carson Mansion Update

Progress is being made. The first two pages of the design are now complete. Definition will be added with backstitching and work will begin on the first floor followed by landscaping. This project is moving forward at a slow but steady pace. No completion date has been announced yet.

Carson Mansion by Nancy Spruance Designs

#crossstitch #crossstitching #CarsionMansion #VictorianHouse #crossstitcher #needlework

“The Third Rainbow Girl” by Emma Copley Eisenberg

“The Third Rainbow Girl” by Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

In the early evening of June 25, 1980 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, two middle-class outsiders named Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were murdered in an isolated clearing. They were hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering but never arrived. For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted for the “Rainbow Murders,” though deep suspicion was cast on a succession of local residents in the community, depicted as poor, dangerous, and backward. In 1993, a local farmer was convicted, only to be released when a known serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility. With the passage of time, as the truth seemed to slip away, the investigation itself caused its own traumas-turning neighbor against neighbor and confirming a fear of the violence outsiders have done to this region for centuries.

Emma Copley Eisenberg spent years living in Pocahontas and re-investigating these brutal acts. Using the past and the present, she shows how this mysterious act of violence has loomed over all those affected for generations, shaping their fears, fates, and the stories they tell about themselves. In The Third Rainbow Girl, Eisenberg follows the threads of this crime through the complex history of Appalachia, forming a searing and wide-ranging portrait of America-its divisions of gender and class, and of its violence.

You know I like a good true crime. Also, having grown up on the edges of a “hippie” community, I find books involving that lifestyle very intriguing. This book did not disappoint in either category. What I was not anticipating was that the author would weave her own story into the narrative of the murders. But I was not mad about it. Both the author’s life story and the story of the murdered girls were fascinating. She uses one of my favorite structures, going back and forth between the present and the past, to keep the reader’s interest.

Initially, the cops are convinced they know who murdered the girls and they bring that person to trial and get a conviction. Case closed. But is it? It seems that almost all the residents of Pocahontas County have some kind of a connection to someone involved. Suspicions are everywhere and leave the community reeling for years afterward.

In my opinion, the author has done an excellent job of investigating the murders all these years late, and of conveying the facts and the fiction of the killings to her readers. I also appreciate the way her status in the community enabled her to convey, with and inside perspective, the ways that people’s lives were impacted by this event. This book is definitely worth the read.

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More True Crime Recommendations:


“Facets of Death” by Michael Stanley

“Facets of Death” by Michael Stanley

David Bengu has always stood out from the crowd. His personality and his physique match his nickname, Kubu—Setswana for “hippopotamus”—a seemingly docile creature, but one of the deadliest in Africa. His keen mind and famous persistence have seen him rise in the Botswana CID. But how did he get his start?

His resentful new colleagues are suspicious of a detective who has entered the CID straight from university, skipping the usual beat cop phase.

Shortly after he joins the CID, the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats of diamonds in transit. The robbery is well-executed and brutal. Police immediately suspect an inside job, but there is no evidence of who it could be.

When the robbers are killed execution-style in South Africa and the diamonds are still missing, the game changes, and suspicion focuses on a witch doctor and his son. Does “Kubu” have the skill and the integrity to engineer an international trap and catch those responsible, or will the biggest risk of his life end in disaster?

Welcome to Botswana! This was my first visit and I really enjoyed it, though the heat can be a bit much at times.This story has a clever plot with intriguing twists and turns. But the best part about this book is the characters. They each have unique personalities and as Kubu joins the force his fellow officers are less than thrilled by his presence. But it is these somewhat fractious interactions that make the story so much fun. The main story involves the investigation into a diamond heist but Kubu also has a luggage heist to figure out. This book is the 7th in the series and would definitely pick up another one after reading this book. If you looking for something a little different in the mystery category, give detective Kubu a try.

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Life and Reading Update

I think an update is way past due here. And since we are having another blizzard day, it seems like a good time. You’ve probably noticed a decrease in the number of reviews I’ve been posting. Well, that’s because I started working as an Accountant again a few months ago and my available reading time has been cut down. We are now entering tax season and it will probably be cut back even more for the next 3 or 4 months. I’m loving the work though, so that’s all good.

So I started the year with a TBR that has 205 books on it. So far I have finished 1 (review coming soon).

I set my Goodreads challenge at 80 books for 2020. I am currently 3 books behind schedule. Slow start out of the gate for this goal but I’m not giving up hope.

I haven’t even finished any audiobooks yet this year because I went down a podcast rabbit hole (Wine & Crime this is your fault) for a couple of weeks.

What’s on my desk right now? I recently finished reading “Facets of Death” by Michael Stanley. This follows a police investigation in Botswana and has a really fun characters. Hopefully I’ll get my review up yet this weekend.

Right now I’m reading “The Third Rainbow Girl” by Emma Copley Eisenberg. This is a true crime which follows the investigation into the Rainbow Murder in West Virginia in the early 80’s. This book releases on the 21st and I’m going to try to get my review up to coincide with the release.

I’m almost finished with the audiobook version of “Running Blind” by Lee Child. This is book 4 in the Jack Reacher series. I will leave Amazon links below to all the books mentioned.

Thanks to all my followers for sticking with me and Welcome! to those of you who are new here.

Happy Reading!

“Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers

“Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers

Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains

Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills.

Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chambers’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Her two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while spirited Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved an hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds to finish school. She raised her daughter to think she could move mountains, like the ones that kept her safe but also isolated her from the larger world.

Cassie would spend much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, both while Wilma was in college and after. With her “hill women” values guiding her, Cassie went on to graduate from Harvard Law. But while the Ivy League gave her knowledge and opportunities, its privileged world felt far from her reality, and she moved back home to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services.

Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.


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Another great Appalachia book:

“Fell Murder” by E.C.R. Lorac

“Fell Murder” by E.C.R. Lorac

First published in 1944 Fell Murder sees E.C.R. Lorac at the height of her considerable powers as a purveyor of well-made, traditional and emphatic detective fiction. The book presents a fascinating ‘return of the prodigal’ mystery set in the later stages of the Second World War amidst the close-knit farmerfolk community of Lancashire s lovely Lune valley.

The Garths had farmed their fertile acres for generations and fine land it was with the towering hills of the Lake Country on the far horizon. Garthmere Hall itself was old before Flodden Field, and here hot-tempered Robert Garth, still hale and hearty at eighty-two, ruled his household with a rod of iron. The peaceful dales and fells of the north country provide the setting for this grim story of a murder, a setting in fact which is one of the attractive features of an unusual and distinctive tale of evil passions and murderous hate in a small rural community.

I loved this mystery! This is the second classic crime that I’ve read from this author and the writing is just so rich and descriptive that I just feel like I’m there on the farm with the characters. And the Garth family is a fascinating group of personalities. This is a shorter book than the mysteries we get today but it really packs a punch and lacks not at all in twists and turns. The villain is not immediately obvious and the means of murder are vicious. This story has everything a good mystery should have and I highly recommend it. If you’ve never tried a classic crime novel E.C.R. Lorac is a great place to start.

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Other books by this author: