Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

The long (LONG) awaited sequel to the amazing P.S. I Love You from Cecelia Ahern is here! Yes, you heard that right: the sequel to the book that brought us the movie that brought us Holly and Gerry’s story that brought us Gerard Butler. 20 pages in and I was crying and scolding myself, “THIS is why you don’t read romance.” But it was worth it.

I loved the beginning and the end, the middle was a little slow for me. I was also was a little annoyed with Holly and Gabriel’s attitudes toward each other’s current hobbies. Gabriel upset about Holly getting involved in a club to help people cope with death. Holly upset that Gabriel asked his daughter to move in over her even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to move in anyway. Those two, man. Breaking my heart left and right.

On top of this, Holly and her attitude. She helps her sister out with a podcast episode on dealing with loss of a loved one. Then suddenly there is interest in starting The P.S. I Love You Club for terminally ill patients to leave something of themselves behind for their loved ones. I loved this idea! I thought it was so sweet. Holly did not. She warmed to it and decided to dip her toe into involvement with the club but she had a such a bad attitude at multiple points that that in itself was a little heartbreaking.

I sound like I’m bashing Holly, but I’m not at all. Of course I realize that Holly had a good reason to be wary and upset – she thought she was past Gerry’s death but this club brought it all back to the surface. And then as we get deeper into the book and Holly gets more involved with The P.S. I Love You Club we see what she’s working through and the different feelings coming up due to confronting Gerry’s death again. We also see Holly bring into question Gerry’s motives for leaving her the letters in P.S. I Love You. At first it’s sad. Did he do it more for himself than Holly? Or both of them? Was it completely selfless? And how can Holly use this to ensure her club leaves the best things for their loved ones?

Holly grows a lot in this novel about love, growing up and moving forward, helping others, and loving yourself enough to know when to say no. As I said before, the middle was a little slow for me – due to the flip flopping in emotions for Holly. But ultimately, the book comes full circle from Gerry’s death and Holly moving forward and was a really heartwarming read. Yes, it cracked my heart at certain points, but it was a really good read about love and, sometimes more importantly, self-love.

Fans of P.S. I Love You will love this much anticipated sequel, finding more than a story about the loss of a loved one.

The War Beneath by S.R. Hughes

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

The War Beneath = Chaos Inliterate

In The War Beneath, a former forensic psychologist is slowly spiraling downward. Having hit rock bottom after his daughter’s death and his sudden ability to hear the whispers of dead people, Paul is now living in a boat house in Oceanrest, Maine. Um, where? The broke and broken city on Maine’s coast where those with magical powers are drawn in larger numbers than anywhere else in the world.

Trying to ignore his past (and the voices) he befriends Deirdre who sells him psychological downers from her, let’s face it, magic apothecary. But on his latest visit, an intruder arrives and takes everything Deirdre has worked for. This puts both their lives in danger in more ways than just the obvious as targets of a robbery.

Deirdre and Paul decide they have to get the product back and start to track down Randall, the man who has essentially ruined Dierdre’s life. Of course, there are A LOT more threats than just the wrath of Randall. There’s the company Deirdre works for who want their product. There’s the dead people who are getting more intense every minute Paul doesn’t have his downers (including his daughter’s ghost and an eyeless ghost asking for help). There is the life of Deirdre’s dear friend Razz and other friends pulled in. There is the detective who’s involvement is suspect considering he is intruding on Paul’s off the record investigation into old (and solved) crimes.

This book is action packed. I mean, think of a war movie where every other scene is a bunch of explosions. I’m talking Harry Potter meets [insert intense action war movie you like because I don’t watch those]. Paul is constantly getting knocked down and the only reason he gets back up is for Deirdre.

Deirdre is a complete badass. She is saving everyone left and right and just basically running the show. And because what would a book with magical elements be without a creature, there is a beast. Guess who handles this? There are demons awoken. Guess who handles this? Paul is dying due to gunshot wounds. Guess who handles this? Honestly this might be one of the best and most well-written female characters I’ve seen in a while.

The only thing that would have made it better for me would have been more interaction with the ghosts, namely Cassandra, Paul’s late daughter. There was something happening there and Paul definitely had unfinished business with his daughter. However, this could have also been a genius move on Mr. Hughes’ part as the book was nicely wrapped up but still with a lead into a second book. Is this a series? TBD.

*I received a copy for free from TLC Book Tours and S.R. Hughes in exchange for an honest review.*

***About The War Beneath***

“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”

Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.

Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.

Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.

S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.

Find out more about him at his website, and follow him on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Flower by Safira X

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Flower 🌸 🌺 🌹

THIS is a short story.

This is an INCREDIBLE short story.

A FEMINIST, TWISTED, BLOODY, HORRIFIC, incredible short story.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time which is what I expect from thriller/horror stories. And if it’s short? I expect you to pack an explosive story in there. I know I have high expectations BUT Safira X accomplishes that several times over in this 40 page sucker punch.

Murder ✅ Revenge ✅ Torture ✅ Fragile Masculinity ✅ Sexism ✅ Blood & Gore ✅ Animal Abuse (not my fav but works in favor of the story) ✅ Sex ✅ Supernatural ✅ “40 pages? No way there could be any of the back story or character development needed to make it so good.”FALSE.

I am so impressed and I canNOT wait for the next book!

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Raymond Fleischmann gives us a beautifully written debut novel with How Quickly She Disappears. Following Elisabeth on dual timelines we witness in one the grooming and taking of her 11-year-old twin sister, Jacqueline, and in the other we watch Elizabeth slowly unravel at the appearance of a mysterious man named Alfred. Alfred, who claims to know what happened to Jacqueline. Alfred, who knows everything about Elisabeth though they’ve never met. Alfred who might be a little bit mad.


Elisabeth is living in remote Alaska with her distant husband and fiercely intelligent daughter, Margaret. When Alfred shows up claiming he needs to rest before a flight, Elisabeth allows him to stay in their guest room. From there things quickly spiral out of control. Even after murder, her daughter’s attempts to get attention, her husband constantly battling her beliefs and actions, and prison (among other things) Elisabeth pursues the truth about her sister. 


This book reads like The Silence of the Lambs watches (I’ve only seen the movie) with a drawn-out cat and mouse chase between Alfred and Elisabeth. Alfred’s quickly changing moods do nothing to quell Elisabeth’s hunt for facts. Repeated attempts from her husband and police to stop her vigilante investigationdoes not deter her. I loved the steady pace of this book and the way Raymond really brings us with him to watch Elisabeth lose herself in her search for her 20-years-missing sister.


This book is dark and beautiful and haunting and I will absolutely be buying Raymond’s next book.

Return to Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

What a wild ride we are given by Mr Van Laerhoven in a novel where Sin City meets Glass meets No Country for Old Men – a story of stories. In Return to Hiroshima we are drawn to the frontline of several lives being intricately woven together and then filleted right before our eyes. This is a dark, complicated and challenging read set during the 50th anniversary of Little Boy being dropped on Japan, the past and present evident in every decision made. 

We are thrown into the middle of a battle of completely differing morals. Mitsuko is fleeing her father, Rokurobei, the leader of an underground crime organization who she has witnessed murder several people. Including her own mother? On the other hand, Rokurobei is tracking Mitsuko down not because of her knowledge of his unsavory affairs, but due to her mental health and the problems it has caused. Including murdering her own mother? Upon meeting Yori and Reizo who offer her a place to stay, Mitsuko soon learns that she has more to fear than just the wrath of her father.

Yori and Reizo are part of the “Suicide Club”, a group of young squatters avoiding reality with jobs as pickpockets and street performers. Yori is drawn to the madness of the psychopaths around her, like that of none other than her boyfriend Reizo for whom she helps lure a foreigner to try and poison. The reason for this? A story to tell. And we will find that Yori is a sucker for a good story…

Of course, in any stories as dramatic as these the police are involved which is where inspector Takeda comes in. He is determined to solve several crimes that he has been told to leave alone by his superiors. He quickly gets a target on his back due to not following orders, putting those around him in danger as well. Are all these good intentions to help redeem himself for previous actions of his own? But of course. 

Rokurobei quickly traces Mitsuko to the Suicide Club where he encounters Reizo, who leaves him with a cryptic clue to the location of Mitsuko…and then Yori, who is as smitten by the madness of Rokurobei as she was Reizo…and then inspector Takeda and the police doctor’s investigations into crimes that should not concern them…and then, and then, and then. He is on a cover up spree, and it seems that no one will be spared.

It is soon revealed that Rokurobei also means Lord of Lies, and we quickly learn that it’s hard to tell who, if anyone, is telling the truth or just their truth. It seems, due to the differing sets of morals mentioned above (Rokurobei’s mirroring those of Anton from No Country for Old Men), that everyone completely believes their own versions while simultaneously being drawn to the voice and ideals of Rokurobei. We see this several times as people easily place their trust in a madman even as they become witness to the wake of his horrific acts.

Bob Van Laerhoven writes in quick, detail packed chapters in alternating points of view. There are several characters contributing the each other’s stories even though these are people that never should have met except for fate. Fate is a strong theme throughout the course of this book as everyone is back in Hiroshima to meet theirs. From Xavier Douterloigne, a diplomat’s son that grew up in Japan, to a German photographer on a mission to prove her talent, to police inspectors and commissioners, to underground crime organizations. It seems everyone is connected, even when they come from worlds apart.

The extreme dualities of the characters extends to the overall story itself as well. Bob somehow managed to seamlessly connect noir crime fiction with historical fiction. As soon as I type those words I realize that of course the two genres should go hand in hand, yet how often have I read a story like that? This is the first.

Author Bio

Bob Van Laerhoven is a 66-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian. A Chinese translation is currently in production.

In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’. In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’. His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.  ‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong).  The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors. Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bob.vanlaerhoven

Website: https://bobvanlaerhoven.be/en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bobvanlaerhoven

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bobvanlaerhoven/

The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Who is really the crazy one in the latest psychological thriller from A.J. Banner, The Poison Garden? Because I’ll be honest, it could have been any of them from the first page. The opening page brings us to Elise Watters running for her life with a quick, pulse raising one-and-a-half-page prologue. And then we are purposely disoriented, being thrown back to the “before” of the chase with a calm ferry ride back to her island home after attending business on the mainland.

Elise has an interesting life though it seems she tried to make it as dull and peaceful as possible. No drama, just simple things that make her happy – a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, running an herbal boutique. But she did just lose her mother. She just got married. She just started working full time in the herbal shop inherited from her late mother. She also just came home early to catch her husband in the middle of an affair…among other things.

On top of that, she’s unearthing secrets as quickly as you’ll flip the pages of this book. And, she’s sleep-walking?! Not entirely strange in and of itself, but the activities she’s enjoying while doing so are a little suspect.

The duality of all these characters is incredible. There is the crazy woman that her husband was caught with (what exactly is she involved in?). Her neighbor is one of her good friends, but also a grieving schemer. Her ex-husband is around every corner because he’s the island’s go-to Mr. Fix IT…or he’s stalking her. Small island; hard to tell. And then there is Elise’s husband himself, good looking, patient favorite Dr. Kieran Lund. He seems like a good guy who made a mistake. He does everything to make it up to Elise-and I mean everything. They go through a lot in such a short time and he really is holding Elise upright. But it’s either him who’s crazy or Elise. It can’t be both…right?

A.J. Banner does such a great job of misdirection in The Poison Garden that you really won’t know what’s what and who’s after who until the very end. I LOVED the ending. Oh my gosh, just such a good twist! (Let’s be honest, twistS.) I highly recommend this fast paced, psychological thriller with a poisonous touch-it’s just up my alley!

And now, a comprehensive list of people I suspected throughout the book: Everyone.

Enjoy!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Cecilia “Cilka” Klein has every reason to hate her life, the people involved in the pain she’s had to endure, and humanity in general. The amazing thing about her is that she doesn’t. No matter what happens to her, Cilka continues to stand up for herself and those around her and be the best person she can be. I would like to think that I would respond to Cilka’s circumstances as valiantly as she did. But based on my reaction to people not using a blinker in traffic I don’t think it’s likely.

Joking aside, this book is incredible. I am so glad Heather Morris decided to continue her work from Lale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz and let us know what happened to an important and influential character. This is a devasting and heart wrenching story, but it is an as important one as any from the Holocaust and World War 2 are.

Not only is this the story of what happened to Cilka, it also the story of how her very soul endured and continued to give humanity chance after chance to be good when she had no reason to believe it ever would. In Cilka’s Journey we follow Cilka after the release of the concentration camps at the end of World War 2. Cilka is pointed out as having aided the enemy as a spy as well as having slept with the enemy. There is no investigation and few questions asked to find her guilty. Did she in fact speak many languages? Was she sleeping with the commander? The facts the she was intelligent and was not sleeping with the man by choice were not factors in condemning a child who went into Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at 16 and was forced into exile in a Siberian prison upon her release at age 19.

This journey is what happened next. What Cilka’s life was after Auschwitz-Birkenau and during her time in Siberia. Once again unable to go unnoticed, Cilka draws the attention of the male prisoners. She draws the attention of her female prisoner roommates. She finds and tries to protect Josie while she is found out for her past by Hannah and tries to survive her threats. Finally, she captures the attention of a female doctor at the prison who takes her under her wing and teaches her to be a nurse.

This is an incredible journey to be sure. If you are a WW2 or historical fiction fan, then this is for you. If you like human trial and success stories with themes of love and friendship, then this is for you. If you have a heart, then this is the book you need to read.

The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

 Synopsis

Lila Bennett is a big-time criminal defense attorney whose bad choices have split her life in two – literally. In one reality she is kidnapped and held captive to be tortured with her past mistakes and come to terms with the wrongs she’s committed and lives she’s ruined. In the other reality, she is free. She escaped her captor and is living in fear as she watches the choices she’s made come crashing down around her.

Review

The Two Lila Bennetts is the story of what happens when you make certain choices. In one instance, Lila can choose whether she goes out and “celebrates” after winning a big case. She can go, which will lead her down one road. Or she can pass on the outing and head home, which will lead to consequences of its own. This is the story of the series of events followed by each choice. One choice leads to Lila’s capture. She is held captive in a small cement room, starved and tortured by her past. She does not know the man who is keeping her (alive, for now) but he sure does know all about Lila. He is making her relive her worst moments and watch from her cell as the world investigates her disappearance, alternately blaming the people closest to her, victims from her past cases, and even herself.

The other choice leads to Lila escaping her captor and being free to roam while her world comes crashing down. In both realities her choices are coming back to confront her. Past relationships, cases gone wrong, her marriage. Every choice she has ever made has led her to this point, and what she chooses to do now is life or death.

I really enjoyed this book which is obvious in that I was reading it on work breaks and doctor’s appointments to see what happens next. I was slightly disappointed in the ending(s) though. While they were satisfactory enough, I would have liked to know why or how her life was split into two, literally. I think a couple of things were left out that would have made the book a five-star book for me. Those things are spoilers so do not read the spoilers if you do not want me to spoil the story. Also, please don’t take this to mean the book isn’t worth reading because it is definitely worth it. It will likely be even more enjoyable to people that don’t poke holes in sci-fi theories such as the alternate realty aspect of this book.

*SPOILERS*

Please stop reading if you do not want spoilers.

Spoilers below.

Last chance to avoid spoilers.

Okay here we go with the spoilers.

At the end of the book, Lila is fighting off her captor in one reality and fighting for her marriage and relationships in the other. She sees what happens in the “free” reality, where she gets to make the choices she always knew she should be making: not defending guilty murderers, not cheating on her husband, etc. The captive reality is what happened when she made one last bad choice that landed her directly in the path of her kidnapper.

What I would have liked to know (since she lives in both versions of her realities) is why she gets to live in both? If her one good choice that led to her being free while her life was torn apart which in turn makes her start making good decisions and thus live, why not kill her off in the other? If she is literally two people in the book, why not kill off her bad side? That’s it. That’s the sci-fi of it that is driving me crazy. If she was literally two people, it seems that one of her should have been killed because how can there really be two Lila Bennetts? How are people not going to notice that? Especially because in the end of both situations Lila does make the same decision: to right her wrongs and be a better person. (Which is why I think it may only be “literally” two lives until Lila takes off her virtual reality goggles.) And yes, alternate realities/universes – I know, I know. Like I said, I poke holes in sci-fi.

On A Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette

Synopsis

Stacy Hart has the perfect life: a great job, a perfect fiancé, a beautiful house. Then, Stacy is murdered. But if her life was so perfect then why was she murdered? Detective Beau Antelope is teaming up with Dr. Pepper Hunt to find out why.

Review

Let me just say first, I loved Detective Antelope’s character. He is a Native American officer who left the reserve to pursue the thing he is best at: solving murders. In this book, he teams up with Dr. Pepper Hunt (from the first book, Last Seen) but he does most of the talking. The narrative of this book is different from the first. In Last Seen, Dr Hunt is the lead character. In this sequel, there are a lot of alternating points of view, but Detective Antelope is the main character. He refers often but also superficially to his ancestry as a reason for his moods and behavior. He is a serious but respectful cop with a dry sense of humor. He also seems real – not an over the top action-movie cop, but one who is instead uses his brain. (and when he hits a dead end he does what any smart person would do-he asks a woman!)

Detective Antelope is the leading character in On A Quiet Street. He is pursuing several people of interest in the murder of Stacy Hart. First, Jack Swailes. He was Stacy’s contractor for home improvement, and per her fiancé he was also interested in Stacy as a love interest. That brings us to Connor Collins, Stacy’s hot shot Assistant District Attorney fiancé. As we all know from every true crime documentary ever, the significant other is usually the killer. Of course, Dr. Hunt is also helping – she is brought on a psychological expert with the police department. She is also the therapist for the third person of interest, Max Hunt, Stacy’s brother.

These are just a few of the POVs we see throughout the book, which seems overwhelming until you start reading and realize that they are perfect for this slow burn of a murder mystery. On A Quiet Street builds very slowly, bringing more and more people into the case, some from over 15 years before. The alternating POVs are short spurts of chapters which make for a relatively quick read.

There a few loose ends which I believe are Easter eggs for the third book. For example (not a spoiler but interesting), we are told that Val Campion (Jack Swailes’ uncle) has a rather sordid history that he doesn’t want anyone looking into but at the same time he owns all the seedy joints in town. As you can see there is a lot going on in this book.

Then ending is wrapped up both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily in my opinion. Of course, we get our final showdown with the killer, but it seemed a little unrealistic to me in how the killer revealed his/herself. BUT, a major theme in this book is sociopathic and narcissistic behavior so it could be completely accurate. (Maybe I just like a lot more drama?) On the other hand, a lot of the loose ends are tied up very nicely which I like. Then there are the ones that were not, which is characteristic of a series. So, I do believe there will be more books…thus more murder and blood for us thriller lovers!

Huge thank you to BookSparks and J.L. Doucette for my free copy to review and share!

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

My overall impression with this book can be summed up in this one word: WOW. I haven’t been this impressed with a book in a long time. That’s not to say I don’t like what I’ve been reading but this was just SO GOOD. I couldn’t put it down. I started it on a Saturday evening after finishing up a RomCom and I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, passed out, picked it up first thing in the morning and read for a few more hours until I finished.

The Chestnut Man is the story of a serial killer who leaves little chestnut men made of chestnuts and matchsticks at the crime scenes. On the case are Detective Thulin, who is on her last week in the Major Crime Division, and Detective Hess who has been transferred to Major Crimes due to behavior issues at Europol. The pair is put together to solve the case of a woman who was murdered. On the chestnut man they find at the scene is the finger print of a missing, presumed dead girl from almost exactly a year before. From there the book heats up as the detectives try to anticipate The Chestnut Man’s next move when he always seems to be one step ahead.

The links between the victims are very interesting on top of the fact that the crimes are linked back to missing girl case with the fingerprint on the chestnut man. The detectives have an good chemistry as well even though they are constantly butting heads. There is drama and bumps in the road every time Thulin and Hess make any sort of progress. The Chestnut Man was one of those stories where there are lots of surprises and twists and (at least for me) none of them were seen coming. I was so excited by how good it was and still am and I just can’t say enough good things about it. I also can’t say a lot of things in general without ruining it because it was such an intricate story with so much going on-which is frustrating because all I want to do is talk The Chestnut Man.

The following could be interpreted as a spoiler even though it’s just my recommendations, so be warned. This book reminded me of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo and The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison, both of which I would recommend as well. Full disclosure: I’m basing my recommendation of The Snowman on the movie version as I haven’t gotten to the book yet – but the book is always better so you can’t go wrong. Anyway, definitely read The Chestnut Man. It’s going to be a movie, I know it already.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup