The Storytellers

I’m so behind on posts and reviews! My apologies! Along with reading mysteries and thrillers, I’ve also been writing my own mysteries for about eight years now. I’ve actually given myself a plot twist by attempting to write a romance novel. I’m thinking about providing a tab on the blog regarding writing.


This book came at the PERFECT time for me. I’m always looking for inspiration to keep writing and The Storytellers did just that. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing me a copy.

Have you ever read a suspense novel so good you had to stop and think to yourself, “How did the author come up with this idea? Their characters? Is some of this story real?” For over five years, Mark Rubinstein, physician, psychiatrist, and mystery and thriller writer, had the chance to ask the most well-known authors in the field just these kinds of questions in interviews for the Huffington Post.

Collected here are interviews with forty-seven accomplished authors, including Michael Connelly, Ken Follett, C. J. Box, Lee Child, Meg Gardiner, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, and Don Winslow. These are their personal stories in their own words, much of the material never before published. How do these writers’ life experiences color their art? Find out their thoughts, their inspirations, their candid opinions. Learn more about your favorite authors, how they work and who they truly are.

First off, I’ve read several of the featured authors works so I found the book incredibly interesting. Each chapter features an interview between Mark Rubinstein and interviews he’s had, mostly between 2016-2018, with the authors.

He asks the questions you would expect and then delves into the real grit of each author. What’s their writing process like? How many books do they write a year and exactly HOW do they make that happen? Mark also personalized the questions with the author’s past and how certain events shaped their plots and determination to be published.

THE STORYTELLERS, edited by Mark Rubinstein, features interviews from best-selling Mystery and Thriller authors including Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Stuart Woods and Lee Child.

I learned a lot about each author such as Laura Lippman’s tumultuous final year at The Baltimore Sun and Stuart Woods generally writes multiple books in ONE year.

Allow me to add that my beloved Sue Grafton is one of the authors featured in THE STORYTELLERS. Sue, author of the Kinsey Millhone series, also known as the alphabet series, died in 2017. Sue is one of my absolute favorite mystery authors and a big inspiration for my own writing.

I enjoyed how each mystery/thriller writer waxed on about how they believe we are all capable of doing bad things, but that we’ve got a moral compass to guide us. And as Dennis Lehane said, “The vast majority of what we call morality is simply fear of being caught.” He is sadly correct!

I received this copy as an e-book. I found the question and answer format a bit on the slow-reading side. However, I think if I had the novel in an actual book, I’d have read it faster.

I rate THE STORYTELLERS four out of five stars.

Kill All Your Darlings

In KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, English professor Connor Nye is an imposter pretending he wrote a novel that was actually written by a student of his who has been missing for two years.

I’ve been in the mood for slow burn thrillers lately. While I love action-packed, fast-paced tales, sometimes you just need a story to sink in, marinate and let questions like, “but how would …” or “why did …” pop into your head. In KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, author David Bell gives a read-and-relax plot that leaves us waiting in anticipation for the whodunit.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the Advanced Reader Copy to review. KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS will be published on Tuesday, July 6!

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There’s just one problem: Connor didn’t write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor’s problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student’s manuscript.

KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS is the first in my blog series “Posers and Imposters.” Our good-guy antagonist Connor is trying to navigate his grief while not losing his beloved job as a college professor/author, yet is carrying the lie that he is the author of a successful novel.

It was William Faulkner who said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” What he meant was writers must get rid of any characters that the author may love, but do nothing to move the story along. And that is certainly what David accomplished in this novel. Each character is a thread to another character that lead to questions and answers of this book-within-a-book mystery.

While trying to move past his grief over the death of his family, an English professor finds himself the suspect in a student’s disappearance.

Readers get a glimpse into the pressures of gaining and keeping university tenure and the cold, hard truth that a lot of English professors are … not valued because they are unpublished.

Open KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS on a night when you are ready to reminisce about college days and dream of being published. Oh, wait, that was for me to do. You just enjoy this tale of what a burden being an imposter can bring.

I rate KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS four out of five stars.

The Other Black Girl

THE OTHER BLACK GIRL, written by Zakiya Dalila Harris, takes readers on the roller coaster competitiveness career ride that is publishing. Editorial assistant, Nella, welcomes Hazel with open arms, but quickly finds out there is more to her new co-worker than what meets the eye.

Touted as “The Devil Wears Prada” meets “Get Out,” THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is a psychological thriller that will have you staying up all night – on a weeknight – to get to the end. I’m still thinking about Zakiya Dalila Harris’ plot days after finishing the book.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

While “The Devil Wears Prada” comparisons are accurate, the last half of the book leans more towards “Get Out.” 

I loved all the details Zakiya gave readers about working in the publishing industry. It seems extremely competitive, but the setting is relatable to readers because a lot of jobs can be cut-throat.

More importantly is Nella’s viewpoint as being the only person of color in her office. Nella tries to balance out her views of all the people she worked with. She gives people the benefit of the doubt, maybe too much. Nella is a genuinely nice person. She is a hard-worker. She doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. She wants to see the good in people, even when there are a LOT of inconsistencies.

We’ve all had that one overly competitive one-upper co-worker. Nella trusts newcomer, Hazel, quickly and comes to regret her own welcoming nature.

Nella is trying to balance out her work life as being the only black girl in the office, as well as her personal life with her white boyfriend. This makes things murky for her. That is until Hazel shows up. Then Nella’s life becomes a confusing, sabotaged, gaslit mess that makes her concerned she is losing her mind. But, is Hazel the true culprit?

Hazel is that one work frenemy we all have experienced. She’s the company one-upper while trying to be your “friend” on the side. 

Hazel entrenches herself into making things happen diversity-wise for the company – something that Nella has been trying to do herself for years. Hazel immediately impresses the bosses, including the publishing company’s founder and president.

My only issue with the book was the ending. No spoilers!!! I can’t say anything else without giving too much away. So, I’ll say this instead – turn off Netflix, put your phone in the other room, boil a cup of hot, peppermint tea and read this book!

I rate THE OTHER BLACK GIRL four out of five stars.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here

THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE is the debut Adult novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. She has written several award-winning Young Adult novels.

A lot of people think of their high school years as the best time in their life. For me, a couple of my college years were the best of my life. I am quite old now, late 40s, but that time during college… it was so fun, so exhausting and I had a fantastic nest of friends.

They weren’t all classmates, but I had a hilarious group of “work” friends who were various ages. We all worked at a local retail warehouse, hence the exhausting part, and sometimes I wish I could transport myself right back to that group of people during the age of Seinfeld, Mariah Carey – before her ego became too big – and dinner get-togethers in my duplex.

However, today I am a complete SUCKER for stories involving how dark, tragic events during college years affect the life path the characters take – both good and bad.

In THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, the debut Adult novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, we have a character who has done a pretty good job of leaving behind her college days where a tragic event happened that she may or may not have been involved in. Ten years later, she’s in a loveless marriage (from her point-of-view) and is being summoned to a college reunion with all of her frenemies who know the secrets she’s hidden from her husband.

A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.

Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.

CONTENT WARNING: The topics this book discusses are bullying, the shaming of women’s sexual activities, rape, drug use, abortion and suicide.

The literary critical magazine Kirkus best described the book as, “A sharp, pitch-black thriller that takes the mean-girls trope to another level.”

Sharp is definitely how I would describe THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE. Sharp: as in prickly and be super careful while being around certain people.

Running from her college years is no longer an option for Ambrosia Wellington. She is forced to attend her 10-year reunion where she must solve a mystery that occurred during her first semester.

Amb is not the quintessential likeable character. She’s not quite as unlikeable as Amy Dunne from Gone Girl, but she’s someone who doesn’t want to make much of an effort to solve the things that she is running from until forced to. She wasn’t a classmate people especially wanted to be friends with and actually became a campus pariah as the years went on.

I thought the mystery itself was interesting in that Amb was forced to solve the damn mystery herself in order to move on with her life. There needed to be a bit more character development of Amb such as information about her career and instances of things she actually cared about. Something other than just the focus on aspects of her marriage.

THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE is perfect for readers who want a mystery that will have them stepping back in time in remembrance of their own college years with the knowledge they no longer have to deal with past frenemies.

I rate THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE three out of five stars.

People Like Her

PEOPLE LIKE HER takes a fictional look at the dark side of being an Instafamous mommy influencer.

What a great tagline this book has: “Followed by Millions, Watched by One” – it perfectly sums up the plot, yet encapsulates our obsession with social media.

In this debut from wife/husband duo, Ellery Lloyd (also a great author pen name), PEOPLE LIKE HER explores the pros and cons of being Instagram famous. The plot deals with the murky, dangerous side of being well-known in the influencer world.

To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is. 

To her skeptical husband, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.

To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.  

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.

In this deeply addictive tale of psychological suspense, Ellery Lloyd raises important questions about technology, social media celebrity, and the way we live today. Probing the dark side of influencer culture and the perils of parenting online, People Like Her explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we’ll go to be liked by strangers. It asks what—and who—we sacrifice when make our private lives public, and ultimately lose control of who we let in. . . .

I have a love/hate relationship with Social Media. There are a lot of good things about it: meeting new people (Hello, Bookstagram community!), learning more about your hobbies, being introduced to things you never knew existed. The bad things include FOMO, comparing yourself to others, finding you may not be the special snowflake you thought you were, the sadz feelings of not keeping up with the Joneses, etc…

And then there are the psychos, trolls and stalkers. The book discusses what happens when Emmy’s followers take her seriously. So seriously in that she’s blamed for the horrible events that happened to followers listening to her advice.

PEOPLE LIKE HER also takes a deep look into the fake façade influencers show. Emmy herself admits to being the opposite of the mom she portrays on Instagram. She’s not perfect, she’s very flawed and she knows this. Yet, she becomes addicted to the power, and money, that being a successful mom influencer can bring.

Wife/Husband author duo, Ellery Lloyd, aka, Collette Lyons, who worked as a journalist and editorial content director, and novelist Paul Vlitos, wrote PEOPLE LIKE HER – the novel unravels the frightening aspects of being Instagram famous.

The book takes a path that, at times, becomes unbelievable. However, this is a popcorn thriller in that you’ll want to read to the end because you must find out what happens to this family, YET it’s not a story you would nominate for Book of the Year.

After you spend a couple of hours reading your favorite Mommy Blogger and question whether you will ruin your kids’ lives because you haven’t been feeding them organic bananas, relax on the sofa, read PEOPLE LIKE HER and realize you are actually the best mommy in the world.

I rate PEOPLE LIKE HER four out of five stars.

Just a housekeeping note: For books I read on e-readers, I’ll try to liven up the cover photos. This is something I’ll hopefully get better at as time goes on. Also, reviews of books I have access to the jacket flaps, I’ll post the description directly from the flap. For e-reader books, I’ll post the Goodreads description. Also, I’m still working on the blog menu tabs, as some are still not working correctly. (insert emoji grrrr face here)

Shiver

SHIVER reunites a group of pro snowboarders who find themselves abandoned at a French Alp ski resort.

British-born author Allie Reynolds used her knowledge of being a pro-snowboarder for her locked-room (ski resort) mystery. This book is an homage to the snow (of course!), competitiveness, the dangers of Mother Nature and old crushes.

When Milla accepts an off-season invitation to Le Rocher, one of France’s most exclusive ski resorts, she’s expecting an intimate weekend of catching up with four old friends. It might have been a decade since she saw them last, but she’s never forgotten the bond they forged on this very mountain during a winter spent fiercely training for an elite snowboarding competition.

Yet the moment Milla and the others arrive for the reunion, they can tell something is wrong. The resort is deserted. The cable cars that delivered them to the mountaintop have stopped working. Their cell phones: missing. And inside their ski lodge, an icebreaker game awaits, designed to draw out their secrets. A game meant to remind them of Saskia, the enigmatic sixth member of their group who vanished the morning of the competition years before and has long been presumed dead.

Stranded in the lodge, with a looming snowstorm making escape even more impossible, Milla realizes there’s no one on the mountain she can trust. Because someone will stop at nothing to find out the truth about Saskia. And if Milla’s not careful, she could be the next to disappear.

I’ve only been skiing once and it was a disaster, to say the least. However, I’m drawn to stories with snow, the coldness and being stranded with people you know (and despise). For a locked-room mystery, this setting is unique. Combine that with the whole snowboarding aspect, which I admittedly know nothing about, it makes for a different type of whodunit.

Author Allie Reynolds used her past experience as a pro snowboarder to describe the thrills and danger that comes along with jumping into the sky for competitions.

Allie uses snowboarding jargon in describing all of the dangerous twists, turns and leaps the characters endured during their competitive years. She also details the longing and want Milla has driving her to keep trying to beat Saskia … even when she shouldn’t.

We learn about her relationship with Saskia, who is the ultimate Frenemy. Yet, Milla is no innocent bystander. She fights back just as hard as Saskia gives.

The side love-interest story was another locked-room mystery trope we don’t see often. Milla’s crush of years ago is standing right in front of her again and this time, too much is on the line for her to walk away without investigating what’s there between her and … Ahhhh, I can’t tell you which guy he is! You have to read it for yourself.

Although it’s now warm April showers for a lot of us, grab yourself a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and settle in on a Friday night with a warm blanket and SHIVER.

I rate SHIVER four out of five stars.

The Lost Village

Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this mystery chocked full of creepy folk lore, a cult and family loyalty.

Cold, grey abandoned towns leave behind a lot of questions. What happened to cause the demise? Was there one big event or lots of little incidents that forced the once-thriving area to die? Where did the people who resided in the town go?

In Camila Sten’s debut adult thriller, THE LOST VILLAGE, the 900 residents of Silvertjärn, Sweden disappeared in 1959. All that was left of the town were dirty dishes left on tables, schoolbooks open on the desks, a deceased woman tied to a pole and a newborn left behind in the nurse’s office.

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of an old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in the mysterious tragedy, and ever since the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people were left – a woman stoned to deah in the town center and an abandoned newborn – have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, strange things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice.

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth …

But what if it finds them first?

Come find out.

CONTENT WARNING: Heavy topics in THE LOST VILLAGE include depression, rape, abortion and attempted suicide.

Understanding mental illness is a major theme of the book. Sten stated in the book’s foreward she wanted to highlight female mental illness. “There are three female characters in the book suffering from mental illness, and they are all perceived and treated differently,” she said.

THE LOST VILLAGE, a mystery set in Silvertjärn, Sweden, is considered Scandinavian/Nordic noir.

Sten also weaved a fascinating cult storyline into THE LOST VILLAGE. I’m a sucker for cult plot and it was easy to see how the town, living on hopelessness, could easily become followers of a charismatic preacher. I would have liked for Sten to develop the leader more because we get small glimpses of him instead of an encompassing side plot into how he gathered his flock of followers.

The book has mixed reviews because while it has been compared to a cross between Blair Witch Project and Midsommar, it’s not as “scary” as some readers would have liked.

The story kept me intrigued from the start and I was dying to know exactly what happened to the citizens. I loved the creepy setting, the coldness and the rain. Sten’s descriptions made way for the sense of impending doom throughout the book.

Often compared to Blair Witch Project and Midsommar, THE LOST VILLAGE kind of made me want to watch Blair Witch Project. I’ve never seen that movie before, but now that I know – spoiler alert! – the entire movie was just a fictional movie, meh… I have seen Midsommar and Florence Pugh was the BEST thing about that movie. However, I can see the similarities between those movies and this book.

I’ll stick with THE LOST VILLAGE instead.

I rate THE LOST VILLAGE 4 out of 5 stars.