A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz

EXCERPT: Larry talked right over her. ‘I’m serious here, Cel. If ya wanna keep working with me, then ya gotta keep up. How many times do I gotta say it? You go right back to the same old defensive patterns. Look at how you’re sitting, all locked up around yourself, keeping that heart all suited up for battle, but afraid to make a move. Am I right?’

Celeste shook her head, staring down. She watched as a fat tear from each eye fell into her lap, and then she hugged herself tighter. How could he still have this much power over her? Do it, goddamn it, she yelled inside her head. Tell him!

‘I’m not -‘

‘Feel the pain,’ Pete squawked, drowning out her whispered words.

Larry wasn’t listening to her, anyway. ‘Like how you still got that ring on.’

Celeste protectively covered the engagement ring with her right hand. Jake had designed it for her before he’d even asked her to marry him – a sapphire, her birthstone, a sky blue Ceylon surrounded by diamond chips in an antique white gold setting – the most beautiful thing she’d ever owned, better than anything she’d ever imagined – though engagement rings had never been something she’d thought much about.

‘Jesus, Cel, when are you ever going to let go and move on in your life? Don’t you know it’s over with Jake? We’ve gone around and around on this. Your dreams are crystal clear, even if you refuse to believe them. Jake’s no good for you; he’s holding you back, keeping you from surrendering to the Dreamscape, to Dreamland. Let go of him. The choice is clear. You can’t keep living this double life.’ Larry shook his head, puckering his lips as if he wanted to spit. ‘Jeez, just make your mind up once and for all.’

Celeste felt her face flush red. ‘Jake’s none of your business, Larry. In fact, I’m . . . this is . . .’ She drew in her breath, trying to summon her earlier resolve, but just as she was about to get the practiced words out, Larry exploded from his chair, arms outstretched, hands waving like signals in the air. He suddenly looked like a furious dwarf out of some Grimm’s fairytale, bellowing and snorting at her as he shot out from behind his desk on his stumpy little legs.

‘No, I’m just your therapist! Are you fucking kidding me? Everything’s my business! When are you going to finally get that?’

ABOUT ‘A DREAM TO DIE FOR’: In Riverton Falls, a small New England town, globe-trotting bartender Celeste Fortune stands in her kitchen puzzling over last night’s frightening dream—a woman at a window, lilacs blowing in the breeze, someone’s hands tight around her neck. Celeste is sure the dream belongs to someone else. Perhaps she has finally broken through to the collective dreams of Dreamland cult. Hoping her therapist and cult leader will help her untangle it, she heads off into the cold November morning to her final appointment with him—or so she hopes. Her estranged fiancé has delivered an ultimatum: Leave the cult of Dreamers, or end their relationship for good.

Instead of help, however, Celeste discovers her therapist dying in a pool of blood, skull stove in by his own healing crystal. His computer, containing the intimate dreams and secrets of half the town, is gone. Suspicion immediately falls on Celeste, known to be a rebellious member of his cult. To clear her name, Celeste enlists the help of her old friend, Gloria. But when the two women discover the power of the stolen dreams, they unwittingly become the killer’s next target.

MY THOUGHTS: A Dream to Die For is much more a story about the ‘Dreamers’ cult, than it is a murder mystery, which is one of the reasons I didn’t like this. I felt very much like tossing this in at the ten percent mark, but figured that it must get better. And it did, briefly. But just before the fifty percent point, I could stand it no longer, and pushed the delete option.

Where do I start explaining why I didn’t like this? The characters? They were all weird. Now I don’t mind a bit of weird. I find weird quite entertaining. But not here. Celeste had no backbone. Why would a person who is probably on minimum wage and living off her tips pay $150 an hour to talk to this therapist, Larry, simply because ‘everyone in town goes to him’? Especially when her friend Gloria, the reason she moved to Riverton Falls, has already warned her against him, as has her fiance Jake. Celeste is the sort of person who would consult her therapist, or a tarot card reader, before she blew her nose, or changed her underwear.

Larry, the therapist, is a totally unbelievable twit. The only thing about him that astounds me is how he lived so long. I don’t know why someone didn’t murder him earlier.

Jake, the fiance, has been married before to the woman who is Larry’s right hand woman in the cult. I completely understand why he broke up with Celeste. But he does behave very strangely . . .

Gloria, Celeste’s estranged friend, is an environmental lawyer, but is the only person she can think to call when she is taken into custody at the murder scene.

The supporting cast is made up of ‘Adam’, the tarot card reader in the park, and the ‘Dreamers’, Celeste’s so called friends who turn on her when they believe she murdered Larry.

And if you’re wondering who the Pete in the extract is, he’s a parrot.

How can anyone believe that if they are able to dream each other’s dreams, or all dream the same dream, it is going to elevate them to a higher plane of being? Puhlease!

I started listening with interest, which rapidly faded, peaked with Larry’s murder, then plummeted again. This read is seriously Weird.

And the murder mystery isn’t even much of a mystery. It’s pretty obvious from very early on who killed Larry, but I did check with someone else who read and enjoyed A Dream to Die For, after I had abandoned it, just to make sure.

I would like to point out that the narrator, Rachel Perry, was excellent, and certainly had nothing to do with my abandoning this book.

I am well aware that I am very much on my own with my feelings on A Dream to Die For, and that it may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the many positive reviews.

#ADreamtoDieFor #NetGalley

I: @susanzritz @ orangeskyaudio

T: #SusanZRitz #OrangeSkyAudio

#audiobook #crime #cultfiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Susan Ritz grew up in Minnesota, but she left home to become a wandering scholar; she lived, studied, and worked as a social worker in Kenya, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia in the 1970s. She worked as a human rights lobbyist in Washington, DC, during the Carter Administration before moving to Dachau, Germany, the setting for her memoir in progress, On the Edge of Dachau. For the past thirty years she has lived with her husband and three children in Montpelier, Vermont, where she has worked as a fund raiser, events coordinator, and philanthropic advisor for a wide range of nonprofit organizations, especially those promoting economic equality for women. Writing, however, has always been her passion, and after receiving an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, she began writing for local publications, teaching creative writing to adults and high school students, and writing her first novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orange Sky Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of A Dream to Die For, written by Susan Z. Ritz and narrated by Rachel Perry, for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Descent by Matt Brolly

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EXCERPT: From her spot on the dry grass of the churchyard, Amy glanced at Jay,trying not to make it look obvious. He was older than everyone else in the group and certainly more relaxed. There was an easiness to his long-limbed body; a sense of grace that belonged to a dancer. He sat on the other side of the fire, his arms wrapped around Claire. This in itself didn’t mean that Claire would be chosen tonight, but if last month’s events were anything to go by then she would be the one. The thought brought with it a mixture of jealousy and relief. Amy’s time would come, but sitting here overlooking the town with its glittering lights, the sea for once at full tide, she began to doubt herself.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the quiet coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, a body is discovered at the foot of a cliff just months after a near-identical tragedy—and Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell can’t believe it could be a coincidence.

Next to the body, she discovers a note that echoes one found beside the first: Death is not the end. Louise is certain that behind these desperate acts someone is pulling the strings, but how many more will plunge to their demise before she can find out who—and why?

Struggling to stay focused under the strain of her troubled brother’s disappearance with his young daughter, Louise hits a much-needed breakthrough when a third tragedy points to the involvement of a charismatic cult leader. The suspect is within her sights, but he knows she’s on to him…

Short on proof and with the body count rising, can Louise intercept his deadly mission—or has she taken on an unbeatable foe?

MY THOUGHTS: The Descent by Matt Brolly is the second book in his Detective Louise Blackstock series. I have read the majority of Brolly’s books and loved his DI Michael Lambert series. Unfortunately I was not so impressed by The Crossing, the first in the Louise Blackstock series, and I am even less impressed with the Descent.

The story is told by Louise, struggling with both family issues and her career. I made the comment in my review of The Crossing that I didn’t find the characters well depicted. I felt no connection to any of them and Louise’s whining inner monologue on Finch and his past treatment of her quickly became wearing. In fact, she is pretty stereotypical of the current trend in female detectives… I see no reason to change one word of that comment in regards to The Descent.

Louise spends a lot of time engaging in ‘naval gazing’ and ‘if only I had/hadn’t….’ which quickly becomes tiresome in its repetitiveness. There’s no development of any of the supporting characters, and even the thread involving her family is repetitive. Now I am becoming repetitive. It must be catching!

Despite the claim on the cover, this is definitely not a thriller. I found it slow moving and lacking in suspense.
I expected more from Matt Brolly, and I won’t be reading any more of this particular series. Which doesn’t mean that I won’t be reading other books by this author.

🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️.6

THE AUTHOR: Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt Brolly completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Descent by Matt Brolly for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The House Guest by Mark Edwards

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EXCERPT: Something had happened last night. Something I couldn’t remember. I held on to the breakfast bar and waited for it to hit me, in the way that embarrassing memories always do after a drunken night.

Nothing came. Just a chilling sense of disquiet.

I tried to peer back through the fog in my brain. I remembered sitting on the chair, the two women on the sofa. I remembered Eden telling us something. A story.

A spasm of nausea hit me and I doubled over, just managing to stop myself from throwing up.

Eden had told us something last night. A secret.

Something about a friend of hers . . . a girl who had died. Or disappeared? It was unclear. I remembered Eden getting upset. We had all hugged, hadn’t we? I had a vague recollection that my stomach had hurt.

And then nothing.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

MY THOUGHTS: The House Guest had so much potential…but somewhere along the line it fell flat for me. Mark Edwards usually does suspense so well…but this time, I didn’t feel it. But that ending? That ending made reading the whole book worthwhile. Damn! It is good, and I would give Edwards the full five stars for the ending alone . . . but only three stars for the remainder of the book, so a 3.75 rating overall.

Even the characters are like cardboard cutouts. I didn’t relate to any of them, felt nothing for them. We don’t really get to know them at all.

I wanted to feel the suspense, the thrill, but it eluded me. I think the label ‘psychological’ thriller, isn’t really accurate here. This is a little lightweight and superficial compared with Edward’s other writing. I was expecting something grittier, darker. Something I could get my teeth into. Or something that would get it’s teeth into me. I didn’t get it.

This was a quick, easy read.

***.5

THE AUTHOR: Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people.

He loves love hearing from readers and always responds.

Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children, two cats and a golden retriever.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The House Guest by Mark Edwards for review. all opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, pleas refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com