Friday, March 31, 2017

Best Books of March

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to tell you all about the great books I read this month.

First up is a book with a seriously eye-catching cover. I feel like I know the author, Trudi Trueitin person, thanks to Facebook! So when I'm reading her books, I want to cheer her on the whole way. Her latest book has a young girl fighting hard to save a family business.

My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts features Kestrel, a 12-year-old who's a big fan of lists. Currently, she's keeping a "top secret" list of things she wants to do and things she doesn't want to do. When she finds herself spending the summer before seventh grade at her grandmother's ski lodge, that list is put to the test. The good news is, that means we get to watch her take on one adventure after another. Kestrel is a strong, spunky heroine that readers will definitely root for as she tries to save the lodge after a bunch of nasty online reviews.

Next comes another M!x book with another cover that just jumps off the shelf at you. This one is by Allison Gutknecht, the successful author of the Mandy Berr series. This is her latest:

In Spring Break Mistake, a tween gets to spend spring break in New York City thanks to her mad social media photography skills. During her adventure, she makes a couple of new friends and even has a crush. Young readers love social media and this one pulls in a great lesson about friendship and venturing out of your comfort zone. A fun read with lovable characters!

I always get excited when I see a new book from Cindy Callaghan. Why? Because I know it's going to be great! This time, her cover calls out to my love for all things spooky.

Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead is full of surprises. You start off with a fun story about a California girl who learns she has to move away from her great live in a house overlooking a cemetery. Then she gets to her new home and things get spooky. I was sure we were headed for "ghost story" territory. But just when you're all into the seances and such, the book kicks into "Underground Railroad" territory. I love surprises and I really love Cindy's writing, so I can't recommend this one enough!

I've read a lot of middle-grade books. More than I can count. And I can say I've never seen same-sex crushes tackled in a middle grade before. But that's exactly what you have in this awe-inspiring book from MG queen goddess Barbara Dee:

Last December, Barbara Dee's daughter wrote a post on Tumblr about coming out to her mom. On the day she said the words, she learned her mother had been writing Star-Crossed the whole time. The book means so much more when you know that! Star-Crossed tackles territory that few middle-grade books ever have--same-sex crushes. And the way Barbara handles Mattie's gradually developing feelings for a female classmate makes it a must-read for adults and kids.

One interesting thing about the next book is that it's actually the SECOND book with this name written by a friend of mine. My writer friend Carole Bellacera wrote the other one--random, especially when you consider the uniqueness of the title:

I never got to experience the 60s, but I'm old enough to remember bell bottoms! In Incense and Peppermints, we get to relive those times through the eyes of Mary Monroe (named for Marilyn, of course!), a high schooler dealing with some serious peer pressure. The gritty realism of the many struggles she deals with makes this book so compelling. Plus, just when you think you might be reading a romance, the author takes a completely surprising turn. This book is more of a coming-of-age story that keeps you guessing until the end!

My Audible read this month was a research project of sorts. I wanted to watch the show on HBO and when I heard it was a book, it was my duty to read the book first. It's surreal, watching the show after reading, since I now know what the big secret ending is!

Big Little Lies kicks off with a death at an elementary school trivia night. We know from the start that someone's dead...and nobody knows who the murderer is. But we spend the next 450 pages or so getting to know Madeline, Celeste, and Jane...women with very dark secrets. The book felt slow in parts (or maybe I'm just used to reading SHORTER books!), but the last hour or two of the audiobook will make it all so worth it.

What are you reading this month?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Original Night Stalker

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

There are some stories that are simply too horrifying to tell in detail. The Original Night Stalker is one of those cases. No, I'm not talking about Richard Ramirez, the convicted serial killer who terrorized L.A. and San Francisco in the 1980s. I'm talking about an even scarier whose crimes are the stuff the worst horror movies are made of.

Also known as the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist, and the Diamond Knot Killer, this murderer's crimes took place across California between 1976 and 1986.

The Original Night Stalker began as the East Area Rapist, committing a series of about 50 rapes and burglaries in the Sacramento area between 1976 and 1979. He targeted single women living alone, breaking in late at night and tying the women up before robbing them.

He became known by the knot he always tied when binding his victims. It was a diamond knot, which some have speculated indicates he might have been a rancher or cowboy.

Eventually, his M.O. changed...he progressed to couples. This is where it gets disturbing. He would tie up the male and stack plates on him, saying if he heard the plates rattle, he'd kill the female. Most of his crimes didn't involve murder, but to date, he's been linked to at least eight murders.

Due to the change in his M.O....and the fact that he expanded his crime area, the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist were thought to be two different perpetrators until 2001. That was when DNA evidence linked them.

Both before and after his crimes, he would harass his victims by phone. There is even this recording left on one woman's answering machine. Police believe this is the Original Night Stalker:

The Original Night Stalker has never been found. The police have his DNA and it doesn't match the 14 million profiles in the FBI's national database, so did he retire? Die? Maybe he sits in jail today on an unrelated crime and the police simply never took his DNA...

Or maybe he's still alive, out there, somewhere...

My next Piper Morgan book, Piper Morgan Makes a Splash, comes out April 4, 2017. Sign up if you'd like to help out by posting on your blog about it!

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