Saturday, 22 August 2015

Researching Death Row : Julia Heaberlin

The author of new psychological thriller 'Black-Eyed Susans' Julia Heaberlin, tells 'We Love This Book' a publication of 'The Bookseller' about her research on death row. Click on the link below for more

Julia Heaberlin talks to We Love This Book

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

 Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Genre: Psychological Thriller | Mystery Suspense
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 368 Hardcover

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: August 13, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

My Thoughts:
Set in 1995 and the present day, suburban Fort Worth, Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is narrated in flashback sequences by Tessie and *Tessa (*as she now calls herself) respectively.
Seventeen year old Tessie is the sole survivor of the 'Black-Eyed Susans' serial killer who left her for dead and buried under a mound of Black-Eyed Susans flowers. Tessie cannot remember anything about the missing 32 hours of her kidnapping or how she ended up being buried alongside the rotting corpse of another victim.
Through therapy sessions Tessie is encouraged to work through her ordeal and remember key information to help identify her abductor and bring him to justice.  She is somewhat coerced into testifying against Terrell Darcy Goodwin the man accused of her abduction who is sentenced and incarcerated on death row awaiting the date of his execution.

One of the most important relationships is between Tessie and her best friend, Lydia. Heaberlin effectively uses scenes from the past and the present to build a gradual piecing together of events and the strange intense but supportive relationship between the girls.

Fast forward seventeen years and Tessie who now prefers to call herself Tessa is the mother of a teenaged daughter. She is still haunted by memories from the past and is unsure that the right man has been convicted.  With the date of Terrell's execution looming ever closer she becomes increasingly more concerned that he may indeed be innocent. If he isn't guilty then the killer is still out there.  A terrifying thought for Tessa who now not only fears for herself but also for her daughter, Charlie.

The characterisation in this thriller is first class. The characters are well-drawn and believable,  easy to picture as real people in totally plausible scenarios.  Julia Heaberlin certainly did a vast amount of research regarding therapy recovery, forensic and DNA investigative detection, and life for inmates on death row making it a fascinating, educated, 
highly absorbing read that I struggled to put down for any length of time.  Any free moment was spent with my head in this book.
Black-Eyed Susans is Julia Heaberlin's third book, and in my opinion, by far her best. Intense, creepy and atmospheric, Black-Eyed Susans is a intelligent character driven masterpiece excellently paced with some great plot twists which had me guessing right to the very end ... brilliant!
I will not be able to look at the yellow daisies I walk past each day without thinking about Julia Heaberlin's thriller for a very long time.

About The Author:
Julia Heaberlin is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. Before launching her career as an author, she was an assistant managing editor over features sections at large metropolitan newspapers. Many of those sections won national and state journalism awards. The Star-Telegram Life & Arts section was named as one of the Top 10 sections in the country during her tenure. She has edited real-life thriller stories that inform her writing, including a series on the perplexing and tragic murders of random girls and women buried in the desert in Mexico and another on the frightened women of domestic violence. She lives with her husband and son in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where she is a free-lance writer and is at work on her fourth book.
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of Black-Eyed Susans was provided by Ballantine Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks
Genre: Magical Realism, Historical Fantasy, Literary Fiction,
Time Travel, Contemporary

Pages: 400
Format: e-ARC
ISBN: 9781492612469

PublisherSourcebooks Landmark (Aug 4, 2015)
Source: Publisher/Netgalley

Annabelle Aster has discovered a curious thing behind her home in San Francisco--a letterbox perched atop a picket fence.  The note inside is blunt—trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts!—spurring some lively correspondence between the Bay Area orphan and her new neighbor, a feisty widow living in nineteenth-century Kansas.

The source of mischief is an antique door Annie installed at the rear of her house.  The man who made the door—a famed Victorian illusionist—died under mysterious circumstances.
Annie and her new neighbor, with the help of friends and strangers alike, must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and somehow already did.

"Annie wandered past a weather-beaten signpost in the wheat field
where her backyard used to be. "

My Thoughts:
I really wasn't expecting The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster to be as good as it was.  I'd initially requested a review copy based on the gorgeous looking front cover, and intriguing title, but put it on the back burner to read later.  However the publisher asked me if I'd like to take part in a 'book tour' for the title and I said that I would.  I'm so glad the book leaped to the top of the list as I simply loved its charm and innocence from the outset.

The characterisation in The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster is fabulous. The characters are fabulously-drawn, and so vivid they are easy to picture as real people. I found them and the story totally charming and compelling.

The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster is set in two time frames, the present and the early 1900's.  It is a delightful tale about true friendships and finding your place in the world, with magic, time travel, a murder mystery, oh and a romance, or two along the way.  The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster had me reading well into the early hours and I just hated to put it down.

The characters are a mixed band of misfits, from Annie, a throw back to the Victorian era with a dress style and lifestyle to match; her best friend Christian an amnesiac with a severe stutter; Elsbeth the widower in Kansas to whom Annie corresponds via time-travel mailboxes; Cap'n, a street-wise urchin, and the dastardly Mr Culler with his psychotic sidekick Mr Danyer.

Annie, gets more excitement and adventure than she ever dreamed imaginable with her impulse purchase of an antique door she installs as her back door.  A door with magical properties ... a time travel portal passing through Annie's San Franciscan back yard to a wheat field in Kansas from a century before.

With help from her best friend Christian and some lively compatriots they meet along the way, they endeavour to solve the problematic mysteries which present themselves at practically every turn.

As for my favourite character I would find it difficult to choose between Annie, Elsbeth and Christian as they were all equally endearing and compelling in their own right.  I loved them all for their unique and peculiar traits: Annie for her vulnerability but no messing strength of character and drive, Elsbeth for her initial feistiness who then transforms into a caring motherly figure, and Christian for his sensitivity.  He is perhaps the most complex character. Fiercely loyal to his friends he also a loner and lacks confidence in himself and is torn about what he should do regarding his personal relationships. Christian is definitely a character I'd like to know more about.

There are a number of supporting characters and so much going on that I had to, at times, give it my full attention or lose track of the relationships and events occurring due to the complexity of the story line.

The Lemonscholy Life of Annie Aster is a delightful, feel-good, heart-warming tale.  Thoroughly entertaining, and enchanting, it is the perfect Summer read.

I look forward to seeing what Scott Wilbanks comes up with next. Another instalment of Annie Aster perhaps, but whatever it is I'm sure it'll be another gem I'll not want to miss.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of The Lemoncholy of Annie Aster was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Images: Art work used with kind permission of Scott Wilbanks
1. Annie, 2. "Cap'n, before orphanhood", 3. Elsbeth's cabin and wheat-field.

About The Author: Scott Wilbanks graduated summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma and went on to garner several national titles in the sport of gymnastics.

Scott's husband, Mike, is a New Zealander by birth, and the two split their time between the two countries while Scott is at work on his next standalone novel.