Thriller Thursday Reviews: Things We Do in the Dark & Blood Sugar

 

Hi Everyone! Sharon here with another addition of Thriller Thursday.  I hope everyone is having a good week. Last week I was on vacation. I just stayed home, but got a lot of projects done around the house that I wanted to, so it was very productive. This week I am excited to share my thoughts on Jennifer Hillier’s, Things We Do in the Dark and Sascha Rothchild’s, Blood Sugar. I loved both of these books. I especially loved the female protagonists, who are both accused of killing their husbands.  🙂

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Things We Do in the Dark & Blood SugarThings We Do in the Dark Goodreads

Author: Jennifer Hillier

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Publisher: Minotaur Books

My first book by Jennifer Hillier was Little Secrets and I loved it. So I was excited for her new book, Things We Do in the Dark, and I am happy to report this book did not disappoint. This book was just as good as the previous book I read.

Paris Peralta has been arrested for killing her husband. She was found in their bathroom, covered in blood holding a straight edge razor and her husband was dead in the bathtub behind her. Paris did not kill her husband, but it is not that she has been arrested that worries her, it is the fact that her husband was a famous comedian and his death, and her arrest is going to bring media attention to her, and Paris does not want anyone from her past to recognize her and destroy the new life she has worked hard to build for herself. Twenty-five years ago, Ruby Reyes was convicted of killing her married lover. Ruby knows who Paris is and after being released from prison early, she is threatening to expose Paris. Paris has no choice but to face her dark past.

This story is told in a dual timeline. The first timeline is in the present and follows Paris as she tries to clear her name in the death of her husband, as well as trying to keep her past from being exposed. I liked Paris and hoped that she would be able to figure out a way to prove her innocence. I figured out pretty early on what were some of the secrets from her past she was running from. In this timeline we also get the POV of Drew Malcom. Drew is a journalist, who currently has a podcast called “Things We Do in the Dark” and he is currently doing a segment on Ruby Reyes. It is during his research for the podcast that Drew unintentionally uncovers the secrets that Paris is trying to hide.

The second timeline was my favorite. This timeline is told from the POV of Ruby Reyes’ daughter Joey and takes place twenty-five years ago. In this timeline we follow Joey before and after her mother was convicted of murder. I loved Joey so much and had such sympathy for her. She had a very hard life. Her mother was abusive to her. She also suffered abuse from her mother’s many boyfriends, and once her mother was in prison and she went to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins, things did not get any better. I had tears in my eyes a few times while reading.

There is so much I want to say about this book but cannot without spoiling things. I loved everything about it. Even though I figured out the connection between Paris and Joey, there were still a few twists that caught me off guard. Hillier did an amazing job of bringing this story and the characters to life. I highly recommend Things We Do in the Dark.  Be forewarned though, this book is pretty graphic in the blood department, and it does deal with child abuse.   4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Things We Do in the Dark & Blood SugarBlood Sugar Goodreads

Author: Sascha Rothchild

Publication Date: April 19, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Blood Sugar is Sascha Rothchild’s debut thriller and what a debut it was. The story follows Ruby, a respected therapist living in Miami Beach, Florida, who has been accused of killing her husband, Jason. Ruby did not kill Jason, but that is not to say she is not a murderer. Ruby has killed three people before. She is not a sociopath or serial killer though. Each person she killed has wronged Ruby or someone she loved. She also has a ten-year span in between each murder. So see, it is not like she just goes off willy-nilly killing people. LOL!

When the story opens Ruby is in a police interrogation room being accused of killing Jason. The detective that is questioning her has four pictures face down on the table. Three are pictures of the ones Ruby did kill and the last picture is of Jason. As the detective flips each picture over Ruby remembers each of the killings and what lead up to them.

I loved Ruby! Yes she has killed people, but when I learned the reason for each killing, I really did not blame her. Okay maybe the first murder, but Ruby was only five-years old and the little boy she killed had been bullying her older sister.  As Ruby is remembering each killing, we get a look into her life. I love how the story unfolded this way. Ruby was actually a good person. She was very smart and loved to have her life organized. The more I got on her backstory, the more I loved Ruby.

I also really liked Ruby’s friendship with her best friend Roman. They were best friends who even though they had a falling out in college, they were still there for each other. When Roman was almost kicked out of law school, Ruby was there to save his butt. And even though they had not spoken for a long time, when Ruby called Roman to help her when she was accused of killing Jason, Roman hopped on a plane to help her.

The more I got to know and love Ruby, I was hoping that she would not be convicted of killing Jason. I was also hoping that her past murders were not going to come back and bite her and she would not go to jail for them.

So, who did Ruby kill and why? And what really happened to Jason? To get to those answers Rothchild weaves a great story that alternates between the past and present. I was glued to the pages and didn’t want this book to end. But I will say that I was very happy with how everything played out.

If you are looking for a book with a murderess protagonist, that you cannot help but love and root for, then I highly recommend, Blood Sugar. 4 ½ stars

Romance Reviews: THE HOOKUP PLAN and LUCK & LAST RESORTS

 

Happy Friday! Well, we’ve made it through another week.  Between work being busy and my son starting back to school (10th grade!) this week, I am so ready for the weekend.  Today I’m back with a couple of romance reviews that I’m happy to share my thoughts on.  This was my first time reading Farrah Rochon so I’ll definitely be looking to check out her backlist, and I was already a big fan of Sarah Grunder Ruiz after her wonderful debut so it was a real treat to get another new book from her.

 

Romance Reviews: THE HOOKUP PLAN and LUCK & LAST RESORTSThe Hookup Plan Goodreads

Author: Farrah Rochon

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Publisher:  Forever

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

The Hookup Plan by Farrah Rochon was such a fun and sexy read.  It follows London Kelley, a very successful pediatric surgeon who has been feeling stressed out lately and just needs to bring some balance and relaxation to her life.  According to her best friends, what she really needs is a casual hookup – a night of fun but with no strings attached.  No one is more shocked than London when the opportunity presents itself at her high school reunion in the form of Drew Sullivan, London’s high school arch nemesis and co-valedictorian.

I’m a big fan of the rivals-to-lovers trope so I was thoroughly entertained by the sparks that flew between London and Drew. It was hilarious learning about how competitive they were in high school and especially about how much Drew got under London’s skin.  It’s clear that whatever their relationship was back then, they are definitely attracted to each other present day and that Drew might be exactly the stress relief London has been looking for.

It’s not smooth sailing for the two of them, however.  In fact, it’s pretty darn rocky because it turns out that Drew isn’t just in town for the reunion.  He works for a company that is evaluating the state of the hospital London works at to determine its future, particularly if it should be sold.  London’s hospital is one that currently caters to lower income families, and she fears that what Drew and his company are doing could make it harder for those families to receive the care they need.  Is London’s arch nemesis from high school still her arch nemesis or can she believe him when he says he’s a good guy?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!

The Hookup Plan has a little something for everyone.  There’s plenty of steamy scenes between London and Drew, but then there are also some fabulous female friendships as well as some heartwarming scenes between London and her young patients.  It was just an all around fun and satisfying read and I highly recommend to fans of the rivals-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers tropes.  4 STARS.

 

Romance Reviews: THE HOOKUP PLAN and LUCK & LAST RESORTSLuck and Last Resorts (Love, Lists & Fancy Ships, #2) Goodreads

Author: Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Publication Date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Love, Lists & Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz was one of my favorite romance reads from last year.  Set aboard a luxury yacht, that book was sweet, witty, and just such a wonderful read. When I read it, I fell head over heels for the “found family” vibe of the yacht’s hilarious crew, particularly Nina and Ollie, two veteran crew members who bicker like an old married couple and just stole every scene they were in.  Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I realized that there was going to be a sequel, Luck & Last Resorts, and that it features Nina and Ollie.

The relationship between Nina and Ollie had a big “are they or aren’t they a couple?” vibe in the first book so I was thrilled that the author really explored it in depth in Luck & Last Resorts.  I was so thrilled when the novel opens with a grand gesture from Ollie.  He declares his love for Nina and wants her to commit to being with him.  He’s completely devoted to her, miserable when he isn’t around her, and has decided it’s time to wear his heart on his sleeve.  Unfortunately, Nina isn’t so convinced.  Yes, of course, she loves Ollie, but she’s a commitment-phobe at heart, has been hurt in the past, and only knows how to rely on herself.  Letting someone, even Ollie, all the way in is just too hard for her to even think about.

Nina’s scenes with Ollie still have all the sexiness and fun, and of course the hilarious banter from the first book. However, there’s an angsty undertone throughout because Ollie has decided that if Nina isn’t ready to commit to him after all these years, he can’t do it anymore and he’s moving back to Ireland.  I wanted to shake Nina but understood that she clearly needed to work through some things and figure out what and who she wanted in her life.  Nina’s journey really drives a lot of the story and I was completely invested in it.

I also loved that the author used a dual timeline in this story.  One timeline follows Nina and Ollie in the present as they work through their feelings for one another, while the other timeline takes us back to when they first met years ago and delivers a huge and unexpected plot twist that just made me love them even more.

I know I’m just rambling now, but I just love this series and all the characters so much.  If you’re in the mood for a beautifully written romance novel that is both fun and flirty, but also emotional and angsty, and that will leave you with a full heart and a smile on your face, I highly recommend both books in this series.  4.5 STARS

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reviews: UPGRADE & THE BOOK EATERS

 

Hey everyone!  I hope you all had a nice weekend. I’m back today with something I haven’t shared in a while, sci-fi/fantasy reviews!  I think I’m finally starting to get over my pandemic aversion of all books that were somewhat dark in theme, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on these two new releases.  Blake Crouch is one of my favorite sci-fi authors so I was thrilled that my inner mood reader finally decided it was time to dive in to his latest.  Sunyi Dean’s is her debut, and after reading this book, I can’t wait to read more from her!

 

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reviews:  UPGRADE & THE BOOK EATERSUpgrade Goodreads

Author: Blake Crouch

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Publisher:  Random House/Ballantine Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

What I love about Blake Crouch’s novels is that I can always count on him for an action-packed, mind blowing read that will completely absorb me from the moment I read that first page.  Crouch’s latest sci-fi thriller Upgrade delivers in a big way.

Set in the near future, the story follows Logan Ramsay, a federal agent who works for the Gene Protection Agency or GPA.  The GPA was formed after a genetic modification project that was meant to save our species goes terribly wrong and instead leads to famine and mass death.  The project was headed up by Logan’s mother, and he has joined the GPA in hopes of preventing similar incidents from ever happening again.  When the novel opens, Logan is following up on a tip about an illegal genetics lab. Almost as soon as he enters the lab, he is hit with a bomb.  It’s not just any bomb though, as Logan realizes soon after waking up in the hospital.  No, this bomb contained a genetic upgrade and Logan can feel himself starting to transform into a much enhanced version of himself.

I very much enjoyed the way this story unfolds.  It was fascinating to watch Logan’s transformation and what he’s able to do now that he has been “upgraded.”  I also found the story riveting as Logan encounters a few others who have also been upgraded but who are not on his side when it comes to the need for caution regarding genetic research and modification.  These encounters are an action-packed adrenaline rush and made for a fast-paced read.  It was also mind blowing when it is revealed who is responsible for these genetic upgrades and what their intentions are if they are not stopped.

Aside from the fascinating science and the thrilling action scenes, I also enjoyed that the story had a more personal element to it when it comes to Logan. Logan is a really likeable guy that I couldn’t help but root for.  He’s smart, well versed in genetics and genetic modification and the associated dangers of going too far, and he also has a huge conscience.  With his GPA job, he’s trying so hard to atone for what he sees as his mother’s sins, and I thought that was very noble of him.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop here and just say that if you’re in the mood for an action-packed sci-fi thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat but also leave you with plenty of food for thought regarding science, ethics, and the future of our species, Upgrade is the book for you!  4.5 STARS

 

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reviews:  UPGRADE & THE BOOK EATERSThe Book Eaters Goodreads

Author: Sunyi Dean

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Publisher: Tor Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I first became interested in reading The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean when I read somewhere that the author was interested in crafting a unique vampire story, something that hadn’t already been done to death.  Dean succeeds too because The Book Eaters is, by far, one of the most unique vampire stories I’ve ever read.  For that matter, it’s also one of the most unique fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time.

The story takes us deep into the world of book eaters, a species who can pass for humans with the exception of their diet.  Rather than eat food and drink water, they rely on eating books for sustenance.  The author does an incredible job with creating this world, showing us what the eaters get from the kinds of books they eat.  Whatever books they eat are immediately committed to memory, and the eaters have a definite “taste” preference when it comes to things like glossy vs. non-glossy pages, etc.

The book eaters also have a real problem on their hands because their species is dying off.  Very few females are ever born, and so in an effort to stave off extinction, the few females who are born are raised to eat only fairy tales in order to groom them all to become wives and mothers. Arrangements are made, and basically, as soon as each female gives birth to a child and it is weaned from her, she is then sent on to fulfill her next arrangement and get pregnant again.

The story follows Devon Fairweather, a young book eater who has been forced into motherhood, hates the oppressive nature of the life she is being forced to live, and ultimately wants out of it.  Devon sees the especially cruel nature of her world when Cai, one of the babies she gives birth to, is considered to be a monster.  Cai is one of those few babies who are born to book eaters, that instead of existing on a diet of books, they exist on a diet of brains, thus leaving behind a trail of bodies whenever they feed.  The elders in Devon’s family want to get rid of Cai, and Devon is not having it, which spurs her into motion and propels the overall action of the book.

I don’t want to give away any more details because this unique story is best experienced knowing as little as possible going in.  I did occasionally have to re-read pages to really understand the worldbuilding and the relationships between various people Devon encounters throughout the book, but I think that was more of a me issue than anything wrong with the writing itself.

Devon was a fascinating character to me.  I’d classify her as morally gray in the sense that she makes a lot of hard choices when it comes to doing what she feels is right to ensure Cai’s survival.  I loved her mama bear instincts though and, as a mom myself, was 100% on board for her doing whatever it takes for the child she loves so much.  I also loved the way the author has the story unfold through dual timelines, one with Devon as a child and the other after she becomes a mother.  It really illuminated the oppressive nature of the book eater world, and that oppression of women and their bodies resonated all the more with me after what has happened with Roe v. Wade this year.

I highly recommend The Book Eaters to anyone who is a fan of vampire stories, and also to anyone who enjoys thought provoking, action packed dark urban fantasies with fascinating morally gray characters. 4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The It Girl & The House Across the Lake

 

Happy Thriller Thursday with Sharon! I hope everyone is doing well and getting some relaxation time in. I am so happy that next week I am on vacation from work, well a staycation LOL!  I plan on just sitting around and relaxing and reading of course 😀  Today I am reviewing two books that I have been very excited to read. Ruth Ware’s, The It Girl and Riley Sager’s, The House Across the Lake.  I am happy to report that these books did not disappoint.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The It Girl & The House Across the LakeThe It Girl Goodreads

Author: Ruth Ware

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press

I couldn’t wait to read Ruth Ware’s newest book The It Girl and I am happy to report it did not disappoint. This book was everything I was hoping it would be.

Hannah Jones was excited to start a new chapter of her life at Oxford. Hannah and her roommate April Clarke-Cliveden became fast friends, and rounding out their friend group was Will, Emily, Ryan, and Hugh.  These six friends formed a close bond and were enjoying their time at the university. That is, until April was murdered at the end of the second term. The school porter, John Neville, is found guilty of April’s murder, mostly due to Hannah’s testimony. It is now ten years later and Hannah and Will are married and expecting their first child. Hannah has done all she can to try and put the past behind her and now that John Neville has died in prison, she can truly move on. But when a journalist contacts Hannah and presents evidence that John Neville may have been innocent, Hannah’s world and all she thought she knew is about to come crashing down.

I loved how Ware presented this book in a dual timeline. One timeline was during Hannah’s time at Oxford and we got to see the events that lead up to April’s murder unfold. This was my favorite timeline. I really liked getting to know Hannah, April, Will, Ryan, Emily and Hugh and watch their friendships form. I especially liked learning more about April and how she was not the nicest person all the time. That just made the suspect pool increase for me. The second timeline is in the present, and in this timeline, we follow Hannah as she tries to come to terms with the fact that she may have been wrong about John Neville. Hannah is determined to figure out what actually happened the night April was murdered. I really loved her determination on uncovering the truth; even when she did not like the direction it was taking, she still pushed forward. Hannah owes it to April and to John Neville to make sure the right person pays for the crime.

I was all over the place on who I thought murdered April with all the twists and turns this book had.  The more information Hannah uncovered in her quest to find the truth, the more my suspicions of everyone grew, especially when we learned of some of the mean things April did. By the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat, especially when it was revealed who the killer was.

I really don’t want to say too much because I think you need to go into this book not knowing anything. But if you are a fan of Ruth Ware, then I think you will love The It Girl4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The It Girl & The House Across the LakeThe House Across the Lake Goodreads

Author: Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Dutton

Riley Sager is an auto buy author for me. I have loved every book he has written and while The House Across the Lake did not have the WOW! factor his other books had, I still loved it.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress, has escaped to her family’s lake house in Vermont. Casey’s husband drowned in the very lake she is now staying at. After her husband died, Casey started drowning her sorrows in alcohol and after being caught by the press in a few drunken states, she retreated to Vermont to hide. With lots of time and liquor on hand, Casey has started watching her new neighbors, Tom and Katherine Royce, across the lake.  When Katherine vanishes, Casey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, Casey discovers that not only was the Royce’s marriage not perfect, but there is also something evil lurking in the lake.

When I first started reading I was a bit put off by the whole Rear Window vibe, but then Casey actually started mentioning how she was like Jimmy Stewart’s character and referring to the movie, that I got over the comparison quickly. And while that vibe was there, the book had many twists and turns that took it away from Rear Window.

There is not much I can say about this book without spoiling things. I loved the Vermont setting. I live in the New England area and have been to Vermont, so I could easily imagine the houses around the lake. It actually made me want to take a trip north and just sit out in the woods and relax with a book.

I thought Sager did a great job on creating all the characters, especially Casey. She was a very complex character, and with her drinking, at times she was also an unreliable character. I had a lot of sympathy for her, especially when she was remembering her husband. I also really liked how strong she was and determined to figure out what happened to Katherine. Casey became friends with Katherine when Casey saved her from drowning in the lake. Casey was sitting on her porch when she saw Katherine floating in the lake, and that brought back all kinds of memories from when her husband drowned.

The House Across the Lake was a slow burn read that sucked me in from the beginning. And then just as I was getting all settled in and trying to figure out what happened to Katherine, BAM! There was a plot twist that made me second guess myself and suspect someone new. LOL!  The only issue I really had with this book was one of the plot twists came out of nowhere and was a bit farfetched, in my opinion. I was a bit disappointed with the direction it took, but once I finished reading and thought about the book and that one twist, I let myself suspend reality and my opinion on what I read changed and I decided “Okay, that was actually really good.”   4 stars

Reviews: JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG & LONG STORY SHORT

 

Hey everyone!  I hope you all had a nice weekend.  I took some vacation days to give myself a four-day weekend so I definitely can’t complain, well, aside from not wanting to sign in for work today, haha.  Anyway, I’m back today with two new reviews for you, one is from a favorite author of mine, Kerry Winfrey, while the other is a debut from Serena Kaylor.

 

Reviews:  JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG & LONG STORY SHORTJust Another Love Song Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m a huge fan of Kerry Winfrey’s books anyway, but when I saw that her latest novel, Just Another Love Song, is a second chance romance set in a small town, I couldn’t get my hands on a copy fast enough.  I’m happy to report that this romance was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Fifteen years ago, Sandy Macintosh and Hank Tillman were high school sweethearts.  They were in love and had big dreams – Sandy was a gifted artist, and Hank a talented musician, and they wanted to leave their small town in Ohio, go off to college together, and then start building their future.  When Sandy’s scholarship falls through, her dreams of college and leaving home are shattered.  Hank goes off to college anyway, and even though they promise they’ll stay together no matter what, after a while Sandy feels like she’s holding Hank back from pursuing a career in music, so she breaks up with him.  When the story opens, they have just run into each other for the first time since that break up.

I can’t even express how much I loved Sandy and Hank.  I was especially enamored with Sandy, who in spite of having her dreams crushed so long ago, has managed to make a pretty good life for herself. She’s now a successful businesswoman with a thriving greenhouse business and she is very active in the community.  She definitely made the best of a bad situation, and I admired her resilience.  I also adored Hank.  He’s of course sexy as heck, but he also clearly has a good heart and when he returns to his hometown, he immediately pitches in and helps anyone in need, even though he’s now a successful musician. There’s no egotism there at all.  When Sandy and Hank reunite for the first time, it’s of course super awkward, but you can tell the old attraction is still there.  My absolute favorite part of Just Another Love Song are the flashbacks Winfrey gives us to when Sandy and Hank first fell in love.  Those scenes were just so adorable and magical, and they had me all the more invested in them taking another chance on one another and revisiting what they had as teens in love.

The small town setting was also a big hit for me.  I loved everything about this community and its fun and quirky characters.  It kind of reminded me a bit of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and I enjoyed all of the humorous moments the various townspeople provided and they also provided a nice balance to some of the more emotional scenes between Sandy and Hank.

With its beautiful second chance romance and its charming small town setting, Just Another Love Song is sure to please anyone who is looking for a heartwarming, engaging read.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG & LONG STORY SHORTLong Story Short Goodreads

Author: Serena Kaylor

Publication Date: July 26, 2022

Publisher: Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Long Story Short, a new YA romcom by Serena Kaylor, was such a fun read for me!  It follows Beatrice Quinn, a 16 year old, academically gifted homeschooled student, as she tries to prove to her parents that she is both socially and emotionally ready to head thousands of miles from home to attend Oxford University where she has been accepted.

Beatrice’s parents know their daughter is brilliant and will succeed academically at Oxford, but they also just want to know that if she goes to Oxford, that she’ll be happy, make friends, and have the full college experience. They know Beatrice better than anyone else, and what they know is that while Beatrice may be a genius when it comes to numbers and statistics, but people, specifically how to make friends, are a mystery to her.  To put their own minds at ease, they decide to challenge Beatrice – if she can go away to a theater camp on the other side of the country and complete a list of tasks they consider to be “typical” teenage social activities, then they’ll let her go to Oxford.

I loved Beatrice from the moment we meet her and I have to admit that I was kind of angry on her behalf that she has to jump through these hoops to prove herself, but as a parent myself, I could understand why her parents were so worried about her going that far away.  There were some characteristics of Beatrice’s personality that made me think she might possibly be on the autism spectrum, but that was never explicitly stated so I’m not sure.  At minimum, she is most definitely an introvert and as a fellow introvert, I very much related to her social struggles and was really hoping for the best for her.

I don’t want to say much about the camp itself, so I’m just going to say that Beatrice’s journey is everything I wanted it to be for her and so much more.  She basically gets adopted by Mia and Nolan, two other teens at the camp, and they become just as invested as she is in completing her parents’ checklist and giving her the full typical teenager experience.  Beatrice learns about the bonds of friendship, how to read social cues, how to apologize if she accidentally offends or hurts someone, and she even learns a little about love.

Long Story Short is a wonderful coming of age story set against the backdrop of a Shakespearean theater camp.  If you’re in the mood for a story about friendship, love, and learning to live your life to the fullest, I highly recommend it.  4 STARS

Reviews: THE LITTLEST LIBRARY and BET ON IT

 

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a great week and that you all have exciting plans for the weekend.  I’m sure mine will be filled with plenty of reading and getting caught up on my blog hopping.   Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two of my recent reads, one of which was such a delightful surprise that I could easily see it making my “Best of” list at the end of the year.

 

Reviews:  THE LITTLEST LIBRARY and BET ON ITThe Littlest Library Goodreads

Author: Poppy Alexander

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Publisher: Avon Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m not even going to lie. I picked up The Littlest Library by Poppy Alexander because of that adorable cover.  Who can resist a charming little red phone booth converted into a library?  I sure couldn’t! I went into this book expecting a story just as cute as the cover and got so much more.  The Littlest Library is a heartwarming story about community, family, and finding your place in this world.  Oh and of course, it’s also about books. 😊

When we meet the protagonist, Jess Metcalf, she is having a rough go.  She has just lost her job as a librarian, her grandmother has recently died, and when Jess tries to take a drive to clear her head after dealing with her grandmother’s estate, she takes a wrong turn and her car breaks down right in the middle of a tiny town in the English countryside.  What Jess doesn’t realize at the time is that her wrong turn and subsequent breakdown is about to change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

I really adored Jess. She’s just so sweet and it’s obvious how much she loves her grandmother, Mimi.  When I learned that her grandmother had practically raised her, my heart just broke all the harder for Jess when Mimi died.  I also found it incredibly moving that Mimi, who knew she was dying, had boxed up all the books that she and Jess had treasured over the years to make sure that Jess kept them all.  I loved the bond between these two women so much and especially that their bond was made all the stronger by the books they shared. Mimi’s last wish is for Jess to go out and find herself a new adventure, rather than stay in their old house alone.  When Jess’ car breaks down in this cute little town in the country, she decides it’s a sign to do just that and buys herself a little cottage that happens to have an old red telephone booth on its property.

As much as I loved Jess, I really think the star of the book is this red phone booth and all that it symbolized, both for Jess and for the people in her new community.  When Jess decides to clean it up and turn it into a little library, using hers and Mimi’s books, it gives her both a renewed sense of purpose and a wonderful way to connect with the people in the town, who haven’t had a library of any kind in years.  They are starved for books and Jess is their hero.  It made me smile watching so many people come and check books out, chat with each other and with Jess.  There’s also a bit of a slow burn romance involving Jess and a grumpy neighbor that was enjoyable to read about, but I have to admit that I was pretty tunnel visioned on the library and the magic its books worked on everyone.  Who knew a little phone booth and some books could create such a renewed sense of community to a town and give a young woman the fresh start she’s looking for?

I love books about books so I fully expected to enjoy The Littlest Library, but let me tell you, it far exceeded my expectations and left me with the biggest smile on my face.  An absolute gem of a book!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE LITTLEST LIBRARY and BET ON ITBet on It Goodreads

Author: Jodie Slaughter

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Bet on It by Jodie Slaughter was a much deeper read than I was expecting based on that cute cover with the bingo card.  While the novel does feature a fun and sexy romance, it also offers an in depth exploration of social anxiety and panic attacks.

When we meet the protagonist, Aja Owens, she is having a panic attack in the local grocery store.  A young man named Walker sees her in distress and helps her through the attack.  Aja is mortified that he has witnessed her anxiety getting the best of her, but at the same time, she can’t help but notice how hot Walker is.  When she then heads to Bingo night, she runs into Walker again.  It turns out he is the grandson of her favorite bingo partner and that he’s in town to help his grandmother who has recently taken a nasty fall and is still healing from her injuries.  Aja, still embarrassed that Walker witnessed her having a panic attack, would love nothing more than to get up from the bingo table and run away, but Walker seems genuinely happy to see her so she lets down her guard and decides there’s no harm in getting to know him better.

I enjoyed the chemistry between Aja and Walker very much.  It was so much fun to watch the two of them bond over bingo, surrounded mostly by the senior citizen crowd.  Their banter was hilarious at times, and once it becomes clear they are physically attracted to one another, they even make a steamy bet based on which of them can get a bingo first.  While they definitely had a lot of fun together, I appreciated that they also had real discussions about mental health and that Walker reveals to Aja that he recognized her panic attacks because he also occasionally has them.  The author does a wonderful job of exploring panic attacks and social anxiety both realistically and with great sensitivity.

There’s some added drama in the story that revolves around Walker and his past.  He can’t wait for his grandmother to get better because he wants to get out of town and away from bad memories as soon as possible.  His attraction to Aja throws a kink into those plans and it was interesting to watch the two of them navigate through such a messy situation.  While I felt bad for Walker as we learn more about his past, there were times when I didn’t like him as much as I liked Aja.  I felt that some of his thoughts about Aja’s curvy body were a little cringeworthy at times, and I wanted to knock him upside the head. That’s probably just a “me” thing though so I wouldn’t let it put you off from reading the book.

Overall, Bet on It is an entertaining read that should appeal to anyone who enjoys not only a fun romance but also emotional and heartfelt exploration of mental illness.  3.5 STARS

 

Review: THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center

Review:  THE BODYGUARD by Katherine CenterThe Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Also by this author: Things You Save in a Fire, What You Wish For
five-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on July 19, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Center’s books and will read absolutely everything she writes. I love the emotional journeys she takes her characters on and even though she sometimes puts my emotions through the wringer, I’m always left with a smile on my face by the end of the book.  The Bodyguard was a bit lighter of a read than I’ve come to expect from Center, with more of a romcom vibe at times, but let me tell you, I was here for it every step of the way and it’s my new favorite Katherine Center novel.

Hannah Brooks is a professional bodyguard and she’s at the top of her field.  Lately though, she has been having a rough time. Her mother has recently passed away, and her boyfriend (who also happens to be her coworker) abruptly dumps her the day of her mom’s funeral.  Hannah is dying for a change of scenery to get away from all the awkwardness and so her boss assigns her as the lead bodyguard for a huge new client who is coming to town, Hollywood mega star Jack Stapleton.  Hannah is torn.  She kind of wants to quit because she really wanted an assignment out of town, the farther away the better, but at the same time, she has had a crush on Jack Stapleton for ages so the opportunity to protect his rather stellar body definitely has its appeal.

Jack is back in Texas because his mother is sick. Coming home is painful for Jack because he is still reeling from a tragic accident that killed his younger brother.  Because of this, he has been out of the spotlight for a while now and therefore doesn’t think he really needs a bodyguard.  His agent feels otherwise though because he does have some stalkerish fans, and so Hannah shows up on his doorstep ready to protect him.

Once Jack and Hannah meet, I flew through the rest of this book. I loved that they were both such messy and complicated characters, each dealing with their own issues, but who also just really pushed each other’s buttons when they are first forced to start spending time together.  Their banter is downright hilarious and had me laughing out loud more than once as I read.  It was easy to see how good they could be together if they would both let their guard down a bit and let the other in and I was rooting for this to happen all the way.

As much as I adored the forced proximity trope in this story, I actually loved the use of the fake dating trope even more.  Jack doesn’t want to worry his mom about stalkers and why he has a bodyguard following him everywhere, so he lies and tells his family that Hannah is his girlfriend.  Jack’s parents are so adorable and I loved watching them bond with Hannah.  They were so good to her that it had me all the more invested in Jack and Hannah hopefully becoming a real couple.

I don’t think what I’ve written has done justice to how wonderful The Bodyguard really is.  It has a little something for everyone – romance, an emotional journey of personal growth for both Hannah and Jack, a found family, humor, and even a bit of action and suspense.  The Bodyguard was everything I’ve come to expect from a Katherine Center novel and more.

five-stars

About Katherine Center

Katherine Center is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away, the upcoming Things You Save in a Fire (August 2019), and five other bittersweet comic novels. Six Foot Pictures is currently adapting her fourth novel, The Lost Husband, into a feature film starring Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, and Nora Dunn. Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog.

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Housemaid & An Honest Lie

 

Hi everyone. It’s Sharon back with another Thriller Thursday.  This week I am reviewing Freida McFadden’s, The Housemaid and Tarryn Fisher’s, An Honest Lie.  I really enjoyed both of these books and I am happy to share my thoughts on them.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Housemaid & An Honest LieThe Housemaid Goodreads

Author: Freida McFadden

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Bookouture

I could not resist the eerie cover of an eye peeking out of a keyhole, for Freida McFadden’s new book The Housemaid. From that cover and the synopsis, I knew this would be one twisted read and I was right.

Millie has had a tough life. She went to prison for 10 years when she was seventeen-years-old. She has been out on parole for a year when she applies for a live-in housekeeper job she knows once they do a background check, she will not get it, but to Millie’s surprise she does get the job. Unfortunately for Millie the job isn’t what she expected.  When she interviewed for the job, the house was pristine and Nina Winchester, the owner, was such a nice person. When Millie showed up for her first day, the house was a mess and Nina was no longer the nice, caring person she was at the interview. Nina is doing everything she can to make Millie’s life a living hell, but Millie needs this job and she will not quit. And then Millie finds herself growing attracted to Nina’s husband, Andrew, and she dreams of what it would be like to be living Nina’s life. Be careful what you wish for, Millie!

This book is told in three parts. Part one is told from Millie’s POV. I liked Millie and sympathized with her as I got more information on her background. Millie is a strong person. When push comes to shove, she does not back down; she pushes back and pushes hard. From Millie’s perspective, we get to see how crazy Nina is. Oh, the things Nina would do! She accuses Millie of stealing her notes for the parent/teacher night and then after destroying the kitchen looking for them, yells at Millie for the mess. Nina has Millie get tickets to a play for a specific night and then accuses Millie of getting the tickets for the wrong night. Nina gives Millie some old clothes and then accuses her of stealing them. Everyday Nina seemed to be spiraling out of control more and more.

The second part of the book is told from Nina’s POV, and it is in this part we find out what is really going on. I didn’t like Nina very much in the first part of the book, but when I found out what was going on, I cut her some slack. Though I liked the outcome she was hoping for, I wasn’t fully on board with how she made it happen.   Yes, vague I know, but if I tell you then you wouldn’t be surprised. LOL!

The third part of the book alternates between Millie and Nina and in this part, we see the outcome and aftermath of everything that happened in the book. And what an outcome it was!

The Housemaid was a very twisted and engrossing read. And even though I have read books that are similar in plot and sort of guessed how things were going to go, I still really enjoyed this book. There were lots of twists and turns at the end that did surprise me.   3 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Housemaid & An Honest LieAn Honest Lie Goodreads

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Graydon House

I have enjoyed the two other books I have read by Tarryn Fisher, but while they didn’t knock my socks off, I was still excited to read her new book, An Honest Lie. And I am happy to report that this book surpassed the other two books I read.

Rainey Ives is an artist who relocated from New York to Tiger Mountain in Washington a year ago to live with her boyfriend Grant. Rainey is a private person and has never been that good at making friends, but to make Grant happy, she joins the Tiger Mountain Group. This group of women are part of Grant’s friend group that he has known for over twenty years. Rainey does her best to fit in, but she cannot get over the fact that a couple of women in the group do not like her. When the women plan a weekend away in Vegas, Rainey reluctantly goes. Vegas holds bad memories for Rainey. When she was a child her mother and her were part of a cult there. Rainey escaped, but she knows the cult leader, Taured, will do anything to get her back. So, when one of the women, Braithe, goes missing after a night of partying and Rainey receives threatening text messages from her phone, Rainey knows who has taken Braithe and that it is really Rainey they want.  To save Braithe, Rainey has to face the past she has been running away from.

This book is told from the POV of Rainey but in two timelines, 1) present day and 2) when Rainey was fifteen years old and in the cult with her mother. Of the two timelines, my favorite was the past one. I really loved getting the back story on Rainey and what life was like for her in the cult. I had so much sympathy for everything she went through. At first, she bought into the whole cult thing, but as time passed and the more things she witnessed and discovered, she knew she had to get out of there. I loved how strong willed and determined she was.

That strong will and determination followed Rainey into adulthood, and while I thought the present-day chapters were a bit slow, once Braithe goes missing and Rainey sets her plan into motion to save her and face her past, the pace and tension picked up. I loved watching her take charge and plan everything out. Though some of her planning did not go as I thought it was supposed to, she had back-up plans as well, which just made me love her determination all the more. I was on the edge of my seat at the end of the book wondering how it was all going to play out.

If you like books that give you a look into the world of cults and that feature a strong protagonist then I recommend Tarryn Fisher’s An Honest Lie.  3 ½ stars

Reviews: A SHOE STORY and DREAM ON

 

Happy Friday! Wow, what I wouldn’t give for a slow week.  Between work, which never seems to slow down, and my son’s post-surgery physical therapy, I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in my days to do everything I want to do.  I’ve been getting tons of reading done but am just ridiculously behind with reviews.  I do have two reviews to share today though.  Both are from new-to-me authors so I’m very excited to have finally gotten the chance to read something from each of them.

 

Reviews:  A SHOE STORY and DREAM ONA Shoe Story Goodreads

Author: Jane Rosen

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

A Shoe Story by Jane Rosen is another book I was drawn to initially because of its adorable and whimsical cover.  I loved the shoes scattered across the page and as someone who loves stories set in New York City, just seeing the NYC skyline on the cover was enough to further entice me.  I dove in and was immediately captivated by this beautiful story of second chances.

The story centers on Esme Nash, a young woman who dreamed of moving to New York as soon as she graduated from college and securing a job at a prestigious art gallery.   Esme’s boyfriend Liam also shares her dream of moving to New York and so they make plans together, until tragedy strikes.  Esme’s parents are involved in a car accident that kills her mother and leaves her father paralyzed.  Esme knows she has to stay and take care of her dad but she doesn’t want to hold Liam back from his dreams, so she breaks up with him so that he will go on to New York without her.  Seven years later, Esme’s dad dies and Esme decides it’s time to get her life back and so, after securing temporary employment as a live-in dog sitter, she heads to New York.

Esme had my heart right away, just seeing how much she was willing to sacrifice to take care of her father.  I also loved the resilience she displays when she decides to head to New York to try to get her life back on track.  She hopes to cross paths with Liam to see if there are still sparks between them, but she is also very focused on reentering the art world and securing her dream job. I really admired her sense of determination and was immediately hoping she would get all the second chances she was hoping for.

What Esme finds along the way though is what really made this such a special read for me.  The first thing she discovers is that the dog owner she is sitting for has an enormous closet filled to the brim with designer shoes that just happen to be in Esme’s size.  Esme, a shoe fiend herself, is entranced by this and decides to borrow a new pair of them every day to give her a much needed boost of confidence as she heads out into the city to reclaim her dreams and hopefully find her lost love.  Esme’s journey ends up being a special one filled with new friends, new experiences, and she discovers sides to her personality that she never really knew existed.  I really enjoyed watching her grow and embrace the second chances she has been given.

While most of the story focuses on Esme’s journey to find those second chances, what really struck me as I was reading was that every new friend she meets is also looking for a second chance of sorts.  I enjoyed Esme’s interactions with each of these characters as they helped each other find their way.

A Shoe Story tackles some tough topics like alcoholism, loss and grief, but overall it’s just such a smart and delightful read about finding oneself.  I highly recommend it and look forward to reading more of Jane Rosen’s novels.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  A SHOE STORY and DREAM ONDream On Goodreads

Author: Angie Hockman

Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Publisher: Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I have to confess that it was the gorgeous cover that first drew me to Angie Hockman’s new contemporary romance novel, Dream On.  That said, the story itself is just as sweet and beautiful as that cover.

Dream On follows Cass Walker, a young woman who gets into an accident the day she passes the bar exam and winds up in a coma for nearly a week.  When the story opens, Cass is just waking up, surrounded by her family and her best friend, but all she wants to know is why isn’t her boyfriend Devin there.  Cass’ loved ones are confused because to their knowledge, Cass does not have a boyfriend.  No one knows who Devin is and once Cass is out of the hospital, she realizes she doesn’t have any photos, contact information, or anything that pertains to Devin. All she has are these vivid memories of dating him for the past three months.  It’s as if she dreamed him up. Nearly a year later, Cass finally runs into the real Devin and it begins a life changing journey for her.

I loved this unique storyline and found myself very invested with Cass’ journey to figure out how she has all these memories of Devin, especially since he has no idea who she is either.  Was it purely a figment of her imagination or did she really meet him at some point?  I also loved how brave Cass was the day she encounters him because she flat out tells him what she is experiencing and that she would like his assistance in helping her work through how she could possibly know so much about him.  I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do that since he could have easily written her off as crazy.  I also had a soft spot for Devin right away since he was game to help her, even as his overprotective brother, Perry, was desperately trying to get rid of Cass since he did think she was a crazy stalker.  I wasn’t crazy about Perry at first just because he was so quick to judge Cass, but he did grow on me quickly since it was clear how much he cared about his brother.

It was fun watching Cass get to know both brothers and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, especially as it became clear that Cass and Perry were developing feelings for one another.  I’m not usually big on love triangles but I have to admit that I was very interested in seeing if she would ultimately reject her mysterious connection to Devin in favor of Perry, or if she would choose neither brother and instead focus on getting her life and career back on track.  No spoilers from me but I will say that I was very satisfied with the ending.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet romance about literally finding the man of your dreams, you’ll definitely want to check out Dream On4 STARS

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Covers That Feel Like Summer

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is Book Covers That Feel Like Summer. I love covers with summer vibes so this was an easy topic to do.  The biggest challenge was to narrow it down to just ten of my favorites.  To narrow it, I tried to focus mainly on new and recent releases.

Ten of My Favorite Books Covers That Feel Like Summer

 

 

1. OUR LAST DAYS IN BARCELONA by Chanel Cleeton

2. OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY by Kristan Higgins

3.  EVERY SUMMER AFTER by Carley Fortune

4.  WAIT FOR IT by Jenn McKinlay

5. FLOAT PLAN by Trish Doller

6. THE HOTEL NANTUCKET by Elin Hilderbrand

7.  THE GUNCLE by Steven Rowley

8.  ONE ITALIAN SUMMER by Rebecca Serle

9. THE FRIENDSHIP PACT by Jill Shalvis

10. THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer Weiner

 

* * * * * *

Question:  Have you read any of these?