Thriller Thursday Reviews: Where He Can’t Find You & Good Girls Don’t Die

 

Happy Thriller Thursday with Sharon! I hope everyone who is celebrating has a very happy and safe holiday. I cannot believe the year is over in a week and a half and that this is my last Thriller Thursday of 2023. I have read some great books this year and was so happy to share my thoughts with you all. I look forward to sharing even more great thrillers in 2024.  For my final Thriller Thursday of 2023 I am excited to share my reviews on two greats books from two great authors; Where He Can’t Find You by Darcy Coates and Good Girls Don’t Die by Christina Henry.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Where He Can’t Find You & Good Girls Don’t DieWhere He Can't Find You Goodreads

Author: Darcy Coates

Publication Date: November 7, 2023

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

I read my first Darcy Coates’ book, Dead of Winter, a few months ago and loved it. It was right up my thriller loving mind, so when I read the synopsis for her latest book, Where He Can’t Find You, I knew it was going to be another winner for me. And I was right!

In the small town of Doubtful, people have been disappearing for decades. Some are lost forever, but the bodies that are found are unrecognizable. Those bodies have been dismembered and then sewn back together in unnatural ways. Some are even more than one body sewn together. There are rules to live by in Doubtful, 1) Don’t walk alone.  2) Don’t stay out after dark. 3) Keep your windows and doors locked. Follow these rules and maybe The Stitcher won’t get you. Abby Ward, her sister Hope and their friends, Rhys, Riya, and Connor, live by these rules, so when Hope is taken Abby is shocked. Abby is desperate to get Hope back before The Stitcher can do to her what he has done to others. Knowing the police cannot help, Abby and her friends race against time to find Hope and possibly put an end to The Stitcher once and for all.

Wow! This is another Darcy Coates book that would make one great thriller movie. I don’t want to say a lot and spoil anything. But I will say this was one intense book that had my heart racing the whole time I was reading.

I loved Abby and her friends and how they had each other’s backs and the lengths they would go to help keep each other safe, as well as the lengths they went to help Abby save Hope. They were not only best friends, but they were family, willing to put themselves in danger for each other.

I also loved how dark and grey Coates created the town of Doubtful. Her descriptions were great and I could just picture the town as almost a ghost town. It really added to the creepiness of the book. Coates also did a great job with the vivid descriptions of what the victims looked like when they were found and stitched back together. I got chills while reading.

The whole story had a definite horror vibe and as we learned more about the origin of the town and when the disappearances started, it also took on a supernatural vibe. I kept getting Stephen King’s It, vibes but have also seen that people compared this to Stranger Things.

I know nothing I have said did this book justice, but if you are looking for a supernatural horror read that will leave your skin crawling, then definitely pick up a copy of Where He Can’t Find You4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Where He Can’t Find You & Good Girls Don’t DieGood Girls Don't Die Goodreads

Author: Christina Henry

Publication Date: November 14, 2023

Publisher: Berkley

I love Christina Henry’s books and her latest, Good Girls Don’t Die, is no exception. This story follows three different women, who find themselves fighting for their lives. Each woman is in a unique setting that mirrors the genre of books they love to read. I thought this was such an interesting way to set the book.

Celia is standing in a strange kitchen with a man who is supposedly her husband, and a young girl who is her daughter. Celia cannot remember her real life, but she knows this is not it. As she tries to go about her day, she realizes this life actually resembles the cozy mysteries she loves, right down to the nasty neighbor that nobody ever likes and who ends up dead. Celia is determined to figure out what is going on and as she starts to piece things together, she learns that someone has deliberately done this to her, and she needs to find a way out of this town.  I like cozy mysteries as well, and I loved how everything that happened to Celia is just what happens in those types of books.

Allie is a college student and a lover of horror stories. She is supposed to be going on a girl’s weekend with her two best friends, but instead they end up at a remote cabin in the woods with the boyfriends of her friends tagging along. Allie is sure something is not right about this trip and when an ax-wielding man attacks the group, Allie needs to take everything she has learned from those horror books to stay alive. You all know me and my love for horror stories, so no surprise this was my favorite part of the book. LOL! I really liked Allie and how she was trying to do whatever she could to keep herself and her friends alive, though that was tough at times, as her friends did not follow the “rules to surviving a horror story”.

Maggie has been kidnapped and wakes up tied to a chair in a room with a bunch of other women. In order to survive they must navigate a series of obstacles that are full of boobytraps, just like the YA Dystopian books Maggie loves to read.  This is another genre I like, so I was right there with Maggie as she tried to make her way through.

I loved each section of this book and all three of these women. They were all strong, badass, and were determined to make it out alive. As well as enjoying each of their stories, I was also trying to figure out how they ended up in the situations they were in. I didn’t figure anything out until it was revealed in the end. And all I will say is WOW! I thought they were bad-asses before, they certainly kicked it up at the end and I was cheering them on the whole time.  I also loved how each chapter had on-line chats at the beginning of them. That just really added to the mystery of the story.

If you are a fan of Christina Henry or are looking for a unique mystery, then I think you should definitely check out Good Girls Don’t Die.      4 stars

Romance Review – HOUSEBROKE by Jaci Burton @berkleyromance

Romance Review – HOUSEBROKE by Jaci Burton @berkleyromanceHousebroke by Jaci Burton
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY, Berkley Romance on December 12, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

Jaci Burton’s new novel Housebroke is a sweet and sexy romcom that features a millionaire who likes to buy, renovate, and sell houses, and a temporarily homeless woman with five rescue dogs who ends up living with him.

Hazel is reeling from a messy divorce that has left her broke and homeless. Some friends offer to let her stay at their house for a while, with the understanding that the house is for sale.  When Linc, the new owner, shows up unexpectedly, Hazel nearly clocks him with her cast iron skillet.  Linc wants her out of the house immediately so he can start renovating the property, but once he hears about her desperate situation, he doesn’t want to be the guy who kicks her when she’s already down so he invites her and her dogs to stay in his guesthouse.  Hazel agrees on the condition that he allows her to cook for him while she’s there.

I really enjoyed both of these characters, both individually and as a team. I loved watching the two of them bond, particularly when they were taking care of the dogs.  Linc clearly being a dog guy did a lot to endear him both to Hazel and to me, and I also loved how much he clearly admired Hazel for being so independent and that he also saw all that she had to offer. It was so nice to see, especially after knowing how awful her ex had been to her.

I also enjoyed the way Linc and Hazel’s story evolved. There was also a nice blend of sexy, spicy scenes as Linc and Hazel grow closer, as well as sweeter, more domestic scenes as the two of them, plus the dogs, fall into a comfortable, family-like routine. There’s a bit of tension, as both of them try to deny their feelings for one another, but it’s pretty obvious that fighting it is a losing battle.

And let’s not forget about those dogs.  From Penny the lovable golden retriever to Lillian the feisty chihuahua and Gordon the elderly pug, as well as a few others, the dogs really steal the show and were just a joy to read about. They are the glue that really brings Linc and Hazel together and I just wanted to adopt them all myself, haha!

This was my first time reading anything from Jaci Burton and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If you’re in the mood for a charming romcom that features lovable big-hearted characters, both human and canine, be sure to check this one out!

 

Thanks so much to Tina Joell from Berkley Romance for the invitation to take part in this blog tour!

 

four-stars

About Jaci Burton

Jaci Burton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Boots and Bouquets series, the Brotherhood by Fire series, the Hope series, and the Play-by-Play novels. Learn more at jaciburton.com.

Romance Review – RAIDERS OF THE LOST HEART by Jo Segura @berkleyromance

Romance Review – RAIDERS OF THE LOST HEART by Jo Segura @berkleyromanceRaiders of the Lost Heart by Jo Segura
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on December 5, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 357
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan so as soon as I saw the title of Jo Segura’s debut romance novel, Raiders of the Lost Heart, I knew I had to read it! Between that title and the promise of a sexy adventure romcom featuring rival archaeologists, I knew I was in for a good time.

The story follows Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía, an archaeologist who has devoted her career to studying Chimalli, an ancient warrior of the Aztec Empire, who also happens to be her ancestor.  Her dream is to someday lead an expedition into the Mexican jungle to search for Chimalli’s long lost remains.  An unexpected invitation to join just such an expedition, all expenses paid, sounds too good to be true to Corrie, but she just can’t resist if this means finally achieving her dream. To her utter dismay, once she arrives in Mexico, she learns the leader of the expedition is none other than her archnemesis, Dr. Ford Matthews.

I was angry for Corrie on so many levels.  She is clearly the expert on all things Chimalli so how could this guy be chosen over her to lead her dream expedition?  Not only that but we also learn that he broke her heart when they were in grad school together and he stole a fellowship that should have been hers. Needless to say, I was all aboard the Let’s Hate Ford Train when we first meet him, haha!  Ford eventually won me over though because it’s clear that he cares about and respects Corrie even in the face of their long-standing rivalry.

Corrie was truly the star of the show in this book. I loved watching her prove what a badass she is over and over again.  One of the other characters in the book refers to her as Lara Croft and I thought that comparison was perfect!  Ford is a great character too, much more sensitive than I was expecting him to be and clearly dealing with some issues of his own that are weighing him down.  I really enjoyed watching Corrie and Ford interact.  It’s clear that they have some pretty sizzling chemistry and I loved watching them work together, growing closer with each passing day, all the while trading some pretty hilarious banter because they’re both so darned competitive and can’t resist trying to outdo one another.

If you like a bit of action and adventure to balance out the romance and the more emotional moments of a story, you’ll definitely enjoy the actual expedition, which has plenty of twists, turns, excitement and danger to keep things interesting and keep Ford and Corrie on their toes.

Raiders of the Lost Heart is a fun, sexy read that also has a lot of heart. I loved it and look forward to reading more from Jo Segura.  If you like adventure romcoms, badass STEM heroines, enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity romances, you’re going to want to pick up a copy of this one.

Thanks so much to Kristin Cipolla from Berkley Romance for the invitation to take part in this blog tour!

four-half-stars

About Jo Segura

Jo lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and needy, but lovable, doggo Henrik (Swedish Vallhund—look it up, they’re adorable).

Her favorite season is Fall, though the color change in the PNW isn’t quite as beautiful as it is in her home state of Ohio. Jo loves cooking, though her favorite thing to eat (aside from potato chips) is pho, which she’s unsuccessfully tried to make three times. Her drink of choice is either a Gibson or a Bloody Mary, though lately she’s been experimenting with mezcal. She also loves puzzles, hiking, and karaoke.

Jo’s stories feature strong, passionate heroines and draw upon aspects of her life, such as her love of good food and great cocktails, dancing, her Mexican heritage, and her fascination with archaeology which inspired her debut romcom, RAIDERS OF THE LOST HEART, to be released December of 2023 by Berkley Romance.

Jo is represented by Eva Scalzo of the Speilburg Literary Agency.

Thriller Thursday Review: #CrimeTime

 

Hey everyone, Sharon here with a bonus edition of Thriller Thursday. This week I am reviewing an audio original called, #CrimeTime, written by Jeneva Rose and Drew Payne.  This book is different from the mystery/thrillers I normally read and review. #CrimeTime is a comedic mystery and I have never laughed so much with reading a mystery/thriller. Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Audio for my complimentary copy of this book.

 

Thriller Thursday Review: #CrimeTime#CrimeTime Goodreads

Author: Jeneva Rose and Drew Pyne

Publication Date: December 12, 2023

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

#CrimeTime is an audio original, written by Jeneva Rose and her husband, Drew Payne. The story is taken from a true-life event that happened in their apartment building, which they explain at the end of the book. And I have to say I loved the banter they had while explaining these events as much as I enjoyed the book itself.

Nadiya is a crime novelist, who writes under a pen name and enjoys her privacy. She has worked hard to keep her life private, but when she finds out she has a half-brother, Chase, through a DNA site, her private existence is about to go very public. Chase is an aspiring TikTok star and has come to Chicago to get to know his sister. He has been crashing at Nadiya’s place until he can get on his feet. When the apartment upstairs is burglarized, Chase decides to film it and post the videos on his TikTok channel. Overnight Chase’s videos have gone viral and at the same time they have put Nadiya and Chase’s lives in danger. With dirty cops and organized crime now after them, Nadiya has to turn to the one person she has not spoken to in almost twenty years, Nadiya and Chase’s father, Viktor. What follows is a comedic mystery that I didn’t want to end.

OMG Guys! This book was so fun to listen to. I loved the back-and-forth banter between Nadiya and Chase. I laughed out loud so many times. As annoying as Chase was with his videoing everything for TikTok, he was also just so funny. Chase was immature and said and did whatever came to his mind, while Nadiya was mature and levelheaded. I loved how their different personalities interacted and balanced each other out, as well as adding so much humor to this story.

I think the cast did an amazing job and brought each character to life. The main narrators were Jennifer Damiano, who voiced Nadiya and Abelardo Campuzano, who voiced Chase.  I also loved Phil Thron, who voiced Viktor, he had me laughing many times as well. There were so many other voices for the secondary cast that were awesome as well.  And I loved all of the sound effects. From the fart sounds (yes farts, Lol!) of Nadiya’s dog, Winston, to doors opening and closing, footsteps, gun shots and to police sirens (FYI, be careful if you are listening in your car as I did. I thought for sure those sirens were real. LOL!). These sound effects made the story feel like I was watching it and just really rounded the whole story out and added to my enjoyment.

I really cannot say much about what happens in the story as that would spoil things. But this was a cute mystery that had a few twists and turns. Some I saw coming, some I did not. I will say though, I was getting a little nervous at the end of the book.

I would so not be opposed if #CrimeTime became an audio book series. I would love to have more stories and continue to follow, Nadiya, Chase, and Viktor.   4 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Audio in exchange for my honest review.

Romance Review – THE FAKE MATE by Lana Ferguson @berkleyromance

Romance Review – THE FAKE MATE by Lana Ferguson @berkleyromanceThe Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on December 5, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

 

Thank you so much to Berkley Romance for the free e-copy of The Fake Mate and to Kristin Cipolla for the invitation to take part in the blog tour for this book!

I had never read a shifter romance prior to The Fake Mate, but after reading and loving Lana Ferguson’s spicy debut, The Nanny, I knew I wanted my first experience reading about shifters to be written by her.  I made the right decision too.  Not only is it a shifter romance, but it also features two of my favorite tropes, fake dating and grumpy-sunshine so I was definitely in my happy place reading this one.

The story follows Mackenzie (Mack) Carter and Noah Taylor, two wolf shifters who also happen to be doctors working at the same hospital. After a long string of disastrous dates, Mack has decided she is done with men for a while but is constantly having to dodge her grandmother, who is determined to find Mack a husband. As much as Mack loves her grandmother, she can’t take it anymore and during one particularly awkward conversation with her, blurts out that she is seeing Noah Taylor, the first man who happens to walk by while she is talking and absolutely the last man she would actually want to date. Desperate times call for desperate measures though, right?

Noah is dealing with a similarly sticky situation. He has hidden the fact that he is an Alpha male for years because of the stigma that surrounds that designation.  When someone sends an anonymous tip to the hospital board, Noah has to either come clean to the board and risk his future or else convince them that he is nothing to worry about because he has a mate.  When Mack approaches him to see if he would be willing to help her out, Noah, although shocked, reluctantly agrees since it sounds like this arrangement could solve both of their problems.

This was such a fun romance to read! Ferguson does a fabulous job with both the grumpy-sunshine and the fake dating tropes. I loved the initial snarky banter between the two of them and thoroughly enjoyed watching them get under each other’s skin.  My favorite part of a fake dating relationship is when those fake feelings give way to something real and Ferguson handled this aspect so well. I adored watching Mack and Noah really start to open up to one another. That bond of trust that starts to build up between them is everything and I just ate it up!

The Fake Mate is full of humor and heart, as well as a heavy dose of spicy shifter love. It was everything I hoped my first time reading a shifter romance would be and more!

 

four-stars

About Lana Ferguson

Lana Ferguson is a sex-positive nerd whose works never shy from spice or sass.

When she isn’t writing—you can find her randomly singing show tunes, arguing over which Batman is superior, and subjecting her friends to the extended editions of Lord of the Rings.

Lana lives mostly in her own head, but can sometimes be found chasing her corgi through the coppice of the great American outdoors.

Lana hopes to give the world all sorts of sexy stories between two dummies sharing a single brain cell—but until then: practice safe text, use commas.

Lana is represented by actual angel and anxiety-wrangling aficionado, Jessica Watterson at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Lana’s profile art was designed by mooncrabdesigns.

Romance Reviews: Enemies-to-Lovers Edition

Happy Friday everyone! The work week after a holiday always feel extremely long to me but thankfully it’s finally over. We also just made it through our last big work deadline of the year so I’m looking forward to having some downtime between now and the end of the year.  Even though I’ve been busy, I’ve still been reading as much as possible and this past week, I dove into some of my most anticipated enemies-to-lovers romance reads.  I’m sharing my thoughts on them today and hope you’ll come away with some new books to add to your TBR. 🙂

 

Romance Reviews: Enemies-to-Lovers EditionNext-Door Nemesis Goodreads

Author: Alexa Martin

Publication Date: November 14, 2023

Publisher: Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e- copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I always know I’m in for a good time when I pick up one of Alexa Martin’s novels and that was definitely the case with her latest, Next-Door Nemesis.  Who knew a romance between rival candidates for a homeowner’s association presidency could be so entertaining?  Not me, but man, did I laugh my way all the way through this book!

Collins Carter is a television writer who is going through a rough patch and has moved back in with her parents for a while so that she can regroup.  She’s not thrilled about being back in the neighborhood she couldn’t wait to get away from, especially since she keeps running into Nate, her archnemesis from high school, who is now also running for president of her parent’s neighborhood HOA and the culprit behind a recent unjustified complaint her parents received. Collins, who I loved because she’s so sassy and strong-willed, isn’t having it and decides to run against Nate.

All Nate Adams wants is a quiet life in his nice neighborhood.  He figures the best way to make that happen is to become President of his neighborhood’s HOA.  He is not excited to learn that obnoxious Collins has come back to town and he is furious when she announces that she is running against him. Needless to say, the gloves come off!

Both Collins and Nate are ultra-competitive and it is hilarious watching the two of them go after this presidency so hard.  There are endless over-the-top antics and shenanigans along the way, until they finally start to catch feelings for one another. Martin’s dialogue in these scenes is just so smart and fun, and I actually live in a neighborhood that has an HOA so I found the antics and the drama all the more relatable and entertaining.

If you’re looking for a romantic read that is pure fun from start to finish, be sure to check out Next-Door Nemesis. 4.5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: Enemies-to-Lovers EditionDo Your Worst Goodreads

Author: Rosie Danan

Publication Date: November 14, 2023

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e- copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I was drawn to Rosie Danan’s new romance Do Your Worst because it features a fun and unexpected enemies-to-lovers pairing, an occult expert and an archaeologist.  Danan is such a great storyteller and I couldn’t wait to see what she was going to do with these characters. I was not disappointed either!

Riley Rhodes comes from a long line of curse breakers and while most of her family has shied away from their talent for dealing with the supernatural, Riley decides to turn it into a legitimate business.  When she is hired to break a curse on an infamous Scottish castle, she expects that she’ll be flying solo the entire trip and is pleasantly surprised when she meets Clark, a handsome archaeologist at a pub soon after her arrival.  They hit it off quite well until Clark learns who she is and why she is in Scotland.  It turns out that Clark is actually surveying the same site.  He is reeling from a professional scandal that has tanked his reputation and feels this new job is his one shot at redemption.  When he learns that Riley is a curse breaker, he assumes that she is running some kind of scam and tries to get her fired.  Needless to say, sparks fly!

I love a good enemies-to-lovers story and had a really good time with this one, especially since the cursed castle seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to Riley and Clark.  Somehow no matter how much the two of them try to stay far away from one another, they keep ending up together and can’t understand why.  The snarky banter between them was hilarious, and oh boy, the steam once they finally stop trying to resist one another was off the charts! I also really loved the book’s setting. It doesn’t get much more atmospheric than a Scottish castle with paranormal vibes!

Do Your Worst is the perfect choice for readers who enjoy stories that are full of adventure, spice, snark, and a dash of the paranormal. 4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: Enemies-to-Lovers EditionWoke Up Like This Goodreads

Author: Amy Lea

Publication Date: September 5, 2023

Publisher:  Mindy’s Book Studio

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e- copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Imagine being 17 years old and planning for your senior prom one minute and waking up to find that you’re 30 years old and about to marry your high school archnemesis. That’s the premise of Amy Lea’s latest book Woke Up Like This, and boy is it a good time!

I’m a huge enemies to lovers fan and have also been loving time loop romances lately, so this book really called to me.  I’ve not read one before where both main characters ended up traveling through time together so I really appreciated Lea’s unique approach to an otherwise familiar concept.  I also really enjoyed the way these characters are portrayed. Even though they supposedly cannot stand each other, Charlotte and J.T. are forced to rely on one another since they are each other’s only constant as they navigate their future lives.  It was a lot of fun watching them try to puzzle out how in the world they could have possibly ended up engaged to be married at the age of 30 based on the hostile nature of the relationship between their 17-year-old selves. And of course, it’s just chef’s kiss watching their feelings for one another start to change the more they are forced to hang out together.

There’s definitely a theme in this story about the importance of slowing down to appreciate all of life’s moments versus just always speeding ahead to the next milestone. Even with that message though, I’d still say Woke Up Like This is a great choice if you’re looking for a fun and light read that you can breeze through in a few hours.  4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Stranger Upstairs & Christmas Presents

 

Hi, Sharon back with another edition of Thriller Thursday.  I hope those who celebrated Thanksgiving had a great day. And even though it is now the festive holiday season, in my heart it is always spooky season. 😀  This week I have Lisa M. Matlin’s debut novel, The Stranger Upstairs and Lisa Unger’s, Christmas Presents (see incorporating festive and spooky in my readings LOL).

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Stranger Upstairs & Christmas PresentsThe Stranger Upstairs Goodreads

Author: Lisa M. Matlin

Publication Date: September 26, 2023

Publisher: Bantam

The Stranger Upstairs is Lisa M. Matlin’s debut novel and what a debut it was.  The Stranger Upstairs was a creepy thriller that had an Amityville Horror vibe. I borrowed this book from the library, but I am definitely going to be buying a copy to have in my collection.

Forty years ago, Black Wood House was the scene of a brutal murder/suicide. Bill Campbell bludgeoned his wife Susan to death with a hammer. He then went to kill his daughter Janet, but she was able to run from the house and escape. Bill then committed suicide. No one knows where Janet is, as she has not been seen in forty years. Black Wood House has sat decaying all this time, until social media influencer Sarah Slade buys the house and plans to fix it up and then resell it. Not long after she and her husband move in, strange things start to happen. The new wallpaper they put up in the bedroom just falls off, Sarah is hearing footsteps in the attic, and she has started receiving threatening notes. With each day, Sarah’s life spirals out of control, and she becomes convinced that someone is trying to kill her.  But who? Her husband, her neighbors, or the house itself?

WOW! I don’t even know how to explain how good and creepy this book was without giving anything away. I think Matlin did an amazing job of bringing Black Wood House to life. At times I actually felt like it was another character in the book. The more that Sarah spiraled out of reality, the more she thought the house was talking to her and feeding off her anger. And I was convinced as well. I got chills so many times while I was reading this book.

Sarah was a very complex character, and she had a lot of secrets.  I liked her, but then again, I didn’t like her. LOL!  As her secrets were revealed I moved to the “didn’t like her” end, but then when I learned more about her childhood, I moved to the “I like her” end. When things started progressing in the book and Sarah started going off the deep end, I had no idea what to believe.  I have to say I loved Sarah’s cat, Reaper. What a cool name. Reaper can feel the vibes the house is giving off. When Reaper gets sick, Sarah is positive one of her neighbor’s poisoned him. But then Sarah starts getting sick as well. Is it the house or is someone breaking in and torturing her?

By the end of the book, I could not read fast enough. I just had to find out what was really going on and how this would end. I thought the book was going one way, but then Matlin threw in some twists and took it in a direction I so did not anticipate. If you are looking for a creepy thriller that will give you goose bumps and make you look over your shoulder, then I recommend Lisa M. Matlin’s, The Stranger Upstairs.  4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Stranger Upstairs & Christmas PresentsChristmas Presents Goodreads

Author: Lisa Unger

Publication Date: October 24, 2023

Publisher: Mysterious Press

I love Lisa Unger’s books, so when I saw her new book, Christmas Presents, I knew I had to read it. What better way to kick off the holiday season than with a mystery that takes place around Christmas.

Ten years ago, just before Christmas, Madeline Martin was attacked by her boyfriend, Evan Handy. Madeline survived, but her best friend Steph did not. Also, on that night two of Madeline’s other friends, sisters Ainsley and Sam Wallace went missing. Evan was convicted of killing Steph and has always been suspected in the disappearance of Ainsley and Sam. Madeline’s father, Sherrif James Martin, has been obsessed with finding the girls right up until he had a stroke a few months ago. Madeline now owns a local bookstore, The Next Chapter Bookshop, and while she has tried to move on with her life, this time of year always brings back the memories of that night. When Harley Granger, a true-crime podcaster, comes into the bookstore one night just before Christmas, he tells Madeline he is doing a podcast on the cold case of missing Ainsley and Sam. Madeline wants nothing to do with the podcast, that is until Harley tells her that in the past ten years, three other woman have gone missing in the area, most recently a young exotic dancer named Lolly. With Evan in jail, who has taken these women and are they connected to Ainsley and Sam’s disappearance?

The story is told from the POV of Madeline, both in the present and we also get snippets of her remembering the events that lead up to the night Evan killed Step and attacked her. We also get the POV of Harley as he works on the podcast and tries to find clues that will lead to finding out what happened to the missing women. And we get the POV of Lolly, the last woman that went missing. I loved how Lisa Unger set the story this way. Each chapter and POV just added to the mystery of what was going on.

Unger did a great job in creating the characters in this story. I really liked Madeline. She was such a strong character.  She harbors a lot of guilt over Steph’s death and is just trying to get on with her life. But when she finds out that other women have gone missing and they could be connected to Ainsley and Sam, she works with her childhood friend Badger and together they use sheriff Martin’s files to try and figure out who is responsible for these disappearances.

Harley Granger was a character I loved to hate. He was not a bad guy per se, but his approach on his podcast just shed him in a sort of bad light for me. I really liked getting Lolly’s chapters. Those just gave me the chills, knowing she is being held captive, but not knowing what her fate is going to be.

If you are looking for a Christmas themed mystery with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, then check out Lisa Unger’s Christmas Presents4 stars

Reviews: THE GOOD PART & THE PREDICTABLE HEARTBREAKS OF IMOGEN FINCH

 

Happy Monday everyone! Apologies for the lack of posts last week.  I did not realize that when my copy of Iron Flame arrived, it would take over my reading life for nearly two weeks.  I’ll have my review for that up next week and will be playing catch up this week on all of the books I should have been reading and reviewing instead.  For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have a wonderful holiday and for everyone else, I hope you have a great week.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two authors that have consistently turned out excellent reading experiences for me.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read because they write about characters I can relate to and themes that really hit home.

 

Reviews: THE GOOD PART & THE PREDICTABLE HEARTBREAKS OF IMOGEN FINCHThe Good Part Goodreads

Author: Sophie Cousens

Publication Date: November 7, 2023

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley and a complimentary ALC from Penguin Random House Audio.  All opinions are my own.

 

I always enjoy Sophie Cousens’ novels because they are heartwarming stories with themes that tend to really resonate with me.  With its theme of “be careful what you wish for,” Cousens’ latest novel The Good Part is my favorite yet.

Lucy Young is 26 years old and is already just over how her life is going.  She dreams of a career in television but so far has spent most of her time at the station where she works fetching coffee for others, even after earning a promotion to Junior Researcher. To add insult to injury, the job doesn’t even really pay enough for her to live on. Her personal life is just as much of a letdown as her professional one, and after another particularly bad date leaves her stranded near a tiny shop that happens to have a wishing machine in it, Lucy makes a desperate wish to please let her skip to the good part of her life.   When she wakes up the next morning, Lucy is suddenly a forty-something year old married woman with children, and she also has her dream job. Has she skipped to the good part or has she simply missed out on most of her life?

I loved this story in part because it reminded me of several of my favorite movies like Big with Tom Hanks and It’s a Wonderful Life, which both feature that similar glimpse into what an alternate life could be like as well as that theme of be careful what you wish for.  I also loved that this is a story that really makes you think about your own life and whether or not you’ve made it to the good part or would wish to skip over certain parts to, in theory, get to something better.

One of my absolute favorite parts of The Good Part though is watching Lucy’s journey as she navigates this new life she has found herself in. She has no idea if she’ll ever get back to her own life, or if she even wants to, so she decides to embrace where she is and try to make a go of it.  There are of course plenty of humorous missteps along the way, particularly as Lucy adjust to technological advances and such, but it is just so lovely watching her get to know her husband Sam and their children. There is a bit of a romantic element as Lucy begins to really see how her future self could fall for Sam, but that is definitely secondary to Lucy’s journey to find herself.

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, humorous story that will leave you with plenty of food for thought about your own life, I highly recommend The Good Part.  I alternated between the e-book and the audio and thought both versions were excellent.  Kerry Gilbert narrates the audiobook and does a beautiful job capturing all of Lucy’s emotions and really making me all the more invested in her journey.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: THE GOOD PART & THE PREDICTABLE HEARTBREAKS OF IMOGEN FINCHThe Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch Goodreads

Author: Jacqueline Firkins

Publication Date: October 31, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

I’m a sucker for a good second chance romance and Jacqueline Firkins’ new novel The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch is one of the sweetest ones I’ve read in a long time.

When Imogen was younger, her mother tells her that she is cursed to never take first place in anything she does, including in her love life.  Her mom’s prophecies tend to come true, so Imogen isn’t surprised when she loses every sport she plays, every art contest she enters, and she isn’t even surprised when every guy she dates eventually tells her that he has met someone better.  She has come to accept the curse for what it is and to just live with it.  That is, until Eliot, Imogen’s secret crush from high school, unexpectedly returns to town and appears to take an interest in her.  Imogen suddenly finds herself motivated to see if there is a way to break this curse once and for all.

Imogen is an immensely likeable character.  She has a huge heart and is always looking out for others, so everything about the curse just broke my heart and made me so angry on her behalf.  As soon as I saw how much she clearly still had feelings for Eliot, I was rooting so hard for the two of them to find their way to each other.

I also really liked Eliot and that he is Imogen’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to trying to break the curse. He believes that if she can just score one win, in absolutely anything, that everything will change for Imogen and so he makes it his mission to take her around town trying out any possible game and contest from trivia games to corn-shucking contests to try to score that elusive first place.  I loved his determination and I especially enjoyed that it led to so many cute moments between them.  Eliot’s nomadic lifestyle had me a little concerned and angsty that a happily ever after might not be an option, but that did not stop me from hoping.

The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch is a moving story with a hint of magic that while sometimes sad, is ultimately heartwarming and uplifting.  Give it a read and I’m sure Imogen and Eliot will capture your heart just like they did mine.  4 STARS.

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling Girl

 

Hi Everyone, Sharon here wishing you all happy Thriller Thursday! This week I am so excited to share my thoughts on two amazing books I read.  Mary Burton’s awesome psychological thriller, The House Beyond the Dunes and Jennifer McMahon’s great supernatural thriller, My Darling Girl.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling GirlThe House Beyond the Dunes Goodreads

Author: Mary Burton

Publication Date: September 5, 2023

Publisher: Montlake

I have never read anything by Mary Burton, but when Goodreads suggested The House Beyond the Dunes as a book I may like, I decided to give it a read and now I want to check out more of Mary Burton’s books, because Goodreads was on the mark in suggesting this book.

Kyle Iverson brought his new girlfriend, Lane McCord to his secluded beach house to spend the New Year’s weekend and bring their relationship to the next level, but a romantic weekend this was not. An hour after they arrive, both Kyle and Lane fall down a flight of stairs. Lane wakes up in a hospital with multiple bruises, but Kyle died. As Lane tries to make sense of what happened, she is confronted by Detective Becker, who is not so sure that Kyle’s death was an accident. Detective Becker is also investigating the disappearance of two women from nearby Nags Head, both of whom went missing around the July fourth holiday. Lane returns to the beach house to retrieve her belongings and try to understand what happened to make her and Kyle fall, but she learns things about Kyle and realizes she did not know him as well as she thought. Lane is also getting texts messages with copies of a journal from one of the missing women, Stevie Palmer. Who is Stevie Palmer and why is someone sending her journal to Lane? And what really happened at the beach house?

OMG! Guys, I loved this book so much. The story was told from Lane’s POV as well as Stevie’s journal. I loved getting the story this way. I was equally invested in both POV’s. I also loved both Lane and Stevie. They were both strong and determined women.

With Lane’s POV, we follow her as she goes back to the beach house and tries to unravel what happened, as well as trying to figure out who Stevie is and what happened to her. The more she learned about Kyle the more confusing things became. She kept things she learned to herself because she was not sure who to trust. And I was right there with her on that one. Detective Becker came across as very shady to me, so he immediately was on my radar. As was, Reece, the neighbor that called the police after the accident and Devon, the caretaker of the house.

I loved reading Stevie’s journal. Stevie worked as a bartender at a local pub in Nags Head. It is here that she meets the other woman, Nicki, that went missing. Stevie actually took it upon herself to investigate Nicki’s disappearance and I loved that about her. She didn’t really know Nicki, but as she said, “If I don’t look for her, who will?” The further along we got in Stevie’s journal the more things started to come together on how Stevie, Nicki, Kyle, and Lane were all connected. There was one final connection at the end of the book that took me totally by surprise. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

The House Beyond the Dunes is an amazing psychological thriller.  Mary Burton did a great job of creating this story. I was so caught up in the mystery of what happened at the beach house, as well as what happened to Stevie and Nicki, that by the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.  4 ½ stars

Trigger warning: This book does deal with rape. Mary Burton does not get into the details, but it is there.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling GirlMy Darling Girl Goodreads

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date: October 3, 2023

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press

I love Jennifer McMahon’s books and how they deal with the supernatural. So, what better time to read her latest book, My Darling Girl, than spooky season.  This book is set around Christmas, so I got all my holiday vibes in one reading. LOL!

Alison O’Connor lives in Vermont with her husband, Mark, and their two children, sixteen-year-old Izzy, and six-year-old Olivia. Alison is estranged from her mother Mavis. Alison and her brother suffered abuse from their mother when they were children. Alison has put her past behind her, but then she gets a call from Mavis’ assistant that will turn her life upside down. Mavis is in the hospital with cancer and only has a few weeks left to live, and she wants to move in with Alison and spend her last few weeks with her and her family. Alison is reluctant at first, but after talking it over with Mark, who knows the whole story of her childhood, they agree to take Mavis in. But not long after Mavis moves in, things start to happen and Alison is forced to revisit her childhood and she discovers that her mother is not who she seems to be and their family’s happy Christmas season is turned into a nightmare. How far will Alison go to keep her family safe?

Not long after Mavis moves in strange things start to happen, but they only seem to happen when Alison is around. Mavis is sweet as pie when anyone else is around, but when she is alone with Alison her demeanor changes. And Mavis knows things that Alison did as a child that no one should know. Alison starts to wonder if her mother is possessed by an evil entity. I was right there with Alison, especially when their dog Moxie would not go into Mavis’ room. He would just look inside and growl. To me if a dog does not like you then something is wrong.  After Mavis’ assistant dies in a car accident, Alison is forced to return to her childhood home to retrieve important documents and it is here that Alison finds her mother’s journal and she knows that something has a hold on Mavis and once Mavis dies this evil being will want a new host. Alison is now in a race against time to figure out how to keep this evil being from destroying her family.

I loved all the characters in this book. I loved how Alison was willing to do anything to protect her family. Even when her husband thought she was going over the deep end and wouldn’t believe Mavis was possessed, she still pushed forward and confronted her past. Little Olivia was such a cutie pie and she loved getting to know her grandmother, which scared me and Alison.

WOW! My Darling Girl was an awesome read. While not super scary, it had that underlining creepiness to it, and I loved that. McMahon did a great job of bringing the eeriness and supernatural forces to life. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading. And the end! OMG! I did not expect that ending. Well done Jennifer McMahon, well done!   4 ½ stars

Reviews: LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVE

 

Happy Monday everyone! Knock on wood, but I think I finally have the commenting issue resolved on the blog.  Some research and hours of troubleshooting eventually revealed the issue to be a bad update to a plugin I was using and as soon as I deactivated it, the comments started flowing in again.  I’m not a tech savvy person so it was very frustrating to say the least, as I would have much rather been spending all of that time visiting your blogs instead of trying to figure out why mine was trying to implode, lol.  Anyway, I’m back in business now and I’m also back with two reviews I meant to post last week.  Both of these books are out in the wild now, so if you like the sound of them, you can grab copies today!

 

Reviews:  LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVELove Interest Goodreads

Author: Clare Gilmore

Publication Date: October 10, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

Set in Manhattan at a magazine publishing firm, Clare Gilmore’s debut novel Love Interest follows Casey Maitland, a 24 year old finance expert who has decided to spread her wings and apply for a project manager position at her company.  Her aspirations for this new career path are dashed, however, when she is passed over and the job is given to Alex Harrison, who happens to be the Chairman of the Board’s son and who also happens to be the mysterious hot guy Casey had an adorable meet cute with before she realized they were vying for the same position.  Alex is well educated, charming, and is immediately well liked by everyone at the company, except for Casey, that is, who can’t stand him.  Everything changes, however, when the two of them are forced to work on a project together.

I really enjoyed Love Interest.  Gilmore’s writing is wonderful, and I especially enjoyed her character development as Casey and Alex slowly begin to open up to one another about their dreams and aspirations. I loved how open and trusting they became with one another, and I especially liked the growth we see in Casey as she realized she has unfairly misjudged Alex, who turns out to be serious book boyfriend material!  Some of the workplace scenes weren’t the most entertaining, but the chemistry Gilmore creates between Casey and Alex nicely balances that out and keeps the story flowing smoothly.

Love Interest is a delightful workplace romance that is sure to please fans of the rivals-to-lovers and forced proximity tropes. 4 STARS

 

Reviews:  LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVEFriends Don't Fall in Love Goodreads

Author: Erin Hahn

Publication Date: October 17, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

Erin Hahn’s latest novel Friends Don’t Fall in Love is a friends-to-lovers romance set against the backdrop of the country music industry in Nashville. I enjoyed Hahn’s book Built to Last so much that I requested this one for review without reading the synopsis, so it was a wonderful surprise to realize we were going to revisit my favorite characters from Built to Last.

This story follows Lorelai Jones, a country music superstar who fell from grace when she performed a protest song in support of gun control at a concert. Five years later she decides to mount a comeback and reaches out to the one man who has always been in her corner, her best friend Craig (or Huck as she calls him), who also happens to be a successful music producer.

Huck has issues of his own that he’s dealing with, including a former bandmate who refuses to give him credit for songs that Huck wrote for him.  But no matter what Huck is dealing with, he has never been able to say no to Lorelai. In fact, he has been quietly in love with her for years.  It is this complicated dynamic between Lorelai and Huck that really made this an excellent read for me.  Hahn presents their relationship through both present-day scenes and flashbacks to show just how layered and complicated things are between them and I loved watching their relationship unfold this way and seeing Lorelai slowly wake up to what has been right in front of her all along.

Huck is an absolute cinnamon roll and I adored him, and I’ll always root for an underdog so Lorelai and her comeback story really appealed to me as well.  The presence of the gun control debate and the cancel culture that surrounds it was right on the edge of being too much for me since I read romance to escape things like that, but thankfully Lorelai and Huck’s personal journey was enough to keep the story enjoyable for me. I also really appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at the country music industry.

If slow-burn, friends to lovers romances are your vibe, you’re going to want to pick up a copy of Friends Don’t Fall in Love. 4 STARS