Review: THE SHAPE OF NIGHT by Tess Gerritsen

Review:  THE SHAPE OF NIGHT by Tess GerritsenThe Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen
three-half-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on October 1, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT Review

 

I’ve been a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s novels for years, especially her Rizzoli and Isles thriller series, so when I saw she had a new novel coming out, The Shape of Night, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

The Shape of Night is set in a remote coastal town in Maine where the protagonist, food writer Ava Collette, has rented a house, in hopes of escaping her troubles so that she can focus on finishing her latest cookbook, which is way overdue to her publishers.  The home, Brodie’s Watch, is named after its original owner Captain Jeremiah Brodie, who died at sea over 150 years ago. When Ava firsts arrives at Brodie’s Watch, the outside does not look at all like the quiet, peaceful spot she was hoping for.  Instead, it actually looks quite menacing and unwelcoming.  Once inside, however, it’s exactly what Ava was hoping for and so she settles in quickly, feeling at peace with the place.

That is, until she starts feeling like she’s being watched.  And not only that, she also starts hearing strange noises and seeing things at night that have her questioning her own sanity.  When she also starts to find random personal items that clearly belonged to the prior tenant, Ava contacts her realtor to see about forwarding the items to the prior tenant and to try to get some answers about the house.  The realtor gives her the runaround at first but then finally admits that the prior tenant left very abruptly and without explanation. Unsatisfied with the answers she is given, Ava starts to do some digging to learn as much as she can about the house and its prior owners.  What she finds regarding the prior owners is not only incredibly disturbing, but it could actually end up costing Ava her life.

While The Shape of Night is quite different from those Rizzoli and Isles novels I love so much because it features a paranormal element, it still kept me on the edge of my seat with the riveting mystery of what is going on at Brodie’s Watch.  I was very engrossed in the mystery of the house and whether or not it was actually haunted, and so found Ava’s investigation very entertaining.  I was also very invested in the character of Ava and wanted to know more about what had happened in her personal life to have her fleeing to such a remote location and avoiding phone calls from her friends and family.

I also loved the creepy, atmospheric, almost Gothic feel that Brodie’s Watch has at night and all of the supernatural touches that Gerritsen has added.  Ava’s paranoia about what she was experiencing was also quite contagious and had me looking over my own shoulder to make sure no one was watching me!

All in all, this was a gripping read that I was able to fly through in just a couple of sittings.  My only real issue with the book was that there were some sexual scenes in the book that I could have done without. They didn’t really add anything to the storyline and were a little more graphic than necessary, veering into BDSM territory.  Even with that issue though, it was definitely still a very solid read for me.

If you’re into mysteries and/or paranormal stories, Tess Gerritsen’s The Shape of Night may be exactly the book you’re looking for.  It’s a perfect read for fall!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A woman trying to outrun her past is drawn to a quiet coastal town in Maine–and to a string of unsolved murders–in this haunting tale of romantic suspense from New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen.

Ava Collette is punishing herself for an unspeakable tragedy. So she flees Boston and rents an old home named Brodie’s Watch on a remote coastal peninsula of Maine, hoping to work on a cookbook inspired by New England cuisine that she’s been trying to finish for months. She immediately feels at peace in the isolated house–until she starts to hear strange noises.

Rumor has it that a sea captain named Brodie has haunted the house for decades. Then, one night, Ava is awakened to find herself face to face with an apparition who looks–and feels–all too real. Meanwhile, there’s been a series of accidental deaths nearby that don’t add up. And as Ava starts to check into the previous renter’s mysterious disappearance, she starts to realize that there’s a disturbing secret some in town are desperate to keep hidden.

Soon all of Ava’s waking hours are consumed by her investigation, and her nights are ignited by Captain Brodie’s ghostly visits. But even as she questions her own sanity, she knows she must uncover the truth before a killer strikes again.

three-half-stars

About Tess Gerritsen

Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

Tess’s first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Her suspense novels since then have been: Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), and The Bone Garden (2007). Her books have been translated into 31 languages, and more than 15 million copies have been sold around the world.

As well as being a New York Times bestselling author, she has also been a #1 bestseller in both Germany and the UK. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon.) Critics around the world have praised her novels as “Pulse-pounding fun” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “Scary and brilliant” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “Polished, riveting prose” (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the “medical suspense queen”.

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

Review: ROYAL HOLIDAY by Jasmine Guillory

Review:  ROYAL HOLIDAY by Jasmine GuilloryRoyal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4) by Jasmine Guillory
three-half-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #4
Published by BERKLEY on October 1, 2019
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Holiday
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

ROYAL HOLIDAY Review

 

Royal Holiday is the fourth book in Jasmine Guillory’s popular romance series, The Wedding Date.  I actually haven’t read the first three books in the series but requested this one from Netgalley because I was in the mood for a holiday romance and I loved that this story is set in London and has royalty in it.

The synopsis promises a charming and fun holiday romance and it really delivers.  I especially loved that the main characters, Vivian Forest and Malcom Hudson are a more mature couple.  Vivian is in her fifties and is visiting England for the first time with her daughter, Maddie, who is there for work.  Maddie works as a stylist and has been tasked with styling a duchess over the holidays. What this means for both Maddie and Vivian is that they will actually be staying in a royal household. Talk about a bucket list trip for Vivian!  Almost as soon as she arrives at the royal residence, Vivian finds herself face to face with the handsome and very charming Malcolm, who is about her age and who works as the private secretary to the Queen of England.

Vivian and Malcolm hit it off right away.  I thought their time together was just so sweet.  Malcolm takes her on several special sightseeing dates because he wants to make her trip as special as possible.  Both Vivian and Malcolm haven’t had the best of luck in the relationship department so this second chance at love for both of them really warmed my heart.

About the only thing that would have made this an even more satisfying read would have been if I had felt a little more strongly about Vivian and Malcolm and their long-term prospects as a couple. As I moved through the story, however, I found myself feeling content however the author chose to end the story.  If it was just a holiday fling that ended as soon as Vivian went back home to America, fine. And if it ended with the two of them together, making a go of a long-distance relationship, fine.  I like to feel a little more invested in a relationship than that.  Regardless though, it really was a sweet story reading about their dates and watching them flirt with each other a little more each day.

Royal Holiday actually reminded me of one of those heartwarming Hallmark Christmas movies that are so popular every year.  If you like second chance romances and you’re looking for a charming little Christmas story to get you in the holiday spirit and put a smile on your face, Royal Holiday is your book.

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal and “rising star in the romance genre” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a dazzling new novel about a spontaneous holiday vacation that turns into an unforgettable romance.

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day. . .or are they?

three-half-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Review: 29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan

Review:  29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan29 Seconds by T.M. Logan
Also by this author: Lies
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 10, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 SECONDS Review

 

Wow, what a book! T.M. Logan’s latest novel 29 Seconds follows Dr. Sarah Haywood, who is a contracted member of a university faculty.  Sarah is a shining star in her department, but one person stands in the way of her getting the permanent position with the university she so desperately desires…her boss.  Alan Hawthorne, an esteemed professor and a TV host to boot, is a pig. He’s so awful that the women who work with him have an established set of rules as to how to interact with him, with the number one rule being to never, ever be alone with him.  He dangles promotions in exchange for sexual favors or threatens to ruin careers if a woman chooses not to participate in such acts.

When the novel opens, Sarah is clearly in Hawthorne’s crosshairs and he is making her life a living hell every day with endless uncomfortable encounters and veiled threats.  The workplace is completely toxic but any woman who leaves the staff finds herself black-listed in the academic world, also courtesy of Hawthorne.  The author does a wonderful job of making Sarah a sympathetic character.  She’s clearly the underdog in an impossible situation and I was immediately rooting for her to find a way to beat this monster and get that promotion.

A chance encounter with another powerful and dangerous man presents her with the unexpected opportunity to make one person disappear.  It’s the answer to Sarah’s prayers, but can she really bring herself to do it?  This moral dilemma that Sarah faces is the most compelling element of the story for me, and it’s what makes the novel so suspenseful.  Will she or won’t she?  How far can Hawthorne push and threaten her before she snaps?

I loved reading Sarah’s internal thoughts as she struggled with her decision.  She’s so tempted but she’s also flat out horrified at herself for even considering it.  I can’t even imagine working for such a monster that such a thing would be a temptation, but at the same time, the whole situation had me a little surprised and horrified at myself because I found myself kind of hoping she would just go for it.  It really gave me something to think about and I love it when a book can do that.

T.M. Logan’s 29 Seconds is a wild ride! I devoured it in less than 24 hours. Filled with suspense and exciting twists and turns, it’s a book I simply could not put down until I knew how it was going to end.  And what an ending it is! I totally did not see it coming, which for me, is the hallmark of a great thriller.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear . . .

When Sarah rescues a young girl in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid – in the only way he knows how.

He offers Sarah a way to solve a desperate situation with her intolerable boss. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out.

All it takes is a 29 second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

four-stars

About T.M. Logan

Tim was born in Berkshire and studied at Queen Mary and Cardiff universities before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently writes full-time and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children. LIES is his first novel – published by Bonnier Zaffre in January 2017. His next thriller, 29 SECONDS, comes out in January 2018 and is currently available to pre-order. For exclusive writing and new releases from TM Logan, sign up to the Readers’ Club: www.bit.ly/TMLogan.

Review: AKIN by Emma Donoghue

Review:  AKIN by Emma DonoghueAkin by Emma Donoghue
Also by this author: Room
four-half-stars
on September 10, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AKIN Review

 

Emma Donoghue is an auto-buy author for me. I fell in love with the way she crafts her stories when I read her best-known novel, Room, and have immensely enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read since.  It was therefore a given that I would request a review copy of Akin, her latest novel.  I was a little nervous since I always hype her books up in my head and then worry they won’t live up to my expectations, but my worries were alleviated as soon as I read the first page and was immediately drawn into the life of the quirky protagonist, Noah Selvaggio.

Noah is a seventy-nine year old retired professor who is about to embark on a trip to the South of France, where he was born.  It’s a trip he has been meaning to take for years, but now that he’s a widower and nearing 80, he knows his time is running out.  While getting his affairs in order for the trip, he is contacted unexpectedly by a representative from Child Services, informing him that his 11 year old great nephew is in danger of being separated from his family if he doesn’t have a relative that he can move in with immediately.  Michael’s mother is in prison, his father is deceased, and no other relatives are able or willing to take him at this time.  Noah has never had any contact with Michael – they are strangers to each other – but after much consideration, he agrees to take him in on a temporary basis.  When he finally meets Michael, he is immediately faced with a mouthy pre-teen who curses like a sailor and who does everything he can to be as uncooperative as possible.  Noah is resigned to the situation though and so this unlikely duo sets off for Nice, France together.

Much of Akin explores the evolving relationship between Noah and Michael, and I just loved every minute of this.  Donoghue has the entire story unfold from Noah’s perspective so we’re in his head as he, who never had children of his own, tries to navigate the minefield of parenthood while dealing with a child who is clearly lashing out because he is in a situation that isn’t of his own making.  Noah is practically walking a tightrope trying to gently parent the child, but without overstepping his boundaries, and it’s very challenging every step of the way.  I really loved watching this pair get to know each other, and I thought Donoghue did a brilliant job of authentically depicting the relationship, with all of its inevitable ups and downs.  They have their fair share of tender moments and frustrating moments, but there are also plenty of laugh out loud moments along the way.

While that relationship is the driving force behind the novel, Donoghue adds a fabulous subplot that I thought just really took the book to another level.  While Noah is preparing for his trip to France, he comes across a packet of old photos in some of his mother’s belongings.  They’re unusual photos that don’t make sense to Noah, but he can see they were taken in France during the 1940’s, so he decides to bring them along to see if the opportunity to learn more about them presents itself.  Noah doesn’t know where to even begin, but his technologically savvy great nephew comes in very handy and helps him identify a hotel in one of the photos.  The hotel, as it turns out, was a headquarters of sorts for the Nazis during WWII.  It was where they brought Jews and other prisoners before shipping them off to Drancy and then to Auschwitz.  I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially WWII fiction, so this angle of the story just sucked me right in, especially as it became clear that Noah’s mother had played an active role in the war.  What wasn’t so clear, however, was what side she was on, Resistance or Nazi collaborator.  Noah becomes obsessed with trying to figure out what his mother’s role was because he’s starting to feel as if he never really knew his mother at all. Michael is equally curious since this woman would have been his great grandmother, and so the two of them work as a team to learn the truth.

Emma Donoghue’s Akin is just such a wonderful read on so many levels.  The mystery regarding Noah’s mother is riveting, but it’s that relationship between Noah and Michael that gives this story such heart.  As its title suggests, Akin is ultimately a beautiful story about what it means to be family.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories that focus on family, to fans of both contemporary and historical fiction, and of course to Emma Donoghue fans, who are sure to love this gem. I think it’s my favorite Donoghue book yet!

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes a young great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets in the next masterpiece from New York Times bestselling author Emma Donoghue.

Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

four-half-stars

About Emma Donoghue

emma donoghue

Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their son and daughter.

Review: THE LONG CALL by Ann Cleeves

Review:  THE LONG CALL by Ann CleevesThe Long Call by Ann Cleeves
four-stars
Series: Two Rivers #1
Published by Minotaur Books on September 3, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long Call is the first book in an exciting new series from award-winning author Ann Cleeves.  I’ve always heard great things about Cleeves’ writing so when I heard she had a new series coming out, I was eager to request a copy and dive right in.  Well, I’m thrilled to report that everything great I’ve heard is 100% accurate.  Set in the small town of North Devon, England, The Long Call grabbed my attention from the opening scene and kept me thoroughly under its spell until the very end.

The protagonist of The Long Call is a police detective named Matthew Venn, and when the story opens, he’s attending his father’s funeral but only from a distance, and he makes no contact whatsoever with any friends or family members who are in attendance.  This drew me in immediately and made me want to know more about Matthew.  He’s clearly an outsider in his family and community and fears that he won’t be welcome at his own father’s funeral.  Within a few short paragraphs, we learn that Matthew grew up in a strict evangelical community until the day he renounced his faith and was ostracized from the Brethren.  He also clearly feels a sense of guilt about everything that transpired and that he and his father didn’t make amends before his death.  I loved the complexity that this whole backstory added to Matthew’s character, especially when the case he is working on forces him to go back and make contact with some of the people from the Brethren, including his mother.

What can sometimes make a crime novel a miss for me is when I don’t feel any kind of connection to the main characters, so I appreciated that Cleeves took so much effort to make Matthew someone I was immediately invested in.  I also loved that in addition to what was going on with Matthew’s family and former church, we also got to see a more intimate side of him as well, as there were domestic scenes between Matthew and his husband, Jonathan.  Jonathan is a great character as well, basically Matthew’s opposite in every way, so it was interesting watching the two of them interact and how their personalities complimented each other.  The author allows us a glimpse into the personal lives of other members of Matthew’s team as well, particularly Detective Jen Rafferty, who is constantly plagued by guilt that she rarely sees her kids because of work.  By the time I reached the end of the novel, I was fully invested in the entire team of detectives and was eager to get my hands on the next book so that I could continue my journey with them.

As I’m sure you’ve deduced by now, even though it’s a murder mystery, The Long Call is a very character driven story.  That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of plot to drive the story as well.  The murder case itself is actually quite riveting.  A man with an albatross tattoo has been found murdered on the beach and it’s up to Matthew and his team to figure out who he is, who murdered him, and why.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’m not going to say too much about that beyond the fact that I loved that the story takes place in such a small town because it made the investigation take all kinds of awkward and potentially uncomfortable twists and turns as friends, neighbors, and even family had to be questioned and considered as possible suspects.  I also loved that Cleeves had several intricate yet seemingly unrelated threads going at the same time and then masterfully had them intertwine for a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.  She really kept me guessing as to who the murderer was all the way until the closing pages.

If a small town setting, a well drawn cast of characters, and a twisty murder mystery sound like they’re up your alley, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of Ann Cleeves’ The Long Call.  It’s an immensely satisfying read.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves—international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—embarks on a gripping new series.
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.

four-stars

About Ann Cleeves

ANN CLEEVES is the multi-million copy bestselling author behind two hit television series—the BBC’s Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall, and ITV’s Vera, starring Academy Award Nominee Brenda Blethyn—both of which are watched and loved in the US. Her brand new Two Rivers series will launch in September 2019, with The Long Call.

Shetland is available in the US on Netflix, Amazon Video, Britbox, and PBS, and Vera is available on Hulu, Amazon Video, BritBox, and PBS.

The first Shetland novel, Raven Black, won the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel, and Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger in 2017. She lives in the UK.

Review: ON THE CORNER OF LOVE AND HATE by Nina Bocci

Review:  ON THE CORNER OF LOVE AND HATE by Nina BocciOn the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci
three-half-stars
Series: Hopeless Romantics #1
Published by Gallery Books on August 20, 2019
Genres: Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE CORNER OF LOVE AND HATE Review

 

I was drawn to Nina Bocci’s new novel On the Corner of Love and Hate as soon as I read the synopsis.  An enemies to lovers romance perfect for fans of Christina Lauren?  That just screams sexy romance with plenty of flirty banter and laugh out loud moments, so yes, sign me up, please!

When the novel opens, we meet the main characters, Emma and Cooper.  They’re coworkers now and were childhood friends, but it becomes immediately clear that they are friends no longer and that Emma is not even remotely a fan of Cooper.  Basically everything Cooper says and does annoys her and he seems to really enjoy that he’s able to annoy Emma so easily. Cooper is also running for mayor of Hope Lake, the small town they live in.  Emma’s dad is currently the mayor but wants to retire and really wants Cooper to follow in his footsteps.  Did I mention that even though Emma hates Cooper, Emma’s parents think he walks on water? So, bottom line, when Emma’s dad encourages her to be Cooper’s campaign manager because his image needs a serious revamp to take him from playboy to golden boy, she feels like she can’t say no.  As I’m sure you can imagine, the sparks immediately fly.

Sounds fun, right?  And for the most part, it was fun.  The writing is light and fun, Emma and Cooper are likeable enough and definitely have chemistry.  Even the witty banter I was hoping for is there.  Even so, however, I still initially struggled to get into the book because I wasn’t really connecting with the characters, especially Emma. Part of it for me was not understanding why Emma has so much hatred for Cooper. Yes, he can be a complete moron sometimes and the fact that he’s a hopeless flirt gets old, but Emma’s hatred of Cooper seemed a little disproportionate to his behavior.  It turns out that there is a reason for the hatred based on something that happened when they were younger, but for the majority of the book, I was just sitting there wondering what had happened and it somewhat tainted my view of Emma until I finally got the answer I was looking for.

Even though I struggled to get into the book at first, there were still plenty of things I enjoyed about it once I got going.  The small town setting was absolutely charming, and the secondary characters were adorable, especially Cooper and Emma’s mutual friends and the elderly citizens who were volunteering on Cooper’s campaign.  Cooper’s opponent in the mayoral race was also great in the role of character you’ll love to hate. I wanted to throttle him a few times along the way.

Between the charming setting, the fun cast of secondary characters, and the evolving dynamic between Emma and Cooper, all I kept thinking while I was reading was that this would make a cute movie or TV series.

In spite of my early struggles with it, I’d still recommend On the Corner of Love and Hate for anyone who enjoys light, fluffy reads, enemies to lovers romances, charming small towns, and local politics with all of its shenanigans.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Christina Lauren and Lauren Layne comes a delightfully sassy and sexy romance about a campaign manager who reluctantly works with the local Lothario to help revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections, only to discover that he’s hiding something that can turn both their lives upside down.

What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like.

When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.

Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

A perfect blend of humor and heart, On the Corner of Love and Hate is the first in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci.

three-half-stars

About Nina Bocci

Nina Bocci is a USA Today bestselling novelist that loves reading and writing about swoony, relatable heroes and smart, witty heroines. If it’s set in a small town, even better. If you’re looking for the shiniest lipgloss, poke her on Twitter or Facebook to ask!

Review: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center

Review:  THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine CenterThings You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
five-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 13, 2019
Genres: Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE Review

 

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, engaging story about family, love, and the power of forgiveness.  It follows Cassie Hanwell, a young woman who unexpectedly has to uproot her life and relocate from Texas to Boston to take care of her ailing mother.  Cassie is a superstar firefighter at her precinct in Texas, but it’s a whole new ballgame when she has to start over in another city.  Then there’s also the fact that Cassie’s mother abandoned her when she was 16 and Cassie has pretty much written her off ever since.  Moving in with her after all these years is awkward, to say the least.

I’m just going to throw it out there right now and say that Things You Save in a Fire was a 5 star read for me.  It’s just one of those wonderful books that checks off all the boxes I look for in a read.  The writing is excellent, the characters are well developed – both the main characters and the secondary characters, and Cassie’s journey is such a compelling one to follow on every level.

I really adored Cassie from the moment we are introduced to her.  Cassie, a female firefighter trying to make it in what is traditionally a male-dominated profession, is impossible not to root for.  She’s one of those messy, complex characters that I love so much.  She’s scrappy, smart, strong, and she’s very good at what she does – the best honestly, and she knows she has to be if she’s going to be taken seriously.  While she’s calm, cool, and collected when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives, she’s the opposite when it comes to all areas of her personal life, especially her rocky relationship with her mother and her non-existent love life.  Cassie has made a conscious choice not to date and not to fall in love.  She doesn’t have the time or interest in doing either…until she meets the Rookie.

Don’t even get me started on how precious the Rookie is.  He’s adorable, like a Golden Retriever in a firefighter’s uniform.  He’s sweet, polite, and he even bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie.  He’s practically perfect in every way that matters and Cassie is finding him pretty hard to resist in spite of her no dating rule. But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Rookie either. He has a few messy layers too, in the form of a secret he has carried around since he was a child that weighs him down, a secret that could potentially crush his father if he were to ever find out.

Aside from really enjoying reading about Cassie and the Rookie individually, I was of course rooting for them to get together.  They were hired at the firehouse on the same day and their chemistry was immediately off the charts.  The more time they spent together, whether it was being tied to a flagpole all night as part of a hazing prank or sharing a late-night omelet (of course cooked to perfection by the Rookie), the more I wanted to scream at Cassie to abandon her no dating rule.

What I loved the most about Things You Save in a Fire is how multi-layered the story was and how every aspect of it was equally compelling.  Aside from loving the Cassie/Rookie relationship as it developed, I also enjoyed reading about the firefighting aspect of it – all of it, the pranks, the actual fighting of fires, the EMT training, and of course how the all male dynamic evolves once they have a woman in their midst.  It was all quite fascinating to read about.  I’m also all about a story that features a complicated family dynamic and that is exactly what I got with Cassie agreeing to move in with her ailing but estranged mother.

As fantastic as all of these elements were though, the themes of Things You Save in a Fire are what really captured my heart.  Yes, it’s a story about a woman making it in a man’s world, but it’s also an incredibly moving story about family and the power of forgiveness.  And finally, and most importantly, it’s a story about strength and finding the courage to let love into your heart.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds.

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

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.

Review: THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins

Review:  THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen HawkinsThe Book Charmer (Dove Pond, #1) by Karen Hawkins
four-stars
Published by Gallery Books on July 30, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK CHARMER Review

 

I have to admit that I requested Karen Hawkins’ latest novel The Book Charmer from Netgalley solely based on the beautiful cover and the fact that it was clearly a book about books.  That combination was irresistible to me, even without having read the synopsis.  Thankfully once I settled down and actually read the synopsis, I knew my instinct to select this book was a good one as it’s marketed as a book perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors.

I found The Book Charmer to be a truly magical read in every sense of the word, and although I feel like I could ramble about this book for days, I’m just going to share a few of the things I enjoyed most.

 

  1. Dove Pond. I adore books that are set in small towns and the town of Dove Pond stole my heart right away. It’s a quaint little southern town located in North Carolina.  It’s one of those little towns where all the residents know each other and make it their business to know about everyone new who comes to their town. They may seem like busybodies on the surface, but the residents will have your back in a heartbeat if you find yourself in trouble.  And yes, the town has its fair share of quirky characters which sometimes made me chuckle, but the sense of community in Dove Pond was overall just truly heartwarming.  It’s like one big happy family.
  1. Grace Wheeler. The Book Charmer features fiercely independent women as its protagonists and Grace Wheeler is one of them.  Grace has moved to Dove Pond and is just taking things day by day, trying to adjust to recent changes in her life that have left her as her niece Daisy’s primary caregiver and in a similar role for her foster mother, Mama G., who is suffering from dementia.  The only reason Grace is in Dove Pond is because it’s where Mama G. grew up and doctors have told her that a familiar environment would help Mama G. cope with her deteriorating memories.  I loved Grace right away  because of her determination to put her family first at all costs and because of her sense of independence.  She is determined to leave Dove Pond as soon as she possibly can and has no interest in putting down permanent roots there, including making friends.  She just simply doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to that.

(As a side note, I also really appreciated how Hawkins handled writing about someone who is experiencing dementia – how it impacts them and how it impacts everyone around them.  As someone who has a family member who is currently suffering from dementia, I found myself nodding my head at what was going on with Mama G. throughout the book.  Hawkins handles this subject matter delicately and accurately).

  1. Sarah Dove. While Grace is doggedly determined to leave Dove Pond as soon as possible, equally stubborn Dove Pond resident, Sarah Dove, has other ideas.  Sarah is the town librarian, which of course endeared her to me right away, because…books! But I also adored Sarah because she was just so adorably quirky.  She also has a special gift when it comes to books – I don’t want to say too much about it, but if you’re in Dove Pond and Sarah gives you a book, it’s definitely in your best interest to take it, whether you think you want to read it or not!  Sarah also has a gift when it comes to knowing what Dove Pond needs and as soon as she meets Grace, she decides Dove Pond needs Grace. Sarah therefore makes it her mission to make Grace fall in love with the town and its residents.
  1. Relationships. At its heart, The Book Charmer is a book about relationships.  It has a strong focus on family, especially found families, and on the importance of friendships (whether you’re looking for them or not).  And yes, for all of the romance fans out there, there is a hint of a romance in the book as well. I don’t want to say much about that either except to say that Trav, the male love interest, is described as looking like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones Yes, please! (And you know I of course loved that this book had GoT references in it!) 
  1. Magical Realism. Sometimes magical realism is hit or miss for me, but it really works in this charming, special little town.  This is where the comparison to Alice Hoffman’s books were so apt because Hawkins’ use of magical realism is subtle like Hoffman’s is and really gives you that feeling that those little magical elements could actually be possible.

  

If you’re looking for a heartwarming read that features a small town setting, lovable characters, and a strong focus on family and friendships, I highly recommend adding Karen Hawkins’ The Book Charmer to your reading list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.

four-stars

About Karen Hawkins

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Karen Hawkins is known for her wonderfully humorous and emotion-tugging historical and contemporary romances. The author of over 30 novels, Karen writes for a living between shopping for shoes, playing around on Facebook and Pinterest, looking for fun items for Hawkins Manor, and napping, although usually not at the same time. Sometimes, for fun, she takes Instagram pictures of her two rescue dogs, Sadie and Teke, and posts them online.

Yeah, she’s a wild one.

Karen lives in snowy Massachusetts, with her husband, aka Hot Cop, and her two dogs. Her children are both out of college and have become productive, non-violent members of society. Karen writes six to eight hours a day when not obsessively reading research books on Regency-era Scotland, snacking on chocolate, or looking out the windows of her house and thinking about gardening. Her hobbies include sculpting, oil painting, playing badminton, and — ok, ok, she doesn’t have any hobbies, but if she did, she’s sure they’d be something refined and fascinating.

Review: ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane

Review:  ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth KeaneAsk Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
four-half-stars
Published by Scribner on May 28, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASK AGAIN, YES  Review

 

Mary Beth Keane’s latest novel Ask Again, Yes is a poignant and powerful exploration of what happens when an unexpected tragedy rocks the lives of two neighboring families.  It follows Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, who grew up together in a suburban neighborhood in New York.  Although their fathers are both NYPD police officers, the two families really don’t have much to do with one another.  Peter’s mother Anne is especially standoffish, so after a few early attempts to make friends, Kate’s mom gave up. In spite of that awkwardness, Kate and Peter still find each other and become best friends.  In the spring of their 8th grade year, just as their relationship is blossoming into more that friendship, tragedy strikes and an unthinkable act of violence pushes the two families even further apart.  Peter’s family is forced to leave, and he and Kate are forbidden from contacting each other. Kate and Peter do eventually reconnect as adults, but can they have any kind of relationship when the events of the past still haunt both them and their families?

* * * * *

This novel just really moved me on so many different levels.  I was immediately drawn to the friendship between young Kate and Peter.  Keane does such a wonderful job of portraying their relationship as they move from the innocence of childhood to the excitement of falling in love for the first time.  Both characters are so well drawn and everything about the evolving of their relationship just felt so authentic.  What happens between the two families would be considered tragic no matter what, but it was especially heartbreaking to see what it does to these two very likeable children.

I also found myself incredibly invested in both families, not just because of Kate and Peter, but because all of the characters in this book feel so realistic.  Everything for them is messy and complicated, just like real life.  The intimate look Keane gives us into their lives — their reactions to things that happen, their strengths and weaknesses as they try to cope with the aftermath of that tragic event, etc. — all of it just made me feel like these two families could easily be my own neighbors.

Aside from the intimate look into the lives of these two families, what also drew me to Ask Again, Yes are all of the themes it explores.  Yes, it’s a story about family, friendship, and love, but it’s also a story about mental illness, tragedy, and the power of forgiveness.  I also love that it gives us the perspective of how something that seems one way when we’re children can seem like something entirely different when we reflect back on it as adults, especially the idea that no one is as innocent or guilty as they may seem.

If you’re looking for a moving family drama that will tug at your heartstrings, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes is a book you should add to your must-read list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the stunning events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

 

four-half-stars

About Mary Beth Keane

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35,” and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People, Fever, and Ask Again, Yes.

Review: WHEREVER SHE GOES by Kelley Armstrong

Review:  WHEREVER SHE GOES by Kelley ArmstrongWherever She Goes by Kelley Armstrong
three-half-stars
Published by Minotaur Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Pages: 292
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

WHEREVER SHE GOES Review

 

Kelley Armstrong’s newest book Wherever She Goes is a gripping psychological thriller that explores the lengths one woman will go to when she believes the police aren’t doing their jobs.

Single mom Aubrey Finch is in the neighborhood park one day and meets a young woman and her little boy.  After some brief small talk, they go their separate ways, but the next time, Aubrey is in the park, she sees the same little boy being pulled unwillingly in an SUV which then speeds away.  There’s no sign of his mother anywhere, so panicked and concerned for the boy’s safety, Aubrey phones the police.  When they arrive on the scene, the reaction Aubrey gets is not at all what she is expecting.  Because there’s no parent around reporting that their child has been abducted, the police refuse to believe Aubrey’s story and even go so far as to accuse her of being a mentally unstable attention seeker.  Aubrey knows what she saw, and so, frustrated by law enforcement’s lack of action, she decides to take matters into her own hands to bring the little boy home safely…

Wow, what a wild ride this was.  I had tremendous sympathy for Aubrey for so many reasons.  I can’t even imagine trying to report something as important as a child abduction to the police and having them blow me off.  I also honestly can’t imagine law enforcement behaving so irresponsibly, but it definitely serves as an effective device to move the story along and spur Aubrey into amateur sleuth mode.  Even more so than the way she was treated by the police, however, my sympathy for Aubrey lies in the fact that she is newly divorced and trying to make it on her own without help from anyone.  Her own child is living with her ex-husband full time now (Aubrey’s idea) because she’s living in a not-so-great neighborhood where the rent is cheap in hopes of saving up money for a better home that is more suitable for a child.  I commend her for her independence in this matter but also felt bad for her because not having custody of her child immediately opens her up to all kinds of judgment from strangers.  Everyone assumes she has done something terrible to not have her child living with her.

Aubrey also has her fair share of secrets that she has been hiding for years.  I’ll admit that the fact she’s hiding something about herself, coupled with the way people kept questioning her sanity did give me pause as to whether or not Aubrey was a reliable narrator.  I liked her so much though that I wanted her to be right so I was glued to the book to see what, if anything, she would find when she started looking for proof that there really was an abduction.  The author does a fantastic job building up suspense here because when Aubrey starts trying to locate the woman she met in the park that day, she opens up a can of worms that is way more than she bargained for.

My only real complaint about Wherever She Goes is that I actually felt more invested in Aubrey’s personal dramas and in finding out about her past than I did in the abduction storyline.  Both were interesting, of course, but the witnessing of a crime and having no one believe your story just felt a little stale to me, like it has been done many times before (The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window immediately come to mind).  Aubrey’s personal story grabbed my attention and held it more since it was the more unique of the two.

Even with that one little quibble though, Wherever She Goes is still a very entertaining read.  There were plenty of plot twists to keep me guessing and I found the ending to be very satisfying.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and domestic dramas.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong comes a brand new psychological thriller about the lengths one woman will go to in order to save a child.

“Few crimes are reported as quickly as a snatched kid.”

That’s what the officer tells single mother Aubrey Finch after she reports a kidnapping. So why hasn’t anyone reported the little boy missing? Aubrey knows what she saw: a boy being taken against his will from the park. It doesn’t matter that the mother can’t be found. It doesn’t matter if no one reported it. Aubrey knows he’s missing.

Instead, people question her sanity. Aubrey hears the whispers. She’s a former stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have primary custody of her daughter, so there must be something wrong with her, right? Others may not understand her decision to walk away from her safe life at home, but years of hiding her past – even from the people she loves – were taking their toll, and Aubrey knows she can’t be the mother or wife she envisions until she learns to leave her secrets behind.

When the police refuse to believe her, she realizes that rescuing the boy is up to her alone. But after all the secrets, how far is she willing to go? Even to protect a child.

three-half-stars

About Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the NYT-bestselling “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series and “Darkest Powers” young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.