Posts

Book Reviews – February and March Releases to add to your Must Read List

 

Today I have a new batch of reviews to share and this time it’s a very eclectic mix of February and March releases that I’ve enjoyed reading recently.  This selection of books fed my love of historical fiction, as well as my enjoyment of thrillers and contemporary reads.  I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

 

Book Reviews – February and March Releases to add to your Must Read ListThe Two Lives of Lydia Bird Goodreads

Author: Josie Silver

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

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

 

I read Josie Silver’s One Day in December a couple of months ago and absolutely fell in love with it, so much so that I immediately requested her newest novel, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.  Just as with the case of One Day in DecemberThe Two Lives of Lydia Bird captured my heart as soon as I met the main character.

Lydia Bird has been in love with her fiance, Freddie, for over a decade.  She has adored Freddie with every fiber of her being since she was a teenager and so is utterly devastated when he is killed in a car accident on her 28th birthday.  Silver does an incredible job of making Lydia’s pain feel so real and my heart broke more and more for her with every page.  Lydia is truly in despair and can barely function without Freddie.  Her doctor finally prescribes her some sleeping pills in hopes of getting Lydia to rest, and what Lydia discovers when she takes the pills is that not only does she dream deeply, but her dreams are filled with Freddie, of a whole alternate life where she can experience what her life would be like if Freddie hadn’t died. Her dream life quickly becomes her preferred place to be since she still has Freddie there.

Throughout the novel, we watch Lydia try to navigate her life in both worlds as she both clings to the what-ifs of a life with Freddie, but also tries to consider the possibilities of what her real life will be like without Freddie.  I loved the support system that Lydia has surrounding her throughout the story – her sister and her mom, both of whom she’s very close to, her wonderful coworkers, and perhaps most importantly, Jonah Jones, who is her oldest friend and who was also Freddie’s best friend.  Jonah understands her grief perhaps better than anyone else she knows and is there for her every step of the way.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a moving story about love, loss, and about how individual the grieving process is.  It beautifully conveys the message that we all grieve in different ways and move through the process at our own pace.  At times, this is a truly heartbreaking story, but I was happy that it offered glimmers of hope throughout as well.  I did feel that the ending was a little awkward and would have preferred something different, but I still adored the book even with the ending as is.  4.5 STARS

 

Book Reviews – February and March Releases to add to your Must Read ListRed Letter Days Goodreads

Author: Sarah-Jane Stratford

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

Sarah-Jane Stratford’s latest novel, Red Letter Days, is a riveting work of historical fiction that explores the McCarthy Era or “Red Scare”, a dark time in post World War II American history where fear and hysteria led to American citizens being persecuted as Communists, in many cases, without any evidence whatsoever.  Red Letter Days specifically focuses on how this Communist witchhunt impacted the Hollywood community and women, in particular.

Phoebe Adler, one of the story’s protagonists, is trying to make it as a television writer in a man’s world.  I loved Phoebe right from the start. She’s a New Yorker through and through. She’s smart, tough as nails, and she’s a talented writer who is passionate about her craft.  I got the vibe right away that if anyone could make it as a TV writer in the 50’s, it would be Phoebe.  Somehow, though, Phoebe finds herself on an ever-growing blacklist of Communist sympathizers and it costs her her job.  Devastated that she has lost everything and fearful of what else could befall her since so many have been arrested, Phoebe flees to London. It is in London where Phoebe meets the novel’s second protagonist, the formidable Hannah Wolfson.  I loved Hannah as well. Hannah, another American who has found herself living in exile in London, is brave, ambitious, and as a successful TV and film producer, she sees it as her mission to help blacklisted writers like Phoebe continue pursuing their passion by letting them write for her under assumed names.  Phoebe and Hannah hit it off right away and become close, but both of them know they are living in dangerous times and that everything they’re working for could come crashing down around them as the witchhunt continues to spread and reach beyond the shores of America.

I thoroughly enjoyed Red Letter Days.  In addition to these two wonderful protagonists who were so easy to root for. They are both the epitome of strength, resilience, and even defiance, as they fought to resist the Red Scare and its ever growing hysteria.   I also loved the focus on the camaraderie and support of those in exile and especially the growing friendship between Hannah and Phoebe.  If you’re interested in learning about how McCarthyism and the Red Scare impacted the entertainment writers’ community, I’d highly recommend Red Letter Days.  Red Letter Days is both a well-researched work of historical fiction and an incredibly suspenseful read.  4 STARS

 

 

Book Reviews – February and March Releases to add to your Must Read ListFollow Me Goodreads

Author: Kathleen Barber

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

 

Kathleen Barber’s latest thriller, Follow Me, is a frightening look inside the dangers of oversharing on social media.  The story follows Audrey Miller, a semi-famous Instagram influencer, who is addicted to the spotlight and hungers for the adoration of her 1 million plus followers on the social media platform.  When she relocates from New York City to Washington D.C. for a new job, she chronicles the details of her new adventure for her followers.  What Audrey doesn’t realize, however, is that her life is about to take an absolutely terrifying turn because her move has brought her to much closer proximity to a male fan who is obsessed with her.

What made Follow Me so completely riveting for me is that in addition to seeing the story unfold from Audrey’s perspective, we are also given the perspective of the male fan.  It’s super creepy to watch his obsession with Audrey grow and to watch how he becomes less and less satisfied with just following her Instagram now that he’s close enough to physically follow her.  Nothing is ever enough to satisfy him though so he ultimately turns to the dark web to seek advice on how to make Audrey his once and for all.

Follow Me is a wild, dark, and suspenseful page turner that will have you wanting to delete all your social media accounts, smash your webcam, and never overshare ever again!  4 STARS

 

Book Reviews – February and March Releases to add to your Must Read ListThe Girl in White Gloves Goodreads

Author: Kerri Maher

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

Kerri Maher’s latest novel, The Girl in White Gloves, is based on the life of Hollywood icon turned Princess, Grace Kelly.  The novel takes readers behind the curtain of Kelly’s seemingly fairy tale-like life to reveal that it really wasn’t much of a fairy tale at all.

The Girl in White Gloves gives us two timelines that fully explore Kelly’s life, one that follows her as she is pursuing her dream to be an actress and one that follows her after she has given up that life for the love of Prince Rainier.

I requested this book because I honestly didn’t know that much about Grace Kelly but I remember my grandmother being fascinated by her and so I wanted to learn more.  What I really loved about this book was how far into Grace Kelly’s head we got at every point during her life.  We get a glimpse as to what she must have been feeling and thinking as she navigates the two paths illuminated by the dual timelines.  We experience the confusion, the unexpected loneliness, the pressure of societal expectations, the constant disapproval  and disappointment of her father, and finally, Grace’s desperate need to find fulfillment in her life and the risks she is willing to take to get that fulfillment.

The Girl in White Gloves is a well-researched and truly captivating portrait of what a complex woman Grace Kelly was.  I went into it expecting to learn a little more about her and was impressed at how the thoroughly the author drew me in to Kelly’s life story.  It was a truly immersive experience.  4 STARS

Reviews for THE LOOK ALIKE and BEHIND EVERY LIE

 

It’s time for another roundup of ARCs I’ve been reading.  This time I want to share a couple of fantastic thrillers that I’ve read recently, The Look Alike by Erica Spindler and Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald.

 

Reviews for THE LOOK ALIKE and BEHIND EVERY LIEThe Look-Alike Goodreads

Author: Erica Spindler

Publication Date: January 28, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Genre:  Thriller

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

Erica Spindler’s latest novel The Look Alike is a gripping psychological thriller that follows Sienna Scott, a young woman who, while a college student, discovered a dead body in the snow one night as she was walking back home from the campus library.  The campus and local police were never able to solve the case.  Sienna is also dealing with some troubles at home. Her mother suffers from a condition that makes her both paranoid and delusional.  She believes that everyone is out to get her and, specifically, that they’re going to hurt her by hurting her daughter. These circumstances create such a suffocating environment for Sienna that her father finally tells her she should leave home so that she can have some semblance of a life. Sierra stays away for 10 years but returns home to care for her mother after her father passes away.

As soon as Sierra returns, that unsolved murder begins to dominate her thoughts and a nagging thought she had all those years ago returns – She and the dead woman were wearing the same jacket that fateful night.  When strange things start happening – prank phone calls, a strange van driving past her house at all hours of the day and night, etc. – Sienna becomes even more convinced that she may have been the intended target and is now in danger. Is she right? Or is she just letting her imagination get the better of her?  Or is it possible her mother’s condition is hereditary?

Wow, this book was such a wild ride! It was so suspenseful and filled with twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. Every time I thought I had the murderer figured out, the author would introduce a new clue that would send me spinning off in another direction. I devoured The Look Alike in just a couple of sittings because I needed to know what happened and which girl was truly the killer’s target.

I was also very much drawn in by the characters.  I felt tremendous sympathy for Sienna for all that she has had to contend with, and I felt equally sympathetic toward Sienna’s mom. Yes, she can be suffocating at times, but it’s the mental illness that makes her that way.  Imagine thinking day in and day out that someone is out to hurt you and your child. That would be pure hell for any parent.   With her latest novel, The Look Alike, Erica Spindler has crafted both a riveting murder mystery and an intense family drama about mental illness.  I highly recommend it!  4 STARS

 

 

Reviews for THE LOOK ALIKE and BEHIND EVERY LIEBehind Every Lie Goodreads

Author: Christina McDonald

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Genre:  Thriller

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

With a title like Behind Every Lie, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re in for a read filled with twists and turns, and author Christina McDonald does not disappoint. Behind Every Lie opens with a young woman named Eva Hansen frantically running down the street. She is clearly afraid, possibly in shock, and is covered in blood.  She stops for a moment, to take stock of her situation and then everything abruptly goes dark.  When Eva awakens, she is in the hospital being treated for, against all odds, a lightning strike.  Eva has no memory of what happened to her leading up to the moment she was struck by lightning, which becomes a real problem when a police detective shows up at the hospital and tells her that her mother has been stabbed to death.  Eva was found near her mother’s house and covered with blood, so she is automatically the prime suspect.  Even with no memory of what happened that night, Eva is sure there’s no way she could have killed her own mother so she flees the hospital and sets out to find the real killer and clear her name.

Those who follow my reviews know that I’m a sucker for a story that features a dual timeline and McDonald uses one here to great effect.  The story unfolds from both Eva’s perspective in the present and her mother Kat’s perspective in the past.  As Eva uncovers more and more details about her mother’s life, the more she realizes her mother lived a life filled with secrets and lies and that by extension, Eva’s entire life has been nothing but a lie.  She also realizes that whoever else knew about her mother’s secret could very easily be the person who killer her.

Unreliable narrators can be hit or miss for me, but I really like the way it was used here.  Eva is unreliable quite simply because she has amnesia brought on by the lightning strike.  I loved the twists and turns that each returning memory added to the story, especially when the doctor said that she couldn’t necessarily trust those memories at first.  The bits and pieces Eva keeps remembering have her doubting her own innocence even as she’s finding evidence that there may be a real killer out there somewhere.

Behind Every Lie grabbed me from the opening scene and kept me riveted to the end.  If murder mysteries, dual timelines and unreliable narrators are your thing, be sure to add Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie to your must-read list.  4 STARS

Mini Reviews for Scavenge the Stars, You Were There Too, & Echoes Between Us

 

It’s time for a new batch of mini reviews and this time it’s January ARCs!  There are a ton of great new books coming out in early January so if you have Christmas money to spend, here are some titles you should consider.

 

Mini Reviews for Scavenge the Stars, You Were There Too, & Echoes Between UsScavenge the Stars (Scavenge the Stars, #1) Goodreads

Author: Tara Sim

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

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

If you’re in the mood for a good revenge story, then Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is the book you’re looking for.  It’s a gender-bent retelling of the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo,, which is also a tale of revenge.  Scavenge the Stars follows a young woman named Amaya, who has spent much of her life imprisoned aboard a debtor’s ship, forced to work off her parents’ debt.  For seven years, Amaya has known nothing but shame, cruelty, and unfair treatment, and thus has vowed that as soon as she is finally free from her parents’ debt, her first act will be to seek revenge against the man who ruined her family. When the opportunity presents itself, Amaya secures her freedom and sets out to implement her plan of revenge.  Amaya unexpectedly finds herself entangled with Cayo, the son of the man she seeks revenge against, and the more she gets to know Cayo, the more she realizes nothing is as it seems and that she has been living a lie for most of her life.

Amaya and Cayo really made the story for me.  I loved everything about both characters.  Amaya is absolutely fierce. She’s smart, scrappy, and sassy, and she’s ultra-protective of those she cares about.  I admired her determination to bring down those who destroyed her life as well as those who are cruel enough to imprison children as payment for debts.  Cayo, while the son of a rich man, has spent much of his time in the proverbial dog house, due to an over fondness for gambling.  He’s trying to live down past mistakes and prove to his father that he can live a respectable life.  Like Amaya, he learns something about his family that turns his world up on its end and makes him question who he really is and what kind of person he is. I really loved the complexity of each of these characters.  The story is told from each of their perspectives and there’s just so much inner turmoil for both Amaya and Cayo as they struggle to find their way through the secrets and lies of the past.  That struggle makes it easy to feel sympathy for them both.

Scavenge the Stars is an engaging fantasy filled with secrets, lies and betrayals, family drama, political intrigue, and even a hint of potential romance.  It’s also a story about not letting mistakes from the past define or control you.  Filled with complex, three-dimensional characters, and plenty of action-packed scenes, Scavenge the Stars is sure to please.  I highly recommend it to fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas.  4 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews for Scavenge the Stars, You Were There Too, & Echoes Between UsEchoes Between Us Goodreads

Author: Katie McGarry

Publication Date: January 14, 2020

Publisher:  Tor Teen

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

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry is a heart-wrenching story about love and loss, family and friends, and about facing your fears.  It follows Veronica, who is a senior in high school and who suffers from debilitating migraines that are caused by a brain tumor. And not just a brain tumor, but the same kind of brain tumor that killed her mother.  So while all of her friends are preparing for life after high school, Veronica lives knowing there’s a possibility that there may be no life after high school for her.  Veronica is also a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum. She does what she wants to do, dresses however wild she wants to dress, and celebrates holidays on random days of the year and only a core group of friends appreciates Veronica and her originality.  Most of her classmates, including golden boy Sawyer and his friends, think Veronica is a weirdo and have nothing to do with her.  That is, until Sawyer and his family move into the apartment that Veronica’s dad rents out.  Once he starts spending time with Veronica, Sawyer realizes how truly special she is and his whole outlook on life changes.

I can’t even express how much I loved both Veronica and Sawyer.  Veronica captured my heart right away. I loved the way she lived her life to the fullest, even with a tumor and these horrible migraines hanging over her head at all times.  She’s just this fearless dynamo who always speaks her mind and it was so admirable to watch.  I also adored her close relationship with her dad.  It broke my heart that she would hide that her condition was worsening from him, but I could completely understand why. It would clearly crush him to lose both his wife and his daughter this way and Veronica wanted to protect her dad from that pain for as long as she could.  Sawyer was a character it took me a few pages to warm up to, but once I did, I fell hard.  He may seem like the golden boy on the outside, but he is fighting demons of his own in the form of an adrenaline addiction, as well as having to deal with a less than ideal home life.  As much as my heart hurt for Veronica and what she was going through, my heart hurt just as much for Sawyer. They are both in impossible situations and need each other more than either one of them ever could have thought possible.  I loved watching their friendship blossom and my heart just ached for them, knowing how fragile Veronica’s health was.

I don’t want to give away anything about how Echoes Between Us ends so I’m just going to say it was one of the most moving and emotional reads I experienced in 2019. Many tears were shed, both happy and sad.  If you like a story that will constantly tug at your heartstrings, pick up a copy of Katie McGarry’s Echoes Between Us4.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews for Scavenge the Stars, You Were There Too, & Echoes Between UsYou Were There Too Goodreads

Author: Colleen Oakley

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley is a story about love and fate.  The novel follows Mia Graydon, an artist who dreams of starting a family with her husband Harrison.  Luck has not been on their side, however, and they have suffered several miscarriages. Frustration has set in and has started to put a strain on their relationship, especially as Harrison is also battling some internal demons of his own.  Even though Mia and Harrison really are happily married, Mia has been having recurring dreams about another man for several years.  The dreams themselves are odd enough, but what’s most odd about them is that Mia has no idea who the man is. She has never met him before.  When Mia and Harrison decide to relocate to a small town in Pennsylvania, Mia unexpectedly meets Oliver, the mystery man from her dreams. Not only that but he tells her that he has been having dreams about her too.  Determined to make sense of it all, Mia and Oliver dive deep into their pasts, looking for any possible connection between them.  As Mia and Oliver grow closer, Mia starts to think about fate and what her life would be like if she was with Oliver instead of Harrison.

I loved this story, mainly because I was just so immediately invested in the relationship between Mia and Harrison.  The two of them were so sweet together and so clearly in love and it just hurt to see them struggle so much to start their family.  Then when I learned more about the demons that Harrison was battling and saw how it was tearing him apart inside, it just hurt all the more, especially when Oliver appears on the scene and unintentionally threatens all that they have built together.  I think the ‘What Ifs’ that Mia starts experiencing are what really made this story so engrossing for me.  I could understand where she was coming from in wondering what life might have been like if she had met Oliver sooner and even though I wanted to be angry with Mia for even thinking about it, I could especially understand it as Harrison’s demons start to consume him more and more and because Oliver was such a likable guy.

You Were There Too kept me reading late into the night because I just had to know what Mia was going to do.  Does she embrace the idea of fate and go after the man who has haunted her dreams for all these years or does she stay faithful to the man she vowed to be there for in good times and in bad? If a heart-wrenching story about love, fate, and making hard choices appeals to you, Colleen Oakley’s You Were There Too is the book for you.  4 STARS