Posts

Reviews: Circle of Doubt & The Wrong Family

 

Hi everyone!  It’s Sharon, so you know what that means… Thriller Thursday!  This week I have the psychological thriller, Circle of Doubt, and the domestic thriller, The Wrong Family.   Both of these books kept me fully engrossed and had twists I did not see coming.

 

Reviews: Circle of Doubt & The Wrong FamilyCircle of Doubt Goodreads

Author: Tracy Buchanan

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Emma and Dele adopted Isla 9 years ago when she was almost 2 years old.  Emma, Dele and Isla live in a small town called Forest Grove, just outside of London.  Emma has always been shy, so she really has no friends in their community. The one person she can turn to when she needs support or advice is her sister, Harriet. And Harriet is the only person (aside from their father) who knows the terrible secret that Emma has been hiding for years.

One day while dropping Isla off at school Emma runs into her new neighbors, Tatjana and Lawrence. Emma cannot believe how much Tatjana looks just like Jade, Isla’s birth mother. Emma tries to tell herself there is no way she can be Jade.  Jade was a 17-year-old drug addict, and this woman is beautiful and sophisticated and nothing like the troubled teen Emma remembers.  But when Tatjana takes too much of an interest in Isla, Emma’s suspicions start to grow. Then strange things start happening to Emma that make her look and feel like a bad parent.  She receives an email saying the deadline to pay for a school trip was pushed out when it wasn’t. Then she starts missing school notices (including one saying it was dress down day, so Isla went to school in her uniform). Someone also starts rumors about Emma and the husband of her only friend, and a dead crow is placed in the front grill of Emma’s car.  Who is behind all of this? Could Jade really be back to try and take Isla away? And will the awful secret that Emma has been hiding come back to haunt her?  Emma is not going to give up her daughter without a fight, so with the help of her sister Harriet, Emma tries to find out if Jade and Tatjana are one in the same and if she is behind everything that has been happening.

The book is told through the POV of Emma and also through chapters that are letters “written” to Isla from an unknown source. The letters explain the plan to unravel Emma and why this person is doing what they are doing. I liked how the story was presented this way. Even though we find out about halfway through the book who is behind everything, the tension and suspense still ramped up as we are reading everything that is happening to Emma and what she was going though. And knowing who was writing the letters just added to the tension.

I really liked how Emma faced everything that was happening head on. And even though at times she thought she was not being a good mother, she really was. When things got tough, she would not let it show to her daughter. She put on a brave face for Isla no matter what she was feeling. And when push finally came to shove, her momma bear claws came out.

I will say the book started off a bit slow for me, but the tension and suspense took off the more I got into it.  And there was one twist near the end that totally got me and made my mouth drop open.   3 ½ stars

 

Reviews: Circle of Doubt & The Wrong FamilyThe Wrong Family Goodreads

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Publication Date: December 29, 2020

Publisher: Graydon House

Tarryn Fisher’s mystery thriller The Wrong Family is full of flawed characters that kept me turning the pages and made me realize not everything is as it seems. What you see on the outside is not necessarily what is on the inside.

Juno is a sixty-seven former therapist who is originally from New Mexico. After a 2-year stint in prison due to unethical misconduct, which cost Winnie her family and practice, she moved to Seattle and is living with the Crouch family (Winnie, Nigel, and their son Sam). Juno has been diagnosed with lupus and is dying. One night she overhears a fight between Winnie and Nigel and she discovers that they are hiding a dark secret. Winnie doesn’t want to get involved; she just wants to live out her final days in peace. But the therapist in her just won’t let her sit back and let this secret destroy Sam, whom she has become close to. So she sets out to expose Winnie and Nigel’s secret and right the wrongs she believes they have done.

Winnie seems to have the perfect life on the outside, but on the inside it is falling apart. She used to be a counselor to the homeless but quit her job thirteen years ago. It was also thirteen years ago that

the dark secret that Juno overheard happened.  Without giving anything away, Winnie committed a horrible act that Nigel helped her cover up. Now, thanks to Juno, the details are starting to come to light and the cracks in Winnie and Nigel’s marriage are getting larger. Winnie is trying to hold things together for the sake of their son. But when her twin brother Dakota, who is an unhinged alcoholic and drug addict, comes to stay with them after his wife threw him out and then a stranger shows up on their doorstep claiming to know Winnie’s secret, all hell breaks loose.

I really cannot say too much more about this book, because anything I say would be a spoiler and I think it is best to go into this book blind.  What I can say is that this book is told in alternative POV’s from Winnie and Juno. They were both very complex and flawed characters. I flipped back and forth between liking and not liking them as different things were revealed as the story progressed.

I liked Juno as I was reading her chapters. While I may not have agreed with everything she did, I liked how she came across as the grandmotherly type with Sam. But then when I was reading Winnie’s views and what she was going though, I found myself having sympathy for her and I would get aggravated at Juno for what she was doing.  I like how Tarryn Fisher could make my views on these women change so much.

While this was not an edge of my seat thriller, the tension did ramp up at the end of the book and then I couldn’t read fast enough to find out how it was all going to play out. I also loved how the author wrapped up the story, nothing felt rushed.    3 ½ stars

Reviews: Pretty Little Wife and Three Single Wives

 

Happy Valentine’s weekend everyone! It’s Sharon here again. What better way to kick off Valentine’s Day than with a couple of reviews that the themes are wives killing their husbands LOL! And that is just what I have for this week’s Thriller Thursday.  This week’s reviews are domestic thrillers:  Pretty Little Wife and Three Single Wives.  When I picked these two books to read for Thriller Thursday, I did not even make the connection about murdered husbands and Valentine’s day until Suzanne mentioned what a fun theme for Valentine’s weekend 🙂

 

Reviews: Pretty Little Wife and Three Single WivesPretty Little Wife Goodreads

Author: Darby Kane

Publication Date: December 29, 2020

Publisher: William Morrow

 

Pretty Little Wife is Darby Kane’s debut thriller novel and what a debut it was! It follows Lila Ridgefield and her husband Aaron Payne who live in a small town in New York. They seem to have a great life together.  Lila is a real estate broker who works mostly from home, while Aaron is a beloved High School teacher and coach.  He has never missed a day of school so when he does not show up one day, everyone is concerned and worried. Lila is concerned and worried as well, but for very different reasons.

When the book opens, Lila discovers some disturbing videos of her husband and some of the teen girls he coaches. Aaron lies and makes it seems like Lila is in the wrong for blowing this out of proportion when she confronts him, so she decides to take matters into her own hands to stop Aaron from hurting anymore children.  She kills Aaron and leaves him in his car at the school. If he’s now missing, where did his car and his body go? If he’s not really dead like she thought he was, then he’ll be coming for Lila and she needs to be prepared.

The book then jumps ahead to where the investigation starts. Not only the police investigation, but also Lila’s.  And not only do we have the mystery of what happened to Aaron, but there are also excerpts of a podcast that is investigating the disappearance of 3 college women from the surrounding Ithaca area.  Coincidence or are they somehow related? As the investigation into Aaron’s disappearance continues, the police uncover more than they ever thought they would.  The lead detective on the case is Ginny Davis, and she is sure that Lila is responsible for whatever happened to her husband. But trying to prove it is harder than she thinks. Lila is smart and has covered her tracks, well except for the missing dead body (lol).  I loved the game of cat and mouse between these two women. They are both smart and determined and neither is going to be outsmarted by the other.

This book had so many twists and turns that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, Darby Kane threw in a curve ball and took it in another direction.  By the time I got to the end I was like “Whoa! Wait! What?! Holy Crap!”

I also thought the author did an excellent job in writing and fleshing out the characters in this book, especially Lila. She was such a complex character. Yes, she killed her husband, but I still had a lot of sympathy for her and wanted everything to work out for her in the end.   4 Stars

 

Reviews: Pretty Little Wife and Three Single WivesThree Single Wives Goodreads

Author: Gina LaManna

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

 

I have never read anything by Gina LaManna before, but when I saw the synopsis of Three Single Wives, where it states: a book club, wine, and murder, I knew I had to read it. And I am glad I did. This was a fast read that kept me guessing until the very end.

Eliza Tate has started her own Public Relations firm and her one big client is Marguerite Hill, a self -help guru and author of the bestselling book “Take Charge” and soon to be released sequel “Be Free”. On February 13th, Eliza hosts a book club with two of her friends, Anne Wilkes, and Penny Sands, to discuss Marguerite’s new book “Be Free”, but then the discussion moves to cheating husbands and revenge and how they would kill their husband if given the chance. But they don’t really mean it, it’s just the wine talking. Or is it? On February 14th one of their husbands is found murdered. And so, the mystery begins, who took their discussion seriously?

The book is told from the POV of Eliza, Anne, and Penny, with transcripts of the trial in between. When the story opens it is the day of the book club, then it jumps back 9 months and we get to learn more about these women and the circumstances that lead up to the night in question. We do find out pretty early in the book which husband is dead, but we don’t find out until the very end who killed him. I was all over the place on who I thought the killer was.

With each chapter we learn more about Anne, Eliza, and Penny. And let me just say these women have some serious issues. They are all so flawed and they all have secrets and oh the lies they tell. But even though none of them were very likable, I did enjoy getting to learn more about them and their secrets. And the more I learned about them, the more I suspected them all.

In addition to the mystery that surrounded the whodunnit, this book also had some make- me-chuckle moments. Especially on the transcript portion. Man, even on the witness stand these women were being snarky and, in some cases, cocky.

A few of some of the funny moments from the transcripts:

“Who’s the son of a bitch that spilled the beans?” – Anne’s response when the defense told her they had evidence she was being blackmailed.

“Then it’s my word against his, and he’s dead. I guess that means I win by default.” – Penny’s response when the defense said the victim called her a psychopath in his restraining order.

“Is it really a book club without wine?” – Eliza’s response when the prosecution asked if she served wine at the book club.

“I wouldn’t say it’s stealing. It’s adopting certain items that other people no longer need.”- Penny’s response to the prosecution asking about her “little hobby” of stealing things from others.

I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything, but I was happy with the ending and in no way did I figure it out.    3 ½ stars

Historical Fiction Review: THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

Historical Fiction Review:  THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien CharlesThe Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on February 9, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a huge fan of WWII historical fiction and I’ve read a lot of it over the years. For that reason, I’m always on the lookout for books that bring a fresh perspective or a story that I haven’t heard yet, and that it exactly what Janet Skeslien Charles does with her new novel, The Paris Library.  Based on a true story, The Paris Library shines a light on a part of the French Resistance movement that I was not familiar with, that of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris (ALP).  While the Nazis occupied and terrorized their city, the men and women of the ALP risked everything to keep the library open at all costs, even sneaking books across Paris to their beloved Jewish patrons who were barred from entering the building.  For these librarians and their book loving patrons, books were both an escape and a symbol of hope and so the librarians wanted to do their part to keep hope alive no matter how dark life seemed.

One of the things I enjoyed most about The Paris Library was how the story unfolded.  We are presented with a dual timeline, one in the 1980s that follows Lily, an awkward and lonely high school student living in a small town in Montana.  Lily becomes intrigued by her neighbor, an elderly woman named Odile who keeps to herself and has an air of mystery about her.  All anyone really knows about her is that she’s originally from France.  Lily decides she wants to get to know Odile better and so, under the guise that she’s doing a school project on Paris, she approaches Odile and requests to interview her.  A lovely friendship develops over time between Lily and Odile, and it is through this interview that we are introduced to Odile and the second timeline, which reveals that as a young woman, Odile worked as a librarian at the ALP and was a very active member of the Resistance.

While I loved watching the relationship blossom between Lily and Odile because Odile becomes almost like a second mom to Lily, I was of course most drawn to the incredible story that takes place during WWII.  The author had me fully invested in the lives of Odile and her fellow librarians.  I loved how committed they were to their cause, as well as how devoted they were to each other and to their patrons.  I never would have guessed that there was an actual Resistance movement within the walls of a library and was glued to the pages each time the librarians faced danger or the risk of betrayal since one never knew who might be a Nazi collaborator.  Even though the WWII timeline was the most engaging of the two, the author still manages to make the 1980s timeline compelling in the sense that there is some mystery surrounding Odile and why she keeps to herself and why she has never returned to Paris, not even once, after all these years.  I loved the scrappy and determined Odile of WWII so much that I really wanted to know what had happened to send her to live in isolation in Montana of all places.

The Paris Library is a beautiful story of friendship, family, resistance, and resilience.  If you’re looking for a WWII historical fiction that brings something new to the table, I highly recommend The Paris Library.

four-stars

About Janet Skeslien Charles

Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa and The Paris Library. Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. She learned about the history of the American Library in Paris while working there as the programs manager. She divides her time between Montana and Paris.

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UP

 

My love for rom-coms has continued into 2021 and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on two new ones that will hit bookstores tomorrow, Samantha Young’s Much Ado About You and Lily Menon’s Make Up Break Up.

 

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UPMuch Ado About You Goodreads

Author: Samantha Young

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

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

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young is one of the most delightful rom-coms I’ve ever read.  From its Shakespeare-loving heroine to its sexy farmer love interest to its quaint English village setting, this book captivated me from cover to cover.

The story follows 33-year-old Evie Starling, who just feels like her life is going nowhere.  Her love life is not great to say the least, and when she is passed over for a big promotion at work that she fully expected to get, Evie decides it’s time for a change.  That change comes in the form of a last minute holiday package to England.  As part of the package deal, she will live in an apartment above a charming little bookstore called Much Ado About Books, which she will also temporarily manage. How perfect does that sound?!  Evie’s plan is to take four weeks to lick her wounds, regroup, and come up with a new game plan for her life.  She wants no distractions from this plan and for Evie, that especially means no men.

Let me just say how much I adored Evie from the opening chapter.  I was cheering her on from the moment she told her boss off and quit her job.  I admired her courage and her determination and I especially loved that she didn’t just wallow, but instead came up with this great plan to recharge and reset her life.  It was so much fun watching her travel to this little village and immediately start fitting in with them like she belonged there.

I knew Evie was doomed though as soon as we meet my second favorite character in Much Ado About You, the sexy English farmer, Roane Robson. Roane is the most eligible bachelor in town and all the ladies swoon over him. He’s not a player though and is heart-set on finding that special someone to share his life with.  Roane is kind, soft, and as soon as he meets Evie, he knows he wants to get to know her better.  Needless to say, I was eager for Roane to find a way to wear down Evie’s defenses and her “No Men” rule because he was practically perfect.  We’re talking serious book boyfriend material here! Not only that, but the chemistry between Evie and Roane is off the charts.

I devoured this book in just a couple of sittings because I was so invested in these characters and whether or not they would take their growing friendship to the next level.  What I also loved is that the townspeople were clearly right there with me, trying to play matchmaker whenever possible.  And speaking of the townspeople, the novel also features a delightful cast of secondary characters, including Roane’s cousin Caro, who becomes like a little sister to Evie, as well as Roane’s gigantic and fabulous dog, Shadow, who can be credited with Evie and Roane’s meet-cute when Evie runs into the street to keep him from being hit by a car.

Much Ado About You does pack some emotional weight to it as well as the fun and romance.  There are some town rivalries and fractured relationships floating about, a touch of deception, and Evie has some drama with her mom and with her best friend from home. All of these elements added just the right touch of drama and made me love Much Ado About You all the more.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UPMake Up Break Up Goodreads

Author: Lily Menon

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers story as well as a second chance romance, so I was eager to read Lily Menon’s new novel Make Up Break Up as soon as I heard it featured both.  It also features an inside look at dating apps and start up companies, and I’m drawn to books that feel timely when it comes to technology so in many ways, this book was a great fit for me.

I found myself very invested in the main character, Annika, primarily because she’s a female business owner in the tech industry.  I found myself rooting for her company’s success, especially when it became clear that not only were they the underdogs of the story, but it appears that Annika’s chief rival, Hudson Craft, is rising to fame on what appears to be an idea about a dating app that he stole from her when they met over the summer at a conference in Las Vegas.  The fact that Annika’s company is struggling while Hudson’s is clearly taking off makes matters all the worse.

I really wanted to hate Hudson on Annika’s behalf but I have to admit that he won me over pretty quickly because even though he could be totally obnoxious around Annika, he seemed like a nice guy otherwise.  The story takes an awkward but entertaining turn when Hudson moves into Annika’s office building so that now she has to see him every day.  In spite of her seeming animosity toward Hudson, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the two of them have major chemistry.  It’s hard to tell from one moment to the next if they’re going to kill each other or end up making out.

Even though I enjoyed their interactions overall and most of their scenes were a lot of fun, there were a few times where it just felt like they were acting pretty juvenile and I wanted to yell at them to grow up and behave like adults.  I also found myself a little torn when it came to the actual app development and business side of Annika’s life though. While it was really interesting at times, there were other moments when I wanted less tech talk and more relationship talk.

In spite of those issues, however, I still really enjoyed Make Up Break Up overall and look forward to reading more from Lily Menon in the future.  3.5 STARS

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN

I’m going to start off by saying the reason you’re getting two Susan Meissner reviews today is that I loved her latest, The Nature of Fragile Things, so much that I immediately ran to my shelf to see what other books of hers I owned but hadn’t read yet and found A Bridge Across the Ocean.

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEANThe Nature of Fragile Things Goodreads

Author: Susan Meissner

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

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

The Nature of Fragile Things is set primarily in San Francisco around the time of the Great Earthquake of 1906.  It follows a young Irish immigrant named Sophie Whalen who has come to America looking for a better life.  Instead of a better life, however, she has found herself living in a dirty, overcrowded slum in New York.   Desperately searching for something better, Sophie answers a newspaper ad posted by a widow who is looking for a woman to marry him and help care for his 5-year-old daughter and run his household.  The two of them come to an agreement and Sophie travels to San Francisco to get married and begin her new life.

Married life isn’t quite what she expects it to be, however.  Her husband, Martin, is aloof and secretive, takes minimal interest in Sophie or his daughter, and stays away, supposedly for his job, for days at a time.  When another woman shows up on their doorstep claiming ties to Martin, it becomes clear that Martin has been keeping secrets from Sophie.  While Sophie is in the midst of confronting Martin about his deception, their lives literally and figuratively crumble around them when a devastating earthquake strikes the city. Will they make it out alive?  If so, where do they go from here now that trust has been broken?

I absolutely fell in love with Sophie as I was reading this book.  She’s just such a complex and well-drawn character. She’s definitely not without flaws and has a few secrets of her own, but I really admired her determination to keep pushing for the kind of life she’s looking for.  I also adored the relationship she cultivates with Martin’s young daughter.  She truly became a mom for that little girl and it was just so touching to watch the two of them together.  Where I loved Sophie though, I totally loathed her husband.   At first I just thought he was a little odd, but the more I saw of him, the more I grew to think of him as a monster who has lied his way through life.

In addition to crafting these incredibly vivid characters who made me feel so much, both good and bad, Meissner also does a wonderful job making me feel like I really was in San Francisco and that I was actually there when the earthquake struck.  Her descriptions are so vivid and terrifying that my heart felt like it was in my throat the entire time I was reading those scenes.

If you enjoy historical fiction that tells a story of deception, betrayal, and heartbreak but also of sisterhood, found families, hope and second chances, The Nature of Fragile Things is a must-read for you. 5 STARS

 

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEANA Bridge Across the Ocean Goodreads

Author: Susan Meissner

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

As anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows, I’m a huge fan of WWII historical fiction.  I’ve actually not read much about war brides though so I was intrigued to see that Susan Meissner’s novel, A Bridge Across the Ocean, focuses on them.

A Bridge Across the Ocean also features one of my favorite elements in historical fiction, a dual timeline, one in present day and the other in 1946 right after WWII.  The present timeline follows Brette Caslake, a young woman who can see and communicate with ghosts.  It can be overwhelming at times because the spirits tend to follow her around once they realize she can see and speak to them, but when Brette visits the RMS Queen Mary, a famous haunted ship that once transported war brides from England to the U.S., she meets a spirit with a tale she cannot ignore.  It sets her on a course to try and solve a 70-year old mystery surrounding a passenger who somehow fell overboard and drowned while the ship was crossing the Atlantic.  Brette knows if she can find out the truth about what happened, she can give this spirit the closure it so desperately desires.

The second timeline takes us back 70 years to follow the journey of two women who end up aboard the RMS Queen Mary on that fateful trip. Simone Deveraux is a young French woman whose father and brother, part of the French Resistance, were murdered by Nazis right in front of her. Desperate and alone, Simone runs for her life and ends up hiding in a basement for months waiting for France to be liberated. Annaliese Lange is a German ballerina who catches the eye of a Nazi officer and is soon married off to him, at her parents’ insistence because they thought it would keep her safe.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and Annaliese suffers greatly at the hands of this horrible man. After the war, Simone and Annaliese end up as roommates on the RMS Queen Mary headed to America for a fresh start.  When their ship docks in New York, however, only one of them disembarks and she is the only one who knows what happened to the other woman. Thus, the mystery that Brette is trying to solve.

I found the war brides’ timeline to be the more compelling of the two.  I was so invested in both Simone and Annaliese surviving the awful circumstances they found themselves in and was really rooting for them both to get that fresh start they so richly deserved.  Even though I wasn’t quite as invested in the present day timeline with the ghost, I still loved the way Meissner pulled all of the intricate threads of both timelines together as Brette followed the clues and found her way to the truth about what really happened on that ship.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a captivating story of tragedy and heartbreak, love and loss, and of survival and resilience.  If you’re in the mood for a haunting mystery, you can’t go wrong with this book. 4 STARS

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are Invited

 

Happy Thursday!  For those who read my 2021 goals post a couple of weeks ago, you may remember that I mentioned wanting to bring in a guest blogger.  Well, today is the day that goal is becoming a reality.  Sharon is one of my long-time best friends and she also happens to be an avid reader, particularly in the mystery/thriller genre.  Since I don’t review many thrillers, I thought it would be fun to have Sharon share some of the thrillers she has been reading and, in the process, start a new feature on the blog, Thriller Thursday.  We’re aiming for her to share reviews every other Thursday, but we’ll play it by ear depending on how busy her schedule is.  Anyway, please give Sharon a warm welcome and I hope you’ll find some new reads to add to your TBRs. 🙂

 

*******

Hi everyone! My name is Sharon and I would like to thank Suzanne for the opportunity to share some of my reviews on her blog. I like to read a bunch of different genres, thrillers, mysteries, YA, fantasy. But my go to are the mystery/thriller type books. And today I would like to share a couple of thriller/supernatural books I have just read. The Ghost Tree and You Are Invited.

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedThe Ghost Tree Goodreads

Author: Christina Henry

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Publisher: Berkley Books

 

I really cannot say too much about The Ghost Tree because pretty much anything I say will spoil it. But I will say this was awesome. It is filled with witches, curses and haunted woods. It is a bit graphic at times when describing the murder scenes, so be forewarned.

Smiths Hollow is a small town and something evil lives in the woods and only comes out once a year. Or so everyone thought… But then Lauren’s father was found murdered in the woods and his heart was torn out. And then 6 months later the mutilated bodies of 2 girls were found. What is the evil that lives in the woods and why the sudden change in its pattern?

Even though her father was murdered in the woods, Lauren has never been afraid to go there. She has been going there with her BFF Miranda since they were little. Lauren also knows that the police won’t find the killer of the girls because they never found out who killed her father. In fact, they surprisingly never really did much of an investigation and everyone has seemed to moved on. Then Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging those girls through the woods and killing them. She knows that she cannot let it go and have them forgotten (as all the others before them have been), so she goes into the woods to find evidence to help the police find the killer. But she finds more than that, Lauren discovers that their small town is cursed, and it is up to her to fix it.

The book is told from many POV’s and has a lot of things going on besides the murders, but it never got confusing. Everything just flowed so well and all the characters meshed so well together. While the book had multiple POV’s, Lauren was the main focal character and I just loved her. I loved how she cared about her younger brother David (who is such a little sweetie). Even though she is 14 and he is only 4 she took the time to spend time with him, be it playing a board game or going to the local fair. I also loved the growth Lauren had. She goes from a 14 ½ year old who is still a child, to a teenager on the edge of womanhood. She learns a lot about the town’s history as well as her own and she faces them both head on.

The book takes place in 1985 and I loved all the 80’s references (it was like going down memory lane)

And even though we find out early on in the book what is wrong with the town, it does not take anything away from the story; in fact, it actually adds to the tension. And boy does the tension ramp up as the book goes on! By the end I was on the edge of my seat.    4 Stars

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedYou Are Invited Goodreads

Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Publication Date: September 11, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

 

Cath Fenwick is an author of fantasy books. She has a large following on social media, but Cath has always been a loner. She has no real friends, except from her social media followers and she suffers from schizophrenia but can keep the voices at bay with the help of her medication. When Cath gets an invitation from Irene Jobert to take part in The Event, a retreat of sorts for social media influencers, she jumps at the chance. Irene is the most famous influencer in the world and Cath will get to spend a month with her and 3 others (Jules, a famous blogger; Nathan, a gamer; and Daniel, a fitness guru) in an old Transylvanian Monastery. They will be live streamed to millions of people around the world and the subscribers can donate money to their favorite influencer.

On her way to The Event, Cath’s taxi driver tells her the story of the nuns that were murdered at the monastery years ago “There are those who claim the ghosts walking the corridors of Sfântul Mihail are not ghosts at all.”  And that may be true.  As the group is roaming around parts of the Monastery, their viewers notice a dark shape lurking in a corner.  Strange things start happening too.  There are wolves in the woods, there is a snowstorm coming, and one of the viewers keeps offering them one million dollars to kill one of the group.  Cath’s inner voices are also back.  Add all of that up and you have a group that is beginning to crack and become paranoid, all while being live streamed.

The book is told from the POV of Cath and she was not a very reliable narrator, which just added to the mystery and suspense of the book.

I loved the eerie gothic setting. I think the author did a great job of making the scenery jump off the pages. The beginning of the book had the most eerie/supernatural feel to it, gave me chills a few times. The eerie feel tapered off midway through the book when a couple of twists were added that took the book in a new direction.

The ending did feel a bit rushed to me, and there were a few things that were left unanswered.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the supernatural/mystery feel of the book. And also the live stream and followers interaction aspect of the book.   3 ½ stars

 

Review: THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Review:  THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn SolomonThe Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on January 26, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I read and fell in love with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s YA contemporary novel Today Tonight Tomorrow.  I was captivated by both her characters and her storytelling and couldn’t wait to get my hands on anything and everything else she’s written.  So when I heard she had a new adult contemporary novel called The Ex Talk coming out, I was quick to rush over to Netgalley and request a review copy.  And I’m thrilled to report that, as soon as I started reading, I fell in love with Solomon’s writing and storytelling all over again.

As with Today Tonight Tomorrow, it’s the incredibly realistic and well drawn characters Solomon creates that really pulled me in.  The Ex Talk follows Shay Goldstein, a radio producer who has been working at a public radio station in Seattle for almost ten years.  Shay loves her job and can’t imagine ever doing anything else.  Her job also makes her feel connected to her Dad, who passed away a while ago, as they both shared a love of public radio.  Shay has also held kind of a Rockstar status at the radio station because she’s young and talented.  That all changes, however, when Dominic Yun starts working at the station. Fresh out of grad school and anxious to prove himself, Dominic quickly threatens to steal the spotlight from Shay.  Needless to say, Shay is not impressed (although she has to admit he’s pretty cute, even though he is absolutely infuriating).

Shay is so likeable from the opening pages that I was immediately rooting for her to put Dominic in his place. That is, until the banter and the sparks started flying!  When the radio station falls on hard times and needs fresh new programming in a hurry, Shay suggests a talk show about relationships that features two exes as cohosts.  The boss loves the idea and says that since there’s no time to look for actual exes, Shay and Dominic will pretend to be exes and host the show together.  Can you say awkward?  I’m a sucker for a good enemies to lovers story anyway so throw in some fake dating on top of it and you’ve got yourself a practically perfect romcom.  As soon as Dominic and Shay started with the verbal sparring, both on and off air, I was completely hooked. And of course, as soon as we start to learn more about Dominic, I fell in love with his character too and just wanted the two of them to get together already, haha!

There’s so much more I could say, but I don’t want to spoil the evolution of their relationship.  I’ll just leave it at this – I loved pretty much everything about The Ex Talk.  I loved the characters, the dialogue, the focus on public radio, the actual scripts from their show, etc.  The Ex Talk is one of those books that was so much fun to read I didn’t want it to end and I’m predicting now that it will make my Best of 2021 list.

four-half-stars

About Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the YA novels Today Tonight Tomorrow, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Our Year of Maybe, and We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This (June 2021). Her debut adult romantic comedy, The Ex Talk, will be published in January 2021.

In high school, Rachel sang and played keyboard in an all-girl band, and she was once part of a group of people who broke a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place.

She has written for newspapers, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and worked for NPR. Rachel has been a Pitch Wars mentor since 2014 and currently serves on the Pitch Wars leadership committee.

These days, she writes books about ambitious, messy, sometimes unlikable girls and women who are trying their best and often falling in love along the way. She is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Review: IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE by Camilla Bruce

Review:  IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE by Camilla BruceIn the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on January 19, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Man Shall Inherit the Earth…Unless She Kills Him First.”  I’ve been wanting to try one of Camilla Bruce’s books for a while now and when I saw this attention-grabbing tagline on the cover of her latest novel, In the Garden of Spite, I knew I had to read it.  In the Garden of Spite is a work of historical fiction that follows the life of Belle Gunness, perhaps better known as “The Black Widow of La Porte,” one of the most famous female serial killers in American History.

Let me start by saying In the Garden of Spite isn’t for the faint of heart.  Belle’s preferred methods of dispatching her victims ranged from poisons to cleavers, and she quite literally butchered them, chopping them into manageable pieces to make it easier to bury them in her backyard.  So yes, it’s gory and gruesome at times, but if you can get past that, this story is a fascinating, in-depth look inside the mind of a serial killer.  I was equally repulsed and riveted the entire time I was reading.

The author takes us through about thirty years of Belle’s life, from when she was a child living in poverty in Norway all the way through to the height of her killing spree once she has immigrated to America.  Belle’s early life was not an easy one and the author paints a vivid portrait as to how abuse, trauma, and poverty could have shaped her into the very disturbed woman we meet in this book.

Belle is a truly fascinating character and I found myself drawn to her more than I expected to be.  She’s not an especially likeable character, being a serial killer and all, but wow, her resourcefulness and determination is impressive! As twisted as she could be most of the time, I frequently found myself quite impressed by her at other times.  How she managed to spin her way out of trouble time and time again, and how she is constantly able to reinvent herself.  Normally an unlikeable main character would derail my enjoyment of a book, but Belle is just so fascinating that I found myself glued to the story in spite of myself.

One of my favorite parts of the story though is how Belle’s life is presented.  The author uses two perspectives, 1) Belle’s and 2) Belle’s older sister, Nellie, who also lives in America.  With Belle’s perspective, we obviously get that intimate look into what she’s thinking and feeling as she commits each heinous murder.  With Nellie’s perspective though, we get the perspective of a family member who loves her sister deeply, but who is also torn between her desire to protect her baby sister from the world and her increasing suspicion that there is something truly broken in Belle and that she may be forced to do something about it.  I just loved the contrast in these two points of view.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Black Widow of La Porte, I highly recommend In the Garden of Spite.  It’s a dark and grisly, yet truly riveting tale.

four-stars

About Camilla Bruce

Camilla Bruce is a Norwegian writer of dark speculative and historical fiction.

Her debut novel, You Let Me In, is out now from Bantam Press (UK) and Tor (US).

Her dark historical, In the Garden of Spite, will be published by Berkley (US) and Michael Joseph (UK) in 2021.

Review: YOU HAVE A MATCH by Emma Lord

Review:  YOU HAVE A MATCH by Emma LordYou Have a Match by Emma Lord
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on January 12, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Lord’s new YA contemporary, You Have a Match, follows 16-year-old Abby Day. When Abby agrees to take a DNA test, alongside her two best friends, Connie and Leo, she thinks she’s just doing it for moral support because Leo is adopted and would like to know more about his biological family.  What Abby doesn’t count on is that taking that simple little test will turn her entire life upside down when it connects her to an older sister named Savannah (“Savvy”) she never even knew existed.

Abby has no idea what to do with this information, but then Savvy reaches out to her and wants to meet. After an initial meeting where Abby ends up with more questions than answers, she agrees to meet up with Savvy at summer camp so they can really get to the bottom of why Abby’s parents gave up Savvy for adoption.  Add Leo, who Abby has some awkward more-than-friends feelings for, to the mix because he also attends the same summer camp and you’ve got a recipe for an entertaining and cute read with lots of potential for emotions to run high.

The relationship between Abby and Savvy was the biggest highlight of the story for me.  Abby is a born risk taker, who tends to act first and think about it later. She’s also a budding photographer who inherited her love of photography from her grandfather who passed away recently. Abby has been struggling a bit with her grief since his passing, both in her personal life and academically.  In contrast, Savvy comes across as little Miss Perfect. She’s a social media influencer who focuses on healthy living.  Her Instagram feed is filled with yoga, meditation, healthy eating, etc.  Savvy wants everything in her life to be picture perfect so Abby’s act first, think later, rules are optional philosophy does not sit well with her.

These two are such polar opposites that it’s hard to believe that they could possibly be sisters, but I really loved watching their relationship progress the more time they spend together.  There are plenty of bumps in the road as the two of them constantly butt heads over pretty much everything, but the relationship growth comes across as very authentic and I liked that both sisters learned a lot and grew as a result of the challenges they encountered and mistakes they made along the way.

I also loved the blend of family, friendships, sisterhood, and romance, along with the summer camp setting. In addition to the sibling relationship, there’s also the mystery of why Abby’s parents gave up Savvy for adoption and then promptly had Abby a year and a half later.  Getting to the bottom of that mystery kept me turning the pages, as did wanting to see Abby sort through her feelings for Leo.  Leo is such a sweetheart so I was 100% invested in Abby being brave enough to take a chance on him.

I really enjoyed reading You Have a Match.  It’s a fun and quick read, but also just one of those stories that has a little something for everyone and that will leave you with a contented smile on your face.

four-stars

About Emma Lord

Emma Lord is the author of TWEET CUTE and upcoming YOU HAVE A MATCH, and a digital media editor living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, a whole lot of love, and copious amounts of grilled cheese.

Review: JUST OUR LUCK by Julia Walton

Review:  JUST OUR LUCK by Julia WaltonJust Our Luck by Julia Walton
four-half-stars
on December 29, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Walton’s new novel, Just Our Luck, is the feel good book I really needed in my life this year.  It follows Leo, a teen who has struggled with anxiety all his life.  His mom died when he was younger so his Greek grandmother, Yia Yia, was the one who watched over him and provided him, not only with coping mechanisms, like knitting, to help with his anxiety, but also with two “rules for life”:  1) Bad luck follows lies, and 2) Leave the Paros family alone.  When his grandmother passes away and his father is too wrapped up in his own grief to really know how to relate to Leo, Leo starts to struggle even more and manages to break both of Yia Yia’s “rules for life” in one fell swoop when a fist fight at school, followed by a fib to his father about what happened, lands Leo enrolled in a self-defense class at a gym where you guessed it, Evey Paros, of the forbidden Paros family from rule #2, works.  What follows is a life-changing journey for Leo and a delightfully, heartwarming coming of age story filled with humor, friendship, love, and so much more.

It was impossible not to root for Leo every step of the way as I was reading Just Our Luck. I’m a sucker for an underdog and for a soft boy and Leo is definitely both.  Leo’s passions are photography and knitting and the thought of having to even set foot in a martial arts style self defense class makes his heart race.  When Evey tells him she can secretly switch him over to a hot yoga class that takes place at the same time in exchange for a favor, Leo eagerly jumps at the chance even though he can practically hear his grandmother screaming at him to “LEAVE THAT PAROS GIRL ALONE!”  Even though he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, with either the hot yoga or with Evey, I loved watching Leo take this journey because he just grew so much every step of the way.  There were honest and raw moments as he continues to work through his anxiety and his overall awkwardness around people, and there were also hilarious moments in the yoga classes as well as with some of his antics with Evey.  I also enjoyed watching Leo and Evey grow closer and learning what the deal was with grandma’s rule about Evey’s family.

I think my favorite part of Just Our Luck though was the friendship that develops between Leo and Drake, the boy who punched Leo in the face and kicked off this whole chain of events.  Leo and Drake are forced to sit in a special detention every day and they have one goal:  to work through whatever issue led to the punch in the face.  It’s a hard sell at first with both boys just sitting there in awkward silence day after day, but once the breakthrough finally happens, a really wonderful friendship emerges.  One that left me with an even bigger smile on my face than Leo and Evey growing closer.

I could go on and on about how truly heartwarming and delightful Just Our Luck is, but just take my word for it.  If you’re in the mood for a feel good story, Just Our Luck is a must read.

four-half-stars

About Julia Walton

Julia Walton received her MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. When she’s not reading or baking cookies, she’s indulging in her profound love of Swedish Fish, mechanical pencils, and hobbit-sized breakfasts. Julia lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband and daughter.