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Reviews: THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIES

 

I hope everyone who was celebrating this weekend had a safe and fun 4th of July holiday.  I spent most of my holiday weekend reading so today I’m sharing reviews for a couple of fun contemporary reads that are coming out this week.  The Heir Affair and Not Like the Movies are the perfect reads to escape into this summer.

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESThe Heir Affair (Royal We, #2) Goodreads

Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing

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

 

If you enjoy books about royalty or have ever fancied yourself marrying the future King of England, The Royal We series by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan needs to be on your must read list.  The Royal We, the first book in the series, follows American college student Rebecca Porter (Bex) and Prince Nicholas (Nick), the future King of Great Britain as they meet, fall in love, and navigate the many obstacles that stand in the way of Bex becoming a member of the Royal Family, while the newest novel in the series, The Heir Affair, picks up with Nick and Bex as a newly married couple starting out their lives together.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, what I really loved about The Heir Affair is that it really takes a deep dive into Nick and Bex’s relationship.  Some very dramatic events from the first book have really shaken them.  They need time to heal and regroup, and then they also need to work to try to reconcile with Nick’s brother, Freddie, as well as mend their reputations with respect to the people of Great Britain.  The authors do a wonderful job of making Bex and Nick’s relationship easy to relate to.  Even though they are royalty and many of their issues and challenges are royal problems that most of us can only imagine in our wildest dreams, many of the other challenges they face are normal, everyday couple issues.

Of course there are still plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the book, particularly with respect to Bex’s relationship with the Queen and with Bex and Nick’s circle of friends from college who are always entertaining.  As much as Bex and Nick’s journey through married life and, in particular, their strained relationship with Freddie, tugged at my heartstrings, the humorous moments really balanced things out, as did some of the long-buried, juicy royal secrets that come to light and shake things up for everyone.

As much as I enjoyed The Royal We, I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel in The Heir Affair. Overall, a very satisfying read. 4 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESNot Like the Movies (Waiting for Tom Hanks, #2) Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

 

I went into Kerry Winfrey’s new novel, Not Like the Movies, hoping for a bit of light rom-com goodness, but I have to say that I fully underestimated this book because Not Like the Movies has turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the summer so far.  While yes, it has plenty of that rom-com goodness I was looking for, it also has so much more.

Chloe Sanderson is the protagonist of the story and I adored her and just found her so relatable. Chloe has a big heart, always going out of her way to do nice things for others.  She also has a lot on her plate, working as a waitress and baker at Nick’s Café, going to school to finish her business degree, and, most importantly, caring for her aging father who has Alzheimer’s.  Chloe’s life is further complicated when her best friend Annie, an up and coming filmmaker, writes a rom-com screenplay inspired by Chloe’s life and her romance with her boss, Nick.  There’s just one problem…Chloe and Nick are not in a relationship and never have been.

When Annie’s screenplay is actually picked up by a major studio, Chloe’s fictionalized life is suddenly everywhere and everyone thinks she and Nick are together. Awkward!  Things become even more awkward as Chloe starts to consider the possibility of dating her boss. She doesn’t have time for it with everything else on her plate and doesn’t even know if she believes in love, but Nick is kind of irresistible in a sexy, grumpy yet super sweet Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls kind of way. I loved Nick and Chloe’s chemistry and immediately became fully invested in the “Will they or won’t they?” pull of the story.

As much as I adored the rom-com aspect of Nick and Chloe’s evolving relationship, what really took Not Like the Movies to the next level for me was Chloe’s journey as she tries to balance everything she has going on in her life.  It’s an emotional one for her because she’s always so worried about caring for others, especially her Dad, and leaves her own self-care out of the equation.  Even though the journey is a struggle for her, I loved watching Chloe grow as a person, and I especially enjoyed watching her assert herself when it comes to her brother, who has conveniently stayed away and not pulled his weight when it comes to matters of their family.

There’s just so much to love about Not Like the Movies. I flew through it in a couple of sittings and even though I was completely satisfied with the ending, I was actually still just a little sad just because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Chloe and Nick yet.  If you’re in the mood for a story that features romance, family drama, and friendship, this is your book.  Oh and there’s pie too!  Lots of pie!  4.5 STARS

Mini Reviews: TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIER

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of a couple of contemporary reads that are coming out in the next couple of weeks.  I adored both of these novels; they were just the perfect reads to distract me and help pass the time while stuck in quarantine because of the pandemic.

 

Mini Reviews:  TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIERTake a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2) Goodreads

Author: Talia Hibbert

Publication Date: June 23, 2020

Publisher:  Avon

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

 

I wasn’t sure Talia Hibbert would be able to top Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but as much as I enjoyed that book, I fell head over heels in love with Take a Hint, Dani Brown.

Dani is a professor and is absolutely brilliant at most things…the one exception to that being love.  When it comes to matters of the heart, she is admittedly completely clueless and therefore just doesn’t even try anymore.  All she wants out of life is to be successful professionally and academically, and a friends-with-benefits relationship on the side to satisfy her physical needs.  When the universe places Zaf, a tall, dark, and handsome university security officer in her path, Dani thinks it must surely be a sign.

Zaf, however, has other ideas when it comes to love. An avid reader of romance novels, Zaf knows what he wants too and it’s all about romance and a happily ever after for him.  When a chance encounter between Zaf and Dani is captured on video and goes viral,  it’s game on, especially when both he and Dani realize their video is actually generating positive buzz and much-needed donations to Zaf’s sports charity for kids.  Dani agrees to pose as his girlfriend for a while to keep that positive press coming. Zaf is great with this arrangement at first, but finds his attraction to Dani growing with every encounter.   Can Zaf win Dani over to his way of thinking when it comes to love and romance?  Or can Dani persuade Zaf that her way is the way to go?

The main characters, Dani and Zaf were both so adorable. I just couldn’t get enough of them.  The chemistry and sexual tension between them is off the charts, and I just loved all of their flirty banter.  Dani is so outspoken when it comes to her thoughts on sex and it cracked me up because she could so easily fluster Zaf and leave him blushing.  I love the fake dating trope because it makes for such a fun storyline, but man was I rooting for these two to get together for real.  They were just so perfect for each other, and I devoured page after page eagerly waiting to see what would happen between them.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun and sexy read with a “Will they or won’t they?” vibe, definitely check out Take a Hint, Dani Brown. You won’t regret it!  4.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews:  TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIERI Was Told It Would Get Easier Goodreads

Author: Abbi Waxman

Publication Date: June 16, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

 

I became a huge fan of Abbi Waxman’s writing and her sense of humor when I read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill last year, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, I Was Told It Would Get Easier.

I fell in love with this book as soon as I started reading it and realized it was about a mother and daughter taking a road trip to visit colleges and especially as soon as I felt the tension between them.  I love those complicated relationship dynamics and couldn’t wait to dive in and learn more about what was going on with these two.  Jessica and her daughter Emily used to be very close, but as often happens when our children enter their teen years, things get a little more challenging, and in this case, mother and daughter have gradually grown apart.  Jessica is really hoping this college tour will give them a chance to bond; however, Emily doesn’t even know if she wants to go to college so she isn’t overly invested in the trip and doesn’t know how to tell her mom that college may not be for her.  Emily is also completely distracted by a potential scandal that seems to be unfolding at the private school she attends. This all makes for an even more strained mother-daughter dynamic as they embark on this trip.

While Jessica and Emily’s emotional journey is definitely at the heart of I Was Told It Would Get Easier, the novel is also filled with Waxman’s trademark humor, especially when it came to the actual college tours, which sometimes went completely off the rails in the most amusing ways.  The cast of secondary characters was very entertaining as well, filled with a nice mix of characters I loved and even a couple that I loved to hate, which is always fun.  I also enjoyed watching Emily and Jessica interact with other kids and their parents.  Waxman’s mix of heart and humor kept me turning the pages, as did the dramatic hints of some trouble brewing at Jessica’s workplace as well as that school scandal Emily seems to be obsessing over.

Abbi Waxman definitely has another winner on her hands with I Was Told It Would Get Easier.  I whole heartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys heartwarming and humorous reads and stories that focus on mother-daughter relationships.  4.5 STARS

Mini Reviews: The “Slow Burn” Edition

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of some new and recent releases that are sure to please anyone who enjoys a fun and heartwarming read with a side of slow burn romance.

 

Mini Reviews:  The “Slow Burn” EditionReal Men Knit Goodreads

Author: Kwana Jackson

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

 

Kwana Jackson’s new novel, Real Men Knit, is a heartwarming story about what happens when a prominent Harlem business owner, Mama Joy Strong, unexpectedly passes away and her four adoptive sons are left to determine what happens to Strong Knits, her beloved knitting shop.

I was drawn into this story right away because of Mama Joy.  Even though she’s deceased, Mama Joy is still such a major presence in the book. She’s the thread that ties everyone together and was clearly loved and respected by all who knew her. I also just loved that she chose to adopt not just one or two, but four (!) troubled boys who were in foster care and made them all into a family.  She just struck me as one of those people you instantly wish you had had the opportunity to meet because she was clearly a force of nature.

What surprised me about Real Men Knit is that I went into it expecting a romance based on the synopsis, but while the story does have a hint of romance, I would consider it more a story about family and about growing up.  One of the main characters is Jesse, one of Mama Joy’s sons.  Jesse is the butt of many a joke in the Strong household because 1) he has no real direction in life yet in terms of a career, and 2) because he has a reputation as a ladies’ man, specifically for moving from one woman to the next, leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake.  The other thing about Jesse though is that he loved Mama Joy more than anything and it’s Jesse who is the driving force behind wanting to save Strong Knits and preserve his mama’s legacy.  He also wants to prove to his brothers that he’s not the screw up they think he is.  Jesse won me over right away, mainly because of his intense devotion to Mama Joy, and I was rooting for him to win his brothers over to the cause of saving Strong Knits.

The hint of romance comes in the form of Kerry Fuller, the other main character, who also grew up thinking of Strong Knits as her home away from home and Mama Joy as her second mom. Kerry is invested in saving the shop as well and agrees to help Jesse.  Sparks fly and there is definitely chemistry between them, but it’s a slow burn affair because Jesse has to get past thinking of Kerry as ‘Little Kerry’ that he grew up with, and Kerry has to get past Jesse’s reputation as the neighborhood heartbreaker.  It’s sweet watching the two of them come together to save the shop but I definitely would have preferred a little less of a slow burn.

Real Men Knit is a wonderful story about family and community, and yes, about love too.  If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming story that will put a smile on your face, look no further.

 

 

Mini Reviews:  The “Slow Burn” EditionSomething to Talk About Goodreads

Author: Meryl Wilsner

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

 

Meryl Wilsner’s debut romance Something to Talk About was such a fun read for me.  It centers on Jo Jones, a showrunner for a popular TV series who is now looking to make her move to the big screen when she signs on to pen the script for the next installment in a hugely popular action series.  Hollywood being what it is, there are plenty of people lined up ready and waiting to gossip about how Jo’s not up for the job.  Jo is already tired of fielding questions about the new film and whether she’s the right person for the job, so when she has to attend a major award ceremony, she asks her trusted assistant Emma to accompany her and serve as a buffer to drive away the reporters.  An innocent moment between Jo and Emma is caught on camera and the rumor mill runs wild with it, declaring them a couple and trying to spin it into a scandal worthy of the tabloids.

We watch the story unfold from the alternating perspectives of Jo and Emma, and I thought this was very well done. I liked seeing how each woman reacted to the growing scandal, and, in particular, how worried they were for each other.  Would Jo be deemed as a predatory employer taking advantage of her assistant?  Or would Emma be seen as trying to sleep her way to the top?  Ever-present paparazzi and on-set leaks have both women on edge, second guessing their every interaction and who might be watching them. It makes for some very awkward moments between them, especially since the more closely they work together to make it look like they aren’t romantically involved, the more they begin to realize they actually do have feelings for one another.  I really liked both Jo and Emma so I was definitely cheering them on, both to beat back the rumor mongers and to take the leap to coupledom.

Something to Talk About is an entertaining read that also takes a hard look at some of the more toxic elements of working in show business.  I loved this aspect of the story, especially since it featured Jo kicking butt and taking names, reminiscent of today’s Me Too movement.  About the only real downside of the book for me was that it felt like the actual romance I was looking for and expecting took a back seat to everything else.  I don’t mind a slow burn romance at all, but I felt like I was nearly finished with the book before we really started to get a hint of any potential romance between Emma and Jo. If that had happened, just a little sooner, it would have been an even better read for me.  Even with that though, I would highly recommend Something to Talk About to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction and an inside look at Hollywood culture.

Book Reviews: April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and Cry

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of some new and recent releases that are sure to please anyone who enjoys emotional reads.  The Big Finish is a heartwarming and fun read that put a smile on my face, while You and Me and Us had me reaching for my tissues and doing the ugly cry.

 

Book Reviews:  April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and CryThe Big Finish Goodreads

Author: Brooke Fossey

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

Brooke Fossey’s debut novel The Big Finish is an absolutely delightful story that follows a lovable cast of characters at an assisted living facility and the young woman who shows up unexpectedly and turns all of their lives upside down in the best way possible.  I’ll confess right now that I requested this book because I fell in love with the adorable cover as soon as I saw it.  I couldn’t resist the elderly man sitting on the back of the motorcycle waving his cane in the air.  That’s the promise of a hilarious read right there and thankfully I was not disappointed.

I got so much more than a humorous read though.  The Big Finish is a heartwarming story about family, friendship, love and loss. It centers around longtime roommates, Carl and Duffy.  Duffy is a bit of a curmudgeon, while Carl is a total sweetheart.  Even though they’re polar opposites, their friendship and living arrangements work seamlessly.  That is, until Josie, the granddaughter Carl has never met, comes climbing in their bedroom window in the middle of the night one night, with nothing but the clothes on her back, alcohol on her breath, and a black eye.  It’s clear Josie is in trouble and Duffy wants no part of it.  If she creates drama for them, their nasty landlord will surely give them a one-way ticket to the nearest nursing home and that is not how Duffy wants to live out his final days.  Duffy’s friendship with Carl means everything to him though so he reluctantly agrees to do whatever he can to help Carl get to know his granddaughter and to help her out of whatever toxic situation she is running from.  What starts out as a mission on the down-low soon draws in more and more of the home’s residents as they fall in love with Josie and want to help her.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot because you just have to experience it for yourself, but I promise this is a cast of characters you will fall in love with, especially Duffy, who is nowhere near as grumpy and gruff as he would have you believe.  Duffy and Carl’s friendship is what really made the book such a special read for me and I also adored Duffy’s friendship with another resident, Alice.  He would clearly love for their relationship to be more than just friends and every scene with her brings out his softer side.  The Big Finish is one of those books I’d love to see made into a movie and was practically casting it in my mind the whole time I was reading it (with the cast of Grace and Frankie actually, haha).

If you’re looking for a fun and heartwarming read about friendship and the things we’re willing to do for our loved ones, you should definitely check out The Big Finish.

4 STARS

 

 

Book Reviews:  April 2020 Releases That Will Make You Laugh and CryYou and Me and Us Goodreads

Author: Alison Hammer

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  William Morrow

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

 

Alison Hammer’s new novel You and Me and Us is the heartbreaking story of what happens to a family when a diagnosis of terminal cancer turns their lives upside down.  Alexis and her teen daughter, CeCe, haven’t been close in years.  The ad agency Alexis founded keeps her so busy that she’s rarely ever around and has missed many of her daughter’s important milestones.  While Alexis and CeCe aren’t close, the opposite is true for CeCe and her dad, Tommy.  Tommy is CeCe’s rock and has been there for everything her mom has missed and then some.  Tommy is devoted to both Alexis and CeCe, and neither of them know what they would do without him.  When Tommy, who has been nursing a nagging cough for months, finally confesses to his girls that he has cancer and only has a few months to live, they are understandably devastated but are determined to make the most of every moment they have left with him.

Oh my gosh, guys, this book is such an emotional journey!  I loved that the author presents the story to us from the perspectives of both CeCe and Alexis.  I thought it gave a very full picture of what each of them was feeling at every step along the way – the sadness, the anger and frustration at the situation, CeCe’s resentment of her mother, Alexis’ sorrow at having missed out on so much of her daughter’s life (and Tommy’s for that matter).  The author also beautifully captured how fearful both Alexis and CeCe were of what life was going to be like once Tommy was gone.  Would Alexis finally make CeCe a priority?  Would CeCe actually let her mom back into her life?  I felt like the range of emotions they were experiencing were portrayed very realistically, which made the story all the more heartbreaking and engrossing.

As sad as the story is, it also has some beautiful and uplifting moments that really help to balance and round out the story.  I really did love watching Tommy interact with both CeCe and Alexis. He’s just such a wonderful guy and his bond with each of them was so special.  I also loved the secondary cast of characters – friends who are there for both CeCe and Alexis as they get closer and closer to the end of Tommy’s life.  I was also a huge fan of the ending, which although it had me in tears, it also left me with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. If books that pack an emotional punch are your thing, I highly recommend You and Me and Us4.5 STARS

Mini Reviews – April 2020 Releases

 

It’s time for a new batch of mini reviews and this time it’s April ARCs. I’ve got a bit of a mixed bag here in terms of genre – YA contemporary, YA fantasy, and Historical Romance, but these are the books that have gotten me through the first week of my state’s stay-at-home order.

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesJack Kerouac Is Dead to Me Goodreads

Author: Gae Polisner

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

 

Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is an oh-so-relatable YA contemporary about the challenges of being a teenager.  The story follows 15-year-old JL Markham who is firmly caught between the pressure of being forced to grow up too fast vs. those of not being allowed to grow up fast enough.  When the novel opens, we learn that JL has had a falling out with her lifelong best friend, Aubrey, and that she is trying to make amends.  It remains to be seen exactly what the falling out was over, but it’s clear the two have been drifting apart for a while now. Aubrey has a whole new circle of friends, while JL is left on the outside looking in.  JL is also dealing with the everyday peer pressure that confronts high school students – parties, drinking, dating, and especially in JL’s case because her boyfriend Max is four years older than she is, the added pressure to have sex, perhaps before one is ready.

Then as if being a teenager isn’t challenging enough, JL is also dealing with absentee parents and thus is pretty much on her own, without any guidance whatsoever, to navigate the issues she is facing.  Her father, although he hasn’t technically abandoned her, has been on the other side of the country for 18 months for his job and rarely checks in, except to push back his return home date.  This is especially disturbing considering JL’s mother is clearly suffering from a mental illness that has left her barely functioning. She sits around wearing kimonos most of the time, drinks a lot, and of all random things, writes love letters to Jack Kerouac (yes, the dead famous author).

Polisner does a tremendous job of making JL a sympathetic character.  She lets the reader inside JL’s head so we can see firsthand how she is coping and what her thoughts are about everything that is going on around her. She’s so lost and overwhelmed, and just hoping that she’s making the right decisions as she tries to figure things out day-by-day.  Max is the only one who is there for her, but is he there for the right reasons?  And where I was sympathetic to JL, I was unfortunately not a big fan of any of the other characters in the book, Max included. It seemed like they were all just either flat out awful to JL or just not there for her at all even though they should have been.  I honestly found myself angry and frustrated at all of them.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a quick read but it’s also one that packs an emotional punch because of everything JL goes through.  The only reason my rating isn’t higher is because I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt and left me with several questions that weren’t resolved.  Even with my lingering questions, however, it was still another great read from Gae Polisner.  3.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesRuthless Gods Goodreads

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

 

Ruthless Gods is the second book in Emily A. Duncan’s YA fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy. It’s hard to review the middle book of a trilogy for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t read the first book, but I’m going to do my best and will keep my remarks as general as possible.

What struck me the most about Ruthless Gods is that it definitely took a darker turn than Wicked Saints, which was already pretty dark.  In that sense, it kind of reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back vs. A New Hope.   There are dark forces at work everywhere, and those dark forces are impacting everyone, especially the main characters from the first book.  Nadya, the cleric who is the only one who can communicate with her Gods, can suddenly no longer reach them. It’s like they’ve cut her off.  Serefin, the Prince of Tranavia, is haunted by voices and feels as if his entire body has literally been taken over by someone or something else. And then there’s Malachiasz, the Prince’s brother, who is torn between who he once was and the monster he has become after incidents at the end of book one.  All three are battling inner demons and trying to figure out what is expected of them because it becomes clear they are pawns in someone else’s game.  Watching them struggle, I quickly found myself enamored with and rooting for all three characters all over again and anxious to see what awaited them.

As with Wicked Saints, the world building is phenomenal and I loved how dark and atmospheric it was and that it all felt tinged with the supernatural.  As much as I enjoyed the world building, the characters, and the overall story, I do have to admit that the pacing was a bit slow early on.  As Duncan starts to weave together the pieces that bind Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz, however, the book, thankfully, really takes off and I flew through the last half.

Even though I thought this second book was a little uneven in terms of its delivery, Ruthless Gods still gave me enough in that second half to have me anxiously awaiting the final book in the series.  If you enjoy slow-burn, dark fantasies, be sure to check out Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods.  3.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesTo Have and to Hoax Goodreads

Author: Martha Waters

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Altria Books

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

 

Martha Waters’ debut novel To Have and to Hoax is the hilarious, feel good read we all need in our lives right now. I breezed through it in a couple of sittings and just sat there chuckling to myself the entire time I was reading.  The book is set in Regency, England, and reads very much like a Jane Austen novel, which I loved since I’m a huge Austen fan.

To Have and to Hoax follows a young couple, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley, who meet, fall in love, and marry within just a few months of becoming acquainted.  A fierce quarrel between the two of them early on in their marriage has left them completely alienated from one another.  Both Violet and James are apparently not only stubborn as mules, but they are also quite juvenile and so 4 years have passed with them at a stalemate.   Deciding enough is enough, the two of them start to play mind games with one another – feigning sick to make the other one worry, pretending to have a paramour to make the other jealous. They even actually start to bring outsiders into their games as actors to up the stakes to try to get under each other’s skin.  These two idiots and their antics are just so silly and ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing at them and especially at their hilarious sniping banter.

To Have and to Hoax is exactly the bit of fluffy goodness I was hoping for when I started reading and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a light-hearted read about a couple of stubborn fools.  3.5 STARS

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

Mini Reviews – Must-Read February Releases: The Thriller Edition

 

It’s time for a new batch of mini reviews and this time it’s February ARCs, specifically three amazing thrillers that need to go on your must read list.  I don’t want to say much about these since with thrillers, it’s usually best to go in knowing as little as possible, but I do want to share a few highlights of what I loved about each book.

 

Mini Reviews – Must-Read February Releases: The Thriller EditionA Good Girl's Guide to Murder Goodreads

Author: Holly Jackson

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

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

 

Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a YA murder mystery that follows Pip, who has been thinking about a local murder investigation from a few years earlier, the outcome of which has never set well with her.  The case in question involved local high school students, Andie Bell and Sal Singh.  Andie went missing and Sal, who was her boyfriend at the time, immediately becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance.  When Sal takes his own life, everyone assumes that he killed Andie and committed suicide and thus the case was closed. Pip doesn’t buy it. Sal was one of the sweetest people she has ever known and she refuses to believe for one second that he hurt Andie.  Pip therefore decides to use her senior project as an opportunity to re-examine the case and find the real killer and she enlists Sal’s younger brother, Ravi, to help her.

This was such a fun read for me. I loved watching Pip in action.  She’s a very sharp young lady and has a real knack for being able to sift through clues and put together the pieces of a five year old murder mystery.  There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing as Pip followed the evidence and recorded her findings in her project journal. I also really loved that we were given the excerpts from Pip’s journal so that we could get inside of her head and follow her thought patterns as she sifted through what she found.  In addition to the thrill of feeling like I was right there with Pip as she investigated, there was also growing tension and suspense as Pip starts receiving anonymous threats warning her to back off or else.

While the case itself and Pip’s journey toward the truth is riveting, I also really enjoyed A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder because of the growing friendship between Pip and Ravi.  Ravi of course never believed his brother was capable of murder and has always wanted the opportunity to prove Sal’s innocence.  Instead of having that chance, however, Ravi, as the brother of an accused murderer, has pretty much been ostracized by the community. I loved that Pip reached out to him and gave him the opportunity to help clear his brother and get closure, and I especially loved that a true friendship between Pip and Ravi grew from them working on this project together.  I’m also excited that this book is the first in a series so I’m hoping we’ll get more of both Pip and Ravi in the next installment.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is one heck of a wild ride and I highly recommend it to fans of YA thrillers.   4.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews – Must-Read February Releases: The Thriller EditionThe Sun Down Motel Goodreads

Author: Simone St. James

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

I’m going to predict right now that Simone St. James’ latest novel The Sun Down Motel lands on my Best of 2020 list.  This book, hands down, blew me away, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to write anything here that will do it justice.  I devoured the book in less than 24 hours and it had me so hooked that I simply refused to put it down and do anything else until I knew how it ended.

The story follows two young women, Viv and Carly, 35 years apart, who both become entangled in the secrets that haunt an old run-down, roadside motel called the Sun Down Motel, located in the tiny town of Fell, New York.  In 1982, Viv Delaney was working as a night clerk at the motel when she unexpectedly went missing and was never heard from again.  In 2017, we meet Carly, who is actually Viv’s niece and who has left college and come to Fell, NY, trying to find the truth about what happened to her aunt. When Carly visits the Sun Down, while trying to retrace her aunt’s footsteps, she sees they are looking for a new night shift clerk, her aunt’s old shift. Carly can’t explain why but she feels compelled to take the job while she’s in town looking for leads on Viv.  And that’s when strange things start happening at the Sun Down Motel, like something out of The Twilight Zone.  The strange happenings at the Sun Down, as well as the mystery and secrets that surrounded them, absolutely enthralled me, as did the use of the dual timeline to show Viv investigating them in 1982 and then Carly experiencing and investigating the same things 35 years later in 2017. Would Carly find out what happened to Viv all those years ago…or would Carly disappear as well?

I don’t want to say anything else because both Carly and Viv’s journeys are best experienced with as few spoilers as possible going in. I will say though that this is absolutely one of the most suspenseful, atmospheric, mysterious, and haunting books I’ve read in a long time.  5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews – Must-Read February Releases: The Thriller EditionThe Dark Corners of the Night (UNSUB, #3) Goodreads

Author: Meg Gardiner

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Publisher:  Blackstone Publishing

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

 

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m a huge fan of the UNSUB series and that The Dark Corners of the Night is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. I’m happy to report that my love for the series has only grown with this third book because author Meg Gardiner really knocked it out of the park.  While the cover of the book is super creepy, let me just say that the story itself is even creepier. My skin crawled as I read about the horrific adventures of the killer who has been dubbed “The Midnight Man.”

The Midnight Man sneaks into family homes in the Los Angeles, CA area under the cover of darkness.  He deliberately chooses families, and he murders the parents but leaves the children alive as witnesses to his unspeakable acts.  As the body count quickly starts to rise and local law enforcement officers realize they are dealing with a serial killer, they call in the FBI, which is where the protagonist of the UNSUB series, FBI behavioral analyst, Caitlyn Hendrix, enters the picture.

As with the first two novels in the series, it is absolutely riveting watching Caitlyn and her team carefully piece together a behavioral profile for this UNSUB and gradually work their way toward a list of possible suspects.  I love the sense of trust and camraderie that has developed between the members of the FBI team in these first three books, but I also liked the bit of tension that I saw here between the local law enforcement.  It was an uneasy alliance between the two groups even though they were both there trying to achieve the same goal: to catch a killer.

Caitlyn is always a big draw for me when I start a new UNSUB book, but she really drew me in even more than usual in this one, for a couple of reasons.  First, as she’s learning more and more about the profile of the Midnight Man, she starts to see something of herself in him. He reminds her of her past and it disturbs her so much that she has to fight to keep it from impacting her work.  Second, The Dark Corners of the Night also signals that we are finally starting to circle back around to an unresolved case that was left hanging at the end of the first book.  My one disappointment with the second book was that it wasn’t really touched on, so I was thrilled to see it revisited here with some teasers to advance the plot.

I think the books work fine as standalones but are absolutely outstanding as a series read in order, especially when it comes to watching for developments with that unsolved case that keeps dogging Caitlyn.  If you’re into thrillers and especially into shows like Criminal Minds that delve into the FBI world of analyzing criminal behavior, I highly recommend the UNSUB series.  5 STARS

Book Reviews: February Contemporary Releases

 

It’s time for another roundup of ARCs I’ve been reading.  This time I want to share a couple of adult contemporary novels I read recently and really enjoyed, The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin and Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West.

 

Book Reviews: February Contemporary ReleasesThe Antidote For Everything Goodreads

Author: Kimmery Martin

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

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

The Antidote for Everything is a powerful and emotional read that explores the all too relevant and timely topic of LGBTQ discrimination.  Set in Charleston, SC, the story follows what happens when two doctors buck the system and fight for the rights of their transgender patients who have suddenly and unexpectedly been denied access to medical care at a local hospital.

Dr. Georgia Brown, the protagonist, is a respected urologist at the hospital in question.  She is on her way to a conference in Amsterdam when she hears the news about patients being turned away from her best friend and fellow doctor, Jonah Tsukada, who is also part of the LGBTQ community.  When Jonah refuses to comply with the administration’s new policy, he is fired and the hospital starts circulating vicious rumors about him.  When Jonah fills Georgia in on everything that has happened, she is equally distraught, both for her own patients and of course for her best friend, and vows to join the fight with him as soon as she returns home.

The doctors’ fight against discrimination made for a truly powerful and riveting read, but it honestly was the characters that made me love this book so much.  Georgia is smart, feisty, and fierce, and Jonah is just everything I’d want in a best friend. It killed me to think that someone would go out of his or her way to tank his career just because they didn’t approve of his or his patients’ sexual orientation.  The wit, the banter, and the unwavering support between Georgia and Jonah just captivated my heart.  Both characters are complicated, messy, and sometimes don’t make the best decisions, but for me, that was part of their charm and what made them feel so real.

In addition to the gripping drama and scandal that surrounded the hospital, there was also a romance on the side for Georgia that really balanced out the story for me.  Georgia has never been lucky in love, but when there is a medical emergency on her plane to Amsterdam and she’s the only doctor on board, a potential Mr. Right, whose name is Mark, falls right into her path.  Their chemistry had me smiling, even though the rest of the book had me equal parts sad, angry, and frustrated for Jonah, Georgia, and their patients.

With a discrimination story and subsequent scandal that felt like something that could appear in the headlines of any media outlet these days, The Antidote for Everything grabbed my attention from the opening scenes and held my interest to the very last page.  If you’re into medical dramas, stories about social justice, and stories about friendship and loyalty, give The Antidote for Everything a try. 4 STARS

 

 

Book Reviews: February Contemporary ReleasesMinor Dramas & Other Catastrophes Goodreads

Author: Kathleen West

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

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

Kathleen West’s debut novel Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is an entertaining read that focuses on the cutthroat world of school politics and teachers who find themselves at the mercy of helicopter parents and social media trolls.

The story follows Isobel Johnson, an English teacher at a prestigious school who prides herself on challenging her students to open their minds and consider a variety of perspectives when reading literary classics.  When the school starts receiving complaints about what she’s teaching and an anonymous Facebook page starts attacking her reputation, Isobel learns the hard way that the parents wield all of the power and that her own colleagues won’t defend her. I adored Isobel so much! She’s such a well drawn character, and I really admired her strength. It would have been very easy to immediately give in to the parents’ demands, but Isobel is determined to stand her ground even if the consequence could be losing her job.

While Isobel had my heart, I also felt for Julia Abbott, an over-the-top theater mom who barges into the school while class is still in session to find out if her son was cast in the school play.  In a moment of excitement when she sees her son’s name on the cast list, Julia enthusiastically pumps her fist…and accidentally punches a student in the stomach.  The incident is caught on video and immediately goes viral. Chaos ensues and Julia finds herself quite the outcast. While Julia isn’t an especially likeable character, her situation is a sad one and I liked that the author ultimately made her a sympathetic character instead of just a crazy stereotype.

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes really struck a chord with me as I watched these two women fight to defend themselves and my emotions were all over the place.  There were moments that made me angry and frustrated, and there were also moments that made me laugh.  Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is a delightful and engaging read as well as one that tackles some pretty serious issues that many teachers face. I highly recommend it and look forward to reading more from Kathleen West.  4 STARS

Backlist Briefs: A Round-Up of My January Backlist Reads

 

Those who follow my blog know that one of my big goals for 2020 is to read more of the books I own.  My goal is to read at least 50 of the unread books that are currently sitting on my shelves.  I had a pretty good January so I’m feeling like this goal can definitely be achieved and hopefully even surpassed.  Rather than try to post individual reviews for each of my backlist reads, especially since there were 9 of them in January, I decided an end of the month round-up with my gut reaction to each book would be a much more efficient way to share my reads.  So, without further ado, here’s a round-up of my January backlist reads.

 

 

THE FLATSHARE by Beth O’Leary.  I was drawn to The Flatshare because of the premise – two strangers who, because of their opposite work schedules, are sharing a one-bedroom apartment.  The main characters, Tiffy and Leon, were so lovable, both individually and together as their relationship gradually evolves when they become post-it note pen pals, writing each other the cutest little notes every day. The Flatshare is just an all-around entertaining read that features humor, flirty banter, a wonderful cast of secondary characters, romance and more than a few hilariously awkward moments. 4 STARS

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER by Josie Silver.  One Day in December is such a charming and heartwarming read, but also one that had my emotions in knots at times.  Everything about the story just sucked me right in.  I adored Laurie from the very moment we meet her. Laurie is feeling down, and as she’s sitting on a bus pondering her sad situation (nowhere job, lack of love life), her eyes lock with a handsome man standing on the bus platform. Somehow she knows this man is meant to be her soulmate. Laurie pines for her “bus boy” for a year, looking for him everywhere she goes. Laurie finally finds him at a Christmas party and it’s clear that he recognizes her too, but there’s just one big problem – “Bus Boy” whose real name is Jack, is dating Laurie’s roommate and best friend, Sarah. I loved Laurie and Jack, but I also loved Sarah, which just made everything all the more gut wrenching. I was glued to the book because I just had to know how it was going to work out. I loved the balance between the funny, rom-com moments, the potentially heartbreaking moments, and the overall heartwarming ones. I had such a wonderful experience reading One Day in December that I immediately requested an ARC of Silver’s next book and look forward to diving into it. 5 STARS

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert.  I have to admit that the super cute cover is what first drew me to Get a Life, Chloe Brown.  Chloe suffers from chronic pain and leads a pretty dull and quiet life. After a near death experience she decides it’s time that she starts living her life again.  I loved Chloe right from the start and thought it was absolutely adorable that she drew up an actual plan for how to get a life, complete with a numbered list of things to do. I fell in love with her even more when she recruited Red Morgan, the sexy tattooed handyman to help her.  The chemistry between Red and Chloe is off the charts and I loved all of their adventures together as Chloe put her “Get a Life” plan into motion.  If you’re looking for a read that will put a smile on your face, this is your book!  4.5 STARS

 

 * * * * * *

 

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman.  Eleanor Oliphant is a character that I won’t soon forget. She’s painfully awkward in social situations. Because of her social awkwardness, she lives a lonely life.  I felt so sympathetic toward Eleanor because it just seems such a sad way to live. I also found her quite funny, particularly the way she would comment to herself about other people and their social awkwardness. I adored the blossoming friendship between her and Raymond, the IT guy at work. They’re both pretty clueless about social interactions but somehow they still just work together.  It was really cute. We also learn the heartbreaking truth about Eleanor’s past and begin to understand why she’s the way she is. So yes, this book had my emotions all over the place – chuckling to myself one moment, near tears the next. This was just such an unexpected gem of a book and I highly recommend it, especially the audio version. The narrator captures Eleanor’s personality perfectly. 4.5 STARS

ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior.   This was one of my most anticipated reads of last year, but it ended up just being an okay read for me.  I liked the unique idea of a friendship (and maybe more) developing from a mutual passion for harps. I also loved the quirky, endearing characters, especially Dan the Harpmaker, whose kindness knows no bounds. The friendship between Dan and Ellie was really sweet, but even with that, the story fell a little flat for me and I can’t really put my finger on why.  3.5 STARS

MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim.  This book caught my attention when I learned that it was set in my home state of Virginia.  And all I can really say is WOW.  Miracle Creek is a riveting courtroom drama that focuses on the fallout from the explosion of a hyperbaric chamber at a special treatment center that has left two people, one only a child, dead. What follows is a heart-wrenching story filled with secrets, lies, and plot twists galore. I really loved reading this dark tale and as I followed the drama unfolding in the courtroom as we got closer and closer to the truth of what happened, I felt my jaw drop several times.  Truly a stellar debut from Angie Kim and I look forward to reading more from her.  4 STARS

 

 * * * * * *

 

THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North.  The Whisper Man is gripping thriller about a small town with a dark past.  Widower Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake have moved to the town of Featherbank in hopes of getting a fresh start.  Twenty-five years ago a serial killer nicknamed ‘The Whisper Man” killed five young boys in the town. The Whisper Man has long since been caught, but another young boy goes misses not long after Tom and Jake move to town. When Tom and Jake, find themselves caught in the middle of this terrible nightmare, the story takes an even darker and more twisted turn. Suspenseful, atmospheric, and disturbing, The Whisper Man had me turning the pages late into the night, and of course, looking over my shoulder the entire time.  4 STARS

MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite.  I listened to the audio version of this book and enjoyed it overall. It’s a dark read but not really what I was expecting based on the title. I thought it would be a suspenseful thriller but it’s actually more of a family drama about the relationship between two sisters. My only real complaint with the story is that I wish it was longer so that the main characters could be fleshed out a bit more. Still a very solid read though. 3.5 STARS

A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT by Sabaa Tahir.  I found the second installment of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series to be every bit as riveting as the first installment.  I’m all for an action-packed story and that is definitely the case with this book.  There are numerous fight scenes, which were a pure adrenaline rush, and there’s also some fantastic character development, especially with Laia, who is growing up right before our eyes, and then surprisingly with Helene, a character I thought would only play a minor role. This is definitely one of the more interesting fantasy series I’ve read in a while.  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