Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What I've Been Reading (Playing Catchup Edition #2)

 

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner 

Summary from Goodreads:

"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten"

My Thoughts:

Gardner is one of my favorite mystery authors because I love her D.D. Warren series so much!  I started smack dab in the middle of that one and haven't looked back since.  So I jumped at the opportunity to read this one as soon as I heard about it.  Let me just say that this is an author who writes books that are not to be missed if you are a mystery reader!  From the very beginning, I found myself pulled into this new story with new characters.  Frankie Elkin is one of those characters that I couldn't help but root for despite all of her perceived flaws.  She is a recovering alcoholic who searches for women who have been gone missing for so long that no one is really looking for them any longer.  As the reader, you know that she has more of a darker history that hasn't yet been shared with us.  It just made her feel so darn real to me!  The book was one that I just flew through the pages of.  I couldn't put it down because I was so sucked into the story.  And honestly I just really loved this book.  I was so excited to hear after finishing this one that it is now going to be the first book in a new series.  I cannot wait to read more about Frankie and see what types of trouble she finds herself in next.

Overall, this is a book and author that you definitely to check out if you are a mystery reader!  I cannot recommend her D.D. Warren series enough - start with Find Her like I did and you will be in for a treat especially if you like darker mysteries.  Now, I can also highly recommend this book for those readers who want to start at the beginning of a series because this one is really just as good.  This book will easily be on my top reads list of the year and Gardner has become a must read author for me.  Highly recommended!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  I ended up reading a print copy from my local library.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Summary from Goodreads:

"Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral..."

My Thoughts:

I was in the mood for a good romance when I picked this book up and had high expectations after loving the first book in this trilogy titled Get a Life, Chloe Brown.  Happily enough, this book far exceeded those high expectations.  I truly adored this book and both Zaf and Dani.  There was just something about the two of them that had me instantly both invested in their relationship and rooting for them as a couple.  Plus, this book was just funny - I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times at it.  It was just one of those delightful reads that I picked up at the perfect time and fit my reading mood perfectly.  There's nothing better than when this happens in my opinion!  There is a reason this trilogy is so popular and I won't be waiting too much longer before I pick up the final book in this series.  

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book immensely.  It was just a fun read with a couple that I adored.  I turned the pages as fast as I could because I needed to see them get their happy ever after.  Talia Hibbert has become a go to romance author for me - I'll be working my way through her backlist and reading everything/anything that she writes.  Pick this book up (and you don't have to read the books in order) if you enjoy a steamy romance, are looking for relatable characters that will make you laugh, or just want a book that you can't put down.  Another book that I can highly recommend!

Bottom Line:  A romance that makes me smile just thinking about it!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  I also ended up reading a print copy courtesy of my local library.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What I've Been Reading (Playing Catchup Edition #1)

 

Summary from Goodreads:

"In this propulsive locked-room thriller debut, a reunion weekend in the French Alps turns deadly when five friends discover that someone has deliberately stranded them at their remote mountaintop resort during a snowstorm."

I'm trying something new here - and giving less of a summary.  One, because sometimes the summary gives too much away.  Two, because I like the idea of one sentence or very short summaries that just pull readers in with buzzy words like the above one did for me.  Let me know what your thoughts (if you even read this part of my posts has me curious honestly).

My Thoughts:

Shiver was everything that I had hoped it would be from the above summary.  I love nothing more than a "locked room" type of mystery setup where the characters are being picked off one by one as a play off of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  What made this book stand out for me as the reader is that it was set in the alps during a snowstorm.  I LOVE a mystery/thriller set in the middle of a snowstorm which is effectively trapping the characters from leaving.  It's almost like this book was written for me personally because it had everything that I love all in one book.  And the best part was that I truly loved this book!  I found it to be one of those books that just pulls you in and doesn't let you go.  I'm writing my thoughts on this one months after reading it and I can still clearly remember the tense atmosphere that the author created within the pages.  I was left guessing the entire time I was reading it trying to figure out who was behind it all.  There were certain things that I guessed but others that I didn't whatsoever.  I also really enjoyed the snowboarding aspects that the author included within this book.  I've always enjoyed watching snowboarding so learning more about the competitive side of it was really intriguing.  There were just so many great things about this book and I cannot say enough good things about it!

Overall, this is a book that I highly recommend to both mystery and thriller readers.  This is an author to watch in my opinion because it was just that good.  I will be picking up whatever she comes out with next - that's for sure!  

Bottom Line: A book that is very likely to make my top reads list of this year!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  I ended up reading a physical copy courtesy of my local library.

Summary from Goodreads:

"Lana Lee runs her family's Chinese restaurant in Cleveland's Asia Village like nobody's business. When it comes to actual cooking, however, she's known to be about a step up from boiling rice. So Lana decides to go to culinary school on the sly--and prove that she has what it takes in the kitchen after all. But when course instructor Margo Chan turns up dead after class, Lana suddenly finds herself on the case, frying pan in hand.

Since she was the one who discovered the body, Lana must do double duty in finding the killer and clearing her name. Now, with or without the help of her boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau, Lana launches her own investigation into Margo's life and mysterious death. Doing so leads her on a wild goose chase to and from the culinary school--and all the way back to the Ho-Lee noodle shop, where the guilty party may be closer than Lana thinks."

My Thoughts:

This is the 7th book in one of my favorite cozy mystery series!  This book was another fun addition to this series.  One of the reasons that I love this series so much is the characters.  Lana always finds herself in the middle of things (like yet another murder investigation) and her friends and family always end up helping her out.  I particularly am a fan of her best friend/roommate who always encourages Lana to investigate even when she doesn't want to.  This book was particularly fun because the majority of the book was set at the local community college where Lana was taking cooking classes.  I just thought that it made the mystery and book feel fresh.  These books always make me hungry while reading them and this book was no exception.  I really can't say too much more - at seven books in I don't want to spoil anything that has happened in previous books.  This is just a series that you should definitely pick up - you don't have to read them in order.  It will just enhance your overall reading experience if you do start at the beginning.  Readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, those who enjoy books that feature food, and those readers who enjoy just fun reads definitely need to give this series a try.  Recommended!

Bottom Line:  Another fun addition to one of my favorite cozy mystery series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own. 


Friday, July 16, 2021

Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (thoughts)

 

Summary from Goodreads:

"Saskia was a damaged, lonely teenager when she arrived at the lakeside commune called Home. She was entranced by the tang of sourdough starter; the midnight call of the loons; the triumph of foraging wild mushrooms from the forest floor. But most of all she was taken with Abraham, Home's charismatic leader, the North Star to Saskia and the four other teens who lived there, her best and only friends.


Two decades later, Saskia is shuttered in her Connecticut estate, estranged from the others. Her carefully walled life is torn open by threatening letters. Unless she and her former friends return to the land in rural Maine, the terrible thing they did as teenagers—their last-ditch attempt to save Home—will be revealed.

From vastly different lives, the five return to confront their blackmailer and reckon with the horror that split them apart. How far will they go to bury their secret forever?"

My Thoughts:

I'm having trouble writing up my thoughts on this one which makes it sound like I didn't like it which wasn't the case.  I just don't know how to put into words how I felt about this book so be patient with me.  This book is dark.  Like dark, I didn't expect it to go there even when I had inklings, dark.  It won't be for everyone.  But it was also really good and such a compelling read.  In this book it is basically told from two different storylines: the present day where Saskia is being faced with having to return Home being the first storyline, a place that she once loved but where things ended very badly for her and her friends, and then also the storyline where we see Saskia as a young teenage girl and how she ended up at Home and her experiences living there.  I'm trying to be as deliberately vague as possible so I don't spoil anything.  The book goes back and forth between those two storylines seamlessly.  And the entire time I was reading there was this feeling of dread almost that was present in both of the storylines.  That feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak.  It really ratcheted up the tension and feelings of suspense that were present throughout the book.  Throughout the book I could never get a full read or understanding of Saskia.  I knew that there must be more to her story but wasn't exactly sure what it could be.  And the author drops these hints....enough that you know as the reader that something really terrible happened in her past even if you don't have the full story yet.  Just wait.  Because this is a compelling read that kept me engrossed within its' pages even if I wasn't sure that I wanted to be there.  And the ending...whew.  Even when I had parts figured out, I cannot begin to explain how I felt about that ending.  It left me clearly at a loss for words even now.  I'm actually eager to see what other readers think of this one and to discuss it.  This is an author that I will definitely be watching from more of because wow - she crafted a story that I won't be forgetting about any time soon!

Overall, it feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this one due to the content but I do still think it was a really good read.  I don't think it will be for everyone and message me if you need some specific content warnings before going into it.  But if you enjoy books about cults, character focused books, and a suspenseful read that you won't forget about anytime soon then pick this one up.  Recommended!

Bottom Line:  A dark but very compelling read!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher. Honest thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue (thoughts)

Summary from Goodreads:

"Perched high atop a seaside cliff in Ireland, a lonely Victorian mansion is home to Temple House School. And at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.


Louisa is the new, brilliant scholarship student. Finding most of the other students at the all-girls Catholic boarding school as icy and unfamiliar as the drafty mansion, she forms a fierce bond with the intense and compelling Victoria, an outlier and student provocateur.

Their close bond is soon unsettled by the young, charismatic art teacher, Mr. Lavelle—igniting tension and obsession in the cloistered world of the school. Then one day, Louisa and Mr. Lavelle disappear.

There is no trace of either one. It’s the unsolved mystery that captivates the whole country. Year after year, the media revisit it, and the conspiracy theories persist. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary, a journalist—a woman who grew up on the same street as Louisa—delves into the past to write a series of articles and uncover the truth. She finds stories of jealousy and revenge, power and class. But will she find Louisa and Mr. Lavelle, too?

Because remember—at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems."

My Thoughts:

The summary of this book made this one feel like a must read for me.  Any time that a book has an isolated school setting and/or a mystery that goes back years ago means that I'm instantly intrigued.  But it was that last line that really hooked me and filled me with questions.  What do they mean that nothing is ever as it seems? I just had to know!  This book instantly pulled me in from the very beginning pages.  Louisa was a very interesting character.  As the reader, I didn't fully understand her in the beginning but she had me intrigued.  Then there was the weird relationship between Victoria and Mr. Lavelle to try and sort through.  And the relationship between all three of them.  There were just all of these questions that I had about what was happening or wasn't happening while I reading this book based off of these characters and their connections to one another.  The book was also set up in such a suspenseful way.  We flashed back to the time when Louisa and Victoria were both in school together before the disappearance for portions of the book.  We also got to see in present day the reporter's investigation into the disappearance from years ago.  These two storylines combined into a suspenseful read that kept me turning the pages.  I really appreciated this because let me tell you that my reading mojo has been off a bit recently.  Instead of struggling like I have been, this book kept me reading and left me unable to set my kindle down.  That was a really nice and needed change of pace for me.  If I had one complaint with this book it was that I was left feeling slightly dissatisfied with the ending but I cannot put my finger on why.  It was a good ending really but there was just something that held me back from fully enjoying it.  That being said, this was a really strong debut that left me excited to read more by this author!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am so glad that it helped me get out of the dreaded reading slump that I had been in.  The atmosphere and setting of this book was something that I just could not get enough of!  Give me ALL of the boarding school books set in isolated settings with gothic vibes and I would be one happy reader - that's for sure!  I think that readers who enjoy dark academic type of books, those who enjoy gothic vibes and books filled with atmosphere, as well as those readers who love a character driven suspense filled novel should pick this book up.  I'm so excited to see what other readers think of this one so I can discuss it with them!  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line: A suspenseful read that I just couldn't set down!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Until I Find You by Rea Frey (thoughts)

 

Summary from Goodreads:

"2 floors. 55 steps to go up. 40 more to the crib.


Since Rebecca Gray was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, everything in her life consists of numbers. Each day her world grows a little darker and each step becomes a little more dangerous.

Following days of feeling like someone’s watching her, Bec awakes at home to the cries of her son in his nursery. When it’s clear he’s not going to settle, Bec goes to check on him.
She reaches in. Picks him up.
But he’s not her son.
And no one believes her.

One woman’s desperate search for her son . . .

In a world where seeing is believing, Bec must rely on her own conviction and a mother’s instinct to uncover the truth about what happened to her baby and bring him home for good."

My Thoughts:

Until I Find You was one of those tense reads that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.  The premise of this book is unique as it features Bec who is now considered to be legally blind.  She has had a difficult life with both her husband and then mother recently dying so she is on her own raising her baby boy.  I cannot speak on the portrayal of what it is like to lose your sight or to be blind but I felt like this author really handled it well. She voiced the struggles and fears that Bec faced with raising a young child on her own and not being able to see.  The book felt almost claustrophobic at times especially as the author takes the reader through some of Bec's own experiences with not being able to see.  The idea of not knowing who is behind you, how far you have until you reach something like stairs....it's all a bit terrifying to think about which really added to the suspense that was present throughout this book.  It was sad to see how Bec was treated because of her inability to see by others who had their vision.  I felt like it was a realistic portrayal though because often people with disabilities are listened to less than someone without disabilities.  It made me mad for her though because her friends really weren't there for her like they should have been.  This book was a true page turner and literally had me on the edge of my seat at times.  I NEEDED to know how everything was going to end and if Bec was going to find her baby.  I finished this book reading fast and furiously between pitches at my son's baseball game.  Completely worth it!

Overall, I'm excited to have found this author and am looking forward to reading more by her in the future.  This book really made me think about my own vision and what it would be like to slowly lose that vision.  I also connected with it strongly as there is such a focus on motherhood and being the best mother possible despite the circumstances.  Bec had her doubts and insecurities but that's what it is like being a mother.  I don't think that there is a mother out there that doesn't experience their own insecurities and doubts relating to being a mother and how well they are doing.  I think that readers who enjoy a suspenseful read, those who enjoy page turning books that keep them hooked until the very end, and those readers who want a mystery featuring a main character with a disability should definitely pick this book up.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  A suspenseful read that has moved this author on to my must read list!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher as part of a PICT book tour.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW:  Kidnapping, death, grief, blindness, mental illness

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 11th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250241588 (ISBN13: 9781250241580)
Series: Until I Find You is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Rea Frey

Author Bio:

REA FREY is the multi-published, award-winning bestselling author of three suspense novels and four nonfiction books. She’s been featured in US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Popsugar, Hello Sunshine, Marie Claire, Parade, Shape, Hello Giggles, CrimeReads, Writer’s Digest, WGN, Fox News, Today in Nashville, Talk of the Town, and more. She is also the CEO and Founder of Writeway, where aspiring writers become published authors.

To learn more, visit reafrey.com or writewayco.com.

Catch Up With Rea Frey:
ReaFrey.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @ReaFreyAuthor
Instagram - @reafrey
Twitter - #ReaFrey
Facebook - @reafrey

Friday, May 7, 2021

Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer (thoughts)

 

Summary from Goodreads:

"When Paige Meyer gets an email from a DNA testing website announcing that her father is a man she never met, she is convinced there must be a mistake. But as she digs deeper into her mother's past and her own feelings of being the odd child out growing up, Paige begins to question everything she thought she knew. Could this be why Paige never felt like she fit in her family, and why her mother always seemed to keep her at an arm's length? And what does it mean for Paige's memories of her father, a man she idolized and whose death she is still grieving? Back in 1975, Betsy Kaplan, Paige's mom, is a straightlaced sophomore at the University of Kansas. When her sweet but boring boyfriend disappoints her, Betsy decides she wants more out of life, and is tired of playing it safe. Enter Andy Abrams, the golden boy on campus with a potentially devastating secret. After their night together has unexpected consequences, Betsy is determined to bury the truth and rebuild a stable life for her unborn child, whatever the cost.


When Paige can't get answers from her mother, she goes looking for the only other person who was there that night. The more she learns about what happened, the more she sees her unflappable, distant mother as a real person faced with an impossible choice. But will it be enough to mend their broken relationship?"

My Thoughts:

Little Pieces of Me is one of those books that is going to stick with me for awhile.  Last year I read (and was broken by but in a good way) this author's debut You and Me and Us.  If you haven't had the opportunity yet to read that one, I highly recommend it as well.  I was nervous to read this one because I enjoyed that first book so much so I was both afraid that it was also going to break me and I wasn't emotionally ready and also worried that I had too high of expectations set for this one.  This book though didn't disappoint in the slightest.    It was just as good of a read as her debut but also very different.  This author has a knack for looking at mother/daughter relationships and bringing them to life in all of their messy glory.  One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was how real each of the characters felt.  They weren't perfect but instead had faults and just felt like normal, everyday people.  They made mistakes, poor decisions, and had insecurities that just helped me to become even more attached to them.  I even came to respect Paige's mother by the end although I still don't agree with the decisions that she made.  I also really liked how this book was told in two parts: one from Paige's viewpoint as she both learns and tries to deal with the fact that the man who she believed was her father wasn't and the second viewpoint from Paige's mother back in the past before and after she became pregnant with Paige.  It was interesting to see how the events from one viewpoint tied into and led to things that happened in the present.  All in all, this really was an enjoyable read and a good look at what makes up one's own identity.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and feel like this is an author to watch.  Her books bring about strong emotions for me but in the best of ways.  I hope that she continues to dive into the mother/daughter relationship in different ways because she really does it well.  Readers who enjoy contemporary fiction, women's fiction, and books with characters that come to life for you should give this book a read.  An easy book (and author) for me to recommend!

Bottom Line:  A book that tugged at my emotions as both a mother and daughter.

CW: Grief, lying, cheating, adoption, death of a loved one

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler (thoughts)

 

Summary from Goodreads:

"A devoted wife…

A year ago, Gemma met the love of her life, Danny. Since then, their relationship has been perfect. But one evening, Danny doesn’t return home.

A missing husband…
Gemma turns to the police. She is horrified by what she discovers – a serial killer is on the loose in Bristol. When she sees photos of the victims she is even more stunned…they all look just like Danny.

Who would you believe?
But the police are suspicious. Why has no one apart from Gemma heard from Danny in weeks? Why is there barely a trace of him in their flat? Is she telling them the truth, or is this marriage hiding some very dark secrets?"

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Couple was a really enjoyable, page turning read that kept me guessing until the end.  One of my favorite things about this book was that it felt like the perfect blend of domestic suspense and police procedural.  The story was told from two different viewpoints: one from Gemma's point of view where she was dealing with the fact that her husband had gone missing and the second point of view was from the lead inspector who was trying to solve the two recent deaths that had recently occurred and then also gets drawn into the case of Gemma's missing husband.  The fact that there were two recent deaths of men that looked like Gemma's missing husband really had me guessing.  I could not figure out what was going on and was kept guessing the entire time.  I love the way the author set this book up.  I found myself trusting Gemma and rooting for her...then questioning her...then trusting her all over again.  It made up for a really fun reading experience in the end.  Even when I started to "think" that I knew what probably had happened, there were still twists that I didn't expect as well as the fact that I couldn't figure out the why's behind it all.  The night I finished this book I fully intended on getting things done - instead I sat wrapped up in my book until I turned the last page.  I was just completely immersed in the best of ways.  Also, I love the way this book ended!  I won't say anymore for fear of spoilers but it just gave me a very eerie feeling.  I cannot wait to read more by this author!

Overall, I'm sure that you can already tell that I really enjoyed my time reading this book!  I think that readers that enjoy domestic suspense, those readers that enjoy police procedurals, and those readers who enjoy a page-turning, suspenseful read should definitely pick this book up!    This is an author that I plan on reading more of and will be watching for future releases!  An easy book to recommend.

Bottom Line: A suspenseful read that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher as part of a TLC book tour.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Goodreads:



Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: WebsiteTwitter, and Instagram

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart (thoughts)

Summary from Goodreads:

"It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town’s golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie’s dreams—and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.


Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting—and embracing—the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won’t be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true."

My Thoughts:

This book was such an enjoyable read for me!  I was in the mood for a change of pace from the darker books that I had been reading and this fit my reading mood perfectly.  One of the things that really made this book stand out for me is that it featured an older protagonist.  As a women in her late thirties, please let me tell you how refreshing it is to find a book with a main character that is older and in a different stage of her life than you usually find in books.  Like yes please!  We need more books with characters that are in their fifties or sixties for instance, and starting a new phase of their life.  It's just not done that often - I didn't know that I wanted it until this book - and now I want more!  Because there is plenty of life after thirty despite what some people might think or act like.  Why shouldn't we be reading about those stories as well?  I'm going off on a bit of a tangent but I just loved that part of this book and want to see it in more books.  I also loved that even though this book was Maggie's story - it was also the story of Maggie's daughters and Maggie's two closest friends.  There is a lot to this book and some of it is a bit on the darker side which I didn't expect.  Please make sure you check the content warnings that I'll share at the end to make sure that you are prepared going in.  But I really loved these characters and this story.  The characters just felt real and flawed in the best of ways.  I found myself caring about each of the characters which has me really excited that this book is just the beginning to a series.  I will definitely be continuing on as I want to see what happens with some of these other characters.  I just want more if I'm being honest!

Read this book if you are a fan of women's fiction, contemporary fiction, or are looking for a great summer read.  This is a book that looks at grief and also just life in general.  It stood out for me because it isn't focused on your typical characters that are just starting their life.  Instead it looks at friendship, motherhood, and just being a woman in general but all from an older more experienced viewpoint.  It's a book that I breezed through (although that seems a bit wrong to say considering there is some darker subject matter included within) but I couldn't put it down.  The author really brought these characters to life for me.  And because she did I enjoyed this book immensely.  I'm really looking forward to reading more in this series in the future.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  A book with characters that I want to read more of!  I definitely will be continuing on with this series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher as part of a TLC book tour.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Death of a loved one, divorce, suicide, drug use, cheating, loss, grief, adoption, secrets

Friday, February 26, 2021

What I've Been Reading...(January 2021 Edition Part 2)

I'm here for round two of sharing my thoughts on the books that I read in January.  As February is just about over, I kinda need to get moving on these posts a bit faster or I will be months behind before I know it.  Luckily (or unluckily - depends on the day and how I look at it) I've only finished two books so far in February so I may not be as behind as it feels like if I don't end up finishing at least one more book.  That remains to be determined but here are my thoughts on two more of the books that I read in January.

The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis

Summary from Goodreads:

"When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.


Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery. 

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger."

My Thoughts:

I've become a huge fan of the Wildstone series and this book is the latest addition to it.  I started this series (although I say series loosely...as far as I can tell the only thing that connects each book is Wildstone itself) in the middle and I'm completely hooked at this point.  Each book has featured characters that I cannot help but care about with storylines that keep me turning the pages.  In this book, we meet Maze, Cat, Walker, and Heather who all spent one wonderful year together as kids but that year ended in a horrible tragedy.  As adults they are still dealing with the fallout of that year and their relationships with one another.  Maze and Walker have always had a certain chemistry to their relationship but for better or worse things have kept them apart.  Oh but how I adored watching them work towards trying to find their happy ending together.  They both had a lot of deep rooted issues that came from their childhood and being a part of the foster care system.  What made this book really great for me though was besides these two great characters we also had both Cat and Heather.  I spent my entire time reading this book rooting for Maze and Walker but also for Cat and Heather to figure out their relationships as well.  I'm trying not to say too much here but there was a lot going on for all of these characters.  I honestly could have read a book that focused just on Heather and a certain someone and their relationship.  I won't say more than that.  And while this book had a serious side due to all of the issues that these characters were dealing with (like things from their past and that shared tragedy), this book also had me laughing out loud at times.  The bachelorette party scene was absolutely priceless!  At this point, I've enjoyed this series so much that I instantly add the next upcoming book to my TBR after finishing the latest book.  I really need to grab the earlier books in this series and catch up on them as well.  I think that fans of contemporary romance and women's fiction especially shouldn't sleep on this series.  It's so good and just the perfect blend of romance and relationships!  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  Another great addition to what has become one of my favorite romance series!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Loss of a sibling, abuse, loss, foster care, trust issues

Every Waking Hour by Joanna Schaffhausen

Summary from Goodreads:

"After surviving a serial killer’s abduction as a young teenager, Ellery Hathaway is finally attempting a normal life. She has a new job as a rookie Boston detective and a fledgling relationship with Reed Markham, the FBI agent who rescued her years ago. But when a twelve-year-old girl disappears on Ellery’s watch, the troubling case opens deep wounds that never fully healed.

Chloe Lockhart walked away from a busy street fair and vanished into the crowd. Maybe she was fleeing the suffocating surveillance her parents put on her from the time she was born, or maybe the evil from her parents’ past finally caught up to her. For Chloe, as Ellery learns, is not the first child Teresa Lockhart has lost.
Ellery knows what it’s like to have the past stalk you, to hold your breath around every corner. Sending one kidnapped girl to find another could be Chloe’s only hope or an unmitigated disaster that dooms them both. Ellery must untangle the labyrinth of secrets inside the Lockhart household—secrets that have already murdered one child. Each second that ticks by reminds her of her own lost hours, how close she came to death, and how near it still remains."

My Thoughts:

I am so completely hooked on this series at four books in!  I really cannot get enough of it and these characters!  Every book in this series has been a page turner that I could not set down and this book was no different.  Let's start off with the fact that this is book four and a bit hard to share my thoughts on without sharing spoilers (but I shall do my best).  I do think that this is a series best read in order if possible.  The author does a good job of catching you up if you haven't had the chance to read the earlier books but I just feel like you would really be missing out - especially when it comes to understanding Ellery as a character.  Everything that she has gone through in her life has led her to where she is "today" as this book begins.  And she just cannot run from her past and how it still effects her life which makes the case she gets drawn into investigating that much more personal for her.  I flew through the pages of this book.  I just needed to know how it was all going to end.  I like that Ellery's world is opening up a bit even if she doesn't feel like she is ready for it.  We saw more of characters from previous books and I hope that continues because it means Ellery is finally starting to move on more from her past.  The ending made me a bit sad (but I understood) until it didn't because I was like WHAT?!?  And now I'm just sitting here pining away for the next book in this series....because gah!  Yep, it that ending left me with no words and I NEED book five ASAP! Do yourself a favor and pick this series up soon but start with The Vanishing Season because reading them all in order is completely worth it!

Bottom Line: This book was everything that I've come to expect from this series in the best of ways.  A personal favorite mystery series of mine for a reason!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Missing child, death of a child, serial killer, cancer

Monday, February 22, 2021

What I've Been Reading...(January 2021 Edition Part 1)


I thought that I would try something different this year and share my thoughts on the books that I read each month all in one go.  Maybe I will have months where I read a ton and split the posts up or I might let things carry over from each month.  I just really, really want to get into the habit of sharing about ALL of the books that I read and not just some of them.  I might share full reviews for certain books depending on if I have more to say...but we will cross that bridge when I come to it. EDITED to add:  I started this post off completely optimistic thinking I would share about ALL of the books that I read in January - and then never finished the post.  We will see how the year goes on but here are my thoughts on the 1st two books that I read in January:

Summary from Goodreads:

"Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone."

My Thoughts:

Wow, wow, wow!  This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021 and it definitely didn't disappoint!  I absolutely loved this book - it's just that easy to say!  All I can think is that if this is the author's debut, then I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!  If you read the above summary, the premise for me was just irresistible.  The comparison on the back of the book to The Blair Witch Project was spot on when it came to the atmosphere that was present throughout this book.  I just knew that I needed to pick up this book, and see what in the heck was going on.  Let me just say that I was not disappointed in the answers that I got!  But what made this book absolutely brilliant for me was the creeping dread that the author built up in this book from the very beginning pages.  This book was a slow burn in the best of ways.  I am HERE for all of the creepy, slow burns like this so please give me all of your recommendations.  Simply put: I need more books like this in my life!  One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the premise.  The idea of an entirely abandoned village was just delightfully creepy to think about.  I also really enjoyed the fact that this book was told in two parts.  One was in current day with Alice and her crew and the second part was told in the past from the viewpoint of a woman named Elsa.  I really liked the way that these two storylines tied together.  The feeling of dread that just kept building especially towards the end had me reading as fast as I could.  And the ending was perfection in my opinion.  It's a month later and I'm still thinking about this book.  What a way to start off my year of reading in 2021!

Bottom Line:  A standout way to start off my reading year - I would be very surprised not to see this book on my best reads list at the end of 2021!

CW: Murder, abuse, religious elements (hard to explain without spoilers so message me if you need to know more)

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

"Along the ever-changing border of gentrifying Los Angeles, a seventeen-year-old girl is found dead at a construction site, hanging in the closet of an unfinished condominium. 


Homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton’s new partner Colin Taggert, fresh from the Colorado Springs police department, assumes it’s a teenage suicide. Lou isn’t buying the easy explanation. For one thing, the condo site is owned by Napoleon Crase, a self-made millionaire… and the man who may have murdered Lou’s missing sister thirty years ago. 

As Lou investigates the death of Monique Darson, she uncovers undeniable links between the two cases. She is convinced that when she solves Monique’s case she will finally bring her lost sister home. But as she gets closer to the truth, she also gets closer to a violent killer. After all this time, can he be brought to justice… before Lou becomes his next victim?"

My Thoughts:

Land of Shadows is the 1st book in the Detective Elouise Norton series.  I've read two of this authors books previously (both standalones) and enjoyed them so much that I knew that I wanted to dive into her backlist.  I'm really glad that I did because I enjoyed this book a lot.  Lou's character is one that I instantly liked.  She didn't take crap from anyone and knew that she was good at her job for a lot of different reasons.  I love a mystery series focused on a strong female lead detective - this is like my reading catnip.  Lou has a darker past though because years ago her sister went missing and she still doesn't have the answers she has been searching for.  Then she gets assigned to this case and it seems like the two cases are tied together even though her sister went missing so long ago.  This book was a definite page turner!  I found myself really hooked by the premise and the way that this book was set up.  Parts of the book were set in the past leading up to Lou's sister's disappearance and then the other parts of the book were focused on Lou's current investigation.  I had no idea where it was all going and I couldn't stop reading as I just had to find out.  My one complaint with this book was there was a bit of inappropriate language (I really don't know how else to explain it).  This is an older book - it was published back in 2014 - so maybe it wasn't considered offensive back then but I did want to mention it.  One of the things that this book did so well though is that it made me sit back and think.  The author makes a point of looking at the reasons why the police didn't really look into her sister's disappearance that closely - it's a poignant look at how differently these types of case are treated when it is a girl of woman of color that goes missing.  I definitely will be continuing on with this series.  Rachel Howzell Hall is an author not to be missed!

Bottom Line: A really solid beginning to this new to me mystery series!

CW: Suicide, murder, cheating, derogatory language, loss of a child, death

Disclosure:  I checked this book out from my local library.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Top Ten Reads of 2020

2020 - I almost feel like just saying the year out loud is all that needs to be said.  This past year was an experience that I hope and pray we don't repeat.  My reading suffered at times more often than not.  I still had an amazing year quality wise - according to Goodreads my average rating was 4.3 - which feels about right when I think about it.  I have a tendency to set books aside that aren't working for me rather than finishing (and hating) them.  I finished 59 books total for the year which is on the lower side (according to Goodreads this ties my lowest year of reading since I've been keeping track on there which was back in 2017).  Living through a pandemic just meant that I was unable to concentrate on reading like I usually do - it is what it is.  I did read some really great books though that I'm excited to share about with all of you.  Here are the ten best books that I read in 2020:


Long Bright River by Liz Moore - This book deserves ALL of the hype that it received this year in my opinion.  What do you say about a book like this?  It was outstanding.  I fell into the pages of this book and was absolutely swept away.  The author brought the characters to life in a way that has me still thinking about them...still thinking about how realistic their struggles were and how true to life they are for so many....just wow!  This is a book that deserves to be talked about and widely read. I cannot wait to see what Liz Moore comes up with next!

In the Dark by Loreth Anne White - This book on the other hand didn't get the hype that it deserved in my opinion.  DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS AMAZING BOOK!  This book is the best tribute to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None that I've read (besides the original book itself of course).  I loved this one so much that I instantly added ALL of this author's backlist to my TBR.  READ this book if you enjoy isolated mysteries that keep you guessing the entire time in the best of ways!


When You See Me by Lisa Gardner - Four books into this series and this author can do NO wrong in my opinion!  This mystery series is one of my absolute favorites because every book has been such a page turner filled with suspense!  I don't think that you have to start all the way at the beginning with book one (I didn't) but would suggest starting with the 1st book featuring Flora Dane which is Find Her.  This book gave us so many answers in regards to Flora which has me itching to see where the series goes next.  SOO GOOD!

The Good House by Tananarive Due - Wow!  This book absolutely blew me away in the best of ways.  Stephen King who?  Kidding - sort of - not really.  In all seriousness, I cannot begin to comprehend how more people aren't talking about this author and this book.  It's horror which I know isn't for everyone (it does have truly scary moments) but there is so much more to it.  Out of all of my favorites of the year - this is the one that I keep recommending over and over again in the hopes that many other readers will find it and love it like I did! I will be reading more by this author in 2021!


The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - This book was another one that I felt flew under the radar (of bookstagram at least) which is an absolute shame!  This book was gorgeously heartbreaking at times and hopeful at others.  It had characters that I STILL think about and a storyline that I won't forget about anytime soon.  I need to read EVERYTHING else that this author has written!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James - This book was one of the creepiest books I read all year (alongside The Good House of course).  This book was both dark and atmospheric making it a VERY suspenseful read.  And within the pages of this book the author manages to look at both violence against women and how victims are viewed in society by the way they lived.  Wow!  This is another author where I'm going to need to read EVERYTHING that she has written because this book was so damn good!


The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea - This is the 2nd year in a row that this author has made my top reads list of the year.  This book was page turning suspense at its finest!  I loved that in this book we were given the chance to learn more about Rory and Lane but was written where it could also be read as a standalone (I do recommend starting with Some Choose Darkness though if possible).  This book was a dark and thrilling read that I couldn't get enough of!

Don't Look For Me by Wendy Walker - This is my 1st book by this author but certainly won't be my last!  This book was a page turning, anxiety filled ride that I couldn't get enough of.  The author also really looks at a mother's grief over the loss of a child which wasn't always easy to read but yet... (I'm noticing a theme here of loving thrillers that take a look at some deeper issues as well).  I'm so excited to have found this author and will be checking out her entire backlist!


And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall - This book was made my top reads of the year list easily!  There is just something about the way that this author writes that I just cannot get enough of.  It's the rhythm...the way that she keeps me guessing at every turn of the page...and the imperfections of her characters that keeps me coming back for more.  I'm determine to read this author's entire backlist which is why I'm already reading another of her books currently.

The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert - I actually read both books in this series (this is the 2nd) in 2020.  I've seen Death in the Family on a lot of favorites of the year list but for me this book is where it is at.  This book was a slow burning mystery filled with suspense in the best of ways.  I was absolutely there for the ride that the author was taking me on every step of the way.  I highly recommend both books in this series and I will be impatiently waiting for book three!

Looking back, I really did have such an amazing year of reading really great books.  There are at least six more books that could have been on this list.  Honorable mentions include the following - A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight, Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper, Revolver Road by Christi Daugherty, Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn, All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen, and Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French.  I could keep going which says it all.  

What book or books were your favorites of 2020?