Thursday, September 1, 2022

Hello, Transcriber by Hannah Morrissey (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Every night, while the street lamps shed the only light on Wisconsin's most crime-ridden city, police transcriber Hazel Greenlee listens as detectives divulge Black Harbor's gruesome secrets. As an aspiring writer, Hazel believes that writing a novel could be her only ticket out of this frozen hellscape. And then her neighbor confesses to hiding the body of an overdose victim in a dumpster.

The suspicious death is linked to Candy Man, a notorious drug dealer. Now Hazel has a first row seat to the investigation and becomes captivated by the lead detective, Nikolai Kole. Intrigued by the prospects of gathering eyewitness intel for her book, Hazel joins Kole in exploring Black Harbor's darkest side. As the investigation unfolds, Hazel will learn just how far she'll go for a good story―even if it means destroying her marriage and luring the killer to her as she plunges deeper into the city she's desperate to claw her way out of."

My Thoughts:

I was so excited when I received an ARC of this book and then I just let it languish on my shelves.  I truly hate when that happens even if it does happen sometimes more often than I would like.  This book just sounded from the description above like my type of book.  And there were certainly elements that made this my type of read, but there were also things that I struggled with.  Where this book shines in my opinion is in its' atmosphere.  This author can write - that's for certain.  She was able to make me feel like I was right there in this small town where it feels like nothing good ever happens.  If you loved the vibes that Gillian Flynn created in Sharp Objects with Camille's hometown, then you will also love those similar feeling dark vibes that are present in this book.  It's that tense, ominous feeling where it almost feels like Black Harbor is alive from the way that it is described.  And I loved that part of it - I am always here for a book with a strong atmosphere (for lack of a better way to describe it).  Also, this book is dark so be sure to check content warnings if you need them.  Hazel is an interesting main character.  She is one of those characters that we as the reader never quite understand her motivations.  All of this I was on board with.  What I wasn't on board with as much was her questionable choices and the lack of explanation/reasoning behind them.  I'm going to keep things spoiler free but I will say that it felt like Hazel was on self destruct mode but we are never given the full reasons why.  It made it very hard to understand or relate to the choices that she was making.  Basically, this is a nice way of saying that she made me frustrated which caused me to set the book down multiple times.  Don't get me wrong, I was also compelled to pick it back up to see where it was all going and how it was going to end.  But I was also so annoyed by Hazel and the decisions that she was making because there was no real context given on the why's behind it all.  I'll leave it at that because to say more would be diving into spoiler territory.  If you've read this one, what did you think of Hazel and the decisions she made throughout this book?  I'm truly curious!

Readers who enjoy atmospheric, dark reads, those readers who are looking for books with similar vibes to Sharp Objects (notice I say vibes, these are two very different books otherwise), and those readers who enjoy a grittier mystery should pick this book up.  There were enough elements to this book that I enjoyed where I would probably rate this book four stars if I actually still did ratings and I do plan on reading more by this author.  Because the vibes in this book were immaculate if you like darker reads.  If you prefer more mystery, then this book might not be for you.

Disclosure:  I received an advanced review copy from the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Friday, February 25, 2022

This Golden State by Marit Weisenberg (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"The Winslow family lives by five principles:

1. No one can know your real name.
2. Don’t stay in one place too long.
3. If you sense anything is wrong, go immediately to the meeting spot.
4. Keeping our family together is everything.
5. We wish we could tell you who we are, but we can’t. Please—do not ask.

Poppy doesn’t know why her family has been running her whole life, but she does know that there are dire consequences if they’re ever caught. Still, her curiosity grows each year, as does her desire for real friends and the chance to build on something, instead of leaving behind school projects, teams, and crushes at a moment’s notice."

My Thoughts:

Aren't you just intrigued by that premise?  As soon as I read those five principles included in the summary, I knew that this was a book that I wanted to read.  And I jumped at the chance to read this one not even realizing that this book was young adult which I don't usually read.  Books like this could definitely change that though!  I started this one on a Friday night only expecting to read a chapter or two.  Before I knew it though, I was almost 35% in.  This book was such a page turner (well I was swiping pages since I was reading on my e-reader).  From the very beginning, I found myself completely intrigued by the premise.  I kept trying to guess what her parents were running from and why.  It just made for such a compelling read.  I'm going to be honest that the budding romance was an element of the book that I could take or leave.  I don't mean that in a bad way - it just wasn't what kept me reading and pulled me into the story.  I'm also not the intended audience for this book - and I can guarantee that my daughter would be completely behind the romance that was developing.  I'm actually planning on handing my copy of this book off to her because I'm absolutely sure that she would enjoy it.  The one that I loved most about this book was that even with all of the unknowns and questions - the love that Poppy's family had for one another was strong and present throughout the pages of this book.  It was so nice to see the love that they had for one another.  I just really enjoyed this book and definitely plan on reading more by this author in the future.  

Readers who enjoy young adult mysteries, suspenseful and page turning reads, or those who just want a plain good read should pick this book up!

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

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

On a Night Like This by Lindsey Kelk (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Within days of wishing she could change her life, Fran Cooper is acting assistant to a celebrity, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and en route to a tiny Italian island and the glittering Crystal Ball, along with the world’s rich and famous.

When she – quite literally – bumps into a handsome American called Evan, a man able to keep his cool in the face of chaos, the magic really begins.

Evan makes her a promise: no last names, no life stories, just one unforgettable night. Yet Evan belongs at the Crystal Ball and Fran is a gatecrasher. They may be soulmates, but their homes are an ocean apart, and their lives a world apart. They’ll never meet again – unless, on a night like this, everything can change forever…"

My Thoughts:

On a Night Like This was the perfect change of pace from the mysteries and thrillers that I've been reading lately.  It was absolutely delightful and the perfect reminder of why I enjoy books like this so much.  Fran is struggling to find a job and because of this is feeling a bit stalled with her life.  Her relationship with her fiancee isn't the best and she is just feeling a bit lost.  And then she jumps at this short term job opportunity and everything changes.  One of the things that I liked most about this book was that it was unexpectedly funny.  It was also a really charming read.  In fact, this book reminded me a bit of Confessions of a Shopaholic almost.  It was something about the humorous situations that Fran kept finding herself in that made me think of that book.  It just made this book feel like such a fun ride.  I found myself swept along within the pages watching Fran trying to navigate all of these new circumstances and experiences that kept happening to her.  And the entire experience was just plain fun.  My one word of caution is that the development of the relationship is really based off of just one night for the most part.  That's a bit fast or maybe not enough time for a lot of readers.  For me, I think that the author made it work because although the book focuses on that one night there is more to it.  I don't want to say more than that because it might be considered a spoiler.  Suffice it to say that I was completely behind the relationship developing between Evan and Fran.  I was especially behind Fran discovering what she really wanted in life and figuring out what was important to her.  I think that readers who enjoy romance, women's fiction, and just reads that make you smile will want to pick this book up.  It's one that I can easily recommend and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Bottom Line: A humorous and delightful romance!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. He hoped it wouldn’t end like this, not for him.

Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the homicide detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake. 

Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men."

My Thoughts:

Wow, what an amazing book to start my reading year off with!  If there is one book that I convince you to pick up this year, I think that I want this one to be it.  I will say that I want readers to go into this one with the right expectations.  I wouldn't call it a thriller (although I have seen it on lists of upcoming mysteries and thrillers) or really even a mystery.  If I had to classify it, I think that I would go more with literary suspense.  I'm not even sure that fits this book perfectly but I do feel that is more accurate than trying to label it as a thriller or mystery.  This is one of those books that isn't meant to be rushed through.  Instead, this is one of those books where you just need to let go and enjoy the ride that the author is taking you on because it is perfection.  The thing that stood out for me with this book was the focus on the characters and especially on the victims.  This book is about Ansel Packer (who has killed multiple women and is now on death row) but it really isn't.  It's instead about his mother, the sister of his wife, and the female detective who arrested him.  And most importantly it is about his victims and the women they might have been.  I loved how the author took the time to consider those women throughout the story and the impact that they might have had.  It was a reminder of everything that was taken from them - the lives they could have led and the different things that they missed out on.  It was both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.  The writing itself was gorgeous at times and deserved to be savored.  There were just sentences that hit me hard and I had to sit with.  It wasn't always an easy read (especially at the end) but it was a really excellent read that will stick with for some time to come.  

Read this book if you enjoy character focused reads or are looking for a book that isn't your average serial killer story.  I really cannot say enough good things about this book - it is super early to say this but I would be really surprised if it didn't make my top reads list for the year.  Now I'm off to add this author's other book to my TBR because again - wow!

Bottom Line - An easy five stars!

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

Monday, January 10, 2022

Top Ten Reads of 2021

 It's bittersweet to read my top reads post of last year and then to see how little has changed since 2020.  We are still here - still dealing with the pandemic - but when I wrote that post I still had hope that the end was in sight and that things would be getting back to "normal" soon (not sure really what normal is anymore).  Alas, we are still dealing with the pandemic and numbers are skyrocketing again.  Boo!  Happily,  books were still there for me as they always are.  My number of books read has continued to drop - I finished 55 books in total in 2021.  This is the lowest number of books read since I started tracking so many years ago, but I continued to really enjoy the majority of what I read.  I'll take quality over quantity always.  My blogging continues to be sporadic at best.  I'm not sure that I'll ever post as consistently as I used to when book blogging was at the height of popularity.  And that's okay.  But I'm also not sure that I'll ever give it up either.  I just love sharing my thoughts on the books that I read in written form here.  If you don't already, I'm much more of a consistent poster on Instagram so would love if you followed me there too.  But for now let's move on to the top ten books that I read in 2021:

Shiver by Allie Reynolds - This book was exactly what I look for in a winter thriller!  I loved the isolated, suspenseful atmosphere that the author created.  I read this one with snow on the ground in the middle of winter and just lost myself within its' pages.  The author did an amazing job of creating a suspenseful read that kept me guessing until the very end.  I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next!

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten - This was my first read of 2021 and I knew instantly after finishing that it would make my top reads list for the year.  It was just so good!  It was a slow burning, suspenseful read that I couldn't set down.  There was this constant feeling of dread that seeped through the pages that I just adored.  I have found that I need all of the creepy, atmospheric reads like this in my life so give me read-alike recommendations if you have them.  Another author that I am so excited to read more from in 2022 with her next release!

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner - Mystery lovers, you are seriously missing out if you haven't tried out Gardner's books yet! This was originally supposed to be a standalone but is now being turned into a series - and for good reason!  This book was just SO good!  I loved Frankie's character - there is just something about flawed main characters in my mysteries that I can't seem to get enough of.  I'm so excited for the next book in this series and highly recommend this one if you haven't had the chance to check it out!

The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson - Fans of The Chestnut Man and dark mysteries need to pick this book up!  I was absolutely blown away by this series debut.  There is nothing better in my opinion than finding a new standout police procedural and this is definitely one of them.  As I'm thinking back on the books I loved from last year - it is the characters, the atmosphere, and the storylines that stick out for me.  This book had it all and then some.  I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the second book in this series when it releases!

Gone For Good by Joanna Schaffhausen - Schaffhausen is another author that has become a favorite of mine over the past couple of years for good reason.  I'm sure you can imagine my delight when I absolutely LOVED this first book in her new series!  She just has a way with writing mysteries that I cannot set down and that keep me guessing the entire time.  The best part of this book though is the way that I thought I had this book figured out....when really I didn't at all.  Yet another series that I'm super hyped to continue on with in 2022!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James - This is the 2nd year in a row that one of Simone St. James' books have landed on my top ten reads list.  Let me tell you that she is another author (really this statement is true for all of these authors) where you are missing out if you haven't tried her books yet.  I love that she really has something more to say when it comes to violence against women and that is present in her books.  The two timelines of this book were tied together perfectly and the hint of ghosts ensured that I absolutely loved this book.  SO good!

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon - This book reminded me exactly why I consider McMahon to be one of my favorite authors.  It's actually been a few years since I read one of her books - and this book made me wonder why I haven't picked anything up by her recently because her books are just SO GOOD!  This book had this sense of dread and foreboding that just built up page by page.  And then that ending.  Ugh - this book was perfection and was the slap in the face I needed to want to pick up everything that McMahon has ever written.  I should have done this already but at least I have more to look forward to in 2022 by her!

One by One by Ruth Ware - This is my first book by Ware (despite the fact that I own like all of her books) but it certainly won't be my last!  I also want to take a minute to appreciate the fact that this was another winter thriller that made my top reads list - and it also was a variation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  I loved this one from the very first page until the last.  It left me absolutely kicking myself for never trying Ware's books until now.  Yet another author whose backlist I need to work on catching up on ASAP.

Broken Places by Tracy Clark - Out of all of the books on my top reads list, this book deserves WAY more hype than I've seen it getting.  It's SO good!  I am always here for a good mystery and this one was a standout beginning to this new to me mystery series.  The characters were perfection and I loved that this author also used this book to look at both unjustified police shootings and police corruption.  I am repeating myself throughout this post but this is yet another series that I plan on reading more from in 2022!

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor - If you love spooky, atmospheric reads then this is the book for you!  Actually, there are a few on this list like that (I have a type).  I LOVED this book for so many reasons but the main one was the spooky setting that the author created within these pages.  Hints of witchcraft, a small town filled with secrets, a small church that is possibly haunted....this book had it all.  And I ate it up with a spoon asking for more!  I've read two books now by Tudor and they both were standouts.  Yet another author whose backlist I need to read all of (story of my life at this point).

There you have it - my top 10 reads list for 2021.  There were SO many other books that I rated 4.5 stars and could have been included here so I'm not even bothering including honorable mentions because the list would be ridiculous.  What did I learn about myself as a reader from writing up this post?  That I love mysteries, creepy, atmospheric reads, and winter thrillers.  If you have any recommendations that relate to these three things - feel free to share them in the comments.  I have some goals for the new year so I plan on eventually sharing them all in their own post.  But mostly it comes down to reading the types of books that I love.  After two years living through a pandemic, it makes sense to read as much of the things that I love as possible rather than saving them for a rainy day.  

What book or books were your favorites of 2021?