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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer

Little Pieces of Me
by Alison Hammer

Thank you GetRedPR for this amazing copy.

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
400 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

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 Review:

My heart has been taking a beating this year with my reads (happily so, but uff).  Little Pieces of Me is a roller coaster of emotions.  As a 40-something childless woman, I understand her behavior and relationship with her mother.  I am also SUPER close to my Dad so I couldn't imagine losing him and then finding out a couple of years later that he's not tied to me by blood. Cue tears! 😭

I'm a sucker for a dual timeline and various POVs.  Not only do we get to see from Paige's view but also from her mother and the person she never knew was her biological father.  I think something this books does that I really enjoy is how it reminds us that while we are obviously living in our own little worlds and dealing with our own issues - sometimes selfishly so as is human nature - is that those who raised us or those older than us that we put into these little boxes... are actually very complex people.  They were their own individuals before they became your parents and if you stop to really listen and learn, you'll find that they just tried their damndest to do the best that they could.

What can I say? This is an amazing story.  There were a couple of times it felt a bit slow but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and quite frankly, it really makes me miss my parents.  Definitely will read more from Hammer.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review: Near The Bone by Christina Henry

Near The Bone
by Christina Henry

Thanks to Berkley for this gifted review copy.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
336 Pages
Genre: Horror

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can't remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they're not alone after all.

There's something in the woods that wasn't there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

My Review:

I absolutely love Christina Henry.  This is my fourth book, and new favorite, by her.  I started this last night and finished this morning and I'm glad work took some of my attention after I was done so that I could sit with this for a bit.  

As with all books I intend to read, I steer clear from reading any reviews so that I'm not influenced in any way with how I may feel.  I can imagine that some people wanted more monster from this read and at first, I did too... but then I realize that there is PLENTY of monster throughout this read.  But let me go back a little bit.

Mattie is young, isolated and living in a constant state of fear.  Not from some new monster that seems to have come to her part of the mountain.  But from her asshole of a husband who repeatedly beats her and has a desperate need to "plant his seed" (uff, I hate this terminology) and get some sons, as God supposedly demands of him.  But this new creature that shows up, while absolutely terrifying and unlike anything they would ever encounter, could also be her salvation because now others have come and maybe... just maybe... she'll be saved.

So look, I was hooked from the get go.  There's something about this type of story that just sits on my heart.  I would've loved some more creature feature moments, but ultimately, I found myself ridiing right along with Mattie - suffering through her memories, hair prickled at the thought of either monster, hope for the potential escape.  Even at the end when I noticed the pages were thinning and the story was about to close, I wanted MORE.  But when I truly think of this, this isn't so much about these monsters, but about Mattie and her character.  And that final scene when she looked back and saw those eyes.  Well, it got me.  And quite frankly, I was rooting for more than just her.  Well done, Henry.  

Yeah, somehow this got to me emotionally and I would recommend not going into this expecting this blood and gore creature horror novel... and instead let the suspense and foreboding get to you while putting yourself straight into Mattie's thick longjohns and petticoats.  But don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of bloody goodness to suit you too.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Howls From Hell

Howls From Hell

by M. David Clarkson, Amanda Nevada DeMel, S.E. Denton, Justin Faull, Quinn Fern, Solomon Forse, Shane Hawk, B.O.B. Jenkin, Thea Maeve, P.L. McMillan, Christopher O'Halloran, Joe Radkins, Lindsey Ragsdale, Joseph Andre Thomas, Alex Wolfgang and J.W. Donley

A huge thank you to HOWL Society Press and Night Worms for this gifted book.

Publisher: HOWL Society Press
Publish Date: May 18, 2021
304 Pages
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

Spacefaring researchers disturb an ancient horror. An enchanted object curses a grieving widow. A haunted reel torments a film student. A murder trial hinges on a chilling testimony.

In Howls From Hell, sixteen emerging horror writers pave the way for the future of the genre. Fans of dark and macabre fiction will savor this exhibition of all-original tales born from one of the fastest-growing horror communities in the world: HOWL Society.

With a foreword by Grady Hendrix, this anthology unveils the horror writers of tomorrow with spine-tingling stories from P.L. McMillan, J.W. Donley, Shane Hawk, Christopher O'Halloran, Alex Wolfgang, Amanda Nevada DeMel, Lindsey Ragsdale, Solomon Forse, Justin Faull, M. David Clarkson, B.O.B. Jenkin, S.E. Denton, Thea Maeve, Joseph Andre Thomas, Joe Radkins, and Quinn Fern.

My Review:

In my quest to continue to try new things, I decided to give short story collections/anthologies another go and what better way to go than with a collection titled HOWLS FROM HELL.  I typically stay away from these collections as it always ends the same - some I love, some I don't and so collectively, I end up almost always rating them down the middle.  While these can be a great sampling of new authors to consider, I am just that person who likes to read a full novel over the short story to determine that.  But that's just MY preference. 

Over the weekend, I opened this up and the first story just caught my attention.  Short it was and absolutely devious - I was just instantly transported back into my horror loving tingles and then kept runing page after page.  I'd devour 3 or 4 stories, then go about my business and then come back. I'd really like some more Casual Encounters πŸ˜‰.  The stand outs for me were Junco Creek, It Gets In Your Eyes and Red And The Beast.  I also liked Possess and Serve but it also gave me the willies because having an officer take over a person's body to deescalate a situation sounds like about the last thing I'd ever want a cop to do.  **SHIVER**  I'll also be checking any and all bills I get out of an ATM due to A Fistful of Murder.

This collection was a lot of fun.  Maybe because it's been a while since I've truly immersed myself in a collection.  Maybe because these authors are so talented.  Maybe because this gloomy weather was just oh so suitable for these reads.  In any manner, I did find that like with all collections, I loved some, liked some and meh about some.  But instead of doing my usual down the middle rating, I'm giving it an extra star because YES.  If you are a fan of horror collections, grab a copy and run.  Try not to get a paper cut though - who knows what will happen if any blood gets on these page. 😈


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Rattlesnake Road by Amanda McKinney

Rattlesnake Road
by Amanda McKinney

Huge thank you to Smith Publicity for getting me to try a new(ish) genre!

Publish Date: May 4, 2021
423 Pages
Genre: Romance, Suspense

Everyone hits rock bottom, only the brave escape.

Welcome to 1314 Rattlesnake Road.

A quaint two-bedroom log cabin nestled deep in the woods of the small, southern town of Berry Springs—the perfect hideaway to escape your past.

Tucked inside thick, mahogany walls lay mysterious letters, forgotten and untouched for decades. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and endless lies. Mature oak trees, tall enough to touch the clouds, carry the whispers of the haunted, of stories untold

Inside sits Grey Dalton, emotionally battered and bruised, her only wish to pick up the broken pieces of her life. But outside, await two men, one a tattooed cowboy, the other a dashing businessman.

One will steal her heart, the other, her soul.

Rattlesnake Road is a standalone mystery romance about love, loss, hitting rock bottom, and clawing your way to the other side.

Your escape awaits…

My Review:

When I was first approached with this book for review, I was hesitant... based on the cover alone, it's not the type of book I usually read.  But I did promise myself I'd try some new things and this small-town mystery romance was exactly what I expected.. but also a lot more.

The first chapter really hit home for me as, unfortunately, there was a lot I could relate to with what Grey was going through.  Then that scene happened where she did what a lot of us would love to do - and that is to speak our very raw mind - now, maybe in not quite that public of a setting and with that much alcohol running through the veins but hey, I thoroughly enjoyed that scene to the fullest!

I think the issue I have with some romance heavy books are the women needing to be saved by the men storyline that drives me batty.. but I think it's not necessarily in being saved but finding that person - and most people would love to have that person who fully accepts them and their flaws and adds to their lives rather than completing them.  Does that make any sense? Hahaha - Grey has been through a lot and if I could move to a small town after leaving my cheating husband just to have two gorgeous (and completely different from each other) men coming after me while finding a friend in Etta and my new feral cat named Moonshine... well, sign me up!  (Also, can we just talk about Etta and how she's my favorite character!)

Yes, this was pretty predictable but I had a damn good time following Grey.  We all go through our ups and downs and the downs can be pretty vicious.. it's all in how we come out the other side, isn't it? I'm honestly surprised that I enjoyed this so much - McKinney sure knows how to write and I'd be happy to read her again.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

One Two Three
by Laurie Frankel
Narrated by Emma Galvin, Jesse Vilinsky, Rebecca Soler

Thanks to & Macmillan Audio for this advanced gifted copy.

Publsiher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: June 8, 2021 (first published April 27, 2021)
14 hrs 59 min
Genre: Contemporary

How do you let go of the past when the past won't let go of you?

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed—tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her underwear drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green and was declared unfit for use, but it was too late for its residents, and the girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive and taking on a system stacked against them. And in a town where nothing ever changes, suddenly everything does.

My Review:

Meet the Bourne sisters - Mab (One), Monday (Two) and Mirabel (Three) and their mom, Nora.  Frankel keeps each chapter alternating from One, Two and Three respectively and it's nice to be inside each of these teenager's heads as they all have a very unique perspective.   Bourne has suffered under a chemical plant that has poisoned their water supply and Nora has relentlessly been trying to put together a class action law suit... because not only were her daughters affected, but the whole town has... look around and you can pick up on all the clues.

This story touches on a variety of very important issues.  While we are getting the views of the triplets, we are also intertwined with the town history, corporations contaminating a small town, birth defects, illness, legal battles, determination... a town torn between needing the factory and dying from it.  Luckily, there was some bits of levity thrown in to help alleviate such a glum (albeit important) storyline. 

I wonder if I may have enjoyed this better in print over audio.  While I do believe the narrators (there are 3) did an amazing job... if the chapters weren't headed to let us know who was speaking, it may have gotten a bit confusing as to which teenager we are listening to.  Which was really distinct at times and totally lost on me in other moments.  I also think that maybe this was a bit long.  It seemed a bit repetitive in nature.  I also feel like the *romance* part was kind of glossed over when it should've been a more important part considering.... but I'll leave that there.

You certainly won't ever forget these girls - they have such amazing personalities and their disabilities are really just a norm throughout this town and their individual genius and perseverence while still battling their hormones is pretty well done.  I did feel a little let down towards the end.. only in the fact that for so many chapters we get engaged and then it all kind of neatly sums up in a very short manner... though I was still happy with the results.  Mab, Monday and Mirabel will be staying with me for a very long time.... Monday may be my favorite. Shhhh.. don't tell the others.


Review: The Secret Talker by Geling Yan

The Secret Talker
by Geling Yan

Thanks to HarperVia and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: HarperVia
Publish Date: May 4, 2021
160 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

Beautiful, diligent, and passive, Hongmei is the perfect wife to Glen, an intelligent and caring college professor. But her quiet life in Northern California fractures when a mysterious person begins e-mailing her, pulling her into an enthralling and frightening game of cat-and-mouse. Who is stalking her? And how does this mysterious stranger know her deepest, darkest secrets?

As Hongmei is forced to confront her own dark past in China, the faΓ§ade of her idyllic life is laid bare. Increasingly desperate and self-destructive, her one hope is to turn the tables on her tormentor. Investigating the stalker’s own secret history may irrevocably tear her marriage and her world apart—a risk she must take to regain control of her life.

My Review:

I absolutely love the premise of this story.  Hongmei is bored and unhappy in her marriage to Glen, her American husband who provides for her but somehow she feels never SEES her.  Then a mysterious e-mail comes her way and now she gets involved and eventually obsessed about the person obsessing about her.  Got that?

I really wanted to like this story... I really did.  I even put it down at 66% through and while I usually never pick up books I put down, I realized this was a novella and I may as well finish ... plus my interest was piqued to see where Hongmei's journey would take her.  Here are some issues I had: this is marketed as a thriller, but the thriller aspect is hard to really find here.  Sure we have an anonymous person stalking Hongmei but as she continues to engage this person and basically turn the tables, the lack of fear and only sleightened increase of paranoia does not lend to that thriller atmosphere.  However, I do find that the thriller aspect in most translated books tend to be more subtle and not in your face, which can lend a very tense atmosphere... but alas, that's not found here either.  I also felt like this story was a bit incomplete... the entirety of setting up to the final *explanation* felt lacking.

What I did like is that in learning more and more of Hongmei as she opens up to her "admirer", we get a pretty compelling character.  While I didn't agree with some of her actions, I could understand needing that excitement in her life.  The cultural aspect of American and Chinese clashing a bit playing into her dissatisfaction is relatable and in learning of her past experiences lends to why she is acting the way she is now.  

Overall I feel like this could've been fleshed out a bit more.  Don't go into this expecting the standard thrilling thrills you'd expect from a thriller...  you won't find it.  But you will find an intricate story of Hongmei, who is worth getting to know.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart

An Invincible Summer
by Mariah Stewart

Thank you Montlake and TLC Book Tours for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Montlake
Publish Date: May 1, 2021
328 Pages
Series: Wyndham Beach #1
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

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 Review:

Normally, the synopsis of this wouldn't make me want to pick it right up.  But when it came across my desk, there was just something about it that screamed at me to read it.  (Ok, so all my books yell at me to read them but we all know how that goes sometimes.... 😏) Maybe it comes with age that you begin to love seeing reuniong after a significant period of time, first loves to reminisce over, good friends that you fall right back into line with.... and of course, a secret you've kept to yourself for far too long.  Whatever the reason, I'm glad my inner *readmorethanjustthrillersandhorror* decided this was a good idea.

This is my first by this author and it certainly won't be the last.  Her writing is extremely engaging and the author really brings to life the dynamics of long time friendships and relationships and all the ups and downs that come with them.  I think this subject always fascinates me a bit because my longest friendship stemmed from college since I moved around all my life.  I always wonder what it would be like to have those friendships that started from diapers - the ones who just REALLY know you.  And let us not forget our first loves.  They always leave an impact, even when you don't want them to.

I had a fantastic time getting to know Maggie and Grace.  Some things really hit home while others I couldn't imagine going through. Remember when we were young and thought things would be so much easier when we were adults?  Yeah, that was a nice slap to the face, eh? πŸ˜‰  But seriously, the banter between all of the characters here were fun along with a few situations.  My how the petty doesn't stop even 40 years from high school.  I couldn't help but fall in love with this book.  It took me a moment to grasp all the info that came in the beginning, but once I got hooked, I wasn't letting go.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review: Black Widows by Cate Quinn

Black Widows
by Cate Quinn

Thanks to Thriller Book Lover for this free book.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: February 9, 2021
419 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary

Blake is dead.
They say his wife killed him.
If so... which one?

Polygamist Blake Nelson built a homestead on a hidden stretch of land—a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah—where he lived with his three wives:

Rachel, the first wife, obedient and doting to a fault, with a past she'd prefer to keep quiet.
Tina, the rebel wife, everything Rachel isn't, straight from rehab and the Vegas strip.
And Emily, the young wife, naΓ―ve and scared, estranged from her Catholic family.

The only thing that they had in common was Blake. Until all three are accused of his murder.

When Blake is found dead under the desert sun, all three wives become suspect—not only to the police, but to each other. As the investigation draws them closer, each wife must decide who can be trusted. With stories surfacing of a notorious cult tucked away in the hills, whispers flying about a fourth wife, and evidence that can't quite explain what had been keeping Blake busy, the three widows face a reckoning that might shatter all they know to be true.

My Review:

Three wives.  One dead husband. 😈 They all have reason to kill him, so who was it?

This story starts off STRONG.  Quinn introduces us to Rachel, Tina and Emily - all very different women who ended up wives of Blake.  As we learn about them, their relationship with Blake and the mystery at hand, I am absolutely riveted to the pages.  Oh, hello cult vibes.... I welcome thee....  and then... then something got lost.  Towards the middle I started losing a bit of interest going back and forth with the wives, their pasts, etc. ... I'm not even quite sure I'd say it's repetitive, but I felt some of it was just a bit too much filler.

But then! THEN it goes seven sheets to sideways, which definitely got my attention again.  Ok, I can see it's gonna get nuts so gonna strap myself in and prepare.  Had me hooked again, I didn't even mind the whiplash.  Unfortunately, I didn't quite like the last twist.  For my particular taste, I think it was a bit of a reach after all the build up. I did enjoy getting to see how everything played out at the end.  Certain characters (and I despised them all lovingly) definitely deserved for a happier way of life... but the mighty tangled web that was woven got untangled a bit too fast.

Look, this book has everything I enjoy - give me any kind of culty vibes and I am HERE for it.  Multi-layered characters, gimme.  Shitty husband who's dead from the get go - sign me up!  Quinn served up all the red herrings and I stayed to fish.  I very much enjoy Quinn's writing style and kudos to a bad ass debut novel.  I'll absolutely be picking up whatever this author serves up next.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh

Publisher: Sphere
Publish Date: November 9, 2014 
371 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

My Review:

Well, I was not expecting THAT! πŸ‘€  I became a fan of Mackintosh after reading I SEE YOU - her writing is addictive and so easy to binge in a one sit read.  Life was a bit crazy at the end of March when I started I LET YOU GO I didn't get to sit down and binge it like I wanted to.. which is why I think pretty much every twisty thing that slapped me in the face truly surprised me.

There is so much going on with this read.  Lies, manipulation, grief, accidents, hidden agendas and attractions.  You name it, it's probably in here.... ok, ok.. that might be a bit of an exaggeration but WOW there's so much packed in here.  Jenna is a very complex character and I just FELT for.  And there's a good lesson in how the past always catches up with you.  You can NEVER run away from your problems and inner demons.  

There's SO much I want to say about this one but every time I try to move the words from my brain to my fingertips, I fear I'm going to spoil something so I will just leave this review here and say that if you like twisty goodness from a thriller that does not let up on any page you turn, then here's the book for you. 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth
Narrated by Barrie Kreinik

Thanks to, Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for these review copies.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
8 hrs. 19  min.
Genres: Contemporary, Suspense

There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights, and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich, and shocking story of unexpected love. 

My Review:

I had the pleasure to meet Hepworth at a group lunch a couple of years ago and she is just the absolute sweetest.  Who knew that under that all the niceness laid the creator of such a crazy family story.  Yes yes yes - come along and meet twins, Rose and Fern whose only commonality seems to be their bloodline. 

Hepworth takes us back and forth in timelines as we get a glimpse of their harrowing childhood where they ended up in the foster care system after their mother dies.  We know straight off that an awful death occurred when they were kids and that Fern is at fault and Rose has, and will always, protect her sister.  Fern follows along with Rose's influence because she really need some help as she gets overwhelmed with sensory overload at times.  And how does she want to repay Rose? By having the baby that she couldn't.  Nothing could possibly go wrong here... right? πŸ˜‰

It's infuriating when you start to see some dynamics coming to light - I truly wanted to drop kick one particular character.  Hepworth gives us very layered characters - even the ones I wanted to hate, I still felt for.  Just how much can ANY of them take before something blows?  The journey we are taken on starts off very suspenseful and foreboding and then launches into a PHEW but WHAT drama llama ding dong that I couldn't help but love every minute of.  Personally, I felt this to be a very predictable read BUT I was here for every page to see how it was all going to play out.  Even though I knew it was coming, my eyes still widened with realization along with some of the characters. 

I am snagging the other Hepworth books I have on my shelves and upping them on my tbr - I absolutely love her writing style and can see why people rave about her books.  I also really enjoyed the narrator.  Props all around for this read - would definitely recomment.