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Saturday, August 17, 2019

#ATBR2019 Reviews: Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker @atriabooks @jessmapreviews @kathleenatucker

Say You Still Love Me
by K.A. Tucker

Thank you Atria Books for these copies. Uff, I'm a sucker for a love story.

Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
373 Pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.

My Review:

Uff... you guys and gals... I'm a sucker for a good love story and Tucker sure knows how to bring the business.  We get a story about Piper and Kyle - two kids from opposite sides of the tracks, meeting as camp counselors for the first time that turns into a steamy summer.  Bonds and friendships are forged and this is a summer no one will surely forget.

Fast forward thirteen years later and Piper now sees Kyle working in her building and girl is SHOOK.  She hasn't heard from him in all this time and now he's WHERE?! Presto, changeo, hereeeee we go!  Now, with most romance books, we already know a happy ending is coming, right? What's fantastic about these kinds of books is that it's the JOURNEY that makes it so much fun. 

I always thought camp would be something fun to do but I never went (they do adult camps right?!).  But we all know what that first love feels like.  Those first feelings, first touches, first heartbreaks.... oh emotions are a crazy roller coaster.  What Tucker does best is give us this superb story with steamy scenes that aren't too much. (I love me a good steamy scene as long as it isn't too out of control - otherwise I'd just read erotica *wink*)  The chemistry between Piper and Kyle is HOT... but it's the building of their feelings and their intimate moments that really got me.

How the author builds a girl turned woman who is fierce, empowered, respected and standing up for herself is amazing to see grow with each page. It's nice to see an uber rich girl use her *powers* for good and I think it's fantastic that her mother sent her to camp so she would learn not to 'abuse her wealthy privilege". There's always a method to parents' madnesses, aren't there? Even if we're not privy (or agreeable) to them all.

An absolutely adorable read that by the time I reached that last chapter, had me enraptured.

Jessica's Review:

There's always something about sneaking in a contemporary romance novel in between thrillers and crime fiction series. I'm still relatively new to picking up K.A. Tucker's books, but I will be looking for more next time I'm at the bookstore!

SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME will transport you back to your summer camp days - every year from 10 - 17 I went to the same week long camp. Some of the best memories are from those weeks! While I didn't find my first love there like Piper and Kyle did, I do remember all the strong relationships you formed at camp. 

Piper is hugely successful and has just been named Vice President of her father's multibillion dollar company and is living the single life with her friends. She has to prove her worth constantly at work to show her Male coworkers she's earned her position and not just being handed it because of her father. Oh, and her ex-fiance is close by at work, so that makes for a stressful work environment. Not complicated enough? The new security guard is none other than Kyle, her first love from summer camp 13 years ago.

We all know how these stories are going to end up. Does that take away from the book? Hell no! We're here for the romance, the ups and downs, the growth, and the happily ever after. Piper was an amazing character - she really blossoms as the story progresses and Tucker really knows how to get you invested in these two. 

This was just what I needed and a perfect summer read. Bring it to the beach or cozy up on the couch, just make sure you clear out some time because Tucker will pull you right in. Prepare for the nostalgia and all the feels with this one.

5 stars

Friday, August 16, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz @lisalutz @randomhouse #ballantinebooks @jessmapreviews

The Swallows 
by Lisa Lutz 

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: August 13, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Suspense

A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war--with deadly consequences--in a provocative novel from the bestselling author of The Passenger and the Spellman Files series.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want? 

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy's new creative writing teacher. When the students' answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there's more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten--the students at the top of the school's social hierarchy--as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can't remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who've started to question the school's "boys will be boys" attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her--including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can't find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there's Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school's secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal--and potentially fatal--consequences for everyone involved. Lisa Lutz's blistering, timely tale shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long--and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.

My Review:

Stonebridge Academy has some secrets and the Darkroom is at the heart of it. Alex Witt, who has just joined as a teacher and quickly learns of the all too well known “boys will be boys” phenomena going on. No one has been able to stop it. What will it take and when is enough enough? 

I absolutely love Witt’s character. The Blowchart she makes, while you may first giggle at the title comparative to the subject matter, you quickly learn the true meaning and the lesson behind it all. LOVE the final message. The issue here is that when there's an academy/school such as this where certain *traditions* continue because people are too afraid to speak up to save their own asses, it turns into a vicious cycle where at the end of the day, everyone becomes a victim.  Retaliations may not be worth the cost but something still needs to be done and while boys will be boys and girls will be girls - the girls will become warriors and god help those in their way. 

There were moments where it lost a little spark for me but overall a fabulous read about gender wars. Behind this heavy subject manner is humor and electricity from Witt's characters, the quiet hero in some of the boys who knows what's wrong, the surging of power within the girls who are targets, willingly or not.  Competitiveness at the price of morality.  Does any of this really change? Or is it just muffled until the next wave? We'll never truly know.  It's the heart of this story - where lessons are learned and a heavy price is paid that tugs at your emotions.

Lutz is, and continues to be, a favorite author of mine.  And this cover, once you've read the story, really stands out and speaks volumes.  I love a simple cover with a TON of meaning. 


Jessica's Review:

I've heard nothing but great things about Lisa Lutz's books and this was my introduction to her! I will definitely be going back and picking up her other books. I really enjoyed THE SWALLOWS - a mystery set in a prep school, teachers and students hiding things about the school, a new teacher determined to get to the bottom of things, and an impending gender war. Talk about an intriguing combination!

Alex Witt is the new creative writing teacher at the Stonebridge Academy. After a writing assignment, she quickly learns of some dark secrets the school is hiding, and something called The Darkroom. Despite many allegations and plenty of controversy, the school remains hushed about what goes on - the whole "boys will be boys" nonsense. As we all know though, hell hath no fury, and the girls are ready to fight back.

I really enjoyed the graphics that were scattered throughout the book. Those are always fun to have included and helped pull you into the story more. There were a lot of characters and sometimes things felt a little jumbled together, but that didn't really take away from the reading experience. I think if the cast of narrators was trimmed down then it would have had a better flow to it. Despite some of the perspectives coming from students, I wouldn't call this a YA novel because I don't think it's geared toward a younger audience.

Overall, I just couldn't put this one down. I really enjoyed the writing and seeing the mystery unfold. I loved Alex, she was a great character. One you could really connect with and that Blowchart? Gotta love it. I would highly recommend this one and I will be going back to pick up more from Lutz.

4 stars

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Perfect Son by Lauren North @berkleypub @Lauren_C_North #ATBR2019 @jessmapreviews

The Perfect Son 
by Lauren North 

Thank you to Berkley for this stop on the blog tour. 

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: August 13, 2019
368 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

A disturbing and shocking debut novel of psychological suspense about a recently widowed mother, her young son, and the lengths she'll go to in order to keep him safe.

When Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital the day after her son Jamie's eighth birthday, she's sure of these things: She's been stabbed, her son is missing, her brother-in-law and her grief counselor are involved. But no one is listening to her. 

After her husband, Mark, died suddenly in a terrible accident a few months earlier, the only thing keeping Tess together is Jamie. As they struggle to make sense of their new life without Mark, they find joy in brief moments of normalcy like walking to school and watching television together. Life is hard without Mark, but Tess has Jamie, and that's what matters.

But there in the hospital, confused and surrounded by people who won't listen, Tess’s world falls apart. To save her son, she must piece together what happened between Mark's death and Jamie's birthday, but the truth might just be too much for her to bear. 

Lauren North studied psychology before moving to London, where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. The Perfect Son is her first novel, and she's working on her second.

My Review:

Real talk - in the first 100 pages, I thought about putting this book down several times.  Being in Tess's head is BRUTAL.  I can't imagine what it's like to lose a husband but the author gives Tess's feelings in her aftermath a VOICE... and it's almost hurtful to hear it.  The decisions she makes.  The decisions she WON'T make. And I'm very glad I stuck with it as it all makes sense when you get towards the end.  Is she crazy? Is she making YOU crazy? Ok, maybe she's not so crazy after all! 

I understand why the author stated in the acknowledgments (have I reiterated enough how everyone should always read these?) that this took her emotions and left her exhausted. This isn't a fun subject matter to be writing about.  The aftermath of Tess's husband's unexpected death.  The months after leading up to her son's disappearance.  The author takes us on a journey leading up to the disappearance, and glimpses into the present day through interviews and statements.  Grief is no joke, y'all... and you never know how you are going to deal with your emotions until you have to go through it.  

I hit a point in the book where I got REALLY interested - well hello there you big old red herring - should I take a bite?  But no... it can't be THAT obvious.. can it? And if it is... then what else will show itself?! If anything? This is my brain sometimes reading thrillers, fyi.  While what I originally thought didn't pan out, I did see the major alert before the bell rang. I think most avid readers of thrillers probably will.  But here's what the thing is with this book.  It's not so much about any big twist, or to keep you guessing to the end - it's really a story about grief, sadness, loss, feelings, friends and family.  


Jessica's Review:

Before starting THE PERFECT SON by Lauren North, I had seen a few things from other reviewers about how the ending twist was one they didn't see coming. So I was really excited to start and see what the author would throw at us. This was a debut from Lauren North and I've been so impressed with all these thriller debut authors this year, and she was no exception!

We start out with Tess waking up in a hospital bed. She has stab wounds and the police are trying to get to the bottom of what happened. The biggest concern? Jamie, her (now) 8 year old son, Jamie, is missing. Tess will do anything and everything she has to in order to find him.

When her husband dies in a terrible accident, Tess and Jaime's lives are turned upside down. Together they try to navigate their grief and try and rebuild their lives without Mark. The only thing keeping Tess going is her son Jamie, as long as she has him then she can try to find some normalcy again. They are recommended to a grief counselor, Shelley, and she quickly becomes a friend and someone that Tess can turn to. She soon becomes suspicious of Shelley's motives when she notices how close she and her son are becoming.

Tess begins to question everyone around her and their motives. Why are her brother-in-law and grief counselor getting so close? Are they trying to work against her? Are they trying to take Jamie away from her? So many questions and North takes us on quite the roller coaster ride. This is told in two timelines - the countdown to Jamie's 8th birthday and the present-day events after her stabbing and Jamie going missing. The author slowly connects the dots for us and there some twists and turns. I can see some frequent readers of the psychological thriller genre guessing some early on, but that doesn't take away from the reading experience! I would definitely recommend this one and can't wait to see what she comes out with next.

4 stars

Monday, August 12, 2019

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover @atriabooks @colleenhoover #BuddyReadsToDieFor

It Ends With Us 
by Colleen Hoover

Janelle (@shereadswithcats) and I decided to start a backlist, genre diverse read along and our pick for our first month, August, was It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Go to our instagram pages for details and stay tuned for September and October picks!

Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date August 2, 2016
376 Pages

Genres: Romance, Contemporary

My Review:

*naked truth* "We're all just people who sometimes do bad things."

This book deals with domestic abuse and what one girl goes through from being a kid that witnessed it to being in a  whirlwind relationship to a man she truly loves... even if cracks start to show.  

Written through Lily's perspective with flashbacks in her journal reading, we see how Lily has become the person she is and you fall in love with her.  I absolutely loved the journal reading of the main character, Lily, all written in forms of letters to Ellen DeGeneres.  Everything feels so realistic and just so HUMAN throughout this read.  And then you read the note from the author.. I felt this in my heart y'all.  Every books of Hoover's I've read so far I've loved.  Her writing is seamless and each story has been impactful in some way - some more than others.

A story of love, loyalty, being kind, relationships, coming into your own and how it's never too late to break the cycle.

I don't usually read romance, but when I do, it's Hoover.  Just Keep Swimming.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart @crownpublishing @robwhart @jessmapreviews

The Warehouse 
by Rob Hart

Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: August 20, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fiction

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. 

But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. 

Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him. 

As the truth about Cloud unfolds, Zinnia must gamble everything on a desperate scheme—one that risks both their lives, even as it forces Paxton to question everything about the world he’s so carefully assembled here. 

Together, they’ll learn just how far the company will go…to make the world a better place. 

Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business--and who will pay the ultimate price.

My Review:

Cloud is not just a place to work, but a place to live with a ranking and rating system to keep you striving to always be your best! We follow the creator of Cloud on his last tour, Paxton who thinks this is best opportunity though he’s not happy Cloud has essentially been a problem in his life and Zinnia who is undercover..but for what purpose? 

This takes a harsh look at where our civilization is going and how some things unfortunately never change despite the lessons we should have already learned.  Corporate America.  The want and need of those high ratings because we are now virtually trained to react to these.  It's like a mix of Facebook on crack salted with an itsy bitsy bit of Black Mirror. Not gonna lie, if the world went to (further) shit and I was afforded and opportunity to work in a place like this, I would be tempted.  Just remember, everything comes at a price.

What an unexpected surprise! It’s written in 11 sections with chapters written in the voice of the three main characters and various chapters in the form of a message. I will say I glazed over sometimes during the owner’s chapters. I was way more intrigued with Paxton and Zinnia. Around the last couple chapters I had that “I KNEW IT!” moment, but I didn’t really know it y’all. 🤦🏻‍♀️. It’s in these last chapters that the book really captured me and I turned the last page seriously saying out loud, “Well now THAT was so good!” There’s not crazy twist but there are some verrrry interesting surprises. 🍔 And while I thought some sections dragged a tiny bit, once I finished I appreciated all the depth in the characters. Love it when a book surprises me in the unexpected ways. 

Anybody wanna grab a Cloudburger? 😏


Jessica's Review:

While I don't frequent the dystopian genre, there are always a few that catch my attention. THE WAREHOUSE was one of those books. This is also, in my opinion, where we could be heading in the future with how technology is advancing.

Imagine a company where you work and live there. A place where they have everything you could ever need. Only, you don't work for money, you work for credits and your performance is recorded on a rating system. This sounds eerily like how things could be heading for us if we continue on the route of online shopping and the instant gratification.

I mean, I live where I work, but nothing on this level. There are so many aspects about this scenario and this new world that feel entirely possible. That's when I enjoy this genre, when the author can give us something that feels real and makes us think about how humanity got there. There were definitely some big surprises in the book and despite thinking I knew the end, I was very wrong. It happens to the best of us, right? I know there have been plenty of mentions from other reviewers, but let's just all agree to avoid those cloudburgers.

4 stars

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware @jessmapreviews

The Turn of the Key 
by Ruth Ware 

Thank you Gallery/Scout Press for these free copies.

Publisher: Gallery Books/Scout Press
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
384 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

My Review:

Getting big The Death of Mrs. Westaway vibes with this one - "suspenseful gothic read around an old house full of secrets".  Ware has the knack for the slow burn... the atmospheric read.  Bring in a bit of tech savviness to make this old house with a history into a bit of a modern creep factory and we get paranormal vibes, misbehavioral attitudes from the children, malfunctions and a little bit of where are we going here?  Is this paranormal? Is the house going to be "too smart"?  Is there something wrong with the children? So many possibilities!

My interest was piqued and my need to known remained at a high level for the majority of this book.  I did have moments where I wanted things explored a bit more.  Bring in this high level, smart house, and you get vibes that maybe something's going to go a bit haywire here but turns out it's really more a nuisance than anything - glitch me.  Bring in this ghostly atmosphere and give me more background/history of the house and former/current occupants.  Bring in a poison garden (LOVE) and incorporate this into something more.  While each of these added to the creepiness factor, the overall sense of something awry felt a little bit stilted and I found myself at the end of the book.... not surprised and left with the need to know what happens after the main "twist" was laid down.

Please don't take any of the above as I didn't enjoy the story. I very much did enjoy it- I absolutely adore Ware's writing style and the ease in which she tucks you in to her world.  I think it's a bit reminiscent of her last book with touches of The Turn of the Screw feels.  I think I just needed a tighter ending after all the build.


Jessica's Review:

Not only am I huge fan of Ruth Ware, but coming off a DNF this was just what I needed. I can always count on Ware to give us an incredibly atmospheric read with memorable characters that are flawed in ways that make them easy to connect with. THE TURN OF THE KEY was written in a unique format in that it was entirely in letter form from our main character's perspective.

A nanny in jail for the murder of a child that was in her care, but she claims she is innocent. This book tells her story in her own words as she sends letters to her lawyer. She starts from the beginning, the ad that was so tempting she had to answer it. A family looking for a live-in nanny, an incredibly generous salary, a picture perfect family, and all the conveniences that come with a "smart home". We all know, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Rowan brings us through her experiences being the nanny and how everything she thought was perfect at her interview became a nightmare. The most unsettling part? If she's innocent, then the murderer is still out there.

The detail in the characters and her surroundings was perfect - not too much to feel like it was dragging and she doesn't leave us wanting more clarification. Despite Rowan being our sole narrator, we still get solid character development on Jack and Jean through her stories. Hell, the house even becomes a character of its own. A solid pacing to keep you sucked in, and you couldn't help but feel uneasy about the little to no privacy Rowan was experiencing in this smart house. There some twists throughout that I didn't see coming and I think things came together nicely in the end.

Overall, if you're a fan of the gothic suspense then this is one I highly recommend. I would have to agree with other reviewers out there, I think this is Ware's best one yet!

5 stars

Monday, August 5, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney @randomhouse #jpdelaney @jessmapreviews

The Perfect Wife 
by JP Delaney 

Thank you Ballantine Books for these copies.

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
432 Pages
Genres: Domestic Thriller, Sci-Fi

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He's a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley's most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband's motives--and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

My Review:

Oh boy you guys - this one is a head scratcher for me. I read Delaney's Believe Me last year and absolutely loved it.  I also read The Girl Before, which also hits on the techy, sci-fi, domestic thriller vibes like The Perfect Wife.  Opening chapter had my mouth open.  I had no idea what to expect going into this read but THAT wasn't it.  I am instantly intrigued and hooked. I still wasn't sure what was going on or where the author was taking us for most of the book.  Like with The Girl Before, I was all in the story until the very end.  I have questions!  And I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole thing.

I love where the author's mind is and intrigued with the concept of this story, absolutely.  It's and engaging and interesting premise that will certainly keep you wondering. Certainly for those who love artificial (or autonomous) intelligence and robotics interspersed with domestic drama, manipulation and lies... then I think this would be a great read for you.  I love all of that and Delaney has a knack of keeping you on board.  I just need some answers as the ending left me with more questions than not. Maybe that's precisely what it was supposed to do!

I definitely look forward to seeing more from this author and will absolutely continue to read more by JP.  I wonder which road he'll lead us down next.


Jessica's Review:

This was my third outing with Delaney and this one took on a science fiction element. I'm so guilty of picking up books and not reading the synopses or I'll read it months before picking up the book and forget. I think this worked in my favor for THE PERFECT WIFE. That last sentence in the first chapter shocked me. 

Abbie wakes up in what she thinks is a hospital and she's terrified that there could have been an accident. Her husband is at her side and begins to explain that she has been dead for multiple years and through the the incredible technological advances he and his company have reached, he has been able to bring her back as a "cobot" (companion robot).

I'm happy I went into this completely blind because I know I would have had a different expectation knowing it had to do with robots. Delaney's writing is what I've loved since THE GIRL BEFORE and how he is able to build the story for us. I would say this is more of a thriller with all the elements we love - lies, deceit, secrets - but with a science fiction sprinkling. With robots becoming more prevalent in today's society this raised questions and I really enjoyed seeing the author's take on the topic. 

I will continue to pick up whatever Delaney releases and would highly recommend all of his thrillers!

4 stars 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl @berkleypub

The Heart Keeper
by Alex Dahl

Thank you Berkley Pub for this copy and my stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: July 16, 2019
384 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller

Two mothers. Two daughters. One heart. 

When Alison's beloved daughter Amalie drowns, her world turns impenetrably dark. Alison tries to hold it together throughout the bleak Fall, but in the darkest days of the Norwegian Winter she completely falls apart.

In another family, Amalie's passing is a new beginning. After years of severe health problems, young Kaia receives a new heart on the morning after Amalie drowns. Her mother Iselin has struggled to raise Kaia on her own and now things are finally looking up. She's even made an affluent new friend who's taken a special interest in her and her daughter.

Alison knows she shouldn't interfere, but really, she's just trying to help Iselin and Kaia. She can give them the life they never had, and by staying close to them, she can still be with her daughter. Kaia is just like her, and surely, something of Amalie must live on in her. As her grief transforms into a terrifying obsession, Alison won't let anything stop her from getting back what she has lost. 

Half-American, half-Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in Business Management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile and currently lives in both London and Sandefjord. The Boy at the Door (2018) was translated into ten languages and longlisted for a CWA Dagger award. The Heart Keeper (2019) is out now. Next up- Playdate (2020)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood @stmartinspress @tgwood505 @jessmapreviews

Keeping Lucy 
by T. Greenwood 

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this incredible read.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson's heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded." Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny's best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth--its squalid hallways filled with neglected children--she knows she can't leave her daughter there. With Ginny's six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.
For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.
My Review:

MY HEART! I think I went into this expecting to learn more about Willowridge and while I did NOT get that, what I got was a heartfelt story of one mother's journey to protect the daughter no one else would. 
I couldn't imagine living during this time, as a mother who just gave birth to a daughter with Down Syndrome - who is called mongoloid and retarded and told would be best sent off to be taken care of elsewhere.  Whose rights were signed off before I even woke up.  This blending of true events and fiction of Ginny's story grasps you from the very first page.

Women and their rights during this time/inequalities, misunderstanding of Down Syndrome, social injustice, legal rights.... just a few of the things we come across during this emotional road trip Ginny takes with her best friend, Marsha.  Their friendship on its own is wondrous and beautiful.  Two completely opposite women who do not judge and just love each other.  Opposites attract on many levels and sometimes you really do need that yin to your yang to keep you balanced.

You fall in love with Lucy.  Your heart swells for Peyton.  You root for Ginny and Marsha. You hope for the best from Ab - both junior and senior.  You may or may not try to sniff back tears at a certain scene towards the end.  Beautifully written, Greenwood truly showcases Ginny who surprises herself by standing up for what is right for her and her daughter, despite the world being against her.

Highly recommend.  Greenwood's prose will steal something from you while giving back so much more.

Jessica's Review:

When I picked up RUST & STARDUST by T. Greenwood I fell in love with the writing and the story we got to experience. So when I saw KEEPING LUCY was coming out, I immediately knew I had to get a copy. I was not disappointed. A moving story about the lengths a mother will go to to protect her child – even from her husband and in-laws.

It’s 1969, and we open with Ginny going into labor two weeks early and during a Blood Moon. Which everyone around her warned her would happen. We experience her confusion and panic when the doctor explains to her in her groggy state that her daughter was born with defects, what they called mongoloid. She isn’t allowed to see her daughter for days and they continue to force her to rest. Her husband, Ab, finally is at her bedside and explains that he and his parents have sent their newborn daughter, Lucy, to an institution that cares for children “like her”.

Fast-forward two years, and her world turns upside down when an article is written about the institution she was sent to and they inhumane conditions the children live in. Determined to save her daughter, and finally meet her, Ginny, her best friend Marsha, and her six year old son, Peyton, all make the journey to get Lucy. After seeing what poor health Lucy is in and the obvious neglect she has been subjected to, Ginny makes the decision to keep Lucy and check her out for good. Things get complicated when we learn that her husband signed Lucy over to the state – Ginny is no longer seen as her mother or guardian and can be arrested for kidnapping if she doesn’t return Lucy. Here starts the desperate journey to keep Lucy safe.

Greenwood takes us across the country as Ginny tries to stay a step ahead of her husband. There was that slight feeling of cat-and-mouse, but this would definitely fall under the fiction category. You just feel for Ginny and her undying need and desire to keep her only daughter. As I was reading, I completely forgot the time period and was shocked how people treated children with mental/physical disabilities. I loved seeing Ginny grow in her independence from page one until the end. Having never gone against what her husband wanted, this was a story of growth and finding her strength. I’ll continue to pick up whatever Greenwood releases, and I would highly recommend this one for your summer TBR!

5 stars

Thursday, August 1, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Because You're Mine by Rea Frey @reafrey_author @stmartinspress @jessicamap

Because You're Mine
by Rea Frey

From the author of Not Her Daughter, get involved in her latest - a story you don't want to miss.

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
400 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Mystery

But it’s the lies that keep you safe. 

Single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything—anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to recharge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?
Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden.
As the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light, perhaps it's no mystery someone is gone after all…

My Review:

I do believe I’ve found my newest autobuy author! I adored Not Her Daughter and now I ADORE this book. During part 1, I wasn't sure how I was feeling about this book.  Lee was getting on my nerves, I already found Mason adorable and I couldn't grasp where this book was heading.  Then, about 100 pages in, part 2 hits me across the face with a big old forceful slap and I didn’t stop reading after that. Halfway I was like ok I found the big twist. Omg I’m BRILLIANT. Yes! But no. And then WHAT.  Though certain things seem blazingly obvious, you stay with it to see how it is all going to unfold... and you're glad that you do because what's obvious becomes a bit hazy and not exactly what you bargained for. 

I have only one thing that I was like waiiiit a minute but I don’t even care. I was involved. I was IN IT. (Have you read this? Can we discuss please??)  Just when I think I know what's happening, I get side lined with that last chapter. I was NOT expecting that. Believable? Not believable?  This kept me hooked.  There are certainly some scenes that are cringe worthy and depressing but those are what drew me in even further if I'm being completely honest about it. I do wish some of the characters were a *little* more developed so I had a deeper understanding of them though. 

Alright alright alright, Frey. I’m obsessed with you now. Lawd help me and my TBR pile because as of this point, I will read whatever you put in front of me. This domestic drama cake topped with some suspense icing will give you the goods.


Jessica's Review:

Why haven't I ever picked up a book by Rea Frey before?? I've read one book and I'm already calling her a new auto-buy author. I read through BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE in almost one sitting - damn you 2am! This is more of a domestic drama/suspense than a thriller, but there is plenty of drama to keep you sucked in.

I don't even know where to begin without giving away any spoilers. All I can say is, so many secrets! Throughout the book we see through Lee, Grace, and Noah's perspectives. Everyone has a secret they know they have to tell, but they are dreading the outcome. Telling the truth sets you free, but keeping a secret keeps you safe, right? I had a few times that I thought I had things all figured out, nope! I couldn't believe how many curve balls that Frey threw at us, and they were all subtle ones where it wasn't earth shattering, but enough to make you go - wait a second, what!

The characters were developed well and as the story unfolded we learned more and more about what makes them tick. I will be keeping an eye out for more from Frey the next time I'm at the bookstore and can't wait to see what she comes out with next.

5 stars