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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

True Crime Story
by Joseph Knox

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Landmark for this gifted book.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: December 7, 2021 (first published June 17, 2021)
Paperback
320 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Crime, Thriller

What happens to all the girls who go missing?

The thrilling story of a university student's sudden disappearance, the woman who became obsessed with her case, and the crime writer who uncovered the chilling truth about what happened...

In 2011, Zoe Nolan walked out of her dormitory in Manchester and was never seen or heard from again. Her case went cold. Her story was sad, certainly, but hardly sensational, crime writer Joseph Knox thought. He wouldn't have given her any more thought were it not for his friend, Evelyn Mitchell. Another writer struggling to come up with a new idea, Evelyn was wondering just what happened to all the girls who go missing. What happened to the Zoe Nolans of the world?

Evelyn began investigating herself, interviewing Zoe's family and friends, and emailing Joseph with chapters of the book she was writing with her findings. Uneasy with the corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph Knox embedded himself in the case, ultimately discovering a truth more tragic and shocking than he could have possibly imagined...

Just remember: Everything you read is fiction.

My Review:


Uff, it pains me to write this review.  Isn't it so hard to write an unfavorable review for an author you really like? MEEP.  OK, here goes nothing.

TRUE CRIME STORY is FICTION but written like a ... well, true crime story.  It is written in email and interview format mostly, which I was fine with for about the first 100 pages and then just kinda got bored with it altogether.  I'm not entirely sure if it's the format or just the story itself though.  I LOVE the idea behind this read and I certainly did find it intriguing.  What DID happen to Zoe?!

Unfortunately the characters were all just so terrible - they're terrible people.  The whole lot.  Not that I don't have my own issues but wow.... and I loved hating on them.  But I needed more Zoe and less of their own drama. Le sigh... maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this one.  When we finally do get to somewhat of a conclusion, I was more creeped out about what a certain person was hoarding than I was about any crime itself.  IYKYK!

Ultimately, while I appreciated what the author was doing, it just didn't quite work for me and I found myself losing interest too fast.  But it's Knox so I had to finish ... plus I really did want an answer.  I'm just not sure I'm entirely happy with what I found. I have a feeling that reviews on this are going to be love it or hate it.  Me... I'm sticking with his Aidan Waits thrillers because those definitely make my black heart beat faster.

★★

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: The Woods are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

The Woods are Always Watching
by Stephanie Perkins
Narrated by Renna Dutt

Thanks to PRAudio for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: August 31, 2021
Audiobook
7 hours 9 minutes
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Horror

A traditional backwoods horror story set–first page to last–in the woods of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong.

And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer.

My Review:


Um.  Well, I think I can safely say that this may not be the author for me.  I didn't particularly care for 'There's Someone Inside Your House' though I did enjoy the Netflix adaptation... and THE WOODS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING... well.... yeah, it's a no for me.

Now, I do enjoy backwoods horror such as Wrong Turn, which this had some slight feels of, but these girls.... uffffffffff.  Where do I even begin?  The beginning of the book was just them kind of whining at each other.  They decide to go hiking, which they've never done before, and are not very well prepared for this new adventure.  THEN BAM.  Things did take a turn and start to get interesting.  Let's just take any plausibility out of the situation.  This made it a bit better once I decided that these girls basically have super powers (they don't, I'm making it up) and a pain threshold I can only wish for. 

Enter villains with Appalachian accents (this was mentioned quite a few times so it is quite drilled in my head). FINALLY.  I was rooting for them the whole time. KILL THESE GIRLS PLEASE. 😈 And then that ending... what the actual..... anyways......... And don't come at me saying that this is YA so what should I expect because I have read some fantastic YA horror.  BUT, I will say that I did find myself intrigued and wanted to see what was going to happen, no matter who I was rooting for!  I did find it quite entertaining once I decided not to get so nit picky.  I didn't find this creepy or scary in the slightest but I did enjoy the romp that it is to a certain extent.  For now, I'll wait for the adaptations because if this comes to film, I'm definitely watching.

★★

Monday, November 15, 2021

Review: Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins

Nanny Dearest
by Flora Collins

Huge thanks to MIRA books for this gifted book.

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: November 30, 2021
Kindle Edition
336 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Domestic Suspense

In this compulsively readable novel of domestic suspense, a young woman takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father's death, until she starts to uncover secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years.

Sue Keller is lost. When her father dies suddenly, she's orphaned in her mid-twenties, her mother already long gone. Then Sue meets Annie. It’s been twenty years, but Annie could never forget that face. She was Sue’s live-in nanny at their big house upstate, and she loved Sue like she was her own.

Craving connection and mothering, Sue is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue starts to uncover the truth about Annie's unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure—or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie's care.

Told in alternating points of views—Annie in the mid-'90s and Sue in the present day—this taut novel of suspense will keep readers turning the pages right up to the shocking end.

My Review:


OoOoOOoO this debut domestic suspense novel has been wanting to REALLY like it but finding myself a bit puzzled on how I actually feel overall.  The first half is pretty slow but had my interest enough to see where it was going to go... and I already had a feeling, which turned out to be right, so at a certain point it was a matter of seeing HOW we were going to get there.

I love obsession, bat shit crazy, domestic reads and this one is definitely that.  But the crazy one isn't just the antagonist here.  Now, I've said it over and over again... I loooooove to hate on some characters.  But uff, I just couldn't get into what was happening or WHY Suzy was acting as she was.  I did enjoy the dual timelines and the slow showing of the how and whys... even if they didn't *quite* make a whole lot of sense. BUT, I also kinda like how wicked it was and how this very interesting relationship affected Suzy so much.  Hrm... I question everyone in this dang book except for maybe the taxi driver at the end. Maybe.  

I suppose what the book really is touching on is how nurture, in any form, can absolutely make a difference in a child's life.  And how grief is such a hard emotion to roller coaster through.  Who is really dependent upon who and why is everyone around that knew what was going on just so damned complacent? I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT ALL OF THIS.

Very mixed feelings here but I can say that I'm a Collins fan and can't wait to see where her writing goes from here.  As a debut, I like it! Let's see what else she was for us readers - I really can't wait.

★★★

Review: You'll Be The Death Of Me by Karen M. McManus

You'll Be The Death Of Me
by Karen M. McManus

Thanks so much to PRH Audio and Listening Library for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: November 30, 2021
Audiobook
10 hours
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Light Thriller

From the author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new pulse-pounding thriller. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off with murder when three old friends relive an epic ditch day, and it goes horribly--and fatally--wrong.

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out--he's been working two jobs since his family's business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They'll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they've barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say . . .

. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school--and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it's about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they're all hiding something.

Now they're all wondering--could it be that their chance reconnection wasn't by chance after all?

My Review:


Ferris Bueller's Day Off with MURDER? SIGN ME UP! But um, yeah, no.  I didn't feel really either of those things nor would I consider this a "pulse-pounding thriller".  I thoroughly enjoyed One of Us is Lying but sadly, YOU'LL BE THE DEATH OF ME didn't quite work for me and here's why...

Despite the snippet of a synopsis being a bit misleading, I was hoping this trio would still get me interested in their lives, ditching a day of school, finding a fellow student dead... there's so much that could've worked here.  And quite honestly, I'm not sure if it's maybe the audio that made it worse for me as I, unfortunately, didn't like it much at all. 😐 The dialogue felt a bit stilted and I found that while there were three different narrators for each of the main characters, when one of would do the voice of Ivy, or any other female, it all sounded very valley girl-ish and exactly the same across the board.  I just couldn't with that.

There were also some additions to the storyline that I couldn't figure out the point of - a couple of things could have definitely made it more interesting but once introduced... just kind of faded away so um... yeah. I also didn't care much for the ending or maybe I just really wasn't all that interested enough by that point that it wouldn't have mattered.  This is definitely a formulaic young adult VERY light thriller.. more drama.. and while I really don't mind this kind of story at times.. sometimes they just don't quite hit the mark.

McManus definitely has a following and is skilled in telling this type of story as can be seen from her prior releases.  I just felt like this one didn't feel any different or new.  I certainly will continue to read her as I do enjoy where her mind tends to flow and I am a lover of YA thrillers.. I just need them to be thrilling.

★★


Friday, November 12, 2021

Review: Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess

Everything Within and In Between
by Nikki Barthelmess

Thanks to Wunderkind PR and HarperTeen for this gifted book.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
Hardcover
336 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

For Ri Fernández’s entire life, she’s been told, “We live in America and we speak English.” Raised by her strict Mexican grandma, Ri has never been allowed to learn Spanish. What’s more, her grandma has always pushed Ri away from the neighborhood they call home and toward her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in the hopes that it’ll bring Ri closer to achieving the “American Dream."

In her most private thoughts, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when she was young, would accept her exactly how she is. So when Ri finds a secret unanswered letter from her mom begging for a visit, Ri decides to reclaim what her grandma kept from her: a language and a mother. But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be. And Ri’s struggling to navigate the different interweaving threads of her mixed heritage that make her who she is. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri, herself.

Everything Within and In Between is a new deeply honest story about the bonds between families and defining who you are for yourself from acclaimed author Nikki Barthelmess. 

My Review:


What an absolutely adorable and relatable contemporary young adult book! Ri is quite the character and I'm so happy to have gotten to know her.  She's half Mexican and half White... and as a White passing girl, her grandmother wants her to tap into that so that she can be more successful and go through "less pain" and doesn't understand why Ri wants to tap into her Mexican side more.  

This story cuts deep.  The author takes us on a journey discovering stereotypes, microaggressions, heritage and oh so much more.  Not only from the prospective of strangers being assholes but how even friends and family have their own racism and colorism within that can be even more harmful than helpful - no matter if it stems from somewhere they think is good.  Oh how I feel this so much.  And it also shows in how Ri acts towards her own friends, especially her best one.  It's so easy to take aggression out on those closest to you but wow some of the scenes in how she treats Brittany are so annoying.

While I didn't love everything about this book, I absolutely appreciate the way the author shows the struggle within a biracial girl who is being pulled in too many directions.  I had to remind myself at times that Ri is a teenager and as such is prone to make the mistakes and bad decisions as she did... and that I wasn't going to like everything about it. Haha. Ah Ri - I am happy with how it ended and wish nothing but the best for her.

★★★★



Monday, November 8, 2021

Review: The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi

The Passing Storm
by Christine Nolfi

Thank you Lake Union and Booksparks for this gifted book.

Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: November 1, 2021
Paperback
318 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

My Review:


This is the story of Rae.  She lost her mother in a storm and then the daughter she had at a young age to a terrible accident.  Her grief overwhelms her as she lives on the farm with her father.  This is also the story of Quinn, who has terrible parents who treat him like shit, had a friendship with Rae's daughter that Rae contemplates from time to time and feels like he belongs nowhere.  Forces bring the two together and their unlikely alliance heals them both.

PHEW.  These characters.  This is a fairly somber read.  There's some levity, mostly between Rae and her father... which is an absolute pleasure to read.  My heart goes out to the family at their losses even years later.  My heart also goes out to Quinn, who is misunderstood and trying to make do in the best way possible.  As the pages turn, we see them grow from grieving, surly mother and shy, unloved teenager to a family that neither of them had ever expected.

The journey throughout this read has depth, layers, love, friendship, small town secrets along with growth and second chances.  I do think that it lulled in certain areas but I think that may just be the atmosphere of the book at times.  It's not easy to read through some of the things any of these characters went through.  I absolutely fell in love with Rae and Quinn for different reasons, but the author brings them to life with such humanity that it's hard not to be rooting for them and flinching at certain scenes.

Sometimes closure is needed, sometimes it brings about more questions really and other times, it takes someone walking back INTO your life to get it.  Would definitely recommend this.

★★★★


Review: Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Noor
by Nnedi Okorafor
narrated by Dele Ogundiran

Thanks to Daw Books and Libro.fm for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Daw Books, Tantor Media, Inc.
Publish Date: November 9, 2021
Audiobook
7hrs 10 min
Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt...natural, and that's putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn't so predictable. Expect the unaccepted. 

My Review:


My second books by Okorafor.  The first being REMOTE CONTROL, which I absolutely loved.  NOOR is a fantastic story of AO who is basically part machine.  She has to leave home and in her journey, meets DNA, and the story then takes off with their adventures as they get to know each other and she starts to find her way. 

There's absolutely something about Okorafor's writing that is just gorgeous.  This story delves into what we still see today with consumerism, classism, racism, artificial intelligence, going to space... while also delving into the human side of relationships and learning that there are shades of grey to any and all things.

The narrator is fantastic and I would absolutely recommend listening to this story. While this is science fiction, I do wonder about own voices readers and their thoughts on the prosthetics and disabilities of AO.  AO's character herself is fascinating and multilayered and I enjoyed her relationship with DNA.  I think they learned a lot from each other and allowed readers to learn of the culture within.

While I may not have loved this as much as Remote Control, I certainly would recommend this and I most definitely will be picking up more from this author.

★★★☆


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Review: The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Aubrey Plaza & Daniel Murphy

The Legend of the Christmas Witch
by Aubrey Plaza (author & narrator)
& Daniel Murphy (contributor)


Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: November 16, 2021
Audiobook
40 minutes
Standalone
Genres: Childrens, Holiday, Fantasy

From 'Parks and Recreation' star Aubrey Plaza and creative partner Dan Murphy comes the long lost tale of the Christmas Witch, Santa Claus's much misunderstood twin sister.

Gather 'round the fire to hear a Christmas legend that has never been told before...until now. Each year a mysterious figure sweeps into town, leaving behind strange gifts in the night. No, not Santa Claus, but his sister...

The Christmas Witch.

Her story begins many, many years ago when her brother was torn away from her as a child. Raised alone by a witch of the woods, Kristtōrn's powers of magic grew, as did her temper. Determined to find her long lost twin, she set out on a perilous journey across oceans to find him. But what she found instead was a deep-seated fear of her powers and a confrontation that would leave the fate of Christmas hanging in the balance.

From award-winning producer and actress Aubrey Plaza and her creative partner Dan Murphy comes a holiday story unlike any told before. With all the richness of classic folklore, they've woven a tale of bravery, love and magic. Whatever you thought you knew about Christmas...think again.

My Review:


This audiobook was so much fun! With lots of sounds, it's a theatrical production for the ears.  Come music, whisles, birds chirping and ominous tones at times, meet Kristtorn, Santa's twin sister and the one who eventually became The Christmas Witch.

I have always admired Aubrey Plaza's very strange and creative mind and this book showcases the darker side of the holiday and you know me... I always love the darker things in life.  Folklore vibes and fantasy chimes... this holiday children's book really needs an adaptation of some kind.  While I would've loved it to be a little darker, I have to remember this is a children's book.  I'll have to get the physical copy at some point so I can see the illustrations.  If they are as fun for my eyes as the audio was for my ears, I'm sure I will absolutely love it.

Sometimes even if you're naughty AND nice, you don't get any reward. Coal or otherwise.  Kristtorn, I do hope to see more of you.

★★★★


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr
Narrated by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Audio and Libro.fm for this gifted audiobook.


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publish Date: September 28, 2021
Audiobook
14 hrs 52 min
Standalone
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Set in Constantinople in the 15th century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope - and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness - with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.

Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

My Review:


What in the holy Cuckoo did I just finish listening to?! 😲 5 different characters and POVs with timelines that ping pong back and forth through various times with these characters.... wooooo buddy, I had no idea what was going on for the first part but I was interested enough to stick with it and damn, I'm glad that I did.  Though if I'm being completely honest, had I read my physical copy rather than listening to the audio, it could very easily have become a DNF.  The beginning feels extremely all over the place that I had to keep looking at my phone to make sure my audio didn't take me to a different book altogether. I can see this being a love/hate kind of read for the masses but I'm happy to report that it absolutely worked for me but it took me getting to the end for it to all make sense and for me to go *light bulb* - BRILLIANT.

This is basically a really long love letter to books and the passage of time. Interweaving the past, present, future, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction... I mean, it's a LOT but it really works and I didn't see how it all came together until the very end.  That might be because I was legitimately confused for at least the first half of my listen though. 🤣

It truly is the ending that does it for me.  I love how it all interconnects.  I'll be honest and say that I may not 10000% fully understand it all.  Maybe it didn't come together as cohesively as it should have.  Maybe my brain was still trying to get certain parts to actually finish because I was left hanging.. if you know, you know.  But in the end, as I sit here and let it all marinate, I can't help but give it all the stars.  It's beautiful and lets us know that together we will always be, no matter in which timeline.

"We are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human."

★★★★★


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Review: Trashlands by Alison Stine

Trashlands
by Alison Stine

Thanks to Booksparks & MIRA for this gifted book.

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: October 26, 2021
Hardcover
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club's violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent's journey, a story of community and humanity in a changed world.

My Review:


TRASHLANDS is a somber story fighting for your family in a place dubbed Scrappalachia, home of Trashlands, a "dance club" owned by a very evil man. But the evil here is in which they have to use plastic as currency while living in basically a large trash dump.  The cost to stay living there? Oh... just one child. As they have the tiny hands that can sort and pick through plastic easier than the large hands of the adults.

Uff.  Y'all.  This book is extremely well written.  For me, it was a bit of a trudge to get through as the slow pacing, multiple POVs and ping ponging between past and present and the subject matter had zero levity within. I'll tell ya though, this is a wake up call to what we as a society are doing to our planet.  I couldn't imagine living in a trash dump or ever even consider plastic being something of a commodity and to which they use to barter/buy.  Everything is outdated and younger generations will never know of... well, I suppose the nicer things in life. It is scary to think that this world could actually progress in this manner. 

With dystopia you always have the good and the bad, the will to go on and to also just give up entirely. This is more character than plot driven and I do wish there was a little more to the world building or at least more detail as to how we came into this situation... but I think we can, as readers, make a pretty solid freaking guess.

Go into this one knowing you'll get quite the story.  It's grim and raw and won't be for everyone.

★★★