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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

REVIEW: State of Lies by Siri Mitchell @tlcbooktours @ThomasNelson @SiriMitchell

State of Lies 
by Siri Mitchell 

Thank you TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson for this copy.  

Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publish Date: August 13, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Domestic Suspense

Georgie Brennan may be a world-class quantum physicist, but she grapples with life as a single mother after her husband is killed. When she receives a message from beyond the grave, it leads her to question the details of her husband’s death.

As she follows the clues he left behind, her discoveries increasingly implicate those closest to her. When her father is nominated as the new United States Secretary of Defense, she must uncover the truth before his confirmation hearing—even as the same people who killed her husband are now after her. Nothing is at is seems. Lies are truth; enemies are friends. Even her child is at risk. As every possibility but one disappears, Georgie may find herself to be the antithesis of everything she’s thought herself to be.

My Review:

I'm usually not the *biggest* fan of political thrillers and if you aren't either, don't worry - this (to me) felt less political and more domestic suspense with a touch of military/political UH-OH!  Also, I was surprised to find this is also considered Christian fiction.  I'm not a religious person and don't mind some in a book but I never would've guessed as faith is barely touched within these pages.  I'm not complaining by any means - I had a lot of fun with this read.

It's a story that's familiar to me so I wasn't particularly surprised by any of the twists - though one part at the end was a little bit of a surprise (thank you - I do love that sordid twisty surprise).  It's fast paced, easily a binge read and I absolutely love Sam and Alice (not even main characters, fyi).  

One thing I noticed is that there were some name mix ups during a couple of scenes that had me a bit puzzled but I'm sure this will be fixed in the final copy and it didn't deter from the enjoyability of the storyline. 

Weirdly I'm at a loss for words but I can tell you that I would recommend this read.  There may be some things that seem familiar in terms of story line and not being much of a surprise for avid thriller readers.  However, I found this read compulsive and easily got through it in a few hours.  Wouldn't it be nice if instead of dying, we went through worm holes? Or would it???


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Third Mrs. Durst by Ann Aguirre @midnightinkbook @jessmapreviews

The Third Mrs. Durst
by Ann Aguirre

Thank you to Midnight Ink for these copies - I've been meaning to read Aguirre for a while and now I'm so happy that I have.

Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publish Date: August 8, 2019
312 Pages
Genre: Thriller

My Review:

Ok ladies and gentlemen and lovers of thrillers around.  This is a hard one to review for me as an avid thriller reader.  It'll be a hit or miss amongst us lovers of the thrills and chills and all around twisty goodness we all look for in our reads in this genre.  Here's the reasons why:

You need to suspend some belief and let this story just tell itself.  And that is what it does.  It's completely plot driven. There's very minimal, to no, character building.  I found myself asking questions when it turned sideways around page 70ish.  I was happy that I wasn't quite expecting that but there was the WHY.  I needed a bit more background than just the *here's the reason* but at the same time, I was actually like oh, ok.  I dig ya, girl.  (Also, every time I see the name Marlena, I think of Days of Our Lives so it was hard to reconcile a character I wasn't given much build up on. *shrug*)

There are certainly some scenes that you're just flummoxed with.... ok, so no way THAT would happen... and no way THIS would be allowed. But hell y'all - I am actually A-OK with it - it's fiction after all and if you can't suspend belief in fiction, then where can ya?  This isn't a new story really.  Powerful older man takes on a younger, naive and easily manipulated girl under his wing and makes her his.  Once the honeymoon period is over, true colors show and now she needs to get out.  So, we've seen this before.  

Listen, I don't care if I've seen the story a thousand times, if it still snares me in and keeps me from putting the book down, then I am HERE FOR IT.  And that's what The Third Mrs. Durst does - it reels you in.  It's a quick and easy read and one I found highly entertaining.  I never found myself rooting for any of the characters and I did have questions and/or found some things questionable but at the end of the day, I WAS ENTERTAINED.

I'm torn as I suppose for content itself I may have rated this a little lower but for pure entertainment at face value, I sit happily here.


Jessica's Review:

This book was a fun and quick read. THE THIRD MRS. DURST was everything I was expecting it to be and I loved it. The synopsis and prologue give you all you need to know - a controlling and powerful husband and his new wife trying to free herself. I'll make sure to mention now, that this does depict spousal abuse and domestic violence, so that's always good to know going in.

Alright, this is just what I needed in a short thriller. From the start I couldn't put it down and I loved all the twists, the manipulation, the scheming, all of it. I definitely would suspend some belief when going into it, but that's always part of the fun with these types of books. Marlena is a young girl that ran away from home in hopes of a modeling career. When things fall into place, she finds herself in Europe and quickly becomes a well-known and sought after model. This catches the eye of Michael Durst, a handsome and wealthy businessman that wants to make Marlena his. Once that honeymoon phase is over though, Marlena realizes that there's a sociopath under that handsome facade and well-tailored suit.

You don't get a lot of character development, but you get enough to understand the motives and to keep the story moving. It is just bout 300 pages, so things get going right away and they don't stop until the end. I can see some thriller fans loving this one and others feeling underwhelmed. If you're looking for an entertaining thriller read, then look no further!

4 stars

Monday, August 19, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Hippie Cult Leader by James Buddy Day @opibooks #jamesbuddyday @jessmapreviews

Hippie Cult Leader 
The Last Words of Charles Manson
by James Buddy Day

Publisher: Optimum Publishing International
Publish Date: August 8, 2019
288 Pages
Genres: Cult, Nonfiction, True Crime

My Review:

Like most true crime lovers, I have a fascination with Manson.  I find it strange that this is the FIRST true crime book I've picked up about him! Who am I?!  I've been meaning to pick up Helter Skelter for quite some time but haven't (obviously) and I found a lot of referencing to the term of Helter Skelter within these pages.

What the author does is bring us a fresh look at the case through interviews with Manson himself. His viewpoints, which as well know, is that he's innocent.  He is quite the unique human being, I can tell ya that much! I want to crawl into his mind and visit for a minute or three but I'm fairly certain I'd get lost and trapped and well......

In any matter, true crime fans will have fun with this in the author's "conspiracy theory" and it gives a new sheen to the stories we've heard time and time again.  No one will ever know the truth besides Manson himself and even there I'm a bit skeptical. ;)

Big brass to the author for writing Manson in the first place and actually securing times to speak with him.  For getting in touch with those who knew him and getting their perspectives.  You could even feel the author's paranoia/fright at maybe making Manson mad himself and how that could permeat into his real life... even though he was still behind bars and otherwise "harmless".  It's no wonder people are still fascinated with this story.  For someone who claims to never have killed anyone himself, does that still make him innocent?


Jessica's Review:

I'm a huge fan of true crime and like many other fans of the genre, I'm absolutely fascinated with Charles Manson and The Family. There seem to be quite a few books about this topic and I've read a couple of them. I loved HELTER SKELTER and my dad has said it's the scariest book he's ever read. What made HIPPIE CULT LEADER stand out from these other books is that it's from the words of Charles Manson himself.

Author James Buddy Day spent a year interviewing and talking with Manson - this also happened to be the year before Mason died. Day had managed to get him on the phone and told him he wanted to tell his true story and get everything in his own words about the events that happened. There are also some interviews with some of Charlie's "friends" and we continue to get a new story and perspective with these additions. The level of manipulation this man continued to be capable of is astounding. The way he was able to convince them of committing these crimes just shows his true level of power and evil. There are parts from other books written about him that he disputed and I think it gives the readers something to absorb and debate what they believe to be true.

This was thought-provoking and gave us some new insight into Manson's mind. Reading it from his own words is very different than reading it from a biographer's view. If you're intrigued with Manson and The Family, then I think this would be a good one for the TBR!

4 stars 

#ATBR2019 Review: The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh @jessmapreviews

The Wolf Wants In 
by Laura McHugh

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
272 Pages
Genres: Thriller Suspense

Sadie Keller is determined to find out how her brother died, even if no one else thinks it's worth investigating. Untimely deaths are all too common in rural Blackwater, Kansas, where crime and overdoses are on the rise, and the small-town police force is consumed with the recent discovery of a child's skull in the woods. Sadie is on her own, delving into the dark corners of a life her brother kept hidden and unearthing more questions than answers.

Eighteen-year-old Henley Pettit knows more than she'd like to about the seedy side of Blackwater, and she's desperate to escape before she's irreparably entangled in her family's crimes. She dreams of disappearing and leaving her old life behind, but shedding the past is never easy, and getting out of town will be far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

As more bones are found in the woods, time is running out for Sadie to uncover the truth and for Henley to make her escape. Both women are torn between family loyalties and the weight of the secrets they carry, knowing full well that while some secrets are hard to live with, others will get you killed.

My Review:

Let me just say that I think this was just not the read I needed right now.  You know that mood you can get in where only a certain type of book (and at that moment you don't even know which one that would be) that will just do it for you?  I was really hoping this one would be it.  I actually woke up, opened it, read the first few pages and was interested enough to take it with me to the salon to get a pedicure. I read through 3/4 of the book at the salon but nothing ever really just GRABBED ME.

This is one of those books that's very atmospheric and has the gritty undertone that never lets up.  This is one of the very best things about this read - the tone and feeling that you can't help but pick up on.  Unfortunately, my mood didn't allow me to enjoy this to my fullest potential.  But the quick chapters kept me turning those pages. I just really wish I could've connected.  Instead it felt like that good background movie you put on while you're doing other things.  Every once in a while you look up and pay attention but most of the time it's just underneath whatever else is catching your eye at the time.

The characters make this story rather than the story line itself.  These characters pop off the pages and although a somber read, you really feel these desperate characters clinging to you. I think I just needed something a bit lighter. However, if you're looking for a gritty, suspenseful literary fiction read, this is perfect.


Jessica's Review:

I’ve heard great things about McHugh’s books and I was so ready to start her newest release, THE WOLF WANTS IN. This one is the definition of small towns and their deep secrets that people are willing to protect at any cost. This was a fast paced mystery and I loved every reveal as the story progressed.
We have two perspectives: Sadie and Henley. Sadie’s story is present day while Henley’s starts four months prior. Sadie’s world is rocked when her brother suddenly and unexpectedly dies. His wife, Crystle, claims it was his heart medications that did it and he had a heart attack. She didn’t want an autopsy and she was very quick to have the funeral and get his things out of the house. Odd behavior from a woman who is supposedly in mourning, and this leaves Sadie, her sister, and her mother with no answers.
Meanwhile, we have Henley, a young girl that is working as a maid in place of her mother at the Sullivan house. The family is wealthy and well-known throughout the town. Her mother has known drug problems and currently is MIA. She begins to develop a relationship with Jason Sullivan, who grew up in a very different world than she did. Henley is fiercely loyal to her family and knows that you don’t get into anyone’s business – especially when it came to the activities of her uncles and cousins.
As all of this is going on we have a discovery of the skull remains of a young girl that went missing years before. Hannah, Sadie’s old friend, had tragedy strike when her ex-husband ran off with their daughter and they were never found. They also uncover his remains in the woods not too far away from Macey’s body. Was this a case of murder/suicide or is there more to it?
I loved how the story built and the mystery grew. McHugh expertly adds in little reveals and makes you question what you thought to be true. I did have part of it figured out early on, but not the final reveal at the end. There is a bleak overtone to the story and we get an examination of what addiction and drugs can do to a small town. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a quick mystery read and to those that love the small town secrets theme.
5 stars

Sunday, August 18, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Maclean @jessmapreviews

The Doll Factory 
by Elizabeth Maclean 

Thank you Emily Bestler Books for these copies.  A beautiful cover for such an ominous story.

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publish Date: August 13, 2019
368 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Historical Fiction, Thriller

In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment but for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly, her world begins to expand beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.

My Review:

Those who have followed me for a while will know that it is no surprise that historical fiction is a hit or miss for me.  What used to be one of my least favorite genres has moved up in the ranks exponentially in the last year.  The Doll Factory has this sprinkle feeling of AHS's Freak Show...  I hope those who have read this and watched that get where I'm coming from here! haha

I love the premise of this book.  The era, the obsession, the art.. all had this subtle touch of sinister during a time when consumption was the rage and men paid to sleep with the dying.  Give me ALL the darkness PLEASE.  Unfortunately that's not *quite* what I got.  This is definitely a slow burn and I don't know WHY but I kept mixing Iris and Rose up and confusing myself (but to be fair, that's definitely more to do with me than the author).  

At the end of the day, the writing really is great - it's just not my particular taste.  I wish it actually did get a little bit more dark - even if it was to alter certain characters intentions.  The ending I felt like was a segue to something else.  But then again, maybe I don't need that reconciliation.  I appreciate completely the arcs of these characters and felt the most for Iris and Albie.  While this may not have been an exact reader/book match, I think historical fiction readers who enjoy this tempo and that dark London period will absolutely love this story.


Jessica's Review:

So I'm a big fan of historical fiction, and if it's on the darker side, then that's a winning combination for me! THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal is set in Victorian London and we are presented with a unique cast of characters, perfectly detailed surroundings, and obsession and desire in multiple forms. 

We are introduced to little Albie, a kid living on the streets that collects dead animals for Silas in exchange for money. Albie's motives are to help him get a full set of teeth and this desire benefits the taxidermist with aspirations of having his own museum of oddities. We also are introduced to twin sisters, Iris and Rose. They work together for the laudanum (contains opium and morphine) addicted Mrs. Slater. Iris paints the china dolls' faces while Rose clothes them - but Iris doesn't want to be stuck where she is forever. When her path crosses with artist Louis Frost, she strikes up a deal with him that she'll model for him only if he gives her painting lessons. 

The greatest obsession? Iris and Silas meet, while something easily forgotten by Iris, it began a deep and dark obsession for Silas. She will be his, and he'll do anything to make that happen. I think that those readers that are expecting an incredibly dark story throughout might leave disappointed. This is a true historical fiction novel, and towards the end is when the suspense, horror, and pacing really pick up. So if you keep that in mind, then I think you'll enjoy it more. I was kind of hoping for a little more, but it didn't take away from the reading experience.
Despite the slower pace, the writing is beautiful and fluid. We get a deep character study and I was impressed by how we could connect with this bigger cast and without anyone getting lost or confused. Macneal set the scene perfectly and transported you straight into the Victorian London era. Overall, if you're a fan of historical fiction, then I would highly recommend picking this one up! 

3.5 stars

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