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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

by Marie Lu

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: September 18, 2018
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Series: Warcross #2
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

My Review:

I would like to thank myself for buying this one immediately when I was done with Warcross because WHY WOULDN’T I?!

I will say that when I read a sequel after being blown away by the first book, it’s hard to match. This one started a little slower and I lost Emika for a majority of it. However, there were still plenty of twisty goodness that kept me engaged. I love the dynamic of Emika and her team and my favorite character is now Jax.

I really appreciat the diversity Lu brings with the characters and the layered character development. While I think this isn’t as good as Warcross, I’m still fully engaged and hope a third is coming because it certainly opened it up to one. However, if not, I’m pretty happy overall with these two books.

It’s been a while since I’ve delved back into YA sci-fi and I love the world the author has made here. 🖤 (I do wish this cover was better thought because Eesh)


Friday, November 29, 2019

Review: No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard @crownpublishing @RabiahLumbard

No True Believers 
by Rabiah York Lumbard 

Thank you Astoria Bookshop and Crown Books for this advanced copy.

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: February 11, 2020
304 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Fans of the riveting mystery in Courtney Summers's Sadie and the themes of race and religion in Samira Ahmed's Internment will be captivated by this exploration of the intersection of Islamaphobia and white supremacy as an American Muslim teen is forced to confront hatred and hidden danger when she is framed for a terrorist act she did not commit.

Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors--but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known--before it's too late.

My Review:

Wow.  This book is pretty powerful.  Salma is quite the character and I give her SO much love for dealing with things the way that she did.  Unfortunately this is all too real, especially in this day and age which is really sad.  Dealing with Islamophobia, Salma and her family have to deal with white supremacy and hatred within their own neighborhood.  

As we all know, kids are especially mean and don't really think about the repercussions of their actions.  Salma being bullied in school, physically pushed and stalked and provoked outside of the classroom - oh my blood was BOILING.   Especially when reading the part where there was a POINT SYSTEM to the hatred, like it was a fucking game. GRRRRR.  To see how the staff reacted - some not at all and others truly wanting to make a difference.  UFF.  People.  I loved that Salma did have a support system, not just with her family but with her two close girlfriends.  That was a lease a bright side within.

It's interesting to see that it's "easy" to take these types of behaviors from people *easier* when it's just happening to you... but when it upsets your family (sisters), then it's full on seeing red and now something needs to be done.  But what's worse? Hoping it'll go away? Or reacting?  When Salma thinks there's a conspiracy, now she has to figure out how to make people hear her before something really bad happens. 

This is the author's very personal debut novel and one I would definitely recommend be read.  It's a pretty powerful YA novel and while there was a part that seemed a bit too seamless, I thoroughly enjoyed this read.  It provoked a LOT of feelings from me and is pretty educational.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Single by K.L. Slater

by K.L. Slater

Publisher: Bookouture
Publish Date: November 25, 2019
Kindle Edition
383 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

‘I keep feeling like I’m being watched – dropping the boys off at school, choosing wine at the supermarket – but when I turn around there’s nobody there…’

When single mother Darcy’s son falls from a rope bridge at a local playground, life stands still. She clutches his small, limp body, frozen, until a pair of strong hands push her aside, and she watches as George, a local doctor, saves her son’s life.

George is a single parent too, and with his twinkling hazel eyes, easy charm, and lack of wedding band is almost too good to be true, but coffee becomes lunch, lunch becomes dinner, and soon they can’t go an evening without seeing each other. When he invites her to move into his beautiful home with its sprawling garden for her boys, Darcy doesn’t hesitate.

But as Darcy is settling in, she receives a bunch of flowers with a chilling message. George says they’re from an obsessed ex-girlfriend, Opal, and days later Opal turns up at Darcy’s son’s football match. She claims to have shocking information that could threaten George’s custody of his daughter.

Darcy doesn’t know who to trust, but she’s starting to suspect that, whatever the truth, she might have put her beloved boys into terrible danger…

From the million-copy-bestselling author K.L. Slater this utterly gripping psychological thriller will make you gasp out loud as you race towards the unforgettable twist. If you loved The Girl on the Train and The Wife Between Us this book is for you.

My Review:

It's been a while since I've picked up a K.L. Slater book and I don't know WHY IT TOOK ME SO LONG.  This is my third book by her and this one is just as addictive and bat shit as the rest.  I mean, if I'M not going to be here for the crazy, who will? You?  YOU? Haha - of course you are!

What I especially love is how quick these reads are.  You simply want to keep going to figure out what the hell is happening because there's always something going on and nothing is ever what it seems to be.  Now, I'm ALL about suspending reality and taking on some ridiculousness.  Sometimes it can get a little TOO convoluted and then it starts to lose a little magic.  Unfortunately this one DOES go in this direction.  

There are just too many twists trying to be worked into this.  While I didn't see every single one coming my way...  well, with all that was going on, I was going to miss catching a few of those balls regardless.  I don't think the flashbacks did any favors to the story and sometimes it was difficult in figuring out whose voice was talking within a chapter.  Then the ending kind of went abrupt to three months later and now my neck hurts because whiplash. 

HOWEVER, this book was still absolutely addicting and despite all the little things that didn't *quite* work, I did love the insanity of it all.  How quickly everything unraveled.  How everything ended up tying together.  All the YES for ALL the crazy.  It's why I love these books so much.  My favorite K.L. Slater so far is Blink - so if you love crazy thrillers, definitely read Slater and definitely read Blink.  I would still recommend this one as well - just remember the book is insane, not you. *wink*


#ATBR2019 Review: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson @jessmapreviews

The Killer Inside Me 
by Jim Thompson

Publisher: Orion
Publish Date: August 3, 2006
224 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Everyone in the small town of Central City, Texas loves Lou Ford. A deputy sheriff, Lou's known to the small-time criminals, the real-estate entrepreneurs, and all of his coworkers--the low-lifes, the big-timers, and everyone in-between--as the nicest guy around. He may not be the brightest or the most interesting man in town, but nevertheless, he's the kind of officer you're happy to have keeping your streets safe. The sort of man you might even wish your daughter would end up with someday.

But behind the platitudes and glad-handing lurks a monster the likes of which few have seen. An urge that has already claimed multiple lives, and cost Lou his brother Mike, a self-sacrificing construction worker who fell to his death on the job in what was anything but an accident. A murder that Lou is determined to avenge--and if innocent people have to die in the process, well, that's perfectly all right with him.

In The Killer Inside Me, Thompson goes where few novelists have dared to go, giving us a pitch-black glimpse into the mind of the American Serial Killer years before Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and Brett Easton Ellis's American Psycho, in the novel that will forever be known as the master performance of one of the greatest crime novelists of all time. 

My Review:

Welllllllllllllllllll, poop.  I love the premise of this.  We get a first person look at a Deputy Sheriff who is so wholesome on the outside but inside, there's a killer within. Woo.  Quite honestly, he doesn't seem much different than some guys I've known - all frills, show and manipulation until he doesn't get his way.  Then KILL KILL KILL.  And as a Deputy Sheriff, I expected him to not be so sloppy - I'm surprised at the messiness of it all.  BUT then I have to remember this was written in the 50s and take that time period into consideration.

The thing is, I didn't really feel creeped out by Lou.  The synopsis alone states he's not the brightest or most interesting man in town, but he certainly has a streak within that's kinda fun to see come out once in a while.  I did enjoy the writing style but over all, I found Lou to be pretty freakin' boring. Or maybe I've just read way too many truly creepy books that I'm numb to the greatness that I've heard this one to be.  Likely dark and a bit controversial for the time it's written but for today's chilling factor, it's a bit luke warm.


Jessica's Review:

I am guilty of picking this one up because the title drew me in. When Chandra was visiting and we were unleashed in a bookstore, we picked up a couple copies. This came highly recommended from other reviewers and I was excited to start. THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson definitely kept my curiosity throughout - I was waiting to see what the build up would be and how it would end. We need to keep in mind that this was originally released in 1952, so some things are wildly different than what we would come to expect from a crime fiction novel.

Lou is the Deputy Sheriff and very unassuming and wholesome to those around him. The Deputy that doesn't carry a gun because he believes he doesn't need one with him. Well, I understand why, because he's deadly all on his own. I was hoping to have a more sinister feel to the overall book, but like I had previously mentioned, I think that we've become so accustomed to how serial killer thriller unfolds. The manipulation is there but not to the levels I was anticipating. The investigations felt off, but again, written in 1952 when I'm sure all of this was easy to get away with.

I did enjoy parts and it was a really quick read. I'd be curious to see what others thought of this one!

2.5 stars

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Bunny by Mona Awad @jessmapreviews

by Mona Awad

Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: June 11, 2019
320 Pages
Kindle Edition
Genres: Horror, Contemporary

The Vegetarian meets Heathers in this darkly funny, seductively strange novel about a lonely graduate student drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one

"We were just these innocent girls in the night trying to make something beautiful. We nearly died. We very nearly did, didn't we?"

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England's Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort--a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other "Bunny," and are often found entangled in a group hug so tight they become one.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies' fabled "Smut Salon," and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door--ditching her only friend, Ava, a caustic art school dropout, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the sinister yet saccharine world of the Bunny cult and starts to take part in their ritualistic off-campus "Workshop" where they magically conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur, and her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies are brought into deadly collision.

A spellbinding, down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, creativity and agency, and friendship and desire, Bunny is a dazzlingly original second book.

My Review:

When I saw reviews coming in from Bookstagrammers whose opinions I highly respect, I just KNEW I HAD to get this book.  Did I see a reference to Heathers?! Well, pour me a cup of drain cleaner and lets yell CORN NUTS together! When I got to Part Two, I am practically huddled in a corner with the letters W-T-F hanging above me in cartoon form while my eyes bug out.  I have NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING. First we get US movie, where bunnies play a bit part and now THIS. Y'all, I'm done.  I can't do bunny anything anymore. Nope.

So what's my damage? I think I could go forever without ever seeing or using the word "bunny" again.  Or Samantha - who uses a person's name THAT OFTEN in conversation? Samantha... Samantha? Samantha! SAMANTHA! BUNNY BUNNY BUNNY BUNNY BUNNY!  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! And look, I had just watched Tusk before I read this.  And while they're WILDLY different stories, I think I capped my *this is unusual, uncomfortable and just plain weird* arsenal.  

Am I mad I read this? I don't *think* so.  Would I recommend it? Probably not.  HOWEVER, this book seems to be very divisive and I'm on Team NOPE.  I still have no clue what I actually read, what this is actually about or why I'm probably going to watch the adaptation to screen... but I think it'll resonate better (for me) through that medium than what my brain was trying to process with this one.


Jessica's Review:

So after seeing some great reviews from other Bookstagrammers (mainly Emily’s rave comments about it – @bookhappy) I decided I needed to get to this one for the #bravethebacklist challenge for November. BUNNY by Mona Awad was something I wasn’t expecting. Like, at all. What others were saying was completely accurate – this was one wild ride and I loved every second of it.
I want to keep this review short and sweet because I think this is one of those books you need to go in with as little info as possible. I will say that I loved the character development and the insanity of it all. There were many times I found myself saying, what in the hell am I reading?? What the hell is going on? And that is precisely what kept me flipping those pages. I finished part one while at the hair salon and I was so mad I had to wait an hour to continue (my drive home). I have found a new author to find more books from!
5 stars

Sunday, November 24, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker @putnambooks @jessmapreviews

by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Thank you Putnam Books for these copies.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam Sons
Publish Date: October 2, 2018
497 Pages
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a supernatural thriller that reveals not only Dracula's true origins but Bram Stoker's--and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here...

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents' Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen--a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen--and that the nightmare they've thought long ended is only beginning. 

My Review:

Maybe I'm a terrible bibliophile for never have actually read Dracula but, like with most people, have seen the countless different vampire movies - most impressively so, Bram Stoker's Dracula, which you should never watch from the first row of the theater because you WILL get dizzy.  In any case, I was expecting a bit slow of a read and that is what I got.  But, I did find myself feeling that same atmosphere - the dark, foggy, whispering buzz of the night.

This book starts of pretty strong - I was racing through the journal entries just to get back to the backstory because this is where my interest was piqued the most.  I wanted to continue on the journey with the children.  Notice what they notice, find the courage with them to go looking around so they could get answers.  And once things started to really change and my interest was at it's all time high for the story - we get to part II and..... my interest started waning.  While I know the story was progressing, I started to feel it was a big stagnant.

I can absolutely appreciate what this novel was doing and I did find it very intriguing to see the origins of the book and Dracula.  I think just for my personal taste, I needed it to move a little faster.  This isn't a knock on the book itself though because I knew what I was walking into when I started.  I think that because I was surprised with the pacing at the beginning, that it started to feel a little disjointed towards the end.  

I wonder too - just how much does the author(s) really think is true and if there is a solid belief, I'm fascinated by it because of the history of vampirism and the way people looked upon it.  What do you start to make real to further your cause/belief and what actually happens that we're blissfully unaware except for when we want to escape in movies and books?


Jessica's Review:

This is being considered the prequel to the classic horror novel DRACULA by Bram Stoker. I loved hearing that this was co-authored by his great grand-nephew and some journal entries and other works that were found had been incorporated. For those that have read DRACULA I think you’ll love this one as much as I did. This is classic horror with plenty of spine chilling scares with the Gothic historical fiction feel.

Bram Stoker is our main character and we get a glimpse into his childhood. He was a sickly child and was close to his nanny, Ellen Crone, who helped him improve his health significantly. Bram and his sister, Matilda, began investigating a string of strange murders that were occurring in their small Irish town. To their shock, their beloved nanny seemed to be commented in some way. One day she simply disappears without a trace.

Years later Ellen resurfaces and she introduces Bram to a whole new kind of horror. We get a tie-in of some Irish folklore, which I loved! This is a story of how Stoker found his inspiration for the Count himself and it’s not short on horror. Moving at a quick pace that doesn’t quit made for a fast read (considering it’s a larger book!)

The writing is amazing, the story is incredibly atmospheric, and this is just what I was looking for to kick off the month of October. I would highly recommend this one and that you read the Author’s Note at the end.

5 stars

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Review: Warcross by Marie Lu @marie_lu @putnambooks #bravethebacklist

by Marie Lu 

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Publish Date: September 12, 2017
Kindle Edition
366 Pages
Series: Warcross #1

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My Review:

WHAT A RIDE!  I've had this on my kindle for what feels like decades and I can't believe I've waited THIS long to finally read it.  It was absolutely the read I needed right now.  I love gamer books that bring on the vast worlds, the characters, the COMPETITION! 

Like with all YA novels, there's that love interest that happens.  The back story of something terrible that has happened.  And then there's Warcross, where we also get the fun of competition in this gaming world that is just SO MUCH MORE.  My brain is still tingling from the imagery I had while reading through this.  From the dingy streets of NYC to the lushness of Tokyo.  GIMME MORE!

I especially loved Emika's character, her team, Hideo, Zero. ALL OF THEM! And yes, I knew the twists were coming and I loved every single one of them.  I, weirdly, wasn't expecting one of them though I feel like I should've seen it coming and I'll be real - I did get that tingly feeling throughout my body when something surprises me and my face tenses into that O expression you get when you're happy you didn't see it coming.

For those who love Ready Player One and Dashner's Eye of Minds trilogy, you're gonna LOVE this one.  Of course, now I'm going to have to get book two because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Thanks to NetGalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons for this copy!


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: Walk The Darkness Down by John Boden @JohnBoden1970 @night_worms

Walk The Darkness Down 
by John Boden

Publisher: Macabre Ink
Publish Date: June 26, 2019
154 Pages
Genres: Horror, Western, Fantasy

Some things are older than time. Older than darkness.

Levi is a monstrous man—made of scars and scary as hell, he’s glutted on ghosts and evolving to carry out the dark wishes of the ancient whispers in his head. He’s building a door and what’s on the other side is terrifying.

Jones spent a lot of time living bottle to bottle and trying to erase things. Now he’s looking for the man who killed his mother and maybe a little bit of looking or himself as well.

Keaton is on the run from accusations as well as himself, he suffers alone until he meets Jubal, an orphaned boy with his little sisters in a sling.

Every line is not a straight line and everything must converge. A parable writ in dust and blood on warped barn wood. A journey in the classic sense, populated with dried husks of towns… and people both odd and anything but ordinary. Hornets, reverse-werewolves and one of the most vicious villains you’ll ever know are all part of it.

Pull on your boots and saddle up, we’ll Walk The Darkness Down.

My Review:

"Men are always chasing daylight but then there are times when you must walk the darkness down."

This is 154 pages of solid fucking GOLD.  As an avidly fast reader, I took my time and slowly chewed each word so I could soak in the entire atmosphere provided and I ATE IT ALL UP.  Each word was absolutely necessary and the imagery Boden was building in my mind was beautifully grotesque.  

I fell in love with all of the characters and Levi may be one of my favorite villains ever, though most definitely not the most handsome. 😉  Each chapter, short and succinct, the words were almost pure poetry in how eloquently they described what was happening at each turn of the page.  Jubal and his sisters.  Keaton.  Ford and his wife. Jones.  Their journey and how each had to play their part.  Wouldn't have imagined that such a short read would still give me all those feels.

I was properly unsettled throughout most of this read int he BEST possible way. Just when I think there's nothing new that would cross my path, Boden tells me to hold his beer.  In three words:  READ THIS BOOK! Pure horror beautifully written.  I literally said, "Wait! But I want more!" when I realized that last page had been turned.


Guest Post: COLLABORATION by Michael J Moore @MichaelJMoore20

    COLLABORATION by Michael J Moore

I was once asked to write an essay for a book on foster care. As a horror author, I don't dabble much in nonfiction, but the cause was noble, so I agreed and wrote a piece about a group home I was in as a teenager, naming it, "Secret Harbor." However, the project was canceled, and the essay ended up stuffed away in the dark until my wife read it and started submitting it to journals under the title, "The Journey." I asked her why she renamed it, and she said, "Because I'm about to start a new book called Secret Harbor."

For the next three months, she interrogated me about this boy's home, clicking away on her keyboard at all hours of the night, until finally she had a first draft. I finished it in a couple days, and though I won't spoil it for you (it's set to be published next year by Black Rose Writing), it made me fall in love with Cait Moore all over again.

I think we tend to write for each other. I find myself smiling at certain lines that I imagine she'll like — and disappointed if she doesn't. If there's one thing that I can definitively say has pushed me to be a better author, it's the fact that Cait doesn't like the genre I write in. It's forced me to really step it up, and include a depth that my stories may not have had otherwise, in an attempt to captivate and impress her.

When I wrote Highway Twenty, it scared the hell out of me — who isn't afraid of giant insect-creatures who lay eggs inside of you and bury you alive? Cait loved it. She really enjoyed that the dynamic between the protagonist and his girlfriend were equally important to the story as the horror. We shopped it around and received so many offers that they're still coming in a year later, and the thing's been published already (we went with Hellbound Books). Though I write for her, I don't write only for her. I write for me, and most of all, I write for you. So I can only hope you'll enjoy Highway Twenty as much as we did. Leave a review AMAZON and let me know your thoughts.

Michael J Moore's books include Highway Twenty, and the bestselling YA series, After the Change. His work has appeared in various magazines, and received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.  


#ATBR2019 Review: Lost You by Haylen Beck @crownpublishing @HaylenBeck @jessmapreviews

Lost You 
by Haylen Beck

Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publish Date: August 6, 2019
320 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

A provocative and unputdownable psychological suspense about two women locked in a desperate fight over a child each believes is rightfully hers

Libby needs a break. Three years ago her husband split, leaving her to raise their infant son Ethan alone as she struggled to launch her writing career. Now for the first time in years, things are looking up. She's just sold her first novel, and she and Ethan are going on a much-needed vacation. Everything seems to be going their way, so why can't she stop looking over her shoulder or panicking every time Ethan wanders out of view? Is it because of what happened when Ethan was born? Except Libby's never told anyone the full story of what happened, and there's no way anyone could find her and Ethan at a faraway resort . . . right?

But three days into their vacation, Libby's fears prove justified. In a moment of inattention, Ethan wanders into an elevator before Libby can reach him. When the elevator stops and the doors open, Ethan is gone. Hotel security scours the building and finds no trace of him, but when CCTV footage is found of an adult finding the child wandering alone and leading him away by the hand, the police are called in. The search intensifies, a lost child case turning into a possible abduction. Hours later, a child is seen with a woman stepping through an emergency exit. Libby and the police track the woman down and corner her, but she refuses to release Ethan. Asked who she is, the woman replies:

"I'm his mother."

What follows is one of the most shocking, twist-y, and provocative works of psychological suspense ever written. A story of stolen identity, of surrogacy gone horribly wrong, and of two women whose insistence that each is the "real" mother puts them at deadly cross-purposes, Lost You is sure to be one of 2019's most buzzed-about novels.

My Review:

I love it when a book stays at the same pace throughout the entire read.  Beck brings us two mothers fighting for the same child.  There's nothing like a mother's love or a woman scorned - meld the two together and you're getting a high dose of crazy! Libby wants nothing more than to have a child and will go to any lengths to have one.  How far is too far and when does it become at the expense of the child?

This book touches on surrogacy, legalities of adoption, two women fighting for the child that they claim is theirs and the path they both get set on due to one terrible mistake stemming from multiple decisions made on both of their parts.  

There were definitely some "yeah, ok" moments but who cares? I absolutely don't mind suspending some reality for the sake of entertainment. Crazy enough though, all of this could probably happen.  In this day and age I honestly wouldn't be surprised.  

As a woman who would love to be a mother but it isn't in the cards for me to do it biologically, I can absolutely feel for Libby and the want of a child so badly.  (Disclaimer: I would never go to the lengths that she did but she's a special kind of crazy.)  The subject of surrogacy and illegal adoptions are unfortunately all too real in this world.  Women being taken advantage of due to their need for money, a better life, etc. being lured in to be a surrogate for those who can afford to pay a ginormous amount of money to make their dreams come true.  How do you know you can go through with this if you've never felt a human growing inside you before?

I will say that I like Here and Gone just a tad bit more.  Beck seems to like stories about women and their mothers.  There's moments that you wonder how this could actually happen.  How did she/he/they get away with ANYTHING.  If you loved his first book, you'll like this one as well.  It's fast paced, twisty and one similar to one you may have read before... but well worth the read in my opinion.


Jessica's Review:

This is my second book by Haylen Beck and I definitely wasn't disappointed! I read HERE AND GONE in 2017 and that was a quick thriller that kept me completely engaged. This was a solid thriller and kept the tension up and threw a few twists at me as the story progressed, but I think HERE AND GONE came out ahead for me by just a tiny bit. I personally think it was more a me thing and my crazy schedule than it was not being engaged by the book. If that made sense.

We all know the "hell hath no fury" about a scorned woman, and we also know that a mother will go to any lengths to protect her children. Well, imagine these two forces coming head-to-head with one another. You're in for quick the ride with this one! Two women claiming to be Ethan's "real" mother - but who is actually considered to be the real mother?

This explores the topics of surrogacy and the illegal side of adoptions. Two things that aren't always talked about or explored much - or maybe I'm just not reading the right thrillers! I really enjoyed seeing this play out and the twists and turns that Beck threw at the readers. I would warn you to suspend some reality, but this won't take away from the reading experience. Like I said, the pacing is great, it is a captivating read, and the only reason I dropped it half a star was because I found myself setting it down a couple of times (definitely could just be me and my schedule right now and not the book itself).

I will continue to pick up more from Haylen Beck and would highly recommend both LOST YOU and HERE AND GONE!

3.5 stars

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Last Affair by Margot Hunt @jessmapreviews

The Last Affair 
by Margot Hunt 

Publisher: Mira Books
Publish Date: November 26, 2019
336 Pages
Genre: Domestic Thriller

Love may be blind, but obsession's a real killer.

Nora Holliday is not that kind of woman. Not the kind who has an illicit affair with a married man. But Josh Landon is everything Nora's alcoholic husband isn't. And now she and Josh are so infatuated, they can't stay away from one another.

Abby Landon, Josh's daughter, is home from college nursing a broken heart. She's seeking solace, not more scandal, so when she catches her dad kissing Nora, she vows to take the homewrecker down.

And as for Abby's mother and Josh's wife, Gwen? To anyone on the outside looking in, the mother of two appears to be living the ideal suburban life.

Until she winds up dead.

The serene seaside town of Shoreham has always been the perfect place to raise a family--not somewhere housewives are brutally murdered. So who killed Gwen Landon, and how many twisted secrets will be exposed as the vindictive plot comes undone?

My Review:

My third Margot Hunt book and let me tell ya - her writing is addictive.  She captivates you from the beginning and it really doesn't let up throughout the entire read.  Also, I'm a BIG fan of domestic thrillers.  They do tend to run the same gambit though - illicit affairs, families in disarray, unlikable characters, obsession and murder.  This one is no different but honestly, I love them so what can ya do? You like what you like!  

I tore through this one on my commutes - was looking forward to opening it up when I had a moment to see just how crazy it all got.  I love to not like characters and there's one in particular in here that I absolutely loved to despise.  We get a little hints here and there of some other crazies that tickle your "I'm figuring this out" bone.  Unfortunately for me, what was going so great went a little kaput in the ending.  I actually sighed and went, "No.  Whyyyyyyy?"  There needed to be a bit more about a certain character to make it worth it, in my opinion and really it was unnecessary.  Was the twist supposed to rock your world? Maybe but it didn't even give mine a shake.

Out of the three I've read, I'd recommend Best Friends Forever by this author the most.  If you like domestic thrillers, this is still a fun read and I'm curious to see what YOU would think of the ending.  While this one didn't *quite* work for me like I wished it had, I absolutely look forward to anything Hunt brings us in the future.


Jessica's Review:

This is my second book by Margot Hunt and it was such a quick and addictive read. I love when the author can make the book fly by and you don't even realize how far you've gotten. This domestic thriller doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the genre or anything Earth-shattering, but there is absolutely no doubt that this is an entertaining read. If you love domestic thrillers/suspense books, then this is a no-brainer for that TBR.

A love affair ending in murder, a daughter out for revenge, and characters you love to hate. I think those characters are always so much fun - you want something to happen to them and just cringe at everything they do. I think that shows great character development and this story definitely had that. Hunt did a great job reeling us in and keeping us hooked until the very end. Like I said, I didn't even realize how fast I was going through this book until I had to take a break to let the dogs outside. For that reason alone I would highly recommend this.

While I wasn't crazy about the ending, I did enjoy the reading experience. It didn't really bring anything new to the table as far as elements and story premise, but that's what we come to expect with domestic thrillers, right? A formula that works but with their own spins on it. I definitely plan on picking up more from Hunt in the future!

3 stars

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey @torbooks @gaileyfrey

Magic for Liars 
by Sarah Gailey

Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: June 4, 2019
336 Pages
Genre: Fantasy

Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in this fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey.

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It's a great life and she doesn't wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

My Review:

I've seen people describe this book as an adult Harry Potter. I would disagree - I think this is more like The Magicians meet a non-magical private investigator.  What a fun read.  Twin sisters - one magical, one not. (Obvious sibling tension).  Their worlds collide as one is a teacher at the magical school while the other is the PI hired to come solve the murder.

I found Ivy to be a really fun character.  I would imagine if I was in her position and found that somehow my twin sister got all the magic and I was left with nothing that I wouldn't be all too happy either.  She's a bit snarky and very good at her job.

There were aspects the story that were predictable and I didn't find the reveal shocking in any way.  However, I did appreciate the sentiment behind everything that did happen. It's nice to see a little different of a story line.  I find myself wishing this was a series.  I'd love to see more of Ivy in the future.  However, as a stand alone, I am happy to see where the story went.  I mean, who doesn't like a little magic in their life?  So happy this was a book club choice.