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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia @EmilyBestler @jessmapreviews

Strike Me Down 
by Mindy Mejia

Big shout out to Atria/Emily Bestler Books for these copies.

Publisher: Emily Bestler Books
Publish Date: April 7, 2020
352 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.

My Review:

Domestic drama meets financial thriller in the latest from Mejia.  I love the concept of this.  That fitness guru you're fascinated with and look up to.  The unconventional familial relationships.  The large prize money missing.  Embezzlement.  Conspiracy theories.  Gimme all of it!

Mejia brings us two very strong female characters in Nora and Logan.  Both fierce, independent and extremely good at their jobs.  Personally, I miss my kickboxing days so reading this got me a bit amped up and so ready to get back to the gym already!  And this is where I felt a bit of a bond with these ladies.  There was some underlying tension that just seemed weird at first with a bit of hero worship tendencies.  However, I did enjoy how this led to seeing the softer side of some of these characters.

Now, in spite of that, it's hard to really get that feel for Logan and Gregg - these characters come across one way, but it's more told to you rather than shown so they fell a bit flat for me.  Too many coincidences in how every one ties in together? I dunno.  I did enjoy the entire concept being this story line.  I wasn't particularly surprised towards the end.  However, I did enjoy the ride to get there.  

Jessica's Review:

I've heard nothing buy amazing things about Mindy Mejia's books, so I was really excited when Atria sent me a copy of her latest release, STRIKE ME DOWN. As someone that spent most of her life in a martial arts/kickboxing studio, I loved seeing this incorporated into the book. From when I was 8 until 16 when I received my second degree black belt I was always at that studio, and then I got to be an instructor for the kickboxing classes. I loved every second of it and it's always fun seeing authors bring us into this world.

A forensic accountant, Nora, is brought into Logan and Gregg's world when a huge sum of money goes missing. Logan Russo and her husband, Gregg Abbott, are the owners of an incredibly successful athletics empire. They are hosting a sold out kickboxing tournament but there's a problem - the $20 million prize is missing. I really liked Nora, she was an interesting character to get to know as the story progressed. Despite hearing about how charismatic Logan is in the book, I feel like I didn't really get that feeling. If that makes sense. I didn't really connect with her or Gregg, but that didn't necessarily ruin the reading experience for me.

While the mystery had me intrigued, I did find it easy to set this one down from time to time. I don't know if it was just me and my schedule, which is entirely possible with how things are right now, or the story. I loved the writing and how Mejia brought us through the mystery but I felt like there was just something missing for me. I couldn't really tell you what though. I will definitely pick up more from this author in the future because I've heard nothing but great things!

3 stars

Review: Burning Justice by Marti Green

Burning Justice 
by Marti Green

Publisher: Yankee Clipper Press
Publish Date: April 28, 2020
286 Pages
Series: Innocent Prisoners Project #6

Convicted of setting fire to her house and killing her three children, young Texas widow Becky Whitlaw is sentenced to death. Bechy maintains her innocence - even though a part of her worries she may have indeed committed arson during a drunken blackout.

Twenty years later, attorney Dani Trumball works with the Help Innocent Prisoners Project defending cases of the wrongfully convicted. Now living with her husband and two children in California, Dani takes Becky's case, even though the evidence paints a grim picture.

California has been besieged by wildfires, and the raging fires strike dangerously close to home. Dani fights to gather new information that might save Becky's life, while keeping her own family secure, but time is running out.

Getting justice in this case may test not only Dani's legal talents but also the limits of her own heart.

My Review:

This is a fun read amongst legal thrillers.  A book that shows the downside to legal proceedings and how the system isn't the greatest.  Hard work is needed to help the innocent as really, aren't we all guilty and then proven innocent when we are on trial? 

There were definitely some suspenseful moments within this roller coaster of a read.  Will she or will she not?  Will they or will they not?  The back and forth keeps you on your toes.  Dani wants nothing more than to help the innocent... but at what cost?  

While I do think this can be read as a standalone and didn't feel lost within the main part of the story, I do wish I had maybe read the first five in order to get a more attachment to Dani herself.  However, the construct the overall crime and the revelations that come up within the trial were fascinating to read.


Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim @AngieKimWriter

Miracle Creek 
by Angie Kim

Publisher: Sara Crichton Books
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
Kindle Edition
349 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Literary Fiction

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

My Review:

Phew... this was an emotional read.  Debut novel, my ass! Ok, let me pull myself together here.

The Korean/American views within this story is so on point it breaks my heart.  It's hard to try and be a part of two cultures while feeling like you're failing at both.  I remember when I was young and was embarrassed by my mother's accent or felt like my Korean family was making fun of me for trying to speak Korean (I'd realize later they were just really happy I was trying!) and my American classmates would speak to me slowly or in an accent that I actually didn't even have since I had lived in the States since I was 2.  Kids are mean.... in any case, these portions strewn throughout the book just really pierced at my heart.

And this is what this author does.  Kim brings EACH of these characters to life.  Even the characters you start off despising, you realize that they're HUMAN and what they're going through is something you can only imagine.  Some of these parts were hard to read.  Some characters never found any redemption within my head … in all instances, I will not forget a single one of them.  I'm looking at YOU, you character, that I want to hunt down.... oh.... Hi everyone.  Guess I'm still here.  *waves* 

"That was the thing about lies; they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick with your story."

There really is a lot to discuss here.  The alternative medical practices, how different pieces of the community reacted to it and why.  The intricacies of everyone in their relationship to each other, the town, their children and those "like themselves" are brilliantly written and cohesive.  And I like that we get an ending that seemed real and honest and not just a bow tie.  


Sunday, April 26, 2020

SPOTLIGHT: The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake @MelanieBlakeUK @MidasPR @panmacmillan #ThunderGirls

The Thunder Girls
by Melanie Blake

Jackie Collins for a new generation. The Thunder Girls is a blockbuster novel, filled with obsession, addiction, betrayal and revenge, that charts the rise and fall of an 80s girl band from Melanie Blake, a true insider of the music business. Perfect for fans of Tasmina Perry and Daisy Jones and The Six. Soon to be a nationwide play with an all star cast.THEChrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship. THUNDERThirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there. GIRLSCan the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible....

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ‘embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’.
They were wrong.
By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world including the world’s longest-running soap opera, Coronation Street. Melanie also represents leading actresses from all of the long-running British continuing dramas including EastEnders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks as well as titans of 80’s legacy shows Dynasty and Dallas. Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world.
In the UK alone – over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows.
In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.
She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.
Melanie had a difficult start in life, from an underprivileged, lower working class and extremely religious background and certainly wasn’t destined for success….she made her way to the top without any formal education due to sheer determination and dedication to succeed. Melanie is proof if you want to change your life badly enough and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success, then you can achieve anything – and she’s just warming up.

#ATBR2020 Review: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon #BuddyReadsToDieFor @harlequinbooks @HannahMMcKinnon

The Neighbors 
by Hannah Mary McKinnon

April's choice for #BuddyReadsToDieFor and another #allthebookreviews choice - this one is QUITE the thrilling read!

Publisher: Mira Books
Publish Date: March 13, 2018
377 Pages
Genre: Thriller

In 1992, a car accident kills a young man and forever changes the lives of three people… Now, twenty years later, they’ll all come to regret the choices they made that day, as the secrets and lies they’ve told to protect each other become the very things that tear their lives apart.

After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying...

My Review:

HMM! What have you done to me?!  Here's what I do know: after reading Her Secret Son and now The Neighbors, it seems that this author has the domestic suspense/thriller on LOCK.  

I've been hearing about this book for ages.  "Chandra - why haven't you read your copy?" "What are you waiting for?"  "OMG, read this book now - it's CRAZY!"  OK OK OK - so, I was beyond excited to finally read it this month.  At first, I was like alllllrighty then.  Here we are.  Domestic suspense - CHECK!  Here we gooooooooooooooooo.  And it seemed like your usual dual time line, complicated feelings, something bad happens and now true love has been thwarted but that's ok - because everyone's happy until they're *SURPRISE* back in each other's lives unexpectedly. CHECK CHECK!

But then …. THEN.... that ending comes. Those last few chapters - I actually forgot that there was all this build up.  Those hints to the reveals... most of which I connected BUT the author does such a good job of laying the foundation that you kind of start to forget about these hints as your mind focuses on those OTHER things.  Then BAM, POW, WHIPPAH - it all explodes.  Seriously guys, I didn't even think I was all that invested until something happened.  I literally gasped, hand to mouth and my eyes may have leaked a bit. Let's not talk about almost falling off the couch (ok, so that may have been misplaced pillows and ad unexpected body twitch but whatever).

All I know is that I'm so happy I finally read this and while I may have thought there was just a bit *too* much had it been told a different way.... the fact is, I loved every bit of it.  You get a reveal, YOU get a reveal... YOU GET A REVEAL!  **popcorn everywhere**  Yes.. All the yes. Thank you very much.


Jessica's Review:

I read Hannah Mary McKinnon's HER SECRET SON last year and absolutely loved it! So I was really looking forward to picking up another one of her domestic dramas/thrillers. THE NEIGHBORS is a book that you can fly through with the short chapters, multiple POV's, and multiple timelines - basically everything you want in this genre. 

Abby has been living with the guilt of her brother's death for decades - the car crash that killed him was the result of a night of drinking. Nate, her husband, was the one that stopped at the scene to try and save them. This event is what brought them together and now decades later, their marriage will be put to the test when the new neighbors move in. A man from Abby's past is back and she has to try to keep her secrets hidden. 

It's pretty difficult to talk too much about this book without spoiling anything, but needless to say, this is a thriller I highly recommend. The way McKinnon brought this whole story together was incredible - the slow building of the suspense throughout every chapter came to one hell of a climax at the end. While I called one of the reveals, I definitely did not see the other coming! This just cemented the fact that McKinnon has become an auto-buy author for me. 

5 stars

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Review: The Devil's City by Sara Tantlinger & Matt Corley #DevilsCityWorms @Night_Worms @SaraJane524 @matthewdcorley #nightwormsbookparty

The Devil's City 
by Sara Tantlinger & Matt Corley

Thank you to the authors and Night Worms for this copy! 

Contribute to their Kickstarter here

Publisher: Saturday Morning Scenarios
Publish Date: June 1, 2020
90 Pages
Horror Fiction

In the latter half of the 19th century Chicago grew from a town of a few thousand farmers to a sprawling metropolis of skyscrapers and a population of over 500,000. Those final decades were associated with rampant growth, progress, and innovations culminating in the World’s Exposition of 1893. Yet Chicago’s emergence to prominence was not without tragedy. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 nearly reduced the city to embers. Riots and strikes broke out. And there was the World's Exposition.

The bustle of the World’s Expo hid an appalling snake in the grass, Mr. Herman Webster Mudgett, aka Dr Henry Howard Holmes. Holmes would become infamous as America’s first serial killer and proprietor of The Murder Castle. He confessed to 27 murders, and was purported to have killed as many as 200 victims before his capture. Some believed he may have been Jack the Ripper. Others knew him as a devil.

My Review:

The Devil's City is a novella that is a companion to the Horror in the Windy City tabletop roleplaying game. currently seeking funding on Kickstarter right now!  For those intrigued with stories of serial killers and especially that of H.H. Holmes, this is a fun read to get further into his story while learning about the characters for this game.

In 90 pages, we get the stories of various characters that have met their demise at the hand of Holmes and his treacherous castle.  We learn how they get involved with him and what happens when they make this fatal mistake.  As someone who has read a ton about H.H. Holmes, it is a pleasure to get a more behind the scenes look into the minds and feelings of those who met their match.  What's even more intriguing is learning what he also gained from them during his own unorthodox and gruesome process.  In short, there's a lot of everything put into under 100 pages of horrific fascination.

Remember as you read that this isn't a start to finish plot type of read but rather a learning of the characters within Holmes's realm and of him himself.  As a person who has played tabletop games back in the day and love this genre.... quite frankly, that's good enough for me.


Review: Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore @flatironbooks @damiella #bravethebacklist #bookclub

Oona Out of Order 
by Margarita Montimore

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genre: Contemporary
Just because life may be out of order, doesn’t mean it’s broken.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met?
Oona Out of Order is a remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of sequence. Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.
My Review:
What a very interesting and unique book! I couldn't imagine waking up one day in my older body but inside only being 19 and then every year, as the new year came, wake up at a different point in my life. This actually sounds like it could be fun... unless you're actually in it I suppose. 
Not gonna lie, it took me a moment to figure out some of the chapter headings showed which age she was outside to inside.  Not sure why it took me so long but once it did it was a DOH moment. I really enjoyed Oona's journey.  Her constant state of flux was compelling and I loved how she tried to learn from each experience.  It must be so hard to not take advantage of certain things while simultaneously needing to in order to survive.  And to have only a couple of truly close relationships because of this (dis)order... mentally taxing for sure.
I think I wanted a bit more of WHY this is happening to her. Why did this start on her 19th birthday?  And I wanted to see more years.  Does she bounce back to being an infant when her inside is like 69 years old? OMG.  Definitely expected this to be a little more light hearted but in any case, a very intriguing and fun read for something new and different.  Oh Oona, I would've loved to have gone partying with you in the Meatpacking District, gone to a concert with you or just sat down to pick your brain.
Would this make you look at life differently? Are you prone to destiny and the outcome doesn't change regardless?  Does life just happen and you have virtually no control?  In any order, you still have to live it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

#ATBR2020 Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier @minotaurbooks @JenniferHillier @jessmapreviews

Little Secrets 
by Jennifer Hillier

Thank you Minotaur Books for these copies.

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publish Date: April 21, 2020
352 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Psychological Thriller

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him.
Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado's four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They're admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he's rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn't her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he'll be the last. She's falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She's lost her son; she's not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek's lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

My Review:

"You Alive?"

Is it weird to say I'm in love with Jennifer Hillier now? After reading Jar of Hearts last year, I was beyond excited to read Little Secrets and am happy to report that I absolutely loved this one too!  I think this is a good one to go in blind (but I actually feel this way about all books).  Hillier touches on loss, infidelity, suicide, depression, friendship and marriage - and gives us twists and turns that I did not expect.

"You said hurt people... hurt people."

What a binge read.  These characters are flawed and my heart went out to them.  Marin's decline into her own savageness felt so real and raw.  I literally stopped chewing and just soaked in one particular chapter.  I may have gotten a little teary eyed but let's blame that on the isolation shall we? *wink*  Kenzie turned into something more than I had expected and I loved to loathe her.

In a world full of thrillers that seem to saturate us with the same story over and over again, Hillier brings us twisty realness and was exactly what I needed in my reading journey right now.  I just want to pull Sebastian in for a big bear hug and get him the biggest lollipop in the world.


Jessica's Review:

Jennifer Hillier wowed me with her previous release, JAR OF HEARTS, so naturally I was so excited when I receive a copy of LITTLE SECRETS. Man, the first chapter of this book just hits you and sets the tone for the entire book. I loved every second of it!

Marin is experiencing every parent's worst nightmare - her four year old son is missing. After looking at camera footage of the market they were in, things get worse when they see that Sebastian was actually taken. That's just the first chapter. Hillier hits us hard and then jumps to a year later when the case has run cold and Marin has instead hired a PI. Of course, her private investigator finds out more about Marin's husband, Derek, and this lights a fire in her. 

The synopsis gives you all the information you really need and I don't want to spoil anything! Multiple POVs, flawed characters, the twists, the lies, the emotions. Hillier has brought us another incredible thriller that stands out against the others in the genre. I will continue to pick up anything of hers I can get my hands on. 

5 stars