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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger


Confessions on the 7:45 
by Lisa Unger

Thank you Park Row Books for this copy!


Publisher: Park Row Books
Publish Date: October 6, 2020
Kindle Edition
315 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Psychological Thriller


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Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you should never, ever make conversation with strangers.



Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets...

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she's been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena's station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena's nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she'll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.


Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted "Best of the Year" or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.


My Review:


I have a soft spot for a good con, confessions to strangers and a convoluted past.  You know how when you make a friendship bracelet you take a few different colors and then weave them together until they make this beautiful piece of jewelry that you tie off and give to a friend?  That's kind of what this book felt like.  Each color a different layer and then it all ties together at the end.  And that friend is ME!  OH geezuz, I just compared a psychological thriller to a friendship bracelet. Um....

This is my fifth Unger and I always look forward to her reads. My all time favorite is still The Red Hunter followed closely by Ink and Bone.... and now Confessions on the 7:45 is right here with them.  I loved getting all the different POVs.  At one point I thought it was going to be a little difficult keeping track of everything but then.... *light bulb*... I GET IT.  Tricky, Tricky.... πŸ˜‰

Here's the thing, I think some readers are going to think it got just a little bit too convoluted and it possibly did but personally, I was here for it.  I really liked how it all came together and while one particular character had questionable morals, I truly grew to get her.  There were definite moments where I said outloud, "WHAT?" Wasn't expecting that!  I did feel there were a couple repetitive moments which were unnecessary but overall, two snaps and neck wring for this thriller!

Takeaways: Be careful about confessing to strangers on a train, always keep your phone fully charged and never get a person to the point where they have nothing to lose.

"Because everybody counts." 

★★★★
EXCERPT
Chapter Two
Anne

It had been a mistake from the beginning and Anne certainly knew that. You don’t sleep with your boss. It’s really one of the things mothers should teach their daughters. Chew your food carefully. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t fuck your direct supervisor no matter how hot, rich, or charming he may happen to be. Not that Anne’s mother had taught her a single useful thing.
Anyway, here she was. Again. Taking it from behind, over the couch in her boss’s corner office with those expansive city views. The world was a field of lights spread wide around them. She tried to enjoy it. But, as was often the case, she just kind of floated above herself. She made all the right noises, though. She knew how to fake it.
“Oh my god, Anne. You’re so hot.”
He pressed himself in deep, moaning.
When he’d first come on to her, she thought he was kidding – or not thinking clearly. They’d flown together to DC to take an important client who was considering leaving the investment firm out to dinner.  In the cab on the way back to the hotel -- while Hugh was on the phone with his wife, he put his hand on Anne’s leg. He wasn’t even looking at Anne when he did it, so for a moment she wondered if it was just absent-mindedness. He was like that sometimes, a little loopy. Overly affectionate, familiar. Forgetful.
His hand moved up her thigh. Anne sat very still. Like a prey animal. Hugh ended the call and she expected him to jerk his hand back.
Oh! I’m so sorry, Anne, she thought he’d say, aghast at his careless behavior.
But no. His hand moved higher.
 “Am I misreading signals?” he said, voice low. 
Stop. What most people would be thinking: Poor Anne! Afraid for her job, she submits to this predator.
What Anne was thinking: How can I use this to my advantage? She really had been just trying to do her job well, sort of. But it seemed that Pop was right, as he had been about so many things. If you weren’t running a game, someone was running one on you.
Had she subconsciously been putting out signals? Possibly. Yes. Maybe Pop was right about that, too. You don’t get to stop being what you are, even when you try.
They made out like prom dates in the cab, comported themselves appropriately as they walked through the lobby of the Ritz. He pressed against her at the door to her hotel room. She was glad she was wearing sexy underwear, had shaved her legs.
She’d given Hugh – with his salt and pepper hair, sinewy muscles, flat abs -- the ride of his life that night.  And many nights since. He liked her on top. He was a considerate lover, always asking: Is this good? Are you okay? Confessional: Kate and I – we’ve been married a long time. We both have – appetites. She couldn’t care less about his marriage.
Anne didn’t actually believe in the things other people seemed to value so highly. Fidelity – really? Were you supposed to just want one person your whole life? Marriage. Was there ever anything more set up to fail, to disappoint, to erode? Come on. They were animals. Every last one of them rutting, feral beasts. Men. Women. All of society was held together by gossamer thin, totally arbitrary laws and mores that were always shifting and changing no matter how people clung. They were all just barely in line.
Anne neither expected nor encouraged Hugh to fall in love. In fact, she spoke very little. She listened, made all the right affirming noises. If he noticed that she had told him almost nothing about herself, it didn’t come up. But fall in love with Anne he did. And things were getting complicated.
Now, finished and holding her around the waist, Hugh was crying a little. His body weight was pinning her down. He often got emotional after they made love. She didn’t mind him most of the time. But the whole crying thing -- it was such a turn off. She pushed against him and he let her up. She tugged down her skirt, and he pulled her into an embrace.
She held him for a while, then wiped his eyes, kissed his tears away. Because she knew that’s what he wanted. She had a special gift for that, knowing what people wanted -- really wanted deep down – and giving them that thing for a while. And that was why Hugh – why anyone – fell in love. Because he loved getting the thing he wanted, even if he didn’t know what that was.
When he moved away finally, she stared at her ghostly reflection in the dark window, wiped at her smeared lipstick.
“I’m going to leave her,” Hugh said. He flung himself on one of the plush sofas. He was long and elegant; his clothes impeccable, bespoke, made from the finest fabrics. Tonight, his silk tie was loose, pressed cotton shirt was wilted, black wool suit pants still looking crisp. Garments, all garments – even just his tennis whites -- hung beautifully on his fit body.
She smiled, moved to sit beside him. He kissed her, salty and sweet.
“It’s time. I can’t do this anymore,” he went on.
This wasn’t the first time he’d said this. Last time, when she’d tried to discourage him, he’d held her wrists too hard when she tried to leave. There had been something bright and hard in his eyes – desperation. She didn’t want him to get clingy tonight. Emotional.
“Okay,” she said, running her fingers through his hair. “Yeah.”
Because that’s what he wanted to hear, needed to hear. If you didn’t give people what they wanted, they became angry. Or they pulled away. And then the game was harder or lost altogether.
“We’ll go away,” he said, tracing a finger along her jaw. Because of course they’d both lose their jobs. Hugh’s wife Kate owned and ran the investment firm, had inherited the company from her legendary father. Her brothers were on the board. They’d never liked Hugh (this was one of his favorite pillow talk tirades, how Kate’s brothers didn’t respect him). “We’ll take a long trip abroad and figure out what comes next. Clean slate for both of us. Would you like that?”
“Of course,” she said. “That would be wonderful.”
Anne liked her job; when she’d applied and interviewed, she honestly wanted to work at the firm. Numbers made a kind of sense to her, investment a kind of union of logic and magic. Client work was a bit of a game, wasn’t it – convincing people to part with their cash on the promise that you could make them more? She also respected and admired her boss – her lover’s wife -- Kate. A powerful, intelligent woman.
Maybe Anne should have thought about all of that before she submitted to Hugh’s advances. He wasn’t the power player; she’d miscalculated, or not run the numbers at all. She made mistakes like that sometimes, let the game run her. Pop thought it was a form of self-sabotage. Sometimes, sweetie, I think your heart’s not quite in it. Maybe he was right.
“Ugh,” said Hugh, pulling away, glancing at his watch. “I’m late. I have to change and meet Kate at the fundraiser.”
She rose and walked the expanse of his office, got his tux from the closet, and lay it across the back of the couch. Another stunning item, heavy and silken. She ran her fingers lovingly along the lapel. He rose, and she helped him dress, hanging his other clothes, putting them back in the closet. She did his tie. In his heart, he was a little boy. He wanted to be attended to, cared for. Maybe everyone wanted that.
“You look wonderful,” she said, kissing him. “Have fun tonight.”
He looked at her long, eyes filling again.
“Soon,” he said. “This charade can end.”
She put a gentle hand to his cheek, smiled as sweetly as she could muster and started to move from the room.
“Anne,” he said, grabbing for her hand. “I love you.”
She’d never said it back. She’d said things like “me, too” or she’d send him the heart- eyed emoji in response to a text, sometimes she just blew him a kiss. He hadn’t seemed to notice, or his pride was too enormous to ask her why she never said it, or if she loved him. But mainly, she thought it was because Hugh only saw and heard what he wanted to.
She unlaced her fingers and blew him a kiss. “Goodnight, Hugh.”
His phone rang, and he watched her as he answered.
“I’m coming, darling,” he said, averting his eyes, moving away. “Just had to finish up with a client.”
She left him, his voice following her down the hall.
In her office, she gathered her things, a strange knot in the pit of her stomach. She sensed that her luck was about to run out here. She couldn’t say why. Just a feeling that things were unsustainable – that it wasn’t going to be as easy to leave Kate as he thought, that on some level he didn’t really want to, that once things reached critical mass, she’d be out of a job. Of course, it wouldn’t be a total loss. She’d make sure of that. 
There was a loneliness, a hollow feeling that took hold at the end. She wished she could call Pop, that he could talk her through. Instead her phone pinged. The message there annoyed her.
This is wrong, it said. I don’t want to do this anymore.
Just stay the course, she wrote back. It’s too late to back out now.
Funny how that worked. At the critical moment, she had to give the advice she needed herself. The student becomes the teacher. No doubt, Pop would be pleased.
Anne glanced at the phone. The little dots pulsed, then disappeared. The girl, younger, greener, would do what she was told. She always had. So far.
Anne looked at her watch, imbued with a bit of energy. If she hustled, she could just make it.
Excerpted from Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger, Copyright © 2020 by Lisa Unger. Published by Park Row Books.



Monday, September 28, 2020

Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke

The Nesting 
by C.J. Cooke

Thank you Berkley and NetGalley for this copy.


Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 29, 2020
Kindle Edition
416 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Gothic, Nordic Crime


It was like something out of a fairytale…


The grieving widower.
The motherless daughters.
A beautiful house in the woods.
And a nanny come to save the day.

So what if Lexi isn’t telling the truth about who she is? Escaping to the remote snows of Norway was her lifeline. And all she wanted was to be a part of their lives.

But soon, isolated in that cold, creaking house in the middle of ancient, whispering woods, Lexi's fairytale starts to turn into a nightmare.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi’s fears are deepening. Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?


My Review:



In need of a gothic thriller mixed with Nordic folklore? Look no further - you NEED this book!  When I read the prologue, I was expecting a completely different story from the one I got.  If you read a ton of thrillers like I do, you may think the prologue is familiar to what you have read before but fret you not - this is such a unique and suspenseful read.  And the prologue comes full circle towards the end of the book and I love how everything intertwined.


Lexi truly grew on me as a character and Cooke really makes her shine.  At first I had to side eye her and figure out what was going on in that head of hers.  I was also equally fascinated by her and truly enjoyed watching her growth.  And c'mon with Gaia.... LOVE THIS LITTLE GIRL SO HARD.  Honestly, all these characters had such depth!  I kinda really want more.  Can we see Gaia and Coco grow up?!

I think one of my favorite things, however, is the Nordic folklore we get to learn about.  I really would love to get my hands on Nordic folklore stories now! I don't know how Cooke managed to thoroughly bring everything together so seamlessly but I'm glad that she did.

You'll definitely have to suspend a little bit of reality for certain parts but I almost never have an issue with that.  It IS fiction after all.  And personally, the overall story outshines any nit picky things I could point out.  This one hooked me right away, did lull a little bit in teeny tiny places, and then crescendos to a satisfying ending.  Enjoy, readers.

★★★★

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Review: And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

And Now She's Gone 
by Rachel Howzell Hall

Thank you Forge Books and NetGalley for this amazing review copy.


Publisher: Forge Books
Publish Date: September 22, 2020
Kindle Edition
369 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, Rachel Howzell Hall's And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets ― and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.


My Review:


I've been in a weird reading funk with other things going on in my life and it took me 4 days to finish this book.  If you know me, I'm a one-sit binge reader.  So many shiny things and my own brain seemed to have plotted against me because I absolutely LOVED this book and am mad I took so damn long to finish it!  But I DID - so YAY, SUCCESS!!

Grayson, I'm sending you a crate of pens.  I'm never naming my dog Kenny G.  And, I want to put on record that while Mrs. Kim, the Korean old lady, may have always cooked Korean food that smelled musky, not ALL Korean food smells like this!  Haha - I'm mostly kidding, because there were definitely times I felt like my parents house smelled like a musky ox so I totally understand how even more terrible this can be for people not used to it!  All jokes aside.... I really LOVE Grayson.  The further I got into this book, the more my heart went out to her.  What a strong ass woman.  And the case that she's on..... WHAT... THE .... FUCK.  I'm 85% in the book and I STILL have no clue what is going on or what direction it's going in but I also am finding Isabel a genius of a woman herself.  Cat, meet mouse.... a worthy opponent. GIMME!

The build up that leads to the reveal is brilliant.  I will say that I found some of the metaphors used within the writing a bit odd at times... but mostly I found them humorous and took them more as a nod to Grayson's personality, and as such, appreciated the uniqueness of it all.  I did notice that the text messaging could be a little hard to follow at times due to the lack of differentiation in font and format most of the time.  It did not take away from the enjoyment of the novel however. 

I'll be honest, I was hovering between a 3.5 and 4 star review throughout my read but when that ending came and the culmination of everything that was set up throughout the story erupted, I nodded and was like "MMM HMMM..... THAT'S IT! YES!" So yeah, absolutely bumping up to this 5 star ramble of a review.  I really need to know what happens next though - WILL THERE BE A SEQUEL? Turn this into a series?  How will I ever know if _____  get what ______ ______?! πŸ˜‰ 

Read this book.

★★★★★

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Review: White Ivy by Susie Yang

White Ivy 
by Susie Yang

Thank you Simon & Schuster for this amazing copy!


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: November 3, 2020
Hardcopy
368 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

A dazzling debut novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate and the lengths she’ll go to win his love


Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.

Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.

Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.


My Review:


Let me introduce you to Ivy Lin.  A Chinese immigrant who just wants to belong and yet sees that people just feel sorry for her - especially her biggest crush, Gideon, who seems to be the perfect American boy of her dreams.  But Ivy, with her poor family, has learned to make ends meet however she needs to.  And Roux seems to be the only one who sees her fully and accepts her for who she is.  But she's sent off to China for a summer and when she comes back, her parents have moved and now she has lost them both (the boys, not the parents).

When she gets back, fate has put her back in Gideon's path and she will do whatever it takes to finally "make it".  Roux also comes back into her path and now a love triangle has blossomed into something that will take her down a path of much resistance.  I'm not a huge fan of love triangles in a book but this one just works within the story being told here.  πŸ‘

This may seem like a slower read for some but I found the pacing perfect.  We get to see Ivy trying to deal with her Chinese heritage and what is expected of her while trying to find her own fitting in the world she is growing up in.  With this, she thinks Gideon is the answer and will mold and change every aspect of herself in order to make this happen.  But how long can one person do this without being driven crazy?  When you don't know exactly who you are, it's easy to just become a chameleon.  And when something can potentially get in the way, you will do whatever it takes to ensure that something doesn't.  

I personally loved watching Ivy's trajectory.  Although I wanted to shake her at times, I actually completely understood why she was being the way that she was.  I wasn't surprised by any revelations that came within the read, however, I did think one particular arc was going to go in a different direction that it did.  I'm also SO CURIOUS AS TO WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW!  Yang, um, can you please advise? I need more!

This debut novel is outstanding.  And can we just talk about how awesome Ivy's grandmother is?  Yang brilliantly brings together these families and even in their differences, had some similarities.  After all, no matter your stature, there are always some kind of issues happening within.  Ivy learned some very hard lessons and I'm so curious as to how she's going to transverse the rest of her days.  Can't wait to see what Yang has for us next.

★★★★

SPOTLIGHT: Lifeline to Marionette by Jennifer Waitte

Lifeline to Marionette 
by Jennifer Waitte

Thank you Smith Publicity for this copy.


Publisher: Madam Larcy Literary
Publish Date: September 22, 2020
Paperback
290 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

A lonely childhood, a haunted past, a secret, and a life controlled by others--she is a woman at the end of her rope, without hope.

Alaina Michelle Sekovich is the daughter of Europe's most famous living composer. Once his prodigy, they are now estranged. To the world, she is Michelle Seko, a multimedia star and valuable asset of the film and fashion industries.

Michelle was a gifted yet troubled child who sought only to see the suffocating world of her father's overbearing tutelage. She thought she could change her life by becoming someone else. But when her world becomes herself looking back at her and the face that is her own is a monster she does not know, she finds there is no place she can go, nowhere she can hide, because what she wants to escape from most is the one thing she can never be truly free of--herself.

Lifeline to Marionette is a story about what life under a microscope can do to the soul. It is a story about a young woman whose every move is determined by the people who control her. Their strings are fine but unbreakable, and they pull her painfully in opposing directions until she can no longer bear their tension.

Lifeline to Marionette begins where Michelle's life is nearest its end. It is a story of exploitation, greed, death, drugs, and secrecy, of familial bonds and human frailty. It is a story about cutting strings and accepting the fall.


Jennifer Waitte is an award-winning journalist, feature writer and editor. She is a graduate of California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo, and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism.


For 15 years, Waitte worked as a writer and editor for numerous lifestyle, equine and equestrian sporting magazines. She has won many awards for her writing, editing and editorial direction.



Waitte is an avid equestrian. She competes in the sport of long-distance horse racing and dressage. She lives in Napa, California, with her husband Barry. They own Tamber Bey Vineyards, a boutique winery located in Napa Valley.



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Review: Frankly In Love by David Yoon

Frankly In Love
by David Yoon

Thank you Penguin Teen for this copy!


Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publish Date: July 7, 2020
Paperback
432 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving debut novel--featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author--David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

My Review:



When I started this read, I was expecting your typical YA rom-com with a not so favorite of mine trope of fake dating.  While I did get a little of that, I also got a whole lot more.


Yoon brings the Korean culture to the forefront along with the clash of growing up in America, juggling two cultures while still trying to find your own self.  As a Korean-American, I could relate to Frank on SO MANY LEVELS.  My family has disowned members, there were always certain expectations from my Korean side and while my language barrier isn't as bad as Frank's may be, I totally understood quite a few of the situations he found himself in.

I found Frank and Brit's relationship off and a bit forced and so FAST - even for high schoolers.  I was definitely more invested with his fake dating of Joy and their natural chemistry that did not feel forced at all.  I also truly appreciated his best friendship with Q and how their different ethnic backgrounds helped strengthen their relationship.  Also absolutely relatable.  I do wish Q's arc had flourished a bit more.  I really wanted to learn more about him... however, I absolutely stan their friendship HARD.  Especially during one particular part. ❤

But the biggest part of this book isn't even the fake dating and Frank's love life.... for me, it was more about his relationship with his sister and his parents.  There was just SO much that reminded me of the Korean side of my family on a variety of levels.  At the beginning of this read, I didn't think I would actually get that emotionally invested but those last few chapters.... well, let's just say that I may have a leak in my eyelids.

Overall, I found this coming of age story funny, emotional, relatable and heartfelt.  

★★★★

Friday, September 18, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: For The Best by Vanessa Lillie

For The Best 
by Vanessa Lillie

Thank you to the author and Thomas & Mercer for these copies!


Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publish Date: September 8, 2020
Paperback
320 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense


Suspected of a murder she can’t remember, a troubled woman takes an unusual approach to proving her innocence in this gripping thriller from the bestselling author of Little Voices.


When Jules Worthington-Smith’s wallet is found next to a dead man, she becomes the prime suspect in his murder. After struggling for years to build the perfect family and career, she’s dangerously close to losing everything.

Sure of her innocence, Jules is desperate to clear her name. But there’s one big problem: she was blackout drunk when the murder took place and can’t remember what happened.

Unsatisfied with the police’s handling of the case, Jules embarks on her own gin-fueled murder investigation. As she uncovers fresh clues, she starts a true-crime vlog that becomes a viral sensation, pushing her into the public eye. It’s not long before the ordeal forces Jules to confront her demons, including her turbulent childhood and excessive drinking.

The deeper Jules digs, the more dirt she uncovers about the murder and herself. Unexpected truths pile up until she’s buried so deep even finding the killer might not be enough to set her free.


My Review:



Vanessa, how dare you play with my emotions!!! 

Oh my god you guys, gals and them!  Remember when I complained about the continuous use of female lead characters having drunken amnesia as a plot point?  Well I eat (or maybe actually drink) my words!  Turns out - I don't mind if it's done right and Lillie has changed my mind.  Or rather, maybe Jules did!

What I absolutely loved about this book was the uniqueness in solving the murder of Terrance.  As we all know, in this day and age just about everything plays out through a lens to the public.  When Jules becomes the only suspect in the murder investigation, her name smeared on the news along with the loss of her job, she decides to take matters into her own hands and using her skills starts a vlog to start digging into clearing her name.  As this escalates, so does her drinking.... and soon truths outside of this murder start to pop up and wouldn't you know it, it would drive anyone to drink. πŸ˜‰

Around the 200 page mark I said to myself, "Self, what if it's actually THIS?!"  Ding. Light bulb!  Turns out I was right about one part and honestly it made me so damn giddy.  However, I certainly didn't see another part coming and OMG, WTF?! (LOVE!)  Lillie had me glued to these pages.  My heart went out to Jules so much by the end of it all, even if she was a highly frustrating character at times.  

I did wish the light therapy was explained a bit more - I stupidly kept thinking it was "light" as in compared to hard therapy and couldn't figure out why that was such a thing DOH!  Turns out, it's therapy using lights.  The book explains it a bit better than I am doing here.  But outside of my stupidity here, this part did feel a bit glossed over and quickly thrown in.

This will be an interesting one I think for thriller lovers.  I love the uniqueness of it all and how it hits on some very important issues - child trauma, alcoholism, white privilege, complex relationships, etc.  I think some readers will have a hard time with Jules as a character and how while this read is twisty, it's also somber with quite a life lesson brought to the surface.  Personally, I loved it a lot for these reasons and I liked that it wasn't your typical thriller read.  

★★★★

Jessica's Review:



Another one that kept me up way past my bedtime, but it was so worth it! FOR THE BEST was my introduction to Vanessa Lillie and now I need to get her other book ASAP. What I will always love in a book is when the author includes multiple formats to tell the story. Like in this one we get the story as it's happening and transcripts from Jules's vlog, which was very entertaining to read!

Jules seemed to have the perfect life, but there was one glaring problem, her drinking. She is what you could call a high functioning alcoholic, but it soon catches up to her when the police knock on her door one morning. The man she was with the night before has been found dead and her wallet was laying next to the body. With her being a person of interest in the case she is determined to prove her innocence, which is easier said than done because she can't remember a thing.

While this trope is used a lot in thrillers, I think Lillie did an incredible job with it and kept it fresh. This didn't feel like all the others and really did stand out for me. I loved Jules and going through everything with her to find out what truly happened that night. So many secrets and webs to unravel. I can't wait to pick up her other book!

4 stars

Review: Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking 
by Candice Iloh

Thank you NetGalley & Dutton Books for Young Readers for this beautiful copy.


Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 22, 2020
Kindle Edition
416 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Poetry, Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT


"Ada” means first daughter, means oldest girl, means pressure. “Ada” means you are expected to do a lot of things because the honor of this family rests on your back.


When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family—and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past—her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.

Every Body Looking is a luminous and inspiring novel in verse about bearing the weight of others’ expectations and finding the courage to shape a life of one’s own.


My Review:




I can't remember the last time I read a book in verse/poetic style and wasn't sure how it would resonate for me as I typically find poetry hard to review.  However, when you have 416 pages of a lyrically beautiful story, it felt like listening to the most beautiful song that told you a very important story.  I found myself fascinated and read it in its entirety without ever getting up from my couch.

Ada's story is told in nonlinear style as we see her growing up under the weight of enormous expectations.  Her father's strong Christian values, her mother's addiction, the cruelness of her fellow students, the confusing abuse at the hands of someone unexpected.... she just wants to dance and even that is frowned upon.  When she leaves for College and not surrounded by all of this, she still struggles to find her footing but is ever so grateful for the freedom being away from home finally provides.  

This certainly is not an easy story to read at times and I do wish we got maybe a bit more in depth of her childhood and some very heavy issues to make the story feel a bit more complete.  However, the writing is strong and you absolutely feel for Ada all the way through.  It was such a pleasure to see Ada grow and I was so engrossed that I was surprised when it ended and wanted more!  Plus, how gorgeous is this cover?

★★★★

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Review: Captain Clive's Dreamworld by Jon Bassoff

Captain Clive's Dreamworld 
by Jon Bassoff

Thank you to Eraserhead Press and Night Worms for this copy.


Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Publish Date: October 1, 2020
Kindle Edition
Genre: Horror

After becoming the suspect in the death of a young woman he was investigating, Deputy Sam Hardy is "vanished" to a town in the middle of the desert called Angels and Hope. A company town built to support a magnificent amusement park (one to rival Disneyland) known as Captain Clive's Dreamworld. When he arrives in Angels and Hope, Hardy begins to notice some strange happenings. Virtually no customers ever visit. None of the townsfolk ever seem to sleep. And girls seem to be going missing with no plausible explanation. As Hardy begins investigating, his own past is drawn into question by the town, and he finds himself becoming more and more isolated. The truth—about the town and himself—will lead him to understand that there’s no such thing as a clean escape.

My Review:



"Orwell, the guy who wrote 1984, feared the leaders would conceal the truth from us.  Huxley worries that they wouldn't need to because the truth would no longer matter to us.  Which is worse, Deputy?"


Well this was definitely quite the interesting read.  I always have loved stories where a small, seemingly idyllic town is uber creepy and there's something sinister going on underneath the painted smiles.  Angels and Hope certainly fits that bill. I absolutely loved the little nods to things such as the Three Witches and the subtle but notable political tones reflecting where American seems to be heading these days.  It gives me the shivers that when I used to read books such as these, I could keep them in the realm of fantasy and fiction and thus not get squeamish or offended.  But blind following, for whatever the reason, such as what we see here for Captain Clive is almost understandable and all too realistic considering what I've been seeing over these past few years in real life. But I digress...

There were definitely a couple scenes that made me raise my eyebrows (also, EW) and I was expecting the story to go a different way than it did.  But I'm always one who is (usually) happy to be surprised.  Bassoff does a fantastic job of building this insane story where it bursts vividly in your imagination.  Angels and Hope is certainly a place I hope to never, ever visit.  Ever. And I appreciate why the story ended the way that it did, which also gave me new perspective on the town itself.

We all have demons.  We all have secrets.  How we manage to get punished or how we punish ourselves for these can sometimes come about in the most unexpected ways.  Bassoff writes so viscerally, that I can see why one of his books have been opted for adaptation.  I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more by this author.  Can someone please pass me some moonshine "medicine"?  

★★★★

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: The Easton Falls Massacre by Holly Rae Garcia & Ryan Prentice Garcia

The Easton Falls Massacre
by Holly Rae Garcia & Ryan Prentice Garcia

Thank you to the authors for this awesome signed copy!


Publisher: Close to the Bone Publishing
Publish Date: July 7, 2020
Paperback
129 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

US Army Veteran Henry Miller embarks on a hunt at the edge of the Black Forest, but strays from the path and finds himself too close to the East Cascade Mountain Range.

Something lurks in the forest on the other side of those mountains. An ancient race of Bigfoot that have kept to themselves for centuries, until one of them defies the warnings and roams too far from the safety of their home.

When these two intersect, alliances are broken and events set in motion that will leave residents of the town of Easton Falls, Washington, fighting for their lives.

My Review:



If you had told me that I would be reading about Bigfoot's revenge and would love it, I probably would've side eyed you!  But you would've been RIGHT!  Novellas are such a hit or miss for me and I'm happy to report that this one was obviously an absolute hit for me.


These authors really pack quite a full and fulfilling story in less than 200 pages and I loved every single page.  The backstory was brilliant and oh the humanity of it all!!  I especially loved the ending and how it was presented... but also now I'm so curious as to what will happen now?!  I need answers! Hahaha - but what a fantastic and entertaining read. 

This creature feature is the perfect combination of complex relationships, secrets of OH SO MANY kinds and a plethora of rip roaring revenge tactics that have you rooting for Bigfoot the entire time - or at least I did. 

★★★★★