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Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander
by Jeff VanderMeer
Narrated by Lisa Flanagan

Thanks to Libro.fm and Blackstone Publishing for this gifted copy.


Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
Audiobook
11 hrs 35 min
Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction

From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things

Security consultant "Jane Smith" receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.

Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina's footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out--for her and possibly for the world.

Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. 

My Review:


I'm going to keep this review short.  I'm utterly fascinated with this author's mind.  Annihiliation hurt my brain in both book and movie form.  I still don't know what happened in that book/movie and I can't get that time back, ever. 🀣  BUT, I know how brilliant this author is so I had to try this one - plus look at that cover! (Shiny thing).  

Again, I leave with my brain hurting and feeling dumb.  I'm so confused again as I walk away from this story as well.  Jane gets a weird cryptic message ith a taxidermied hummingbird with clues leading to a taxidermied salamander.  WHAT.  There's more to the story of course but the plot moves with Jane and I cannot for the life of me see where she comes up with some of her logic and conclusions.  I did enjoy the lesson I think I was supposed to take away in re to our ecosystem and our future on this planet.  Maybe I'm just not smart enough for this author's work. 🀷

I think I realize that I'm just not the right audience for this author's work and that's ok.  While it would be nice if we liked every book and every author we try, that just isn't realistic. 

★★


Review: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

The Venice Sketchbook
by Rhys Bowen

Thank you Lake Union Publishing and TLC Book Tours for this copy.


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
Hardcover
412 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.

My Review:


I am thankful that Bookstagram has pointed me in the direction of finding love for historical fiction as this was a genre I typically stayed away from.  Even after, I stayed away from WWII hisfic because it's not a time period I'm particularly interested in... but in my quest to continue trying new things, I wanted to give this one a go for a couple of reasons: 1. I've only heard the best things about Bowen's books and 2. I absolutely LOVE Venice and would love to travel back again now that I'm older and can appreicate it more. So off to Venice I go via the years 1928 and 2001,

Unfortunately I think WWII hisfic just isn't for me.  As with most dual timelines, I prefer one over the other and I was definitely more invested in Juliet's story over Caroline's.  It just felt more compelling.  Bowen does an amazing job in making you feel like you are in Venice.  It was like being shown around by a tour guide with infinite facts of the city... and vast descriptions of the food (I'd give my left leg for a proper Venice feast).

The story itself is fine.  I think maybe some of the descriptives took over the story telling and while I didn't mind them, there's a reason why history was my least favorite subject in school.  Definitely tag yourself in if you like a good romance story during this time period.  I'm happy that I gave this a go.  The author is clearly extremely talented.  I think I'm just the wrong reader for this.

★★★



Sunday, April 18, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Malice by Heather Walter

Malice
by Heather Walter

Thanks so much to Del Rey for these amazing copies!

Publisher: Del Rey
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
Hardcover
496 Pages
Malice Duology #1
Genres: Retelling, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

My Review:


Well ok then!  No princes saving the girl... instead we have an 'evil' Alyce who is completely misunderstood due to her powerful (albeit dark) powers.  This dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty is simply fantastic.  While I'm not usually much of a retellings kinda gal, I do enjoy them when they are on the darker side.  Now, don't mistake that to mean we get this super dark, crazy story.  That is not the case.  Instead we get Alyce, while outcasted as a 'monster', is simply a girl misunderstood who loves hexes and curses (Hi Alyce,  an we be best friends?!)  You guessed it, the 'good' people in this story are entitled, materialistic and utterly annoying.  Did anyone else get inklings of other fairy tale elements included?  I felt a little bit of Cinderella in here, maybe? πŸ˜‰  Who cares, right? Because in any case, it's all a bit twisted from what we normally know of fairy tales and I'm here for it.

Thank you, Walter, for making the love story feel realistic and not all instalove. PHEW.  While we always expect the romantic entanglements that come with these kinds of tales, what's brilliant here is that it's not fully focused on that.  This story really is more on Alyce and her finding comfortability in who she is and the power she contains.  At the end of the day, it was simply a fun story to read.  Some tiny plot holes were noticed... however, I'm thinking it'll all come together in the next book of this duology.  Best believe I'll be reading that one too!

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


It’s no secret that I love retellings, plus the darker and more twisted the better. I love Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, so when I saw this included Princess Aurora and a dark sorceress I knew I needed to pick it up. It’s always refreshing when retellings blur the stark lines between good and evil that their well-known counterparts create.

Alyce is the only Dark Grace in Briar and the last to have Vila blood. The Graces are half-fae women born with golden blood that can be added to elixirs and potions to enhance beauty and other desires. Alyce has the green blood of the Vila, a race that was thought to have been completely eradicated, and she creates hexes and curses for her customers. Cruelly nicknamed Malyce by one of the Graces, she seems to try and embrace the dark character they have made her out to be.

Then Alyce meets Princess Aurora. There is just one more year until Aurora’s curse will come to pass – bestowed upon her by the same dark magic that courses through Alyce’s veins. After a relationship begins to form between them, she begins to wonder if there is anything she can do with her gifts to end the curse. Who needs a Prince when she has an evil sorceress?

I was captivated almost immediately. I love being in Alyce’s head and she is such a complex character. You really feel what she’s experiencing when it comes to her isolation from the other Graces, being labeled a monster and villain, and then the hope that comes with her budding romance. While there were a couple things here and there that didn’t completely work for me, they weren’t enough to take away from the reading experience. Give me all the villain retellings!

5 stars


Friday, April 16, 2021

Review: Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Whisper Down the Lane
by Clay McLeod Chapman

Thanks so much to Quirk Books for this amazing copy.

Publisher: Quirk Books
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
Hardcover
304 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

My Review:

Well well well... hello Satanic Panic and the devastating repercussions that came from that crazy time in the '80's.  I was just a kid then but still full of horror loving so even as a tiny human I was fascinated and remember reading up on it later on as an adult.  If y'all aren't familiar, go google it... while I don't think it's a necessity to read this book based on these true events, I do think it'll give you a better appreciation for the story within.

Chapman introduces us to Sean and Richard - both the same person but Sean is a child back in the 80's and Richard is Sean, all grown up with repressed memories that start to surface as he takes on his new family consisting of his wife and soon to be adopted son.  I was definitely more riveted to Sean's part of the story because WOAH. To be quite honest, this part of the story kept me riveted to the pages. (I did find myself going glazy eyed over some of Richard's parts... oops).  However, both are obviously very necessary.  We see how the past comes to disrupt the present and Chapman does keep us on the edge of our seats... because both the child and the man he becomes aren't easy characters to get behind.  But how can you blame a kid ... kids are easily coerced and when reading the his interviews with Kinderman made me so damn angry.  I HATE adults who question kids in a way that persuades them to answer in a particular way. Don't even get me started here....

I think anyone expecting this to be full on gory, graphic horror will be disappointed - it is not that, though there are a couple of animal brutality scenes that we do get.  This is more a psychological suspense as we see how Richard starts falling a part.  I really don't know how I feel about the ending though.  I kinda get it because well.... it's a reflection of what actually happened during those times but I still also felt a bit wanting.

★★★



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer

Little Pieces of Me
by Alison Hammer

Thank you GetRedPR for this amazing copy.

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
Paperback
400 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

When Paige Meyer gets an email from a DNA testing website announcing that her father is a man she never met, she is convinced there must be a mistake. But as she digs deeper into her mother's past and her own feelings of being the odd child out growing up, Paige begins to question everything she thought she knew. Could this be why Paige never felt like she fit in her family, and why her mother always seemed to keep her at an arm's length? And what does it mean for Paige's memories of her father, a man she idolized and whose death she is still grieving? Back in 1975, Betsy Kaplan, Paige's mom, is a straightlaced sophomore at the University of Kansas. When her sweet but boring boyfriend disappoints her, Betsy decides she wants more out of life, and is tired of playing it safe. Enter Andy Abrams, the golden boy on campus with a potentially devastating secret. After their night together has unexpected consequences, Betsy is determined to bury the truth and rebuild a stable life for her unborn child, whatever the cost.

When Paige can't get answers from her mother, she goes looking for the only other person who was there that night. The more she learns about what happened, the more she sees her unflappable, distant mother as a real person faced with an impossible choice. But will it be enough to mend their broken relationship?

My Review:

My heart has been taking a beating this year with my reads (happily so, but uff).  Little Pieces of Me is a roller coaster of emotions.  As a 40-something childless woman, I understand her behavior and relationship with her mother.  I am also SUPER close to my Dad so I couldn't imagine losing him and then finding out a couple of years later that he's not tied to me by blood. Cue tears! 😭

I'm a sucker for a dual timeline and various POVs.  Not only do we get to see from Paige's view but also from her mother and the person she never knew was her biological father.  I think something this books does that I really enjoy is how it reminds us that while we are obviously living in our own little worlds and dealing with our own issues - sometimes selfishly so as is human nature - is that those who raised us or those older than us that we put into these little boxes... are actually very complex people.  They were their own individuals before they became your parents and if you stop to really listen and learn, you'll find that they just tried their damndest to do the best that they could.

What can I say? This is an amazing story.  There were a couple of times it felt a bit slow but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and quite frankly, it really makes me miss my parents.  Definitely will read more from Hammer.

★★★★




Tuesday, April 13, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Near The Bone by Christina Henry

Near The Bone
by Christina Henry

Thanks to Berkley for this gifted review copy.


Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
Paperback
336 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can't remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they're not alone after all.

There's something in the woods that wasn't there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

My Review:


I absolutely love Christina Henry.  This is my fourth book, and new favorite, by her.  I started this last night and finished this morning and I'm glad work took some of my attention after I was done so that I could sit with this for a bit.  

As with all books I intend to read, I steer clear from reading any reviews so that I'm not influenced in any way with how I may feel.  I can imagine that some people wanted more monster from this read and at first, I did too... but then I realize that there is PLENTY of monster throughout this read.  But let me go back a little bit.

Mattie is young, isolated and living in a constant state of fear.  Not from some new monster that seems to have come to her part of the mountain.  But from her asshole of a husband who repeatedly beats her and has a desperate need to "plant his seed" (uff, I hate this terminology) and get some sons, as God supposedly demands of him.  But this new creature that shows up, while absolutely terrifying and unlike anything they would ever encounter, could also be her salvation because now others have come and maybe... just maybe... she'll be saved.

So look, I was hooked from the get go.  There's something about this type of story that just sits on my heart.  I would've loved some more creature feature moments, but ultimately, I found myself ridiing right along with Mattie - suffering through her memories, hair prickled at the thought of either monster, hope for the potential escape.  Even at the end when I noticed the pages were thinning and the story was about to close, I wanted MORE.  But when I truly think of this, this isn't so much about these monsters, but about Mattie and her character.  And that final scene when she looked back and saw those eyes.  Well, it got me.  And quite frankly, I was rooting for more than just her.  Well done, Henry.  

Yeah, somehow this got to me emotionally and I would recommend not going into this expecting this blood and gore creature horror novel... and instead let the suspense and foreboding get to you while putting yourself straight into Mattie's thick longjohns and petticoats.  But don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of bloody goodness to suit you too.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I have loved Christina Henry’s books ever since I picked up LOST BOY and she hasn’t disappointed me yet! The newest one, NEAR THE BONE, is a suspenseful and atmospheric read that has some great creature horror in it as well.

This book reminds us that not all monsters are creatures hiding in the woods, but the people around us. Mattie is a young woman living in a cabin on a mountain with her abusive and controlling husband. William is all the worst things you can imagine and this is the only life Mattie has ever known. However, when a new evil is found in the woods she has to wonder which monster is worse.

This new creature attracts strangers in search of it and Mattie fears what William could do to the intruders. With the appearance of these outsiders Mattie has the smallest glimmer of hope that she could find a way to escape her abusive husband. You just immediately feel for Mattie and the horrible situation she’s in and just have a seething hate for William and what he claims God is telling him to do.

If you’re hoping for only a creature horror read then you may be a tad disappointed, however this will have you on the edge of your seat. I won’t lie, I kept an eye on the treeline when I was letting the dogs out at night while reading this πŸ˜‚ the atmosphere, the tension, the characters, the monsters, I loved it all! Christina Henry remains an auto-buy author for me!

5 stars


Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Howls From Hell

Howls From Hell

by M. David Clarkson, Amanda Nevada DeMel, S.E. Denton, Justin Faull, Quinn Fern, Solomon Forse, Shane Hawk, B.O.B. Jenkin, Thea Maeve, P.L. McMillan, Christopher O'Halloran, Joe Radkins, Lindsey Ragsdale, Joseph Andre Thomas, Alex Wolfgang and J.W. Donley

A huge thank you to HOWL Society Press and Night Worms for this gifted book.


Publisher: HOWL Society Press
Publish Date: May 18, 2021
Paperback
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

Spacefaring researchers disturb an ancient horror. An enchanted object curses a grieving widow. A haunted reel torments a film student. A murder trial hinges on a chilling testimony.

In Howls From Hell, sixteen emerging horror writers pave the way for the future of the genre. Fans of dark and macabre fiction will savor this exhibition of all-original tales born from one of the fastest-growing horror communities in the world: HOWL Society.

With a foreword by Grady Hendrix, this anthology unveils the horror writers of tomorrow with spine-tingling stories from P.L. McMillan, J.W. Donley, Shane Hawk, Christopher O'Halloran, Alex Wolfgang, Amanda Nevada DeMel, Lindsey Ragsdale, Solomon Forse, Justin Faull, M. David Clarkson, B.O.B. Jenkin, S.E. Denton, Thea Maeve, Joseph Andre Thomas, Joe Radkins, and Quinn Fern.

My Review:

In my quest to continue to try new things, I decided to give short story collections/anthologies another go and what better way to go than with a collection titled HOWLS FROM HELL.  I typically stay away from these collections as it always ends the same - some I love, some I don't and so collectively, I end up almost always rating them down the middle.  While these can be a great sampling of new authors to consider, I am just that person who likes to read a full novel over the short story to determine that.  But that's just MY preference. 

Over the weekend, I opened this up and the first story just caught my attention.  Short it was and absolutely devious - I was just instantly transported back into my horror loving tingles and then kept runing page after page.  I'd devour 3 or 4 stories, then go about my business and then come back. I'd really like some more Casual Encounters πŸ˜‰.  The stand outs for me were Junco Creek, It Gets In Your Eyes and Red And The Beast.  I also liked Possess and Serve but it also gave me the willies because having an officer take over a person's body to deescalate a situation sounds like about the last thing I'd ever want a cop to do.  **SHIVER**  I'll also be checking any and all bills I get out of an ATM due to A Fistful of Murder.

This collection was a lot of fun.  Maybe because it's been a while since I've truly immersed myself in a collection.  Maybe because these authors are so talented.  Maybe because this gloomy weather was just oh so suitable for these reads.  In any manner, I did find that like with all collections, I loved some, liked some and meh about some.  But instead of doing my usual down the middle rating, I'm giving it an extra star because YES.  If you are a fan of horror collections, grab a copy and run.  Try not to get a paper cut though - who knows what will happen if any blood gets on these page. 😈

★★★★




Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Rattlesnake Road by Amanda McKinney

Rattlesnake Road
by Amanda McKinney

Huge thank you to Smith Publicity for getting me to try a new(ish) genre!


Publish Date: May 4, 2021
Paperback
423 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Romance, Suspense

Everyone hits rock bottom, only the brave escape.

Welcome to 1314 Rattlesnake Road.

A quaint two-bedroom log cabin nestled deep in the woods of the small, southern town of Berry Springs—the perfect hideaway to escape your past.

Tucked inside thick, mahogany walls lay mysterious letters, forgotten and untouched for decades. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and endless lies. Mature oak trees, tall enough to touch the clouds, carry the whispers of the haunted, of stories untold

Inside sits Grey Dalton, emotionally battered and bruised, her only wish to pick up the broken pieces of her life. But outside, await two men, one a tattooed cowboy, the other a dashing businessman.

One will steal her heart, the other, her soul.

Rattlesnake Road is a standalone mystery romance about love, loss, hitting rock bottom, and clawing your way to the other side.

Your escape awaits…

My Review:


When I was first approached with this book for review, I was hesitant... based on the cover alone, it's not the type of book I usually read.  But I did promise myself I'd try some new things and this small-town mystery romance was exactly what I expected.. but also a lot more.

The first chapter really hit home for me as, unfortunately, there was a lot I could relate to with what Grey was going through.  Then that scene happened where she did what a lot of us would love to do - and that is to speak our very raw mind - now, maybe in not quite that public of a setting and with that much alcohol running through the veins but hey, I thoroughly enjoyed that scene to the fullest!

I think the issue I have with some romance heavy books are the women needing to be saved by the men storyline that drives me batty.. but I think it's not necessarily in being saved but finding that person - and most people would love to have that person who fully accepts them and their flaws and adds to their lives rather than completing them.  Does that make any sense? Hahaha - Grey has been through a lot and if I could move to a small town after leaving my cheating husband just to have two gorgeous (and completely different from each other) men coming after me while finding a friend in Etta and my new feral cat named Moonshine... well, sign me up!  (Also, can we just talk about Etta and how she's my favorite character!)

Yes, this was pretty predictable but I had a damn good time following Grey.  We all go through our ups and downs and the downs can be pretty vicious.. it's all in how we come out the other side, isn't it? I'm honestly surprised that I enjoyed this so much - McKinney sure knows how to write and I'd be happy to read her again.

★★★★


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

One Two Three
by Laurie Frankel
Narrated by Emma Galvin, Jesse Vilinsky, Rebecca Soler

Thanks to Libro.fm & Macmillan Audio for this advanced gifted copy.


Publsiher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: June 8, 2021 (first published April 27, 2021)
Audiobook
14 hrs 59 min
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

How do you let go of the past when the past won't let go of you?

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed—tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her underwear drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green and was declared unfit for use, but it was too late for its residents, and the girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive and taking on a system stacked against them. And in a town where nothing ever changes, suddenly everything does.

My Review:


Meet the Bourne sisters - Mab (One), Monday (Two) and Mirabel (Three) and their mom, Nora.  Frankel keeps each chapter alternating from One, Two and Three respectively and it's nice to be inside each of these teenager's heads as they all have a very unique perspective.   Bourne has suffered under a chemical plant that has poisoned their water supply and Nora has relentlessly been trying to put together a class action law suit... because not only were her daughters affected, but the whole town has... look around and you can pick up on all the clues.

This story touches on a variety of very important issues.  While we are getting the views of the triplets, we are also intertwined with the town history, corporations contaminating a small town, birth defects, illness, legal battles, determination... a town torn between needing the factory and dying from it.  Luckily, there was some bits of levity thrown in to help alleviate such a glum (albeit important) storyline. 

I wonder if I may have enjoyed this better in print over audio.  While I do believe the narrators (there are 3) did an amazing job... if the chapters weren't headed to let us know who was speaking, it may have gotten a bit confusing as to which teenager we are listening to.  Which was really distinct at times and totally lost on me in other moments.  I also think that maybe this was a bit long.  It seemed a bit repetitive in nature.  I also feel like the *romance* part was kind of glossed over when it should've been a more important part considering.... but I'll leave that there.

You certainly won't ever forget these girls - they have such amazing personalities and their disabilities are really just a norm throughout this town and their individual genius and perseverence while still battling their hormones is pretty well done.  I did feel a little let down towards the end.. only in the fact that for so many chapters we get engaged and then it all kind of neatly sums up in a very short manner... though I was still happy with the results.  Mab, Monday and Mirabel will be staying with me for a very long time.... Monday may be my favorite. Shhhh.. don't tell the others.

★★★


Review: The Secret Talker by Geling Yan

The Secret Talker
by Geling Yan

Thanks to HarperVia and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: HarperVia
Publish Date: May 4, 2021
Hardcover
160 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

Beautiful, diligent, and passive, Hongmei is the perfect wife to Glen, an intelligent and caring college professor. But her quiet life in Northern California fractures when a mysterious person begins e-mailing her, pulling her into an enthralling and frightening game of cat-and-mouse. Who is stalking her? And how does this mysterious stranger know her deepest, darkest secrets?

As Hongmei is forced to confront her own dark past in China, the faΓ§ade of her idyllic life is laid bare. Increasingly desperate and self-destructive, her one hope is to turn the tables on her tormentor. Investigating the stalker’s own secret history may irrevocably tear her marriage and her world apart—a risk she must take to regain control of her life.

My Review:


I absolutely love the premise of this story.  Hongmei is bored and unhappy in her marriage to Glen, her American husband who provides for her but somehow she feels never SEES her.  Then a mysterious e-mail comes her way and now she gets involved and eventually obsessed about the person obsessing about her.  Got that?

I really wanted to like this story... I really did.  I even put it down at 66% through and while I usually never pick up books I put down, I realized this was a novella and I may as well finish ... plus my interest was piqued to see where Hongmei's journey would take her.  Here are some issues I had: this is marketed as a thriller, but the thriller aspect is hard to really find here.  Sure we have an anonymous person stalking Hongmei but as she continues to engage this person and basically turn the tables, the lack of fear and only sleightened increase of paranoia does not lend to that thriller atmosphere.  However, I do find that the thriller aspect in most translated books tend to be more subtle and not in your face, which can lend a very tense atmosphere... but alas, that's not found here either.  I also felt like this story was a bit incomplete... the entirety of setting up to the final *explanation* felt lacking.

What I did like is that in learning more and more of Hongmei as she opens up to her "admirer", we get a pretty compelling character.  While I didn't agree with some of her actions, I could understand needing that excitement in her life.  The cultural aspect of American and Chinese clashing a bit playing into her dissatisfaction is relatable and in learning of her past experiences lends to why she is acting the way she is now.  

Overall I feel like this could've been fleshed out a bit more.  Don't go into this expecting the standard thrilling thrills you'd expect from a thriller...  you won't find it.  But you will find an intricate story of Hongmei, who is worth getting to know.

★★


Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart

An Invincible Summer
by Mariah Stewart

Thank you Montlake and TLC Book Tours for this gifted copy.


Publisher: Montlake
Publish Date: May 1, 2021
Paperback
328 Pages
Series: Wyndham Beach #1
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town’s golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie’s dreams—and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.

Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting—and embracing—the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won’t be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true.

My Review:


Normally, the synopsis of this wouldn't make me want to pick it right up.  But when it came across my desk, there was just something about it that screamed at me to read it.  (Ok, so all my books yell at me to read them but we all know how that goes sometimes.... 😏) Maybe it comes with age that you begin to love seeing reuniong after a significant period of time, first loves to reminisce over, good friends that you fall right back into line with.... and of course, a secret you've kept to yourself for far too long.  Whatever the reason, I'm glad my inner *readmorethanjustthrillersandhorror* decided this was a good idea.

This is my first by this author and it certainly won't be the last.  Her writing is extremely engaging and the author really brings to life the dynamics of long time friendships and relationships and all the ups and downs that come with them.  I think this subject always fascinates me a bit because my longest friendship stemmed from college since I moved around all my life.  I always wonder what it would be like to have those friendships that started from diapers - the ones who just REALLY know you.  And let us not forget our first loves.  They always leave an impact, even when you don't want them to.

I had a fantastic time getting to know Maggie and Grace.  Some things really hit home while others I couldn't imagine going through. Remember when we were young and thought things would be so much easier when we were adults?  Yeah, that was a nice slap to the face, eh? πŸ˜‰  But seriously, the banter between all of the characters here were fun along with a few situations.  My how the petty doesn't stop even 40 years from high school.  I couldn't help but fall in love with this book.  It took me a moment to grasp all the info that came in the beginning, but once I got hooked, I wasn't letting go.

★★★★




Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review: Black Widows by Cate Quinn

Black Widows
by Cate Quinn

Thanks to Thriller Book Lover for this free book.


Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: February 9, 2021
Hardcover
419 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary

Blake is dead.
They say his wife killed him.
If so... which one?

Polygamist Blake Nelson built a homestead on a hidden stretch of land—a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah—where he lived with his three wives:

Rachel, the first wife, obedient and doting to a fault, with a past she'd prefer to keep quiet.
Tina, the rebel wife, everything Rachel isn't, straight from rehab and the Vegas strip.
And Emily, the young wife, naΓ―ve and scared, estranged from her Catholic family.

The only thing that they had in common was Blake. Until all three are accused of his murder.

When Blake is found dead under the desert sun, all three wives become suspect—not only to the police, but to each other. As the investigation draws them closer, each wife must decide who can be trusted. With stories surfacing of a notorious cult tucked away in the hills, whispers flying about a fourth wife, and evidence that can't quite explain what had been keeping Blake busy, the three widows face a reckoning that might shatter all they know to be true.

My Review:


Three wives.  One dead husband. 😈 They all have reason to kill him, so who was it?

This story starts off STRONG.  Quinn introduces us to Rachel, Tina and Emily - all very different women who ended up wives of Blake.  As we learn about them, their relationship with Blake and the mystery at hand, I am absolutely riveted to the pages.  Oh, hello cult vibes.... I welcome thee....  and then... then something got lost.  Towards the middle I started losing a bit of interest going back and forth with the wives, their pasts, etc. ... I'm not even quite sure I'd say it's repetitive, but I felt some of it was just a bit too much filler.

But then! THEN it goes seven sheets to sideways, which definitely got my attention again.  Ok, I can see it's gonna get nuts so gonna strap myself in and prepare.  Had me hooked again, I didn't even mind the whiplash.  Unfortunately, I didn't quite like the last twist.  For my particular taste, I think it was a bit of a reach after all the build up. I did enjoy getting to see how everything played out at the end.  Certain characters (and I despised them all lovingly) definitely deserved for a happier way of life... but the mighty tangled web that was woven got untangled a bit too fast.

Look, this book has everything I enjoy - give me any kind of culty vibes and I am HERE for it.  Multi-layered characters, gimme.  Shitty husband who's dead from the get go - sign me up!  Quinn served up all the red herrings and I stayed to fish.  I very much enjoy Quinn's writing style and kudos to a bad ass debut novel.  I'll absolutely be picking up whatever this author serves up next.

★★★☆


Friday, April 2, 2021

Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh


Publisher: Sphere
Publish Date: November 9, 2014 
Paperback
371 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

My Review:


Well, I was not expecting THAT! πŸ‘€  I became a fan of Mackintosh after reading I SEE YOU - her writing is addictive and so easy to binge in a one sit read.  Life was a bit crazy at the end of March when I started I LET YOU GO I didn't get to sit down and binge it like I wanted to.. which is why I think pretty much every twisty thing that slapped me in the face truly surprised me.

There is so much going on with this read.  Lies, manipulation, grief, accidents, hidden agendas and attractions.  You name it, it's probably in here.... ok, ok.. that might be a bit of an exaggeration but WOW there's so much packed in here.  Jenna is a very complex character and I just FELT for.  And there's a good lesson in how the past always catches up with you.  You can NEVER run away from your problems and inner demons.  

There's SO much I want to say about this one but every time I try to move the words from my brain to my fingertips, I fear I'm going to spoil something so I will just leave this review here and say that if you like twisty goodness from a thriller that does not let up on any page you turn, then here's the book for you. 

★★★★★



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth
Narrated by Barrie Kreinik

Thanks to Libro.fm, Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for these review copies.


Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
Audiobook
8 hrs. 19  min.
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Suspense

There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights, and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich, and shocking story of unexpected love. 

My Review:


I had the pleasure to meet Hepworth at a group lunch a couple of years ago and she is just the absolute sweetest.  Who knew that under that all the niceness laid the creator of such a crazy family story.  Yes yes yes - come along and meet twins, Rose and Fern whose only commonality seems to be their bloodline. 

Hepworth takes us back and forth in timelines as we get a glimpse of their harrowing childhood where they ended up in the foster care system after their mother dies.  We know straight off that an awful death occurred when they were kids and that Fern is at fault and Rose has, and will always, protect her sister.  Fern follows along with Rose's influence because she really need some help as she gets overwhelmed with sensory overload at times.  And how does she want to repay Rose? By having the baby that she couldn't.  Nothing could possibly go wrong here... right? πŸ˜‰

It's infuriating when you start to see some dynamics coming to light - I truly wanted to drop kick one particular character.  Hepworth gives us very layered characters - even the ones I wanted to hate, I still felt for.  Just how much can ANY of them take before something blows?  The journey we are taken on starts off very suspenseful and foreboding and then launches into a PHEW but WHAT drama llama ding dong that I couldn't help but love every minute of.  Personally, I felt this to be a very predictable read BUT I was here for every page to see how it was all going to play out.  Even though I knew it was coming, my eyes still widened with realization along with some of the characters. 

I am snagging the other Hepworth books I have on my shelves and upping them on my tbr - I absolutely love her writing style and can see why people rave about her books.  I also really enjoyed the narrator.  Props all around for this read - would definitely recomment.

★★★★


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review: The Three Mrs. Greys by Shelly Ellis

The Three Mrs. Greys
by Shelly Ellis

Thanks to Dafina Books and TLC Book Tours for this copy and stop on the book tour.


Publsiher: Dafina Books
Publish Date: March 30, 2021
Paperback
320 Pages
First in a Series
Genre: Domestic Thriller

One wealthy businessman, a trio of unsuspecting wives, and an explosive turn of events. In this scandalous, twist-filled new series from award-winning author Shelly Ellis, will too many secrets and one devastating bond unite three women--or destroy them?

Noelle. Diamond. Vanessa. Each woman believes she is Cyrus Grey's only wife--until he's nearly shot to death. Now, as he lies in a coma, the deceptions keep coming, unraveling everything they thought they knew...

Gorgeous model Noelle's marriage to Cyrus anchored her--though she couldn't understand why he wouldn't have a baby with her. They certainly had the money. But she's learning fast just how Cyrus became so rich--thanks to his fatally attractive business partner...

For Diamond, marrying Cyrus saved her from the streets--and being a pimp's punching bag. But her past makes her the police's prime suspect in Cyrus' shooting. She's determined to get to the truth--if she can she survive long enough to tell it...

Even with her beautiful house, three kids, and elegant lifestyle, Vanessa sensed something was wrong in her marriage. But she never expected this--or that taking a lover for comfort would change the game completely.

With danger closing in, Cyrus' life hanging in the balance, and collateral damage threatening to take them all down, how far will each woman go to be the real Mrs. Grey?

My Review:


Bigamy, lies and three wives - oh my! 

Voracious readers of the domestic thrillers that include multiple wives to the same damn man won't find anything new in this first-in-a-series but you'll have a damn good time!  For me, this is a compulsive popcorn thriller that was pure entertainment.  Noelle, Diamond and Vanessa - three very different women with only one thing in common - Cyrus.  I legit don't know what I would do if I ran to the hospital because I found out my husband was shot and then get there and find he has two other wives.  I certainly hope there's nothing that can be used as a weapon near me though.....

Of course the women talk, there's more to the story behind each of them and drama bubbles up page after page after page!  I am here for all of it.  I did feel that the "twist:reveal" left me underwhelmed.  I saw it coming but it was almost too simple - especially for the reasoning.  Just my opinion because if we were going to get all this build up, then I needed something better than... well, y'all are just going to have to read this if you want to know. πŸ˜‰  Come for the steamy scenes and fill yourself full of drama.

As a first-in-a-series, it lends well to getting the reader to know the main characters and put a base on a continuing storyline.  Despite some misses, I was thoroughly entertained and absolutely will need to see where this goes.  There's no rest for the wicked... or the reader who loves to read about them.

★★★


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: The Last One Home by Victoria Helen Stone

The Last One Home
by Victoria Helen Stone

Thanks so much to Lake Union Publishind for this review copy and for setting up my Instagram Live with the author!  We can a blast chatting back and forth.  If you missed it, it's saved under my Lives tab.


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: March 30, 2021
Paperback
302 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Domestic Suspense

A razor-sharp novel of suspense about the lies families tell—and those we choose to believe—by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Jane Doe.

Lauren Abrams wants nothing to do with her damaged mother, whose spurious testimony sent Lauren’s father to prison for murder years ago. After a serial killer’s confession to the crime restored justice, Lauren chose to live with her father and grandmother. Now an adult, Lauren has come home to the Sacramento family estate for good, her mother’s lies be damned…

It’s been decades since Donna made her cheating boyfriend pay, but she hasn’t forgotten the past. She knows her estranged daughter has made a terrible mistake by returning to the estate. There’s more to the story of the welcoming old homestead—and her childhood—than Lauren knows.

As Lauren settles in, she is haunted by the questions of what really happened with her father, what her mother might be hiding, and what secrets the family ranch holds. It’s getting so dark, Lauren may not be able to see the truth to save her life.

My Review:



I LIKED IT.

Normally when I read a book with a dual time line, I tend to prefer one storyline over the other one. I kept going back and forth between being really invested in Lauren, to being even more interested in Donna... and then a couple of scenes later, I'd be riveted to the other!

This is a slow burn of a domestic suspense/drama that really just fit into what I needed to read right now. If you've only read the author's Jane Doe's series so far, then don't expect this to be as fast paced and "thrilling". If you want to compare this to any of her other works, I'd say it has a bit of that False Step feel - a slow/moderate burn that may seem predictable but also may surprise you. I had an inkling on one part that turned correct and put a bit of a smirk on my face. Not gonna say why because spoilers.

Both Lauren and Donna could be shake worthy at times, but I did appreciate how it all came together at the end. This bow tie I didn't mind so much. As for Michael, I'd like to extend both my middle fingers out to him too. *wink*

★★★★