Social Media Icons

Sunday, January 17, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: The Perfect Guest by Emma Rous

The Perfect Guests 
by Emma Rous


Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: January 12, 2021
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.


My Review:

Would you take a paying gig where you had to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party? I mean, if the money's right... I probably, most definitely, would.  But man, they'd be mad.. I'm a TERRIBLE actress.  Sadie, is stoked for this job as she really needs the money.. and who would say no to going to Raven Hall?

Ok, so I'm a bit torn with this one.  Rous gives us amazing atmosphere, like she did with her debut, The Au Pair, that I read back in 2018.  Which I loved, though I had a couple issues with that one that I'm finding again in The Perfect Guests.  For it's moderate pacing, it does tend to run a little slower towards the end as there are quite a few characters to sort, not a ton, but enough that overlapped that I, at one point, closed one eye in concentration trying to remember who was who to whom and what the what. Got me? PHEW.  I also didn't find the reveals all that surprising or jaw dropping.  HOWEVER, I do loooove how Rous brings us these crazy people, in these big mansions and gives us this closeted feel that kept me on edge to WANT to know what was going to happen... even if I already had an inkling.

I also think I wanted to get more of the weekend of those who went to Raven Hall and their acting... I don't think I ever got a sense of what that actually *could* have been because it all blew up shortly after dinner the first night.  Don't think I didn't catch the irony of that and a statement one of the characters made in how they should learn more in the morning because what fun would it be to solve it all before breakfast. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This is a fun and fairly fast read if you want a little crazy, dual timelines and a lot of *whothefuckareyou. It may have been missing that little bit of oomph I needed to really love this one, but I'm happy I read it and I will, again, be looking out for this author's next release.

★★★

Jessica's Review:


What I loved about THE AU PAIR, the debut from Emma Rous, was the overall atmosphere, the pacing was great, and there didn't seem to be any kind of filled or lull. Rous brings us something unique and just as fun to read in her second book THE PERFECT GUESTS. I don't know about you other readers that frequent the thriller and suspense genres, but it was so refreshing to have a new story that is set outside of the typical suburban neighborhood. 

Raven Hall is a beautiful and sprawling manor, even after all the renovations needed after the fire decades ago. So when Sadie, a struggling actress, is offered a job at Raven Hall she accepts. Being hired to be a guest at a weekend party at the estate seems like a nice gig, right? Well, nothing is ever as it seems and Sadie is learning quickly there could be sinister consequences to this party. We also get to meet Beth, in 1988, she's a young girl staying with the family at Raven Hall. She truly feels like she belongs and becomes fast friends with the daughter her age - so what happened to her?

We get multiple points of view, dual timelines, and plenty to keep you guessing and asking questions as the puzzle comes together. I loved trying to piece together how their timelines would or might intertwine. I wasn't completely shocked by the twists but this was 100% a binge read as I had gone through the first half without even realizing it. If you're a fan of her first book, THE AU PAIR, then I highly recommend picking this one up!

3.5 stars 

Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue 
by Kristin Cashore

Thanks so much to Penguin Teen for this copy.


Publisher: Penguin Teen
First published May 1, 2012
Paperback
539 Pages
Series: Graceling Realm #3
Genre: Fantasy

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .

My Review:

What can I say? I'm just having the best time with these books.  Although I'm a day late to meeting #TheGracelingReadalong deadline of the 16th, better late than DNF. ๐Ÿ˜‰ To be honest, Bitterblue was such a blip to me in Graceling that I wasn't sure what to expect with this one.  And maybe that's why I may have enjoyed this one the best... so far... I think....

King Leck has changed the history of Monsea to suit his needs but Bitterblue is determined to figure out what has happened to her country and herself.  Thankfully, there is a graceling who can remember every book he's read and is rewriting them, one letter at a time.  These pages are important and Bitterblue wants to try and go back to old traditions.  Not an easy task as you can imagine.  Although I do feel there was a whole lot of extra going on this books (subplots, characters, etc...) I did really enjoy learning abou ciphers/puzzles.  These kinds of things always keeps my attention.  And it was nice to see Katsa and Po again. ❤ But there may have been just a little *too* much going on and I'm not sure if certain characters that were just briefly thrown in will show up perhaps in Winterkeep? Surely they're not just thrown in to be thrown and then we never see them again.  Though I suppose that IS the way of life sometimes.  In any manner, there's a ton happening within Bitterblue's story and while it could seem long winded at times, I really did thoroughly enjoy getting her POV. 

___> also, maybe Saf should've been named BitterSaf because wow dude... just get over it already. *tee hee*

Can we also please talk about how cute it was to get a list of characters in the back written by one of the characters? And I especially loved reading the extra portion in the back where the author shows us the process of this book being written. It's mind blowing what goes into writing a novel and it's incredibly impressive to me how it all comes together. Now on to Winterkeep, which just released as Mariah Carey's song Fantasy just popped into my head. ๐Ÿคฃ

★★★★



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: Simmer Down by Sarah Smith

Simmer Down 
by Sarah Smith

Thank you to Booksparks for this copy and my part in the #WRC2021 campaign!

Read my review for her debut novel, Faker, HERE.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: October 13, 2020
Paperback
320 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance

In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.

Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.

But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next to her coveted beach parking spot. He’s stealing her customers and fanning the flames of a public feud that makes her see sparks.

The solution? Let the upcoming Maui Food Festival decide their fate. Winner keeps the spot. Loser pounds sand. But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts to see a different side of Callum…a sweet, protective side. Is she brave enough to call a truce? Or will trusting Callum with her heart mean jumping from the frying pan into the fire?

My Review:


My second novel by this author and omg, I am now having a full on craving session for some lumpia and pancit! (Not to mention the hot, naked British bloke.... ๐Ÿ˜) Smith once again brings us very likable and relatable characters... also, this is mostly set in Hawaii so... food trucks, lush surroundings, beaches, a trip to London - I mean, can I please live in this book already?

Like with most novels in this genre, we already know how this will all play out. Sometimes you just need that lighter novel that will do exactly what you expect it to.  The sex scenes are steamy, the banter between Nikki and Callum is fun and right now I just imagine myself staring at him on the nude beach while dipping my lumpia into some sauce.  Which sounded say weirder than I meant it to.,,.. Ahem.

I had a lot of fun with this read.  The last part where there was constant drama with the LACK OF COMMUNICATION .. I mean, seriously people.. just freakin' TALK already!... got a little tiresome... but didn't take away from my enjoyment of this story.  And can we please give a special nod to Nikki's mother - besides Lemon, she's the star of this show. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

A delightful and fun read where you get exactly what you expect.  Perfect vacation read or something to lighten your mood.  Have fun, readers.  

★★★☆


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review: The Only Living Girl on Earth by Charles Yu

The Only Living Girl on Earth 
by Charles Yu

Thanks to Scribd for this copy!


Publisher: Scribd, Inc.
Publish Date: January 8, 2021
Audiobook
Ebook: 43 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction

From the genre-defying, critically beloved author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Interior Chinatown and one of the creative minds behind HBO’s Westworld comes a sweet and searing, unexpected and delightfully absurd vision of life on Earth a thousand years in the future.

Jane is the only person left on the planet, minding the only business left: a gift shop. She wasn’t born on Earth, but her ancestors were; they lived there before the AI in charge of geoengineering failed and the oceans got too hot to sustain the terrestrial food web and before humans took off to colonize other planets.

She’s heading to college on Jupiter in the fall of 3020, so her days on the home planet—selling “American Epoch” postcards, “History: The Poster!” and “War: The Soundtrack” to tourists from the suburbs of Europa—are numbered. But as the looping promotional ad for Earth details, in the planet’s more recent past there was an amusement park, a museum, and even a model American town to draw visitors: all shuttered now, abandoned. When a man and his son crash-land their rocket and need assistance, as well as some diversion, Jane learns that the other attractions on Earth are not so defunct after all and may have taken on a life of their own.

Told, fittingly, in interconnected fragments, The Only Living Girl on Earth captures a place where only fragments of its landscape remain. At once dead serious and playful, recognizable and as otherworldly and unsettling as Yu’s other sci-fi reinventions, it is a cautionary tale about all that we could lose—are losing—by failing to live sustainably and about what we hope to leave behind for future generations. It is also a love letter to what it means to be human, how connected we are to a place and one another, and how we must fight to preserve these gifts. In this, Yu expresses his unique brand of cosmic humanism, that even in the face of dire circumstances, when we feel the most estranged from who and what we are, there is still hope.

My Review:

My first audiobook y'all!!! And I'm still uncertain about narrators and having other voices in my head.. but let's discuss this peculiar and fragmented short story by Charles Yu.  It took me a minute to get into this as we are listening to promotional ads, Jane's voice and learning about what it's like in 3020 after humans have consumed the earth.  What are we actually leaving behind for our younger generations?  How are we living sustainably?  Real issues and a future that is all too realistic of what it could be.  College on Jupiter anyone?

I appreciate the story and the lesson learned within but I did feel it was a bit choppy and all over the place.  

★★★




Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

The Perfect Guests 
by Emma Rous

Thank you to Berkley for this copy and stop on the tour!


Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: January 12, 2021
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.

Photo Cred: Brian Rouse

Emma Rous is the USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair. She grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a small animal veterinarian for eighteen years before starting to write fiction. Emma lives near Cambridge in England with her husband and three sons, and she now writes full time.


My Review:

Would you take a paying gig where you had to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party? I mean, if the money's right... I probably, most definitely, would.  But man, they'd be mad.. I'm a TERRIBLE actress.  Sadie, is stoked for this job as she really needs the money.. and who would say no to going to Raven Hall?

Ok, so I'm a bit torn with this one.  Rous gives us amazing atmosphere, like she did with her debut, The Au Pair, that I read back in 2018.  Which I loved, though I had a couple issues with that one that I'm finding again in The Perfect Guests.  For it's moderate pacing, it does tend to run a little slower towards the end as there are quite a few characters to sort, not a ton, but enough that overlapped that I, at one point, closed one eye in concentration trying to remember who was who to whom and what the what. Got me? PHEW.  I also didn't find the reveals all that surprising or jaw dropping.  HOWEVER, I do loooove how Rous brings us these crazy people, in these big mansions and gives us this closeted feel that kept me on edge to WANT to know what was going to happen... even if I already had an inkling.

I also think I wanted to get more of the weekend of those who went to Raven Hall and their acting... I don't think I ever got a sense of what that actually *could* have been because it all blew up shortly after dinner the first night.  Don't think I didn't catch the irony of that and a statement one of the characters made in how they should learn more in the morning because what fun would it be to solve it all before breakfast. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This is a fun and fairly fast read if you want a little crazy, dual timelines and a lot of *whothefuckareyou. It may have been missing that little bit of oomph I needed to really love this one, but I'm happy I read it and I will, again, be looking out for this author's next release.

★★★


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okarafor

Remote Control 
by Nnedi Okarafor

Thank you Tordotcome for this gorgeous copy.


Publisher: Tordotcome
Publish Date: January 19, 2020
Hardcover
160 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction

"She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own."

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­--a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks--alone, except for her fox companion--searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion? 

My Review:


Come for this gorgeous cover.  Stay for this compelling and beautiful story.  This novella holds alot within its short pages. Okarafor truly brings Fatima/Sankofa to life.  While this is science fiction, it actually felt more like folklore.  Either way, I was here for every single word.

The adopted daughter of Death.  When she glows, you RUN for your life. As a seven year old, she was suffering another bout of malaria and spending time in her tree and making sky words.  Then one day the tree gives back.  But at what cost?  I was absolutely riveted to these pages.  I felt so much for Sankofa and Movenpick. 

I don't want to say too much but please grab yourself a copy and immerse yourself in this beautiful story of a young girl traveling across Africa, trying to find what was given and then lost.  Meet the cast of characters she encounters for they are plentiful and quite interesting.  Okarafor writes beautifully and I will need to read more of her.

★★★★★ 



Saturday, January 9, 2021

Review: The Blackening by Sean O'Connor

The Blackening 
by Seรกn O'Connor

Thanks to Night Worms for this copy and book party!


Publisher: Uafรกs Press
Publish Date: November 13, 2020
Paperback
210 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

My Review:

As a fan of nordic noir, police procedurals and horror I'm a HELL YES to The Blackening, which is a combo of all three.  Unfortunately, it didn't *quite* work for me.  

An Iceland setting, people disappearing and a monster! It's a short 210 pages and pretty easy to breeze through.  The issues I had are fairly small.  I read a ton of thrillers/police procedurals but typically not combined with a cosmic horror element so I don't want to judge harshly from what I'm used to in reading those (which is easier said than done sometimes).  So baring back any expectations, I tried to just enjoy it from an entertainment perspective. And you know what, the monster is my favorite character and I don't know what it means that I felt more in tune with it than any of the characters.  Honestly, I would have loved some character build of any of them.  And I'll never forget Ally's name because Ben said it ... all... the... time.  This may just be a personal preference - I side eye people who say people's names over and over in conversation.  It makes me think they're trying too hard to be human... but that's a whole other story so let's get back to this one.

Perhaps I would've liked this story if there was just a little more meat in the sandwich.  The concept, however familiar, is a fun one and one I think I would've liked better had we actually had seamless scenes.  Some parts felt a bit choppy or forced and while I am one to suspend all kinds of reality ALL the time with no issue, I had issues with these characters and denounce instalove in horror... or any book please. Haha - mostly joking there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overall, come for the cover, stay for the monster.  While this was a little bit of a miss for me, I did enjoy the atmosphere the author gave us. The Nordic scene is gorgeously perfect for crime and horror.

★★


Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire 
by Kristin Cashore

Thanks to Penguin Teen for this review copy! I'm enjoying this #GracelingReadAlong imensely!

Publisher: Dial Books
First Published October 5, 2009
Paperback
461 Pages
Series: Graceling Realm #2
Genre: Fantasy

She is the last of her kind... It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

My Review:


There's nothing like a little fantasy for a quick dip into another world and entertain you.  I am having so much fun with this series so far.  I'm gonna keep this nice and short - Fire is YA but certainly doesn't feel like it.  I LOVE the concept of all the monsters.  Gimme a monster kitty STAT! Also, my favorite character is Small. ๐ŸŽ

Fire is beyond mesmerizing, the last human monster.  And as such, is so alluring that the men can barely keep themselves from raping her. ๐Ÿ˜ But she does have a couple gentlemen suitors that are quite different from each other... with such attitude, I'm surprised at how much Fire put up with Archer... lifelong friend or not.  Also, I can't remember the last time there was so much talk about menstruation in a book.... but also most of these parts reminded me of that one scene in Pitch Black and well, not hating on it at all. 

So far with Gracaeling and now Fire, Cashore seems to like her main female leads to be very independent with no desire to be married, etc.  I wonder if this will be the same for the next two books and I'm excited to find out.  While I did find some inconsistencies within this read and found it a bit slower as there's less action than Graceling, Fire did hold a better visual read for me than Graceling did.  I"m not sure if this makes sense to anyone unless books play out like movies in your head too.  Overall I'm very intrigued with the Graceling Realm and looking forward to reading more.  

★★★★



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Be Dazzled
by Ryan La Sala

Thank you Sourcebooks Fire and Booksparks for this copy.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: January 5, 2021
Hardcover
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQIA+

Who's ready to sparkle??

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making--for creation. He's always chosen his art over everything--and everyone--else and is determined to make his mark at this year's biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There's only one small problem... Raffy's ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store--or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca's insecurities and Raffy's insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can't ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he'll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he's ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

My Review:

"Measure twice, cut once, give up never!"

We could use a levity right about now and Be Dazzled let me disassociate from the real world for a few hours and launched me into a world I wish existed for everyone in terms of acceptance and being one's true self. YA doesn't get enough credit for amazing reads, imo.  Contemporary YA is becoming one of my favorite genres to pick up.  And I would absolutely recommend this beauty!

Raffy and Luca are just the cutest.  I love the back and forth where we see how they started to where they are now.  ๐Ÿ˜‰ The author magically shows us insight into Raffy's crazy world where he hides his skills and accomplishments from his famous mother and also gives us Luca in a way that while we're not in his head, can feel his struggles.  Some of their banter really had me cracking up!

I've never really been into cosplay or Cons but I do occasionally like dressing up.... occasionally. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ And while I appreciate the processes of their craft build, I did find myself going a little glossy eyed.  It's not overdone though so you never feel out of the loop with too much detail while still getting a strong sense of just how much effort is put into these amazing looks we all see whether we attend an event or see photos.

With the events that happened yesterday at the Capitol, I find myself grateful for books like these that will keep me from letting my dark thoughts get pulled into a spiral.  I truly hope that one day we can live in a La Sala book.. "an epic, queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self."  Doesn't it sound delightful? ❤

★★★★




#ATBR2021 Review: Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

Wrong Alibi
by Christina Dodd

Publisher: HQN
Publish Date: December 29, 2020
Paperback
384 Pages
Series: Murder in Alaska #1
Genre: Thriller

Harlequin | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million

WRONG JOB

Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME

Evelyn’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on vengeance, intent on recovering her life, she bides her time, patiently searching for the man who took everything from her.

WRONG ALIBI

At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evelyn emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family…

My Review:


Hmmmm... I rarely read a book as soon as I get it.  I've read the synopsis (maybe) and then set it aside while I continually struggle (i.e.fail) to keep up with my TBR.  So when I finally get to a read, I rarely reread the synopsis.  If I have it, I clearly wanted to read it so.... I go in without knowing what I'm gonna find and I LOVE it. SURPRISE!  For SOME reason, after the first few chapters, I decided to flip the script and read the synopsis.  I really wish I hadn't because it basically tells you the entire story and you're pretty sure you know how it's going to end.  LE SIGH.

Now, it's true that sometimes it's about the journey but I wish the synopsis had been a bit more vague. I think it would've made my reading experience that more enjoyable.  HOWEVER, I really was addicted from the get go and was fully invested in Evie.  There's a lot going on in this read.  I appreciate the more plot-driven aspect of this... especially as a first-in-a-series.  And we get a bit of a fast forwarded look of Evie's past up to where the first chapter brings us... ish.  I know I'm not making much sense here but I hope you're picking up what I'm laying down.

Even when things seemed a bit wonky, I didn't care because I appreciated all the action and was rooting for Evie the entire way. She has been through the ringer and I applaud her coming out the other end. Maybe now that I know Evie, I can relax into the storyline at whatever pace it is for book two... because yes, I'm going to need to see what happens. And I'm especially curious because this doesn't leave a cliffhanger (thankfully) so there's curiosity about which direction Dodd will take us with these characters.  I liked meeting Zone but if I'm honest,  my favorite character is Jeen Lee. ❤

★★★☆

Jessica's Review:


The first in a new series from Christina Dodd! I've enjoyed her other books and was excited to see that I would actually be starting in the correct place for a series - you'd be amazed how often I just don't look ahead and then find myself in the middle of a series. Typically I luck out and end up reading one where they could be standalone books, but thankfully this is book one. WRONG ALIBI is the start of the Murder in Alaska series and I loved the setting. There's just something about thrillers set in these more rural and unforgiving landscapes that up the suspense for me. 

I liked the pacing, the characters were well-developed and I look forward to seeing where the author takes them throughout the series, but there was just something that didn't completely hook me in. I did finish it pretty quickly, but there was just something about it that dropped it down a little in my rating. I will definitely continue with the series and more of Dodd's other releases! I would highly recommend avoiding the synopsis if you can, or at least not refreshing yourself before starting because it gives us a little too much information, but I don't think it will completely ruin the reading experience. 

3 stars

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs 
by Rachel Hawkins

Thank you St. Martin's Press & Booksparks for this copy.


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 5, 2021
Hardcover
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Retelling

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

My Review:


A twist on Jane Eyre? Yeah, honestly means nothing to me because I've never read it nor have watched any adaptations. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ I know.... I know.... but I am who I am and have really enjoyed a lot of the modern day twists on these classics so really there's no FOMO and for that, I thank you authors who write these!

Hawkins gave us a very suspenseful read and triggered my ever growing need of an isolated huge house somewhere with lots of land and ghostly noises.  It would be my vacation home. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ The pacing is moderate and full of suspenseful moments that kept my interest from start to end.  While I never got any *A-HA* moments, I did close the book with a smile (a smirk?) on my face and was highly entertained throughout.

As someone who reads a ton of thrillers, I would put this on the more lighter suspense reads that I absolutely enjoy occasionally and this one happened to fit my mood today.  Even without knowing the classic this sharp take is based on, I easily figured out what was going on and wasn't surprised at any reveals. And I'm perfectly ok with that. I enjoyed the different perspectives and how who I rooted for would change periodically... considering they all seem terrible. *ha*

If you read a ton of thrillers but are looking for something lighter to pick up, definitely add this to your arsenal.  If you're new to the genre, this is a great place to get your domestic suspenseful needs fulfilled.

★★★★


Monday, January 4, 2021

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling 
by Kristin Cashore 

Huge thanks to PenguinTeen for these copies.  

Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: first published October 1, 2008
Paperback
512 Pages
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

My Review:

I have been missing this genre so when Penguin Teen decided to do the #GracelingReadAlong.... how could I say no?!  Real talk: I've had older copies of Graceling and Fire on my shelves for YEARS.  My cousin gifted me those copies because she really liked the first two books.  WHY did it take so long for me to finally get to them? Well, let's not discuss my laziness or propensity of pushing books aside when I shouldn't. *cough* 

Let's talk about the Graceling Realm.  I adore Katsa!  What a spunky young woman who doesn't want to get married, doesn't want kids and will be nobody's "dog"/controlled person.  But when she meets Po... who can not only actually fight against her physically, soon he affects her emotionally as well. SO NOW WHAT.  I mean, look....  this gives me what fantasy gives.. and that is a world build, where we have those special people who are gifted with Grace... running from being a damn good cook, to be a fighter no one can beat to even  having a bit of mind control.  A protagonist who goes against the grain.  A first love.  Fights, banter, the question of using gifts for good and/or evil.  

I admit that certain scenes felt very soap opera-ish to me.  It's probably just the mood I'm in and I say that with a lot of love.  I just always find it amusing when it gets so dramatic.  *I don't want to love him? But do I? OH my god, WHY? I will NOT answer to anyone.* Haha - listen, I know what to expect and I got it and for that I am happy.  I do think that the further I go into this series, the better I will like it.  And I'm definitely interested in seeing where this realm takes me. I'll be diving right into Fire.  Settling in and getting comfy as I continue this journey.

★★★



#ATBR2021 Review: Lie, Lie Again by Stacy Wise

Lie, Lie Again
by Stacy Wise




Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: January 1, 2021
Paperback
382 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

For three women with so much to hide, there’s no such thing as a little white lie…


All three women who live at 1054 Mockingbird Lane have secrets…and with a body at the bottom of their apartment building’s staircase, those secrets need to stay buried.

Sylvia Webb has a plan. And a potential Mr. Right. He’s sweet, simple, and dependably clueless about what she’s up to. The only thing unpredictable about him is his needy ex-girlfriend, who is this close to shattering Sylvia’s dreams. But Sylvia’s not going to let that happen.

Riki McFarlan has a good career and an amazing boyfriend who wants to settle down. If only she didn’t have feelings for her neighbor—who happens to be her close friend’s husband. With everything going so right, why is Riki flirting with something so wrong, so…dangerous?

Embry Taylor is as devoted to her children as she is to her husband, who’s a bartender by night, an aspiring actor by day. She is his biggest fan. But with his career not taking off and tensions high, even sweet Embry has something she’s desperate to keep hidden.

Lies, secrets, and revenge. For three neighbors with stakes so high, someone is headed for a downfall.


My Review:



OMG, this book was a bundle of fun.  Let me introduce you to Sylvia, a very smart and cunning woman who will do anything to achieve her dreams; Riki, a dreamer who is a good girl essentially but her daydreams just may get her into trouble she doesn't need; and Embry, the stunning wife of a gorgeous husband who is exhausted by her two beautiful children and a life that doesn't seem to be getting anywhere no matter how hard they try.  Enter draaaaaama. YAY.


For me, this was pure entertainment.  One thing was blaringly obvious and I wanted to throttle one of the women - WHY CAN'T YOU JUST SEE IT?!  But boy oh boy did I enjoy the lengths she went to... tee hee.  And I could relate to Riki in the fact that I prepare scenarios that are never going to happen in my head ALL the time.  Anddddd, just seeing what Riki went through as a teacher, I applaud even more the teachers of this world. BLESS YOU ALL.  And damn Embry, I can only dream of finding a husband like yours....

I don't know that I would really put this in the thriller category.  It felt more like.... apartment complex drama that just made all my voyeuristic dreams come true. That sounds weird but whatever.  Reading this was like watching the best episode of Desperate Housewives.  And even though things tied up a bit too neatly at the end... I really didn't care.  Pure, unaltered fun.  Thank you, Stacy, for this fun, fun ride.  

"If at first you don't succeed, Lie, Lie, Again..."

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Talk about an entertaining and fun little binge read! When starting this, know that it isn't really a psychological thriller like you may be anticipating, but more of a domestic suspense. The pacing was perfect, the short chapters are always my favorite, and talk about DRAMA! 

A body is found at the bottom of the stairs at 1054 Mockingbird Lane and three women in the apartment complex could have had a hand in what happened. We start with the discovery of the body and then work our way up to the events. We meet Riki, Sylvia, and Embry - three very different women that all live in the complex. All the lies, all the secrets, the manipulation, revenge, and just a whole lot of entertaining drama you just can't look away from. 

The author gave all three women such distinct voices and I loved getting to know them all. The lengths some of these women are willing to go to truly amazed me and I think Stacy Wise did a phenomenal job bringing them all to life. So if you need a fun read that you can fly through, then look no further!

4 stars 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Spotlight: American Traitor by Brad Taylor

American Traitor 
by Brad Taylor



Publisher: William Morrow

Publish Date: January 5, 2021
Hardcover

464 Pages

Series: Pike Logan #15


“Few authors write about espionage, terrorism, and clandestine hit squads as well as Taylor does.”Houston Press 


Pike Logan is on the desperate hunt for a man who is about to betray his country—and ignite a horrific new world war—in this pulse-pounding thriller from New York Times bestselling author and former special forces officer Brad Taylor


Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are enjoying a sunny vacation down under when they get disturbing news: their friend and colleague Clifford Delmonty is in serious trouble. While working as a contractor at an Australian F-35 facility, the former Taskforce member—callsign Dunkin—saw something he shouldn’t have, and now he’s on the run from Chinese agents. 


Pike and Jennifer soon discover that Dunkin’s attackers are a dangerous link to a much larger scheme that could launch a full-on conflict between China and Taiwan. In its quest for dominance, China is determined to reclaim Taiwan—a pivotal ally the United States has sworn to protect. Pike learns that the Chinese have a devious plan to bait the island nation into all-out war by destabilizing the government and manipulating an artificial intelligence defense system. 


As the threat reaches a boiling point, Pike alone realizes that what they’re seeing isn’t actually real. A soldier who has always been trained to fight and win, Pike must now track down and neutralize the missing man who holds the key. With the help of Jennifer, the Taskforce team, and a brave Taiwanese intelligence agent, he races to prevent a catastrophic conflict from consuming a whole region of the world.


TO PURCHASE CLICK HERE.




Brad Taylor, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.), is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, including eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, popularly known as Delta Force. Taylor retired in 2010 after serving more than two decades and participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as classified operations around the globe. His final military post was as Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel.

Brad has written thirteen New York Times bestsellers. When not writing, he serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats for various agencies. He lives in Charleston, SC with his wife and two daughters.