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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mini Audiobook Reviews

 I never could do audiobooks or podcasts... until this year.  And OMG, what a game changer!!  I decided to use my free month with Audible and have gone short story crazy. WHO AM I? (Before you @ me, I'm not going to pay for a subscription to Audible and am leaning towards Scribd & Libro.fm)

Found some of my favorite authors and listened to these goodies - check out my mini reviews below!


Sleep Tight Motel
by Lisa Unger
Narrated by Amy Landon

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publish Date: September 27, 2018
Audiobook
1 hr 36 minutes
Dark Corners Collection
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

A woman on the run finds refuge in a motel at the edge of the woods, with plenty of vacancies. Check in for the night with New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger.

Eve has a fake ID, a .38, and a violent lover receding in the rearview mirror. He’ll never find her at the isolated motel, and its kindly manager is happy to ease her fears. But if Eve is the only guest, whom does she keep hearing on the other side of the wall? Eve won’t get a good night’s rest until she finds out.

Lisa Unger’s The Sleep Tight Motel is part of Dark Corners, a collection of seven heart-stopping short stories by bestselling authors who give you so many new reasons to be afraid. Each story can be read in a single sitting. Or, if you have the nerve, you can listen all by yourself in the dark.

My Review:

I LOVE Lisa Unger - and this short story really does pack a punch.  Creepily delicious, you'll want a big spoonful.  I will say though that the narration felt robotic - it was like Siri or Alexa was reading this to me... which weirdly became oddly comforting as I got used to it.  However, it did make certain parts comedic and I couldn't help but giggle here and there.  Random hotels always gives me the creeps but if I found I was the ONLY tenant, I probably would skedaddle along... though I'm glad Eve didn't. 😈  

★★★

The Getaway by Greer Hendricks
& Sarah Pekkanen
Narrated by Emily Bauer


Publisher: Audible Original
Publish Date: April 30, 2020
Audiobook
2 hrs 24 minutes
Standalone
Genre: Thriller

A weekend at the Lakewood Retreat is exactly what Chloe Powell needs. Freshly unemployed after her boss loses a reelection campaign, the former press secretary desperately wants a break from the bustle of Washington DC. A flier posted at her yoga studio leads her to the getaway, which looks amazing: organic meals, celebrity testimonials, and a serene private property within driving distance of the city.

It's so perfect, in fact, that Chloe's barely bothered by the intensely personal questions she's asked in her application, or the unnerving social experiments her enigmatic host, Sebastian, imposes on her once she arrives at his remote cabin. But when a mysterious new guest shows up, Chloe can no longer suppress her rising panic: This place is not at all what it seems.

A pulse-pounding story from the first minute to the last, The Getaway explores the weight of the small choices we make every day, and their staggering, unintended consequences.

My Review:

I'm a fan of these authors and couldn't help but listen to this and my expectations were met wholeheartedly!  A weekend getaway, but the first to arrive... an odd host who started out by pretending to be her Uber driver.  I mean, that's normal.. right?  The pacing ramps up fairly quickly and I found myself rooting for Chloe... while trying to figure out exactly what was happening with the arrival of this new guest. Hmmm... hit that panic button and good luck getting... away. 😉

★★★★

Sweet Virginia
by Caroline Kepnes
Narrated by Kristen Bell

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publish Date: September 1, 2020
Audiobook
1 hr 24 minutes
Out of Line Collection
Genres: Short Story, Contemporary

What’s a woman to do when she fails to live up to feminine ideals? It depends on what she’s willing to give up in this darkly comic short story by Caroline Kepnes, the bestselling author of You.

Shelby is struggling with parenthood, marriage, a passive-aggressive mother, and unemployment. But she also has a sweet escape in her beloved Hallmark movies. When a secret admirer promises to sweep her away into a world of those same romantic tropes, the temptation is so heady, Shelby can already smell the pumpkin spice. But this rom-com dream has a whiff of conspiracy…

Caroline Kepnes’s Sweet Virginia is part of Out of Line, an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.

My Review:

Regardless of hit or misses, I can't help but read Kepnes. This is such an odd but FUN story.  I was instantly riveted and omg, I so related to Shelby and would obviously be a W2 🤣 with a one way ticket to Winter's Bottom.  Some people just don't know how to be a complete woman but you'll get a chance to learn....  and that ending. W..T..F... I'm not sure how I feel about this "open to interpretation" ending but I absolutely loved listening to this one. Kristen Bell was absolutely fantastic as the narrator.

★★★★

Last Breath
by Karin Slaughter
Narrated by Kathleen Early


Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publish Date: July 11, 2017
Audiobook
4 hrs 1 minute
Series: The Good Daughter #0.5
Genres: Thriller, Novella

Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home—and after that shocking night, Charlie’s world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honor-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?

My Review:

Ahhhhh... I loved The Good Daughter so when I saw this as the prequel, I just HAD to. It's been a while since I've been Slaughtered and I relished every single minute of this.  The narrator is excellent and I enjoyed the storyline fully. I don't usually do the "0.5" novellas/short stories that authors do sometimes in their series.  I don't even care that this was a bit of a cliff hanger.  Slaughter, as usual, is brilliant and you can't tell me otherwise. 😉

★★★★★

The Bone Farm
by Dean Koontz
Narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers & James Anderson Foster


Publisher: Audible Audio
Publish Date: April 26, 2018
Audiobook
2 hrs 1 minute
Series: Jane Hawk #0.5
Genres: Short Story, Thriller

An audio original novella featuring bestselling author Dean Koontz's compelling new heroine, Jane Hawk. From the case files of the former FBI agent before she became the nation's most wanted fugitive - The Bone Farm details a desperate man-hunt for a serial killer before he murders again.

Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the "Mother Hater." He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them.

Katherine is missing, but she's not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer's mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is - will they both get out alive?

My Review:

I do love me some Jane Hawk! And I couldn't pass up seeing her in action prior to becoming a wanted fugitive. And despite this being a part of the series, it can absolutely be read as a standlone.  I wish I couldn't learned a little more about her but the chase after the "Mother Hater" was fun to read... despite the terrible nickname for a serial killer.  If he writes it, I'll read it!

★★★




Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck 
by Mateo Askaripour
Narrated by Zeno Robinson

Thanks to libro.fm & HMH Audio for the ALC and NetGalley
& Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: January 5, 2021
Audiobook: 11 hours 12 minutes
400 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

My Review:


“My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight...”

Welcome to Darren's world.  A young man working at Starbucks who convinced a guy to change his drink, which in turn changed Darren's life.  This satire is part memoir (of the fictional character), part self-help, part madness.  Darren enters into the start up company, Sumwun, and learns to be the sales man of all sales men.  As the only Black man within the company, he not only gets hazed the most, but he's also used to help Sumwun get out of some trouble when things go awry.  The book touches on racism, the start up/corporate toxic culture, ambition and how money and power can inexplicably change a person.

“And it’s the potential for failure, more than failure itself, that stops so many people from beginning anything. Back then, I was no different.”

I was rooting for Darren until he turned into a pompous ass.  Then I rooted for him again when he decides to use his skills to help other minorities get the chance that he was given and in which he has excelled (but at what cost). And then I was mad again and how he treated them.  But I also cringed at the way Darren was treated and applauded when he proved himself over and over.

I did feel myself losing interest toward the last end of the novel and was happy I decided to listen to this after hearing how amazing the narrator is and Zeno Robinson KILLS it.  I also think that maybe satirical reads aren't really my thing, but I do appreciate how well Askaripour brings Darren to life. 

"Every day is deals day, baby."

★★★


Thursday, January 28, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

 And Now She's Gone 
by Rachel Howzell Hall




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

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

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

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


My Review:


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

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

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

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

Read this book.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Alright, so I'm just kicking myself for not picking this up sooner. As the January #BuddyReadsToDieFor selection it was the perfect opportunity to prioritize this book, and let me tell you, make sure you clear out some time when you start because you won't want to stop. AND NOW SHE'S GONE is my introduction to Rachel Howzell Hall and now I need more of her books in my life.

This review is going to have to be short and sweet so I don't accidentally give away any important details and spoil the fun. The writing, the short chapters, the suspense, the mystery, the characters, dialog, and those last 100 pages. I just loved it all. Grayson is a character you'll fall in love with and does she have quite the case on her hands. How can someone just disappear like this? Not only does Grayson have this to deal with, but she's constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure a man from her past isn't following her. So many moving parts to this and I think Hall did a great job bringing it all together.

That ending. It was a crazy ride and I think this was just the perfect cat and mouse thriller. If any of this intrigues you even a little bit, please do yourself a favor and pick up this book. You're in for a thrilling ride and now I'll be anxiously waiting for the next thriller from Hall!

5 stars


Review: Open House by Katie Sise

Open House 
by Katie Sise

Thank you Thriller Book Lover for this review copy.


Publisher: Little A
Publish Date: December 1, 2020
Hardcover
288 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

A missing young woman, ten years gone. A town still held in the grip of an unsolved mystery. A breathtaking novel of psychological suspense by the bestselling author of We Were Mothers.

A decade ago in upstate New York, art student Emma McCullough walked into the woods and was never seen again. It’s a mystery that still haunts her bucolic university town and her broken family, especially her sister, Haley, whose need for closure has become an obsession. But now, finally, the first piece of evidence in the vanishing has been found: Emma’s bracelet, lodged in a frozen piece of earth at the bottom of a gorge. For Emma’s three best college friends, for a beloved former teacher, and for Haley, the chilling trinket is more than a clue in a resurrected cold case. It’s a trigger.

Then a woman is attacked during an open house, and the connections between the two crimes, ten winters apart, begin to surface. So do the secrets that run as deep and dark as the currents in this quiet river town.

My Review:


You all have probably been wondering what's happening with me this month as I've mostly read genres OTHER than thrillers but here I am y'all!! 👋 This is my second by this author, the first being We Were Mothers, and I have basically the same feelings.

In a nutshell, if you like thrillers on the lighter side with dual timelines and more than one POV, this is the book for you!  The plot does move at a quick pace and it's an easy one-sit binge read. A lot of coincidences happening here, (for me) very predictable and a storyline you're used to if you read a lot of thrillers.  Now, I've said this before and I still stand by it - even if a story is predictable, it can still be very enjoyable and this is definitely an entertaining read.  And there was *one* part that I didn't quite see coming.  However, by that point I was just, "ah.. yeah, ok".  It's fun to hate on some of these characters.  The drama is real y'all... and that's what makes it so fun.

I don't know, friends.  I have no real feelings one way or the other so am putting this one in the middle. 🤷 I'm not mad I read it but I'll likely forget about it now that I'm done.

★★★


Monday, January 25, 2021

Review: Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton

Revenge of the Sluts
by Natalie Walton

Thank you Wattpad Books and Smith Publicity for this copy and stop on the blog tour.


Publisher: Wattpad Books
Publish Date: February 2, 2021
Paperback
328 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Double standards are about to get singled out.

In this stunning debut, author Natalie Walton tackles privacy and relationships in the digital age.

As a lead reporter for The Warrior Weekly, Eden has covered her fair share of stories at St. Joseph's High School. And when intimate pictures of seven female students are anonymously emailed to the entire school, Eden is determined to get to the bottom of it.

In tracking down leads, Eden is shocked to discover not everyone agrees the students are victims. Some people feel the girls "brought it on themselves." Even worse, the school’s administration seems more concerned about protecting its reputation than its students.

With the anonymous sender threatening more emails, Eden finds an unlikely ally: the seven young women themselves. Banding together to find the perpetrator, the tables are about to be turned. The Slut Squad is fighting back! 

My Review:


Man, I am so glad I was an adult and out of college before cell phones and social media became such a powerful thing.  Nowadays, there's cyber bullying, nudes everywhere and quick judgment from keyboard warriors/trolls.  Now imagine you're a teenage girl, in high school and all of the sudden the nudes you sent privately to your boyfriend are now included in an email with six other girls.  It's already hard enough trying to get through high school unscathed but this absolutely crosses a line.  (Anyone, if you absolutely feel the urge to send a nude photo, it is absolutely your right, but do yourself a favor and don't include your face or any distinguishing marks if you can help it.)

I feel like I didn't *quite* get what I expected to based on the title and synopsis.  It's an important subject matter to talk about.  The double standard and what is ok and not ok depending on your assigned gender.  WHY?  I don't think it's something that'll go away anytime soon.  This is an easy read in terms of the writing is good and I enjoyed having this in a relatable story... and one that's necessary to put out there.  However, I was a bit disappointed with the reveal for several reasons but I won't spoil this for anyone.  For me, I felt it kinda stripped back what I*thought* the intention was.  

Sexuality does need to be discussed more and society's view of how people should act based on whatever factor is annoying and hurtful so I appreciate this book tackling such an important topic.

★★★☆


Friday, January 22, 2021

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Scrappy Little Nobody 
by Anna Kendrick

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: August 22, 2017 (first published November 15, 2016)
Paperback
304 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir

The New York Times bestselling collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

My Review:


I picked up this book in an airport once a few years ago and then promptly put it in my bag and then on my shelf, and never thought of it again.  Oops.  When I noticed she narrated her audiobook, I decided it was time - and what could be better than listening to an author narrate her own memoir?  Especially one as funny as Anna?

Well....... honestly, this wasn't my favorite.  It was fun to learn about her life and while a lot of it was relatable in the social anxiety and inner thought monologues, I did find her a bit whiny.  I appreciate sarcastic humor and she has this in full... but over six hours of it.. it's a bit much.  It's like having a friend who keeps talking and just won't stop... which isn't always a bad thing but here I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit.  You know that one episode in Big Bang Theory where Raj and Howard go to the goth bar and that one girl ends everything she says with, "Not that anybody cares..."  Kinda like that.

Contrary to what I'm saying, I actually really like Kendrick - her interviews are always fun, she's insanely talented and she seems like the kinda girl I'd go out and have drinks with.  I didn't like her in Twilight but to be fair, I didn't like anyone in that movie... except for Cam Gigandet .. that baseball scene where he's floating/walking through the field... MEOW.  But back to Anna - I love the Pitch Perfect movies and I feel like her role in there seemed very similar to how she may actually be in real life.  But what do I know?

Overall this was a fun listen and I'd love to be Anna's friend.. but in scrappy little doses.

★★★

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: Black Canary by Alexandra Monir

Black Canary: Breaking Silence
by Alexandra Monir

Thanks so much to Random House for this copy!

Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: December 29, 2020
Hardcover
384 Pages
Series: DC Icons #5
Genres: Young Adult, Superheroes, Fantasy

THE HANDMAID’S TALE meets the DC universe in this breathtaking, thrilling origin story of Black Canary. Her voice is her weapon, and in a near future world where women have no rights, she won’t hesitate to use everything she has to fight back.

Dinah Lance was seven years old when she overheard the impossible: the sound of a girl singing. It was something she was never meant to hear—not in her lifetime, and not in Gotham City, taken over by the Court of Owls. The sinister organization rules Gotham as a patriarchal dictatorship, all the while spreading their influence like a virus across the globe.

Now seventeen, Dinah can’t forget that haunting sound, and she’s beginning to discover that her own voice is just as powerful. But singing is forbidden—a one-way stop to a certain death sentence. Can she balance her father’s desire to keep her safe, a blossoming romance with mysterious new student Oliver Queen, and her own desire to help other women and girls rise up and finally be heard? And will her voice be powerful enough to destroy the Court of Owls once and for all?

My Review:


"The Handmaid's Tale meets the DC universe..." SOLD! To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of The Handmaid's Tale (or the sequel... zzzz) but to revamp it into the DC world? My curiosity got the best of me.  Now, I'm not tooooooo familiar with the DC world outside of what I know from movies and very little research when I would want to deep dive every once in a while (which wasn't very deep tbh) but it was fun to recognize some of the names from this universe and to learn about Black Canary (who I really had zero familiarity with).

Gotham is now ruled by the Court of Owls and they have killed all superheroes in their sleep.  Women have little to no rights and marginalized communities are in hiding.  Now, I read somewhere that the author brings inspiration from her Iranian background w/re to the Iranian Revolution (also called Islamic Revolution) into this story, which is very interesting.  But back to Dinah, our Black Canary...

The story starts off fairly slow and ramps up towards the final quarter.. and while I found some things didn't *quite* make sense, who doesn't love women empowerment and having their voices heard?  But don't forget this is also a YA novel so hello insta love... lots of looks and thoughts and well... you get the gist.  And this felt familiar within that genre but with DC characters (which I am A-OK with).

I may not be quite the right audience but I wanted to dive into this world and see what Monir was bringing to the table with this origin story.  I did enjoy it but I do think I may need to learn more about this world to appreciate it a bit more.  Entertaining? Yes. I loved the message within and if you like your YA with a superhero? Here's your book.

★★★



Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: Bad Girls by Gemma Rogers

 

Bad Girls
by Gemma Rogers

No Body. No Crime. No Time.

Can you ever escape your past?

Fresh out of prison, Jess Strickland has just six months’ probation to serve until she's free to get on with the life, she left behind 4 years ago.

With few options available, Jess takes a job at Bright’s’, an industrial laundry company alongside other ex-cons, all eager to keep their noses clean.

Here she finds an ally in Karla but soon learns her new boss Terry, is not all he seems.

Realising she’s no safer on the outside Jess refuses to be a victim any longer.

How far will she go to avoid going back to prison?

AMAZON


Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker was her debut novel and marked the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.

NEWSLETTER | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER |  INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB

My Review:


It's not easy coming back into the world after 4 years in jail for killing your best friend's boyfriend, being sanctioned to a laundry facility for the duration of her probation. But it's better than still being inside... isn't it?  It would be if the boss wasn't taking advantage of her (and the rest of the girls) predicament.

This is a solid thriller that I found on the light side despite the subject matter.  I never really felt invested in the characters but was still curious how they were going to navigate what happens very early on.  This kind of reminded me of a Lifetime movie (no shade, I LOVE Lifetime movies).  Some things didn't quite make sense but then Bright's full of ex-cons who don't make the best decisions.  There are a few twists and turns which you'll likely figure out as you go along, but there was one scene between Jess and Karla that did touch my heart.  Dammit.

I do like the author's writing style - she keeps you engaged and it's a fast read that will surely keep you entertained. If you like life after prison stories laced with blood and blackmail, add this to your TBR.

★★★


Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for this copy and stop on the blog tour.



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: The Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton

The Lady Upstairs 
by Halley Sutton

Thanks to the author & G.P. Putnam's Sons for these copies.


Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: November 17, 2020
Paperback
320 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men...then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo's job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles--handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she's making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it's also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting--bringing down a rising political star. It's her biggest con yet--and she will do it behind the Lady's back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge. 

My Review:


A group of women "living to take down terrible men".  Sold! As expected, we get a read about sex, blackmail and revenge.  Jo is our flawed protagonist who loves her job but is desperate for the money as she has pressing debts to pay off.  Plus, it keeps her close to Lou, who she clearly is in love with and is hoping to run off into the sunset with her at some point.  But first, she needs to get herself sorted and this is no easy task.

While I love the premise of this and felt it started strong, the middle lulled as we get further into Jo's gin-soaked brain.  So many mistakes being made... GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, JO!  Then it gets interesting again as the last quarter moves right along.  The twist was expected but I wasn't sure if it was going to go *this* way or *that* way and then.... well, I don't know about you other readers, but WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU MA'AM. Though, admittedly, I could've done without the last chapter.

A very solid and promising debut from Sutton.  I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for her as I have no doubt she's making her mark in this genre.

★★★


Jessica's Review:


There’s just something about this year and the stunning covers and impressive debut novels. THE LADY UPSTAIRS by Halley Sutton is one hell of a cat-and-mouse suspense/thriller with an ending I absolutely loved. If you’re looking for something you can sit down with and quickly flip through, then this one (at just over 300 pages) is perfect.

I think the synopsis gives you the right amount of information – Jo’s job is blackmail. She’s out to take down all the awful men surrounding Los Angeles, from the corrupt police officers, to the actors, and all the way up to the horrible and grabby producers. When one of her clients is murdered, that puts her, her colleague Lou, and their boss, the Lady Upstairs, in a bad spot.

This is just a great revenge story – hell hath no fury and all. I will say that this might feel like more of a suspense than a thriller due to the pacing towards the beginning. However, once things pick up then it doesn’t slow down until the twist! I can’t wait to see what else Sutton has in store for us and I will be anxiously waiting for the next release.

4 stars


Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights 
by Matthew McConaughey,
narrated by himself

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: October 20, 2020
Audiobook
6 hours 42 minutes
Standalone
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir, Inspirational

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges—how to get relative with the inevitable—you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights—and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck. 

My Review:

I bought this book and watched McConaughey's interview with Dwayne Johnson on his virtual book tour.  Everyone asked if I would be listening to the audiobook because "OMG, he's narrating it himself!"  I typically am not an audiobook person but recently popped that cherry and then, of course, immediately downloaded this. And I'm SO glad that I did.  Listening to him tell stories from his childhood, how his career started, his family - past, present and combined, knowing how lucky and easy some things were for him and embarking on discovery trips to find himself... well, it's everything you would've expected from this actor who moves to the beat of his own very unique drum.

Now, if you've watched and/or listened to any of the interviews McConaughey has done throughout his career, then you're used to the stories he tells and how well he tells them, in his trademark lilt and fire.  So you also know that at times it seems almost preachy.  Not gonna lie, in certain moments, I felt like I was going to become Rachel Green, after reading an inspirational book with Monica and Phoebe, yelling at Ross, "How am I supposed to GROW, if you won't let me BLOW?" ...... Mostly I felt like I was sitting in a smoky bar, smoking cigarette after cigarette and ordering whiskey after whiskey while he trapped me with his stories.  I was happily stuck.

I may have to listen to this one again at some point.  Not just because of that gorgeous voice with that cadence we all recognize immediately and swoon over, though that is a bonus, but because despite my semi-joke about wind blowing moments, there is a lot of wisdom in these words and I love this outlook on life.  It's not a typical memoir and I enjoyed the entire format. 

Cheers to the actor/author/father who chased his dreams, even the wet ones.

"It's tiime to get relative."

★★★★


Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert (narrated by Blair Brown)


Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: June 4, 2019
Audiobook
15 hrs 8 mins
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction

"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are."

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review:


My very first full length audiobook and lemme tell y'all, Blair Brown is EXCELLENT at narrating Vivian's story.  I went into this side eyed, cheeks sucked in and wary about listening to a book for 15+ hours but listened to this one in a few sections, the majority of it yesterday, while doing gem art and it was glorious. GLORIOUS, I tell you!

I cannot believe just how invested I became in this story.  Vivian is a hell of a woman and while I can't relate to living with show girls, I can relate to moving to New York wide eyed, letting the city devour me while I devoured it.  With Vivian we get this enthralling story set in NYC during the 1940s and on.  From learning about how she lost her virginity (and boy was that a hoot!), to finding her framily, learning the hard lessons, the war, casual sex, an unconventional love... I mean, honestly, it's all here.  I even forgot at one point why Vivian was telling us her story to begin with... but I sure am glad that she did.

Gilbert shows just how human all these characters are with all their faults and fabulousness.  She doesn't hold back in giving us the pure joy of Vivian getting caught up in this very interesting world... but she also gives us the gritty, dangerous side and just how *lucky* Vivian could get at times.  Vivian wasn't your typical woman growing up in this generation.  Trying to transverse being an honorable woman to living her life the way she wanted to... well, when we gets towards the end where my heart nearly burst... well, you're just gonna have to get this story yourself.  It's worth it. 

★★★★★



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. 😉

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