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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
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. 😉  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
302 Pages
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:


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*


Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Almond by Won-pyung Sohn #WhereWeReadAsianLit

by Won-pyung Sohn
Translated by: Joosun Lee

Publisher: HarperVia
Publish Date: May 5, 2020
272 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Translated Lit

This story is, in short, about a monster meeting another monster. 

One of the monsters is me.

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say "thank you," and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.

Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae. 

Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero. 

The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.

My Review:

Within the first couple of pages, I read: "Just standing there with blank eyes.  As always."  I was immediately hooked.  

Yunjae was born with a condition called Alexithmia where he has difficulty feeling emotions such as fear and anger.  He witnesses a tragedy that sets him in a new direction.  Soon he meets Gon.  These two couldn't be more different from each other.  Yunjae gets social cues so he knows how he should act or react.  Gon feels it all and would just like to NOT feel so much one day.  Together, they have an unlikely, but much needed, friendship.

While I always try to read different genres, I notice that I don't read a lot of translated books.  I think mostly because sometimes if it's not working for me I wonder if it's due to the translation or just the book itself.  Almond is just beautifully written and we get an amazing perspective of Yunjae and his emotionless voice.  I do think that the ending was a little too bow-tired for my particular taste.  But I absolutely love that while we may not get to see what the future will end up holding for either of these boys, we do see growth and the pull of some very unexpected emotions. And please, I can never stress it enough, read the author's notes.... and especially the translator's note as well for this one.

As the first pick for my #WhereWeReadAsianLit, I am so happy to see lots of great feedback. Thanks to everyone who joined!


Jessica's Review:

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when picking up ALMOND by Won-pyung Sohn but I was so pleasantly surprised by what story unfolded. Alexithymia is the inability to identify and describe emotions experienced by one’s self or others. One of our main characters, Yunjae is unable to feel or experience emotions like pain or anger.

I had never heard of Alexithymia, so it was really fascinating to see from this character’s perspective. It’s so hard to imagine not experiencing these types of emotions and feelings. So having Yunjae pair up with Gon was a friendship I didn’t know I needed to experience and see flourish.

The writing is beautiful and flows perfectly. The pace stays even and consistent to keep you pulling along – there are never any lulls in the story. I highly recommend reading the author’s note at the end because that just gave the story a lasting impact.

4 stars 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Review: Tell Me My Name by Amy Reed

Tell Me My Name
by Amy Reed

Thank you Penguin Teen/Dial Books and NetGalley for this review copy.

Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: March 9, 2021
Kindle Edition
Genre: Retellings, Young Adult, Contemporary

We Were Liars meets Speak in this haunting, mesmerizing psychological thriller--a gender-flipped YA Great Gatsby--that will linger long after the final line

On wealthy Commodore Island, Fern is watching and waiting--for summer, for college, for her childhood best friend to decide he loves her. Then Ivy Avila lands on the island like a falling star. When Ivy shines on her, Fern feels seen. When they're together, Fern has purpose. She glimpses the secrets Ivy hides behind her fame, her fortune, the lavish parties she throws at her great glass house, and understands that Ivy hurts in ways Fern can't fathom. And soon, it's clear Ivy wants someone Fern can help her get. But as the two pull closer, Fern's cozy life on Commodore unravels: drought descends, fires burn, and a reckless night spins out of control. Everything Fern thought she understood--about her home, herself, the boy she loved, about Ivy Avila--twists and bends into something new. And Fern won't emerge the same person she was.

An enthralling, mind-altering fever dream, Tell Me My Name is about the cost of being a girl in a world that takes so much, and the enormity of what is regained when we take it back. 

My Review:

Well... I never read or seen any of the adaptations of The Great Gatsby, of which this novel is a gender swap, near future kind of retelling.  I swiped one last time and I leave utterly confused.  What. The. Hell.

It's hard to put my thoughts together on this one.  It starts off innocent enough with Fern meeting Ivy  and basically so happy she has a friend who is important.  I felt for her.  I know what it's like to place yourself firmly in the shadow of someone else.  And then as I continue reading, swiping page after page, I felt like I was having an acid trip.  The writing is beautiful - lyrical and poetic in certain sections, and less so in others which kind of irked me and took me out of the flow.  But those moments where it truly flowed, I felt like I was feather weighted and looking down upon each scene. 

I did figure out the big twist.  You know when you have that moment that goes, "hmmmm... I bet _____ ..." and then it happens and you're just like... ok?  Yeah, it was like that.  BUT, I did appreciate the genius little clues that were given to get to that.  I'm unsure as to whether this actually follows The Great Gatsby or not, and per paragraph one, I clearly wouldn't know... but I wonder if maybe I would've appreciated this more had I been familiar.  While I did enjoy the majority of the writing, I just couldn't get into the story itself. 


Review: The Poet by Lisa Renee Jones

The Poet
by Lisa Renee Jones 

Thank you Entangled Amara for this copy.

Publisher: Entangled Amara
Publish Date: March 9, 2021
Mass Market Paperback
385 Pages
Series: Samantha Jazz #1

Some call him friend or boss.
Some call him husband or dad.
Some call him son, even a favorite son.

But the only title that matters to him is the one the media has given him: The Poet.

A name he earned from the written words he leaves behind after he kills that are as dark and mysterious as the reason he chooses his victims.

One word, two, three, a story in a poem, a secret that only Detective Samantha Jazz can solve. Because he’s writing this story for her.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

My Review:

I do love me a good serial killer who leaves a "calling card" and here we meet THE POET.  Leaving clues in his victim's mouths that only Detective Jazz can decipher... as he's doing this all for her.  But why? (I'm still not entirely sure.)

The short chapters kept this story moving but I never found myself fully invested.  The police procedural aspect of the read is well done.  I do think that the story could've been cut a bit.  And despite a couple plot holes, it's an entertaining read.  I always enjoy being in the killer's head.  It's just fascinating to get that POV. And Samantha is a fun character that I think will grow a lot through the series.  However, I do wish we got a bit more from the both of them.  The characters felt a bit two dimensional and I needed a bit more depth. As a first in a series book, this feels like it is laying the foundation and maybe the depth will come with subsequent installments.

My take away is that this is a bit of a slow paced procedural/mystery with a disturbing serial killer that I wanted more from.  If you like serial killers with poetic tendencies (*wink*), I think you would enjoy this read quite a bit.


Jessica's Review:

Thrillers that have short chapters just know how to suck me in. As someone that reads chapter to chapter - I don't even understand how someone can stop on a random page or even in the middle of one - it turns into that awful cycle of "this chapter is ONLY 4 pages, I can do another one quick". Then before I even realize it, I've finished the book. Well, THE POET by Lisa Renee Jones is one of those books. Short chapters, a serial killer, and a good police procedural is what you'll find here. I will say that it's good to note, despite the chapter lengths, this does have a slower building pace. More police procedural/mystery than a thriller.

If you love being in the killer's POV, then you'll really enjoy this book! Give me a sadistic killer with some gruesome crime scenes any day and I'll be anxious to see where things will end. Detective Samantha Jazz was fun to get to know and with this being the first in the series, I'm curious to see where the author will take her next. I'm not sure what it was, but there was just something missing for me. I just couldn't completely connect with the characters despite still being semi-invested in the story.

Overall, I'll definitely pick up the next in the series to see how things progress for Samantha. If you want a good police procedural, then I highly recommend picking up THE POET.

3 stars

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: January 24, 2017
400 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

My Review:

Based on the opening, I had a feeling where this book was probably going to go but I held on so tightly hoping for that NOT to be the case!  Y'all know I have a love for nature vs. nurture and here we get a home full of young girls who have committed some kind of crime.... which leads to some bullying type hierarchy within the group.  And then there's Mary.  Let's talk about Mary.

I have to start out by saying how ridiculously happy I was that Mary had adopted a fly and named the fly Herbert.  If y'all have been following me during this pandemic, you'll know that I adopted a pet fly and named it Freddie. 🤣 I'm tickled.  But this just gives a glimpse into Mary's personality.  As someone who tried to fly under the radar and would barely speak, if at all, she tried to bide her time... but still also strived to be someone better.  This rings even more true after she finds out that she's pregnant.  You are rooting for Mary the entire way.  Get that SAT! Read all the books! Expand your vocabulary. 👏👏👏

Throughout her journey, Jackson highlights how terrible the system is.  The women taking care of these girls are abusive.  The girls in the house are mean and abrasive.  The people who are supposed to come in and check on them never show up and the girls don't even know any better.  Mary's own mother is now well off but still only manages to come in twice a month for an hour to see her.. and this is still better than what the other girls receive from their families.  

The cover of this book make you think this is going to be horror... and it is in the horrific acts that happen within the pages.  The subtle but echoining pain through these complex characters where doing what's right becomes blurred in the actions they have to make to get there.  And is especially relevant on mental illness abuse within the system.  I did enjoy the different formats as we tranverse back into the trial and past interviews.  And while I appreciate the delicateness in how we get to the conclusion, I wanted just a *teeny* bit more teeth.  I have a couple other books by this author that I now cannot wait to jump into.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Review: The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah

The Light Through the Leaves
by Glendy Vanderah

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and Lake Union Publishing for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: April 1, 2021
464 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

Go on a powerful journey of forgiveness and healing with The Light through the Leaves, a transcendent novel of love, loss, and self-discovery by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars.

One unbearable mistake at the edge of the forest.

In a moment of crisis, Ellis Abbey leaves her daughter, Viola, unattended—for just a few minutes. But when she returns, Viola is gone. A breaking point in an already fractured marriage, Viola’s abduction causes Ellis to disappear as well—into grief, guilt, and addiction. Convinced she can only do more harm to her family, Ellis leaves her husband and young sons, burying her desperate ache for her children deeper with every step into the mountain wildernesses she treks alone.

In a remote area of Washington, a young girl named Raven keeps secrets inside, too. She must never speak to outsiders about how her mother makes miracles spring from the earth, or about her father, whose mysterious presence sometimes frightens her. Raven spends her days learning how to use her rare gifts—and more important, how to hide them. With each lesson comes a warning of what dangers lie in the world beyond her isolated haven. But despite her mother’s cautions, Raven finds herself longing for something more.

As Ellis and Raven each confront their powerful longings, their journeys will converge in unexpected and hopeful ways, pulled together by the forces of nature, love, and family. 

My Review:

Apparently Glendy Vanderah has become a new favorite author of mine!  I absolutely loved Where the Forest Meets the Stars and fell in love with her writing there and The Light Through the Leaves just seals the deal.  UFF, y'all - two very emotional reads in a row but damn.  What a beautiful novel.  Put me through the wringer of emotions. 

Part I had me already knowing this was going to be a heart tugger of a read, because I was already half feeling empathy towards Ellis, but then also getting so ANGRY at what was happening.  I can't imagine the pain, heartache and guilt that a mother would feel from leaving her baby daughter to get abducted.  So we watch her journey begin as she tries to heal and do what's best by her and her family, and it's a rocky road indeed.

Then Part II comes and here we have a very earth/spirit of a woman and her daughter, Raven, who quite honestly steals the show.  I fell in love with her instantly and couldn't flip the pages fast enough to see how this was all going to play out.  And so we go back and forth between their lives until .... well, you'll have to read this and find out.

I don't know why it took me so long to put some things together but I do remember my very physical response to it... you know, when you're half laying and reading and suddenly you bolt right up!  Vanderah, again, brings us a very naive and yet very mature Raven.  There was a teeeeeeensy part of me that tilted my head in bewilderment at times, but hell... she certainly had plenty of reason to grow up so fast.  But then we also still see the child within still peeking out.

Goodness gracious, I'm not really a "one with the earth" kinda gal, but I LIVED through Ellis and Raven and their seemingly very deep bond with mother nature.  This story touches on oh so very much.  Different people deal with grief, family, forgiveness and finding their place in the world in very different and unique ways.  But we also get hope and love and ties that last forever.  It *may* have been a little too neatly wrapped if this was any other kind of read for my particular taste, but I just can't give this anything less than all the bright beautiful stars in the sky.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

We Begin at the End
by Chris Whitaker

Thanks so much to Henry Holt and Co. for this free advanced reader's copy.

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
384 Pages
Genres: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary

There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

Chris Whitaker has written an extraordinary novel about people who deserve so much more than life serves them. At times devastating, with flashes of humor and hope throughout, it is ultimately an inspiring tale of how the human spirit prevails and how, in the end, love―in all its different guises―wins.

My Review:

"I'm the outlaw Duchess Day Radley."

Holy emotions, outlaw!  I thought I had no emotions left after a couple terrible days but I was wrong... I had plenty and WE BEGIN AT THE END just took them all.  Y'all, this is definitely in my top for this year.  My heart broke a little at the end of Part I, I was actively crying at the end of Part II... and Part III and Part IV.  I am spent... and it was all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing story.  This literary fiction, contemporary, coming-of-age mystery, beautifully written novel will stay with me for a LONG time.

My heart... oh my damn heart.  Duchess only has one thing she allows herself to love and that is her little brother, Robin.  She is an absolute spark of a girl who had to grow up way too fast.  Robin has such a strong bond with his sister but he just doesn't know what to make of her sometimes in how she acts and the words that come out of her mouth.  But at the end of the day, they absolutely love each other and you FEEL this pouring from the pages.  

Then there's Walk, the sheriff who tries to look out for them.  Hal, their grandfather, who is sickly and has secrets of his own... but handles himself, and the children with care.  I just want to hug every single one of these characters.  Not to mention Thomas Noble, who has such tenacity and oh so brave.  Dolly, the old woman who sees herself in Duchess.  And then our villains.... Darke, Milton, Vincent, Brandon.. I mean.... while they all play their roles, the author still brings such humanity from them.  Layers upon layers within every single character.  I appreciate that so much.

Listen, this can be a tough read at times but there are teeny moments of levity to help lighten this heavy load.  You'll go through the cycle of ups and downs with each character and it will leave you breathless.  It's been a while since I've gotten this worked up over a story.  I need to go check my eyes for leaks now and sew my heart back together.  Get this book.  Read it. Grab yourself some ice cream and a box of kleenex. Set aside some time because you're not going to want to put it down.  


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Review: The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose

The Perfect Marriage
by Jeneva Rose

Publisher: Bloodhound Books
AudioPub: Dreamscape Media, LLC
8 hrs 52 min
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Thriller

Sarah Morgan is a successful and powerful defense attorney in Washington D.C. As a named partner at her firm, life is going exactly how she planned.

The same cannot be said for her husband, Adam. He's a struggling writer who has had little success in his career and he tires of his and Sarah’s relationship as she is constantly working.

Out in the secluded woods, at the couple’s lake house, Adam engages in a passionate affair with Kelly Summers.

Then, one morning everything changes. Kelly is found brutally stabbed to death and now, Sarah must take on her hardest case yet, defending her own husband, a man accused of murdering his mistress.

'THE PERFECT MARRIAGE' is a juicy, twisty, and utterly addictive thriller that will keep you reading all night long.

My Review:

I have such a love for domestic thrillers.  You'd think I'd get tired of the husband accused of the mistress's murder... but nope.  Keep on bringing them to me! Here, Rose give us the POV of both the wife, Sarah, and her husband, Adam.  They have marital problems like most have... she's a highly respected and hard working criminal defense attorney and Adam is a published author trying to write his next great book and it just isn't coming as well as he would hope.  While Sarah is constantly working and neglecting Adam, he starts an affair with Kelly, Sarah's polar opposite.  And of course, Kelly ends up stabbed to death in Adam and Sarah's lake house.  Who murdered her?  Sarah decides to take Adam's case and try to prove her husband innocent.

This was a fun, quick listen that kept me entertained from beginning to end.  Quite frankly, I didn't like Sarah or Adam.  Sarah should NOT have taken her husband's case - I find this unethical but apparently it's not illegal and so here we are.  I'm going to keep my thoughts short.  What I loved about this was how fast paced it was.  Sarah is a character that I love to hate - I felt for her but also could never wrap my head around her and some of her decision making... though I understood her frustration with Adam because OMG....  Adam made a lot of stupid moves, should lay off the scotch and keep his dick in his pants. Hey Adam - YOUR KISSES ARE NOT COMFORT.  Haha - what can I say, I actually like when I need to yell at them.

I did think being in Adam's head could get a bit repetitive and what I thought were plot holes, did get filled(ish) in at that ending.... and that ending... phew.  I don't mind suspending some belief and you're gonna have to for this one.  I wasn't having it but I also was like I KNEW IT (for some of it anyways)! *insert evil laugh*  But you know what, I was entertained and was in an "I HAVE TO KNOW" mood and I love it when a book doesn't let me put it down.


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Spotlight: That Way Madness Lies

That Way Madness Lies

by: Dahlia Adler, Lily Anderson, Brittany Cavallaro, Patrice Caldwell, Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka, Amy Rose Capetta, Cory McCarthy, Joy McCullough, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Lindsay Smith, Kiersten White, Ibi Zoboi, Samantha Mabry, Mark Oshiro, Melissa Bashardoust, K. Ancrum

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: March 16, 2021
221 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Retellings, Short Stories, Anthologies

Fifteen acclaimed YA writers put their modern spin on William Shakespeare’s celebrated classics!

West Side Story. 10 Things I Hate About You. Kiss Me, Kate. Contemporary audiences have always craved reimaginings of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. Now, some of today’s best writers for teens take on the Bard in these 15 whip-smart and original retellings!


Editor Bio

Dahlia Adler (editor) is an editor of mathematics by day, a book blogger by night, and a Young Adult author at every spare moment in between. She is the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart and That Way Madness Lies, and the author of Cool for the Summer. She lives in New York with her family and an obscene number of books. 

Spotlight: LifeLines by Melissa Bernstein

by Melissa Bernstein

Publisher: Lifelines, LLC
Publish Date: March 16, 2021
637 Pages
Genre: Poetry
Purchase HERE

Join Melissa Bernstein, Co-Founder of the wildly successful toy company Melissa & Doug, on a journey to triumph over anxiety, depression, and despair―a story she hopes will help others find their path to meaning and inner peace. Now, more than ever, Melissa's message is needed by others, and her promise to all who journey with her is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Who would ever guess that Melissa Bernstein, happily-married mother of 6, creator of over 5,000 toys which have sold over a billion dollars, begins many days the same way far too many others do, wondering if she'll make it to tomorrow? Melissa shows us that when darkness descends, and it seems there's no escape, there actually is a way out, there actually is hope, and there actually is a path that can lead to meaning and purpose.

Melissa takes us on her path through depression, revealing how her "lifelines" transformed despair into a beacon of hope. Filled with prose, gorgeous photography, and many of Melissa's verses that express her struggles and breakthroughs, LifeLines is committed to helping others who are "stuck" develop a plan for themselves to survive and thrive.

A book of struggle and salvation, connection and community, LifeLines is a framework for people seeking to understand their emotional lives and to develop their own path to self-discovery and inner transformation. 

Melissa Bernstein, mother of six, married 30 years, and founder of toy company Melissa & Doug, has struggled with existential anxiety and depression throughout her life. Although her toys have touched millions of children, Melissa longs to connect with people in a more direct and personal way. She reveals her journey in LIFELINES, her first book, which she wrote to help others who are also suffering. Melissa’s mission is to help other seekers on their journey inward so they too can transform darkness into light. Join the LifeLines community at

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push
by Ashley Audrain
Narrated by Marin Ireland

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: January 5, 2021
8 hrs 38 min
Genres: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

My Review:

I wasn't *quite* sure what to expect going into this story.  I didn't read the synopsis and only caught snippets of other people's reviews and based on that, I knew I had to read this immediately.  I decided to start the audiobook this morning with coffee and well, I got sucked in and listened to it non-stop until it was over.  

I have always been fascinated with nature vs nurture and this story delves into this greatly.  Is Violet the way that she appears to be because Blythe wouldn't nurture her from the very beginning? Or was she just born this way? Detached and uncaring?  Extremely intelligent and unassuming to everyone but her own mother.  OR is Blythe just imagining everything, initially because of her post-partum depression, and her continued inability to bond with her daughter?  Seeing things the way she wants to, even in its most horrific form? The fine line between the two is brilliantly done by Audrain.  

Blythe is a very unrealiable narrator.  Being inside her head could be hard at times but it also felt VERY real.  Even when I was like, "WTF are you doing, woman?", I was also simultaneously going... "yep, I can totally see why she's thinking/doing this"... even when she turned on stalker mode.  I do kind of wish we got a bit more creepy kid (listen, I am who I am....), but I see this as less of a story about that and more of a character study of Blythe.  A woman who grew up with a terrible childhood, her own mother and grandmother abusing and discarding her.  These scars run deep so when she becomes pregnant with Violet, all her underlying fears of becoming a mother all seem to be coming true.

But that last line.  I really thought my audiobook broke or something because I was left hanging... staring at my speaker with my head tilted like I could force more story out of it. 🤣 Sigh... but also nice move, Audrain.. nice move.  Just when I start thinking one way, you knock me back on to my seat.  


#ATBR2021 Review: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

The Burning Girls 
by C.J. Tudor

Thanks so much Ballantine Books and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: January 26, 2021
Kindle Edition
500 Pages
Genres: Horror, Thriller

A dark history lingers in Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, Protestant martyrs were betrayed — then burned. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And a few weeks ago, the vicar of the local parish hanged himself in the nave of the church.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a 14-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping for a fresh start. Instead, Jack finds a town rife with conspiracies and secrets, and is greeted with a strange welcome package: an exorcism kit and a note that warns, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter, Flo, explore the town and get to know its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into the age-old rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo begins to see specters of girls ablaze, it becomes apparent there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

Uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village with a bloody past, where everyone has something to hide and no one trusts an outsider.

My Review:

THE BURNING GIRLS has officially made its way to my favorite book by Tudor.  Immediately immersive, this is a hard book to put down.  Plus, you just canNOT help but to fall in love with Jack.. and especially Flo.  I also have a tendency to put vicars or any leader in a religious capacity to be... as close to perfect as you can in terms of doing good and being perfect.. see? I can't even express it correctly.  What I'm trying to get to ... is that Jack, as vicar, shows this side of  being flawed and "regular human" I am constantly surprised at.  I know, I know.  I'm learning. Leave me alone.  Back to the book. Jack made me smile quite a few times with some of her inner monologue.

There is such great atmosphere in this read.  Freakin' small towns with everyone in everyone's business - especially with the new residents.  An old house and chapel and creepy areas to explore. I really wish I could've gone exploring with Flo! I mean, Tudor, couldn't you have maybe included some of the photos she took as a bonus? 😉 

I truly loved everything about this story.  I did NOT see a few things that were thrown at me and at one point my skin puckered up with goosies.  Well done.  **applause** The last few chapters really come full circle and we learn a LOT about how these characters are linked and holy WTF.  Now, I will say that, in my humble opinion, that the epilogue was just unnecessary and I feel like I'm left wanting a bit with regards to a certain character...  I literally made that claw hand you do when you grab your face like WHAT. And even with these things, I still swiped my last swipe on my Kindle a very happy girl. WHEW! I needed some creepy, morbid reading and this fit the bill. 

Go grab your copy and lets discuss!!


Jessica's Review:

If you're in the mood for something dark, morbid, foreboding, and all that kind of goodness, then THE BURNING GIRLS needs to be on that TBR. While the last book I read by CJ Tudor wasn't a hit for me I will continue to pick up what she releases because they're so immersive and creepy. You can expect some good horror elements, relatable and almost lifelike characters, and some seriously eerie settings (in this case, a small town). 

Jack, a vicar, and her teenage daughter Flo have been relocated to Chapel Croft, a small town on the English countryside. So what is it with small towns and that they're always so creepy and no one is ever terribly inviting? With a dark past and other eerie things going on, will Jack and Flo find the answers they're looking for? 

From the very beginning I was hooked and there's just something about her writing that completely engrosses you. The pacing really picked up towards the end and there were some reveals I was not expecting (can't complain when that happens). CJ Tudor remains an auto-buy author for me! 

5 stars 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the Never Woods
by Aiden Thomas
Narrated by Avi Roque

Thanks so much to Macmillan Audio and for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: March 23, 2021
12 hrs 14 min
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling

When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It's been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don't do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what's waiting for her in the woods.

My Review:

Last time I read a Peter Pan retelling, he turned out to be a real asshole and I couldn't shake that opinion of him.... UNTIL NOW.  Oh still my beating heart for this very emotional and binge worthy read/listen (btw, loved the narrator!).

Thomas gives us a different view of Wendy and Peter.  It's been half a decade since she left with her brothers and was the only one to come back... and she can't remember what happened.  Her mind has protected her by keeping these memories repressed.  When Peter shows up to gain Wendy's help again to find his Shadow.... well, here is where this new adventure begins.  

What's fantastic about this story is how we still get this fairy tale feeling but it is encased in a family dealing with loss, grief and just meandering the day by day as best as they can.  Peter's entrance back into Wendy's life brings about many changes for everyone involved and the progression of this is extremely well done.  I did roll my eyes a bit with the romantic tension that was peppered throughout - I'm not sure this arc was very necessary but by the end I didn't hate it either... I was so involved with everything else.

I really felt for Wendy.  While she is the last child standing, at times she may as well not even be there.  Even 5 years later, her parents are still a mess, which is understandable but I wanted to shake them at times.  Her relationship with Peter is what shines here.  As they are both the kind to take care of every one else, their coming together and joining forces brings about an atmosphere that jumps off the pages.

 I don't know you guys - I just really enjoyed listening to this story.  I have a love/hate relationship with retellings but this one really worked for me.  So thank you, Thomas and Roque, for bringing my love back.  If you like the Peter Pan story and want a bit of a modern day take on it, come hither.  I would definitely recommend this audio.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow
by Krystal Sutherland

Thank you Penguin Teen for this copy.

Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.

My Review:

A story as enticing and beautiful as its cover.  YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK.  This belongs in its own genre - it encompasses fantasy, horror, paranormal, magical realism, paganism? Maybe?  I don't even know how to classify it.  What I DO know, is that this is the PERFECT read for a reader like me.  

Remember that scene in The Ruins where you see the wiggle underneath her skin as the plant underneath moves across her forehead?  Where you want to look away, BUT YOU JUST CANNOT?  This.  This is this book.  Grey, Vivi and Iris, the Hollow girls, disappeared on their parents watch.  Gone in a blip and not a single sighting until they showed up on the street a month later.  Their father making claims that these are not his daughters.  Their mother who clings to the youngest as the older two left home in their teens.  The oldest, Grey, disappearing.... AGAIN.  Of course they're going to go searching for her.  All while being chased by a man who smells of death and looks like a minotaur.  YES PLEASE. MORE MORE MORE!

I didn't expect this read to get as dark as it did.  Those who may look away due to the fact it's also in a Young Adult category, fear not - this gets creepily delicious and you'll want to stay and eat up every bloody morsel.. surely to be dotted by carrion flowers.  I got sucked in from the very beginning and absolutely did not want to put this down.  I expected a family story and while it does touch on family, death, letting go AND the basic need of survival, it is SO much more.  

Come come come, dear readers.  Let's go journey where the Hollow sisters have gone.  I promise to bring you back... maybe even in one whole piece.  😈


Jessica's Review:

This book! I can honestly say that I had no idea what to expect when picking it up and I was so happy to get a story just as beautiful and alluring as the cover is. HOUSE OF HOLLOW seems to be in a genre all its own - part mystery, part fantasy, atmospheric, much darker than I anticipated, and please don't shy away if you don't typically go for the YA genres. At just under 300 pages I flew through it and was engrossed from start to finish. Who are the Hollow sisters? What happened to them a decade ago?

Grey, Vivi, and Iris are the mysterious Hollow sisters with the half-moon scars under their throats. They seem to be just as strange as the circumstances surrounding their disappearances as children. Missing for a month and then they reappear on the same street they disappeared from and in perfect health but with no memory of what happened. Where were they? What happened to them? Why are their eyes and hair different colors now? What secrets are they keeping? Now, a decade later, Grey is a famous supermodel and designer, Vivi is a successful musician in a rock band, and Iris is just trying to live a normal life and finish high school. Her sisters seemed to embrace the weirdness and reputation they have created because of who they are, but Iris wants it all forgotten.

Her sisters are both going to be in town for Vivi's newest gig, but Grey never shows up. They quickly discover that she's missing and must follow a weird trail of clues left behind. Will they find her? Is she dead? So many questions that we need answers to! I loved the journey this brought Iris and Vivi on and we slowly start to learn more about what happened to them as children. I think the author did an incredible job bringing these girls all to life - each Hollow unique and with her own voice. I can't think of another book quite like this one, and with all the thrillers and mysteries seemingly following the same mold lately, that was a breath of fresh air. and I highly recommend adding this to your spring TBRs.

5 stars