Always With a Book

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Review: The Shadows by Alex North


Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Published: July 2020, Celadon Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
The haunting new thriller from Alex North, author of the New York Times bestseller The Whisper Man

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile--always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet--and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree--and his victim--were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It's not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there's something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn't just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again...



My thoughts: It's not too often that I read a book so far ahead of it's publication date but I just couldn't help myself with this one. Last year, I loved Alex North's debut novel, The Whisper Man, so when I got my hands on his sophomore novel, I had to read it right away...and let me tell you - this one is just as good, if not a little bit better! So mark your calendars for July 7th when this one hits the shelves...you will definitely want to pick up a copy or you can even pre-order this book now!

I loved everything about this book. It is dark and haunting and gives off such creepy vibes that you might want to rethink reading this one at night, especially since it deals with lucid dreams. I wouldn't say it's outright scary, but rather just another eerie book that is so intriguing you find yourself wanting to keep reading, even in the dark!

This is such a layered, complex plot that pulled me in right from the start. And there are so many little threads that keep you hooked. I loved that it alternates from the present to the past, and that it seamlessly moves back and forth in time. As you learn something in the present, you go back into the past to find out how it came to be. I loved the way this worked, and it kept the book moving at just the right pace.

This is a very addicting read and there are some twists that pop up that shocked me so much that I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters to see if I had missed something. But at the same time, I was eager to keep reading to see what would happen next and how these new developments would alter what I now knew...these twists only made me love this book even more! 

I will be recommending this book to all my thriller-loving friends and have definitely put Alex North on my must-read list. I cannot get enough of his writing. If you love binge-worthy, fantastically creepy books, you definitely need to add this one to your list of books to read. 


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Review: Watching From the Dark by Gytha Lodge


Title: Watching From the Dark
Author: Gytha Lodge
Series: DCI Jonah Sheens, #2
Published: February 2020, Random House
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
One crime. One witness. One question . . . Why didn’t he call the police?

When a vibrant young woman is murdered while on a video chat, a small-town detective wades into a circle of friends and lovers with dangerous secrets—in the new novel from the acclaimed author of the “enjoyably chilling”* She Lies in Wait.

*The New York Times Book Review


Aidan Poole logs on to his laptop late at night to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. To his horror, he realizes that there is someone else in her flat. Aidan can only listen to the sounds of a violent struggle taking place in the bathroom—and then the sound of silence. He is desperate to find out if Zoe is okay. But then why is he so hesitant to call the police?

When Aidan’s cryptic messages finally reach them, Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens and his team take the case—and discover the body. They soon find that no one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a big-hearted young artist at the center of a curious web of waifs and strays, each relying on her for support, each hiding dark secrets and buried resentments. Has one of her so-called “friends” been driven to murder? Or does Aidan have the biggest secret of them all?



My thoughts: This is the second book in Gytha Lodge's DCI Jonah Sheen's series and while I did not read the first book, I did not really have any problem following along with this book. I find now that most books in a series really do stand on their own, though of course, my preference is always to read them in order when time allows. And because I did enjoy this one, I do plan on going back to read the first book.

This book is one wild, crazy story. There are multiple points of view and I loved the way it jumped back and forth in time, with the present focusing on DCI Jonah Sheen and his team investigating the murder and the past starting 20 months prior to the murder and leading up to the incident. It really gets you wondering just what happened and who might have done what.

I loved that I was completely caught up in this story from the start. I found this book to be a wonderful mix of police procedural, character study and psychological thriller. As the detectives pain-stakingly work to find out what happened to Zoe, we learn about Zoe's life leading up to her demise. So many questions popped into my mind as I was reading this and I love a book that makes me question things...like why didn't Zoe's boyfriend call the police right away? Doesn't that just seem strange? I knew there had to be more going on there and so right away that had me suspicious. 

This book really kept me engaged all the way through. And that ending was quite a show-down, literally. I am definitely going to be picking up the first book, She Lies in Wait, very soon, and am hoping there will be more to this series as well! 


Books in this series:
  1. She Lies in Wait
  2. Watching From the Dark

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Review: A Mother's Lie by Sarah Zettel -- With link to #BookGiveaway!!!


Title: A Mother's Lie
Author: Sarah Zettel
Published: April 2020, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Beth Fraiser finally has her life together. She's built a successful career in the tech sector, has a bright fifteen-year-old daughter, and she's completely put all evidence of her troubled past behind her. At least that's what she thought.

Dana Fraiser loves her mom. But the backup phones, emergency drills, and a nonnegotiable check-in time every day make her a little nuts. Why can't she just have a normal family? When a stranger approaches her on the street claiming to be her grandmother, Dana starts to question exactly what her mother has been hiding.

Soon Beth's worst nightmare is coming true: Dana is in grave danger, and unless Beth is willing to pull one last con job for her parents, she may never see her daughter again. 


My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Sarah Zettel and it definitely will not be the last. I knew as soon as I heard about this one that I needed to read it and I'm so glad I did - it totally captivated me from start to finish and was just what I needed to keep me distracted from all that is going on right now.

This book is one crazy, twisted story and it pulls you in right from the start! It's fast-paced and keeps you frantically flipping the pages as you try to figure out just what the heck is really going on. Who can you trust and where are things going to end up? I love a book that has me constantly on the edge of my seat and that is exactly how I felt with this book. 

Told from just two points of view, that of Beth and her daughter, I loved that you could really feel the strong bond between these two, yet you also could feel a growing tension there as things escalate. Beth has secrets and a very dark past and she will do anything to keep her daughter safe. Dana just wants to get to know her family and doesn't realize just what a can of worms she has opened up when she agrees to meet her grandmother.

This book takes you on one wild ride and I loved that at times, I really did not know who I could trust. I love when I start questioning all the characters, not knowing who to believe and who is still hiding their true intentions. This book is full of unsavory characters that beg you not to like them but can they possibly have a good side?

I highly recommend picking this one up and will definitely be checking out Sarah Zettel's backlist - apparently she's written quite a few books!



***Want a chance to win this book? Head over to my Instagram page and look for this post - 2 copies up for grabs!!! #Giveaway ends Saturday, April 11th. US/Canada only.

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Monday, April 06, 2020

Review: The Third Sister by Sara Blaedel -- with link to #BookGiveaway!!!


Title: The Third Sister
Author: Sara Blaedel
Series: Ilka/Family Secrets series, #3
Published: April 2020, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Family drama, deadly secrets, and deception come to a head in the explosive conclusion of #1 internationally bestselling author Sara Blaedel's Family Secrets trilogy.

Ilka Jensen's life is in chaos following the tumultuous events of Her Father's Secret. The funeral home she inherited after her estranged father's death is bankrupt. Her new business partner, Artie, lies unconscious in the hospital after a savage attack by mysterious assailants, and her father's second wife is in prison.

Then, just as Ilka learns a shocking revelation about her father, two menacing strangers turn up at the funeral home -- dangerous men who mean to draw her further into a world of secrets, betrayal, and murder.

In order to protect herself and those around her, Ilka sets off on a twisting journey to confront the truth about the man who abandoned her as a child. But the long-buried secrets of her father's past are more tangled and perilous than Ilka could ever imagine . . .



My thoughts:  Sara Blaedel is without a doubt one of my favorite authors. She is not called Denmark's "Queen of Crime" for nothing and I cannot seem to read her books fast enough. She has two books series out, both of which I have now read in their entirety and, while both are different, I cannot recommend them enough! One is more a crime-fiction series - the Louise Rick series, which is set primarily in Denmark. The other series, of which this book is the final installment, is more focused on the characters and their secrets, and that is set here in the US.

This is the type of series where I feel it is crucial to read it in order. So many threads are continued from one book to the next and while Sara does give some recap, it's quite brief, and having the whole picture would make this much more meaningful and enjoyable. 

Once again, this book picks up right where the second book left off. And, if you read that one, you know we were left with quite a major revelation. This really jump-starts things and has Ilka reeling with the news. As she tries to adjust to this, she realizes she still has quite a lot of questions she needs answers to but before she can get those answers she realizes she has more problems on her hands.

I love the way this book is crafted. Just as we find answers to one problem, more issues arise so that you never feel that sense of peace, just more unrest and tension and the suspense is constantly there. I also love the continued character development. The main characters all continue to play a crucial role and there is the additional of some new characters that adds intrigue to the storyline. Learning more about some of these characters was quite eye-opening. I had been a little suspicious of one or two of them from the beginning so it was a relief to finally find out what was going on with them.

This was a fitting end to a fantastic trilogy. While I'm bummed to see this trilogy end, I feel that this final book really kept me engaged all the way through. Now I cannot wait to see what comes next from this author...I sure hope it's more books in the Louise Rick series!!!


Books in this series: 
  1. The Undertaker's Daughter
  2. Her Father's Secret
  3. The Third Sister 

***Want a chance to win this entire trilogy? Head over to my Instagram page and look for this post...#Giveaway ends Thursday, April 9th. US only.




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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Review: The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry (audio)


Title: The Roxy Letters
Author: Mary Pauline Lowry
Narrator: Jayme Mattler
Published: April 2020, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 9 hours 39 minues
Source: ALC via Libro.fm

Summary:
Meet Roxy. She’s a sometimes vegan, always broke artist with a heart the size of Texas and an ex living in her spare bedroom. Her life is messy, but with the help of a few good friends and by the grace of the goddess Venus she’ll discover that good sex, true love, and her life’s purpose are all closer than she realizes.
  
Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.

As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process?


 
My thoughts:  In a time where the world is so uncertain and everyone is struggling to find the good in life, this book certainly came around at the right time. This book is quirky, funny and just the perfect book to get you out of a funk and seeing the a little hope in the darkness.

I think what first drew me to this book is the comparison of it to Bridget Jones. Now it's been years since I've seen that movie, but I do know I did nothing but laugh and I could use all the light-hearted books right now, so of course I had to see for myself how this would fare. Listening to it was quite a treat as it's all letters that Roxy has penned to her ex-boyfriend. And while they start out as a way for her to communicate with Everett who has just become her roommate, it quickly turns into a way for her to get her thoughts out on what is going on in her life because the letters just end up sitting in her drawer, not being given to Everett at all. And let me just say, Roxy manages to get herself into some crazy things!

This book has a little bit of everything in it - a little romance, a little soul-searching, and a lot of being true to yourself and kicking-a** at that. I laughed a lot during this book, though I will say there were a few cringe-worthy moments, but all-in-all this is a fun, enjoyable book that is sure to get you out of any funk you may be in at the moment.


Audio thoughts: This was a fun audiobook to listen to and I thought Jayme Mattler did a great job with it. She really brought this book to life, even though the format of it - all letters - is a little strange. This was the first time I've listened to her narrate a book and I really liked the way she handled this book. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and I will certainly be checking out what else she narrates.


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Friday, April 03, 2020

Review: The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan


Title: The Last Bathing Beauty
Author: Amy Sue Nathan
Published: April 2020, Lake Union Publishing
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Author

Summary: 
A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.
 
Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.

Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.


My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Amy Sue Nathan and it definitely won't be the last. I was completely captivated by this novel and my only complaint was that I wasn't reading this while sitting on the beach!

I loved this book...I loved the characters and the dual timeline and the messages that it conveyed...I loved everything about it and I absolutely finished this book with a few tears in my eyes. It was the perfect book to lose myself in with everything happening right now and I find myself gravitating towards these kinds of books more and more at this point. 

I'm always a sucker for a really good story about family secrets and this one is chock full of them, and I loved the way it played out. Moving seamlessly back and forth between the present and 1951, we find out what happened to derail Betty Boop Stern's life that she had planned so carefully at 18. She loved one boy and ended up marrying another and abandoned her plans of college and career. What happened to cause this?

I love when we get to hear characters reminisce about their earlier days. It reminds me of my grandmother and her friends, when we would listen to them tell their stories of their younger days. And this one did not disappoint. While I had some guesses as to what happened here, I was not able to put all the pieces together, but that didn't matter. This wasn't a mystery so much as understanding why Betty did what she did. It's about second chances and forgiveness, love and understanding, and I think as Betty retells her story, she realizes that she has all that and more.

I highly recommend this book and know that I will definitely be checking out the author's other books.   


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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Month in Review: March 2020



So...anyone else still struggling to find a new normal? I think what is most frustrating is the not knowing how long this is going to last. I normally work from home, so that wasn't an adjustment, but what is an adjustment is being able to head out when I want to - head to a bookstore to just wander aimlessly or head out to Starbucks just to grab a drink and sit there and enjoy my drink while I read. Or most importantly, go visit my nieces and nephews! I know things will get better and I am trying to keep a positive outlook, but some days it is hard. 

Thank goodness for books, right? While I did read my usual amount, I thought I might have read more, but I was a little distracted with the news. I'm hoping April is a little better - I really am trying to stay off social media a little more just to keep my sanity...and hopefully the weather will get warmer soon so I can read outside more!
 
Reading Stats:
  • Read this month: 22
  • Year to date: 68

Books Read:
 
  1. Hide Away -- Jason Pinter (audio book)
  2. Girl Can't Help It -- Max Allan Collins (audio book)
  3. The Sea of Lost Girls -- Carol Goodman
  4. The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant -- Kayte Nunn
  5. What It Seems -- Emily Bleeker
  6. Little Lovely Things -- Maureen Joyce Connelly (audio book)
  7. Lying in Wait -- Liz Nugent
  8. The Operator -- Gretchen Berg
  9. No Bad Deed -- Heather Chavez
  10. In Five Years -- Rebecca Serle (audio book)
  11. A Good Neighborhood -- Therese Anne Fowler
  12. Eight Perfect Murders -- Peter Swanson
  13. Problem Child --Victoria Helen Stone
  14. Darling Rose Gold -- Stephanie Wrobel
  15. The Familiar Dark -- Amy Engel
  16. Please See Us -- Caitlin Mullen (e-book)
  17. Summer of '79: A Summer of '69 Story -- Elin Hilderbrand (e-book)
  18. Target Alex Cross -- James Patterson
  19. Miss Austen -- Gill Hornby (e-book)
  20. Watching From the Dark -- Gytha Lodge
  21. The Eighth Girl -- Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
  22. The Missing Sister -- Elle Marr (audio book)
  
Favorite Books of March: 
 
  • A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
  • The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
  • The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

 

Challenges:
Once again I am participating in #TheUnreadShelfProject2020, hosted by @theunreadshelf. I will be posting monthly updates both here and over on Instagram.


#TheUnReadShelfProject2020:

*These numbers only refer to books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while or that I have recently purchased. It does not include any review books.

  • Total # unread books on shelf at beginning of March: 164
  • Books read this month (that count): 2
  • Books bought/received as gift this month: 8
  • Books cleaned off shelf/donated: 0
  • Total unread books on shelf at end of March: 170
 
 YTD Stats:
 
  • Total # unread books on shelf at beginning of January: 158
  • Total Books read from shelves (that count): 7
  • Total Books bought/received as gift: 19
  • Total Books cleaned off shelf/donated: 0
  • Total unread books on shelf at end of March: 170

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