Thursday, December 31, 2020

Month in Review: December 2020


 

Well, it's certainly been a year...that's for sure! But the one silver lining is that I read a lot and I read some amazing books. Not only was I fortunate to continue to receive review books all year long, but I still managed to read books off my own shelf...I certainly had the time and this is something that I am going to make a priority moving forward, making sure there is a balance of the two. And I also made some progress with my backlist review books, but not as much as I would have liked, so this is something I need to focus on a little more moving forward. But all in all, this was a great year reading-wise and I'm happy about that.
 
 
  Reading Stats:

  • Read this month: 24
  • Year to date: 308

Books Read:   
 
  1. Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life & Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter -- Barbara Leaming (print/audio book)
  2. The Pull of Stars -- Emma Donoghue (audio book)
  3. The Wicked Hour -- Alice Blanchard (e-book)
  4. Take It Back -- Kia Abdullah
  5. The Dead Season -- Tessa Wegert
  6. The Survivors -- Jane Harper (audio book)
  7. Winterkill -- Ragnar Jonasson (e-book)
  8. Cold Wind -- Paige Shelton (e-book)
  9. The Swap -- Robyn Harding (e-book)
  10. The Wife Upstairs -- Rachel Hawkins (audio book)
  11. Little Women -- Louisa May Alcott (audio book)
  12. The Last To See Her -- Courtney Evan Tate (e-book)
  13. Girl Under Water -- L.T. Vargus, Tim McBain (e-book)
  14. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie -- Marie Benedict
  15. The Girl in the Mirror -- Rose Carlyle
  16. Death on the Nile -- Agatha Christie
  17. The Choice -- Alex Lake (e-book)
  18. Under a Gilded Moon -- Joy Jordan Lake (audio book)
  19. Lie, Lie Again -- Stacy Wise (audio book)
  20. The Devil in the Dark Water -- Stuart Turton
  21. The Witch Hunter -- Max Seeck
  22. Deadly Cross -- James Patterson
  23. The War Widow -- Tara Moss (e-book)
  24. Bloodline -- Jess Lourey (audio book)
  
Favorite Books of December: 
    

  • Take It Back by Kia Abdullah
  • The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
  • Bloodline by Jess Lourey

 
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 November: 175
  • Books read this month (that count): 5
  • Books bought/received as gift this month: 9
  • Books cleaned off shelf/donated: 26
  • Total unread books on shelf at end of November: 153
 
 YTD Stats:   
 
  • Total # unread books on shelf at beginning of January: 158
  • Total Books read from shelves (that count): 45
  • Total Books bought/received as gift: 79
  • Total Books cleaned off shelf/donated: 39
  • Total unread books on shelf at end of November: 153

 

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published: June 2020, Del Rey
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.



My thoughts: While I am not a straight-out horror lover, I do love horror books when they are mixed with other genres and that it was appealed to me about this book. The gothic vibes definitely called to me with this book and I'm so glad I gave it a chance...it was really good!


This book is quite creepy and while it is a bit on the slower side, I found myself not really wanting to read this one at night. The haunted house definitely creeped me out and between the gothic vibes and the tension that just amps up all the way through, I was on the edge of my seat. The action of the book really doesn't happen until the last 50 pages or so of the book and then it is non-stop, so until then it's really more character-driven, but I still really felt it was an engaging and immersive read and totally atmospheric!

This is the type of book that totally gets under your skin. It's dark and full of secrets and once Noemi starts uncovering them, you will be hard-pressed to walk away. I found myself completely absorbed in this uber-suspenseful read and cannot wait to see what comes next from this author.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Review: The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck

 
Title: The Witch Hunter
Author: Max Seeck
Series: Jessica Niemi, #1
Published: October 2020, Berkley
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
A shocking murder in an affluent Helsinki suburb has ties to the occult in this thrilling US debut from Finnish author Max Seeck.

A bestselling author’s wife has been found dead in a gorgeous black evening gown, sitting at the head of a formally set dinner table. Her most chilling feature—her face is frozen in a ghastly smile.

At first it seems as though a deranged psychopath is reenacting the gruesome murders from The Witch Hunter, the bestseller written by the victim’s husband. But investigator Jessica Niemi soon realizes she’s not looking for a single killer but rather for dozens of believers in a sinister form of witchcraft.

They know her every move and are always one step ahead. As the bodies start piling up, Jessica knows they won’t stop until they get what they want. And when her dark past comes to light, Jessica finds herself battling her own demons while desperately trying to catch a coven of killers before they claim their next victim.



My thoughts: Another Nordic Noir crime fiction book that I devoured! I literally read this book in an afternoon and am thrilled that it is also the start of a new series. I am on a roll with these new crime fiction series and could not be happier.

This book grabbed me from the start and did not let up. Yes, it was dark and disturbing. Hello, a serial killer mirroring crimes that are based on someone's books - but that is totally what hooked me. I also loved that the book gives us a little history on investigator Jessica Niemi. The flashbacks into Jessica's past really are full of interesting tidbits, yet it is jarring when put side by side with what is going on in the present. How does it all fit together?

This book is so dark and twisty and incredibly atmospheric. I loved the short chapters because it just begs you to keep reading and this one is just so gripping and intense that you just cannot put the book down. I love police procedurals and this one is so expertly written that it keeps you engaged all the way through. 

This one kept me guessing until the very end and I was totally fine with that. It was totally creepy and binge-worthy - my favorite kind of read! I am definitely looking forward to reading book 2, which I hope will be released in the US sooner rather than later.


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Review: I'm Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjork

 
Title: I'm Traveling Alone
Author: Samuel Bjork
Series: Holger Munch & Mia Kruger, #1
Published: December 2016, Corgi
Format: Paperback, 528 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
When the body of a young girl is found hanging from a tree, the only clue the police have is an airline tag around her neck. It reads ‘I’m travelling alone’.

In response, police investigator Holger Munch is immediately charged with assembling a special homicide unit. But to complete the team, he must track down his former partner, Mia Krüger – a brilliant but troubled detective – who has retreated to a solitary island with plans to kill herself.

Reviewing the file, Mia finds something new – a thin line carved into the dead girl’s fingernail: the number 1. She knows that this is only the beginning. To save other children from the same fate, she must find a way to cast aside her own demons and stop this murderer from becoming a serial killer.



My thoughts: I have been on such a Scandinavian crime fiction kick lately and this book certainly delivers on that front and more. I had had this book on my tbr for quite some time and was so excited when I saw that a few of my bookstagram friends were doing a buddy read for it...I immediately jumped on that!

This book, the first in a series, totally hooked me right from the start. It's such a layered story and while there are a lot of moving parts to it, parts that might not seem connected at first, they all come together in the end in such a clever way. I was particularly fascinated with the inclusion of the cult element - that really had me scratching my head trying to figure out how it would factor in.

I loved the characters, particularly our two head detectives. The dynamics between them are so good and I enjoyed watching them in action. I think both Holger and Mia balance each other out and I am really looking forward to seeing how they continue to work together on future cases.

This book is dripping with tension all the way through. There are times that the case hits very close to home for our detectives and you can feel the fear and stress. I found I could not turn the pages fast enough and had to remind myself to breath. And the short chapters just lends to that frenetic pace. 

I am looking forward to continuing with the series and am excited to be doing another buddy read for the second book. Sometimes it just makes for a more enjoyable reading experience knowing you will be discussing the book with friends right after reading it.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Review: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Title: Death on the Nile
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot, #17
Published: September 2020, William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1937)
Format: Paperback Movie tie-in, 334 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE RELEASING OCTOBER 9, 2020 —DIRECTED BY AND STARRING KENNETH BRANAGH

Following the success of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh returns to direct and star in this adaptation of the classic Hercule Poirot mystery for the big screen, also starring Gal Gadot.

Beloved detective Hercule Poirot embarks on a journey to Egypt in one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries, Death on the Nile.

The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything . . . until she lost her life.

Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: "I'd like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger." Yet in this exotic setting nothing is ever quite what it seems.



My thoughts: I know I am rather late to the Agatha Christie game, but I have to say that I am loving reading these now, later in life. And big surprise I am not reading these in order which if you know me and my reading preferences when it comes to series, is quite unusual. But I feel that it's not really necessary.

I recently read a fantastic book about the time that Agatha Christie went missing, called The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, which is out now. In the book, Benedict actually covers the trip that Christie took that is the basis for this novel. It was quite fascinating to read about that trip and than read this book.

I really have come to love Hercule Poirot and this book was just pure fun! Knowing that it was partly inspired based on Christie's own life experiences made for an exciting read, especially knowing even more about the author herself. There are always so many suspects, each of them having a motive, and I love trying to figure things out, though I have yet to do so before we are given the answer. I really do love locked-room mysteries and this time, being on a ship was such a great concept. There was literally no where to go!

I am definitely excited to see this movie and I know I will certainly be rereading this book at some point - maybe I'll eventually read this series in order one day! Have you read this series? I haven't read any of Agatha Christie's other series, just a few books in this series and am excited to know I have a bunch more ahead of me! 

 

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Review: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann (audio)

 

Title: Dear Child
Author: Romy Hausmann
Narrator: Jane Collingwood, Nicky Diss, Simon Slater
Published: October 2020, Macmillan Audio
Length: 10 hours 58 minutes
Source: ALC via Macmillan Audio

Summary:

A woman held captive finally escapes - but can she ever really get away?

Gone Girl meets Room in this number-one internationally best-selling thriller from one of Germany’s hottest new talents.

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing, and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again, but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him...and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

Twisty, suspenseful, and psychologically clever, Romy Hausmann's Dear Child is a captivating thriller with all the ingredients of a breakout hit.



My thoughts: If you think you know this story because you've read Emma Donoghue's Room, think again. This one is not the same and I'm so glad I read it. Yes, it's dark and disturbing, but as crazy as it sounds, I really loved every second of it. This was such a brilliant book and as a debut novel, I am so excited to see what comes next from this talented author!

It's hard to write this review without giving too much away, but I will say that I am always intrigued by captivity plots. I'm not sure why and this one captivated me from start to finish. The twists and turns kept me guessing all the way through. Each time I thought I had worked out where things were heading, something else pops up to turn things around. Nothing is as it seems in this book. It's creepy and dark and really gets under your skin.

This book moves fast, but it really is character driven. It alternates between three points of view and as we move from character to character, we learn just a little bit more about what really happened in the cabin. It's not a very graphic book, but rather we are left to infer what happened - I loved the way the author did this.

I really liked this book and will definitely be adding Romy Hausmann to my list to must-read authors. 


Audio thoughts: This was a great audio and I this all three narrators did a great job with the narration. The pacing and intonation were spot on and they really brought the story to life, infusing just the right amount of tension and suspense into their voices as needed. 


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Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle

Title: Girl in the Mirror
Author: Rose Carlyle
Published: October 2020, William Morrow
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Booktours

Summary: 
Written with the chilling, twisty suspense of The Wife Between Us and Something in the Water, a seductive debut thriller about greed, lust, secrets, and deadly lies involving identical twin sisters.

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam.

Called to Thailand to help her sister sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. When she makes it to land, Iris allows herself to be swept up by Adam, who assumes that she is Summer.

Iris recklessly goes along with his mistake. Not only does she finally have the golden life she’s always envied, with her sister gone, she’s one step closer to the hundred-million-dollar inheritance left by her manipulative father. All Iris has to do is be the first of his seven children to produce an heir.

Iris’s “new” life lurches between glamorous dream and paranoid nightmare. On the edge of being exposed, how far will she go to ensure no one discovers the truth?

And just what did happen to Summer on the yacht?

Only Iris knows . . .



My thoughts: I love a good, twisty thriller, especially one that has me rereading pages because I'm not sure what I read was what I thought I read...yeah - that's this kind of book! And it's a debut on top of that!

This book is so fun and crazy that I could not read it fast enough. Twin sisters, an inheritance - this one hooks you right off the bat and never lets up. Yes, you might have to suspend belief here and there, but this is the perfect popcorn thriller that you can easily binge. And go in as blind as you can...it's so much more enjoyable that way!

There are some characters here that you will love to hate and some that you won't be able to figure out - I just love books like that. Trying to work out their motivations and what is going on with them makes for such good reading and keeps me engaged even more. This book takes a look at the dark side of twin relationships and boy does it deliver!

I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented writer. She definitely has one creative, devious mind and I will be in line for her next book with bells on!

  

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Review: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (audio)


Title: The Pull of the Stars
Author: Emma Donoghue
Narrator: Emma Lowe
Published: July 2020, Hachette Audio
Length: 9 hours 6 minutes
Source: ALC via Libro.fm

Summary:
In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders -- Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police , and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.


 

My thoughts: As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it but then for some reason, I just kept putting it off. I've read other books about the Spanish Influenza before, but I think reading about it while experiencing a pandemic myself is a different thing entirely. However, I'm really glad I finally picked it up because it was phenomenal!

I think what's most interesting to note is that Emma Donoghue began writing this book well ahead of our current pandemic. She wrote it to honor the 100 year anniversary of the Spanish Influenza. The publication just happened to coincide with our pandemic, but I think it offers a unique perspective. Looking at how things were handled a hundred years ago when technology wasn't like it is today and medical advances weren't anywhere near what they are now. It really struck me in the similarities and differences as to how things have been handled.

This book really kept my attention from start to finish. It really drew me into the story and I felt that the characters were so fully fleshed out. This story takes place over the course of three days on a maternity ward and I could feel the fear and frustration that not only Nurse Julia felt during these harrowing times but also the patients. Not knowing how things were going to turn out, not knowing when help is going to arrive - it was all so palpable. It's so easy to become caught up in these characters' lives and feel their emotional journey.

This is a heartbreaking book but such a captivating story. You become so entangled in each and every one of the character's lives that you cannot walk away until the end. You feel the strain on everyone, especially those tasked with caring for the sick, much like we are feeling in our own pandemic right now. If you can handle reading something so close to our reality, I highly recommend picking this book up. It is such an insightful and empowering read that certainly deserves to be celebrated!


Audio thoughts: This was a fantastic audiobook. Emma Lowe is a new-to-me narrator, but I thought she nailed this narration. Her accent was perfection, and her pacing and intonation were spot on. She really brought this book to life and I found myself completely invested in the way she told the story. I will definitely be looking forward to listening to more of Emma Lowe's narrations.


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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Review: Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life & Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming (print/audio book)


Title: Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life & Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter
Author: Barbara Leaming
Narrator: Eliza Foss
Published: April 2016, Macmillan Audio / Thomas Dunne Books
Length: 10 hours 17 minutes / 304 pages
Source: Audio - borrowed via Library / Print - Personal copy

Summary:
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was the incandescent life-force of the Kennedy family. The daughter of the American ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, Kick swept into Britain’s aristocracy like a fresh wind on a sweltering summer day. Kick was the girl whom all the boys fell in love with, the girl who remained painfully out of reach for most of them.

To Kick, everything about this life was fun and amusing—until suddenly it was not. For this is also a story of how a girl like Kick, a girl who seemed made for happiness, confronted crushing sadness. Willing to pay the price for choosing the love she wanted, she would have to face the consequences of forsaking much that was dear to her.

Bestselling and award-winning biographer Barbara Leaming draws on her unique access to firsthand accounts, extensive conversations with many of the key players, and previously-unseen sources to transport us to a world of immense wealth, arcane rituals and rules, glamour and tragedy that has now disappeared forever. This is the coming-of-age story of the female star of the Kennedy family, and ultimately a tragic, romantic story that will break your heart.


 

My thoughts: As I make my way through the many Kennedy books I have, what I appreciated about this one is that it really focused in on Kick's life and not the entire Kennedy clan. It's a coming-of-age story that doesn't start at her birth, but rather when Kick was already over in England. I think this is where Kick really comes into herself and I loved that the author decided to start the story there. Of course, I knew going into this book that this story does not have a happy ending and so part of me was just waiting for that horrible event and I think it's handled quite well. 

Kick Kennedy was a complex person. She was full of life and lived that life based on her passions and her beliefs. She didn't let anything or anyone stop her from doing what she wanted, even if it meant going against her own parents' wishes. Of course, this had some pretty tough ramifications, but she went through with it anyway. 

Reading this book, it's hard not to wonder what if. What if she hadn't died so young? She was a bright young mind that met a tragic ending way too soon. Who knows what would have happened had she not gotten on that plane that fateful day...


Audio thoughts: This was a great audio - I was engaged the entire time and found myself listening to this book in one day. I found Kick's story to be so fascinating and the narrator did a fantastic job narrating it. I find it easier to listen to nonfiction but I love having the book on hand to refer to if need be. 

 

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Review: Little Women by Louise May Alcott (audio book)

Title: Little Women
Author: Louise May Alcott
Narrator: Nicol Zanzarella
Published: January 2020 Kobo Originals / September 2005 Barnes & Nobles Classics (First Published September 1868)
Length: 19 hours / Hardcover, 477 pages
Source: Audio - via the Library / Print - Personal copy

Summary:
Little Women is the delightful story of the four March girls and their approach towards womanhood.

Meg, the eldest and most beautiful, shrugs off her vanity and social ambition, discovering fulfillment in romantic love. Boyish Jo on the other hand, with her contempt of all "lovering", turns impetuously towards writing for solace. Gentle Beth rejects worldly interests, preferring to devote her life to her family, to the joy of music and to timidly aiding all who suffer in life. Amy, the youngest and most imperfect of the March girls, continually tries to overcome her selfishness and girlish pretensions, though he has a hard task before her.

The progress of these four "little women" is narrated along the lines of Bunyan's pilgrim, and we are shown how - encountering struggles and learning important lessons along the way - each one attains her own Celestial City.


 

My thoughts: I'm not quite sure how I never ended up reading this book when I was younger, but I do remember seeing the movie countless times, so when I saw that a friend was hosting an online bookclub for it, I knew it was finally time. And December could not have been the more perfect time to read this book. Even though I actually own a copy of the book, I decided to listen to it and what a treat - this book translates so well into the audio and because I am familiar with some of the story, it was great to listen to while writing out my Christmas cards!

Of course, the book is much more detailed than the movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed, I teared up, and I found myself watching the bond between the sisters grow and change as they all grew up and found themselves. 

I am glad I finally read this book and can see myself reading it again, maybe not every year, but definitely a few more times. This is a book that I think you get more out of with each read.


Audio thoughts: I thought the audio version that I selected - just a random pick from what was available from the library - was good. Not the best, but not the worst. I think the next time I pick this book up, I will definitely go with another narrator - maybe one of the audios with a cast of narrators or at least someone with a little more enthusiasm. I will say, at times, it was hard differentiating who was speaking and I had to refer to the book and that's a bummer when that happens. 


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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Review: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson (print/audio)

 

Title: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
Author: Kate Clifford Larson
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Published: October 2015, Blackstone Audio / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 7 hours 44 minutes / 320 pages
Source: Audio - borrowed via Library / Print - Personal copy

Summary:
They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.

Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the Queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled — a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.  

Major new sources — Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors' letters, and exclusive family interviews — bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then — as the family’s standing reached an apex — the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three, and the family's complicity in keeping the secret.  
 

Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

 

My thoughts: As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it and I'm so glad I finally did. While I knew a bit about Rosemary's life, there was quite a lot contained in the book that I was not aware of and as hard as it was to read this book, it was also very informative.

I think what most comes to mind when thinking about Rosemary Kennedy is a lot of what ifs. What if they hadn't waited on the doctor when Rosemary was about to be delivered? What if Jo Kennedy had listened to the research that Kick Kennedy had provided about lobotomies and not gone through with it on Rosemary? There is so much sadness when thinking about Rosemary yet there didn't need to be. This family was a family that strove for perfection and perhaps if it focused on love and acceptance, we would have had a different story with a much better outcome.

I applaud Kate Clifford Larson for the research she put into this book to give us a detailed, yet readable account of Rosemary's life. It is a heartbreaking story, no doubt, yet it is also one that, thanks to her siblings, is also one of hope.



Audio thoughts: Once again, I find that listening to nonfiction just works better for me, and even though this particular book was devastating to listen to at times, Bernadette Dunne did such a great job with the narration that I found myself completely captivated. I did alternate between the audio and the print as there are letters and pictures included, but I mostly listened.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Review: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


Title: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
Author: Marie Benedict
Published: December 2020, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Marie Benedict, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room, uncovers the untold story of Agatha Christie’s mysterious eleven day disappearance.

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car—strange for a frigid night. Her husband and daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark exploration into the shadows of history, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such a murky story.

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?

A master storyteller whose clever mind may never be matched, Agatha Christie’s untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.



My thoughts: Marie Benedict is an author I have come to love. This is the second book I've read of hers and she is now a must-read author. I love how meticulously researched and well-written her books are and this latest one is just brilliantly crafted.

I admit that I am late to the Agatha Christie party, but after reading this book, you can be sure that I will definitely be making a point of reading ALL her books. Who knew just how clever and fascinating a woman she really was? I sure didn't but after reading this book about the eleven days she went missing, I have such a new-found appreciation for her and her writing.

What I love about this book is how well it combines fact and fiction. There is no dispute that Agatha Christie went missing. What is unknown is what really happened during those 11 days. What Marie Benedict has given us is her version of events based on all the research she has done in a book that is so captivating that I could not stop turning the pages. I loved the way she told the story, alternating between the time Agatha went missing and to earlier when she first met Archibald Christie. Having the two timelines really gives a clear picture of all the players involved and allows you to see who is involved in Agatha's life and what was happening leading up to her disappearance and what happened when she did disappear. 

I loved that I had so many different theories as to what might have happened. The way this story is written really keeps you on your toes, which is not so different than Agatha Christie's books, which I found to be so very clever. And it has left me so intrigued about Agatha's life that I just know I will be searching out more books about her. I think I saw somewhere that she wrote an autobiography? Anyway, I highly recommend picking this one up...it is an excellent read!

 

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Review: Girl Under Water by L.T. Vargus, Tim McBain


Title: Girl Under Water
Author: L.T. Vargus, Tim McBain
Series: Charlotte Winters, #2
Published: December 2020, Bookouture
Format: ARC E-copy, 425 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
Her numb fingers scrabble over upholstery, over metal, over glass, searching for a way out. Water stings her eyes as she’s dragged downward, clinging to her last breath as she’s absorbed into the cold dark below…

When Gloria Carmichael’s body is found broken and bleeding on the sidewalk just days after knocking on Detective Charlie Winters’ door begging for help to locate her father’s will, Charlie’s instinct is confirmed: her latest case is about more than just a simple family feud.

The Carmichaels are famous in Salem Island for their large family and charitable work, but, moments before she died, beautiful, trustworthy eldest daughter Gloria called Charlie to say she had uncovered a terrible secret that would break the mystery of her father’s death wide open.

With the voice of her murdered sister ringing in her ears—pushing her to risk everything to bring justice to the innocent—Charlie takes matters into her own hands. She won’t let another family break apart like her own, and she knows the answers she needs are hidden somewhere inside the Carmichael home.

But as Charlie races to confront her main suspect—a file containing evidence that will devastate the Carmichael family on the car seat beside her—she’s rammed off the road and over the edge of a nearby cliff. Fighting for breath in a sinking car, Charlie has to survive or other innocent lives will be taken. Everyone involved is keeping secrets, but only one twisted soul is prepared to kill to keep theirs…

An addictive crime thriller with twists at every turn, you won’t know what hit you after you’ve finished Girl Under Water. A perfect read-in-one-sitting rollercoaster ride for anyone who adores Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Mary Burton.



My thoughts: This is the second book in L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain's new series and it was as good as, if not better, than the first book! I love crime thriller series and this is definitely going to be a fun, thrilling series to read.

Once again we have a fast-paced, suspense-filled read that kept me flipping the pages from start to finish. Yes, these books tend to be a bit on the longer side, but once you start reading them, you don't really notice the length as you become so engaged in what is going on and the twists and turns just keep you completely guessing as to what might come next.  My favorite aspect of this series remains to be the voice that Charlie hears in her head. It happened in the first book and it continued to happened throughout this latest installment. I love this - I find it to be a unique part of the story. It is both humorous at times as well as quite telling in regards to Charlie as a character.

Charlie continues to have a lot on her plate. This time around she is dealing with the case she is working on, issues with her mother and issues with her new assistant. Luckily she has her best-friend Zoe to watch her back. I love Charlie - I find her to be a strong, fierce protagonist but she is also flawed and I love that about her. She makes mistakes and doesn't always think things through. 

I loved that this case had a Clue-like feel to it. The big house, the big family, all the secrets and drama within the family. And then there was the issue of there not being able to locate the will after the father has been killed. And the further Charlie looks into it, the more questions she comes up with. It just pulls you in and you can't help but get wrapped up into trying to put all the pieces together, yet you know something is missing.

This writing duo is fantastic. They push the envelop, they take chances and they give an all-out gripping, exciting read. I am so excited to see what comes next for Charlie...and I really hope that at some point, we get some closure on her sister's murder that happened 20 years ago.

 

Books in this series:

  1. First Girl Gone
  2. Girl Under Water

 

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Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (audio)


Title: The Voting Booth
Author: Brandy Colbert
Narrator: Robin Eller, Cary Hite
Published: July 2020, Dreamscape Media LLC
Length: 6 hours 5 minutes
Source: ALC via Libro.fm

Summary:
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She's always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band's first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can't vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn't spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that's how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva's missing cat), it's clear that there's more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can't sit around waiting for the world to change, but some things are just meant to be.


My thoughts: I don't typically read a lot of YA and I definitely don't usually gravitate towards books that are of a political nature, but this one just called to me and I'm glad that I gave it a chance. It's the first book I've read by Brandy Colbert and I have to say, it was quite good.

I think what really surprised me was how serious this ended up being. I really picked this one up because I had heard some good reviews of it and it was available to me. I never imagined the depth it would go to and I think after the crazy year we had and with everything that happened with our most recent election, this book could not have been more timely. Seeing the excitement that some people have about voting and then the struggles that people face when it comes to voting and the attitude that others have about it was all so clearly drawn and I think this all comes across so well. This really would be such a great book for high school students to read, especially as they get ready for vote for the first time.

While this book is short, it certainly provides a lot of food for thought. It would definitely be a great book club book as well as there are so many discussion points. Taking a chance for me definitely paid off with this one and I'm glad I did. What's the last book you took a chance on?



Audio thoughts: This was a great audio to listen to and the two narrators, Robin Eller and Cary Hite, did a great job bringing the book to life. Being that the book is so short, coming in at just over 6 hours, it is quite easy to listen to in one day and that is what I was able to do. I found myself completely caught up in the story and found both narrators really kept the pace going and infused just the right amount of emotion and tension into their voices as necessary. This audio was very enjoyable!


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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: The Last To See Her by Courtney Evan Tate

Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the blog tour for The Last to See Her by Courtney Evan Tate. Thank you MIRA Books for inviting me to participate.

 
Title: The Last To See Her
Author: Courtney Evan Tate
Published: December 2020, MIRA
Format: ARC E-galley, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
A woman disappears into the dark city night…

Gen is on the verge of a divorce from her cheating husband. When her sister, Meg, has a convention to attend in the Big Apple, she invites Gen along to celebrate her newly found freedom. But the perfect sisters’ getaway quickly goes awry when a tipsy Gen defiantly throws her wedding ring off the hotel room’s balcony. Then, wanting some fresh air, she decides to take a late-evening walk alone and vanishes without a trace.

The investigation that follows uncovers secrets—and betrayals—between sisters and spouses that will twist the truth in on itself until nothing is clear.

What really happened to Gen and who, besides Meg, was the last to see her?



My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Courtney Evan Tate and if this one is anything to go by, I will definitely be reading more by her. I could not flip the pages fast enough.

I love domestic dramas and this one is definitely a twisty one for sure. I really think this is one that is best going in as blind as possible and one where you might have to suspend a little bit of belief, but it is fiction and we read for escape, right? 

Alternating between a few different points of view and before and after, I found myself quite hooked and I loved how things are revealed, ever so slowly. Nothing is as it seems and just as you think you have a handle on what is going on, something new is revealed to shake it all up. That really kept me guessing and made for quite a thrilling read.

This book is one that you will fly through and I am always one for those types of books, especially now. And I loved how what first appeared to be just a case of a missing woman turned into something so much more...I love complex, multilayered stories! I cannot wait to see what else this author has written. Have you read any of her books?




About the author: Courtney Evan Tate is the nom de plume (and darker side) of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Cole. As Courtney Evan Tate, she is the author of Such Dark Things and I'll Be Watching You. Courtney grew up in rural Kansas and now lives with her husband and kids in Florida, where spends her days dreaming of new characters and storylines and surprising plot twists and writing them beneath rustling palm trees.

 

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook  |   Instagram |   Goodreads   

 

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s



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