Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson (audio)

 

Title: Yellow Wife
Author: Sadeqa Johnson
Narrator: Robin Miles
Published: January 2021, Simon and Schuster Audio
Length: 9 hours 31 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:
In the tradition of Wench and Twelve Years a Slave, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Brown was promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes around, instead of the idyllic life she was hoping for with her true love, she finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half-Acre, a jail where slaves are broken, tortured, and sold every day. Forced to become the mistress of the brutal man who owns the jail, Pheby faces the ultimate sacrifice to protect her heart in this powerful, thrilling story of one slave’s fight for freedom.


 

My thoughts:  This is a book that I know I will be not forgetting anytime soon. It's one of those that as difficult as it was to read, it's also the type that makes the most lasting impression and one that I will be raving about for some time to come.

This is such a powerful read and it also packs quite the emotional punch. It is heartbreaking and intense yet also one that is filled with hope. The characters come to life on the pages and are so well-developed, especially Pheby Brown, known at the 'Yellow Wife.' She truly is a remarkable woman for all that she goes through, all the choices she is forced to make. 

I loved that this book was told from Pheby's point of view. It gives us such an insight into all the Pheby is going through. We really feel the burden that she is under, how she is coping with all that is going on. We see the toll that it takes, yet we see just how smart she really is.

This book is inspired by a true story based on Mary Lumpkin and Lumpkin's Jail, known as "the Devil's half acre" in Richmond, Virginia. It's a part of history I knew nothing about and this is why I love reading genre - I feel I am always learning something new. I loved the author's note at the end of the book - it totally sent me down a rabbit hole of googling more about this. 

The attention to detail that Sadeqa Johnson has put into this book is remarkable, and while it is at times quite difficult to read, it is nevertheless an incredible story, one that I will absolutely be recommending to anyone who reads historical fiction. 



Audio thoughts: This was an amazing audio book. As hard as it was to listen to at times, Robin Miles really did a fantastic job bringing the book to life. Her pacing and intonation was spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and tension into her voice as needed.

 

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Blog Tour & Excerpt: A Deadly Fortune by Stacie Murphy

Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the blog tour for A Deadly Fortune by Stacie Murphy - I have an excerpt for you to read thanks to Amy at HFVBT.


Title: A Deadly Fortune
Author: Stacie Murphy
Published: January 2021, Pegasus Crime
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Summary: 
A historical mystery in the vein of The Alienist, in which a young woman in Gilded Age New York must use a special talent to unravel a deadly conspiracy.

Amelia Matthew has done the all-but-impossible, especially for an orphan in Gilded Age New York City. Along with her foster brother Jonas, she has parleyed her modest psychic talent into a safe and comfortable life. But safety and comfort vanish when a head injury leaves Amelia with a dramatically-expanded gift. After she publicly channels an angry spirit, she finds herself imprisoned in the notorious insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. As Jonas searches for a way to free her, Amelia struggles to control her disturbing new abilities and survive a place where cruelty and despair threaten her sanity.

Andrew Cavanaugh is familiar with despair. In the wake of a devastating loss, he abandons a promising medical career—and his place in Philadelphia society—to devote himself to the study and treatment of mental disease. Miss Amelia Matthew is just another patient—until she channels a spirit in front of him and proves her gift is real.

When a distraught mother comes to Andrew searching for her missing daughter—a daughter she believes is being hidden at the asylum—he turns to Amelia. Together, they uncover evidence of a deadly conspiracy, and then it’s no longer just Amelia’s sanity and freedom at stake. Amelia must master her gift and use it to catch a killer—or risk becoming the next victim.

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About the author: Stacie Murphy grew up near Nashville, TN. She began writing A Deadly Fortune in 2017 as a way to force herself to stay off Twitter in the evenings. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and the worst cat in the world.

Author links:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads

Buy links:    Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound

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Excerpt:
 
 
In the washroom, Amelia found herself standing at the sinks next to the young woman who always cried for her baby, brought there with her own pitiless escort. As the two nurses gossiped by the door, Amelia washed her face and tried her best to ignore the girl, who stood mute as tears made shining tracks down her cheeks. Despite her resolve, she could not help herself in the face of such misery.
 
Amelia reached out and squeezed the girl's hand. Time halted at the touch.
 
Though neither of them had ever learned to swim, she and Jonas had once taken a day-trip to Brighton Beach. With a packed lunch and a pair of borrowed bathing costumes, they'd boarded a train in the dark early morning. They dozed in a cramped compartment and arrived just after the sun came up.
 
Enthralled by the view of the horizon, Amelia ignored the bathing boxes and walked out into the surf, enjoying the gentle tug of the waves and the sliding sand beneath her feet. Unwary, she went out too far. A rogue swell knocked her off her feet, and in an instant everything went mad. She clawed at nothing as she spun in the foamy water, buffeted against the ocean floor and terrified of being dragged out into the deep. There was nothing but rough sand and frothing water and naked desperation.
 
Taking the girl's hand felt like being swallowed by that wave. A torrent of images, vivid and wrenching, poured through Amelia's mind and became as real to her as her own thoughts. She knew why the girl -- Mara was her name -- wept, what she'd lost. She felt what Mara did, the boundless sorrow, the scouring shame, and the utter certainty that all the world in every direction held only more of the same. Panic gripped her for a moment as she was nearly swept away. But like the wave that day at Brighton, almost before it had begun, it ended, and she found her feet again.
 
Amelia blinked. No more than a second had passed. The nurses had not paused in their conversation. She let out a shuddering breath. So much for hoping her new abilities had gone. She looked at Mara, and the pain in the girl's eyes made Amelia's heart lurch.
 
She gave the hand she still held another gentle squeeze and let go. "It wasn't your fault."
 
The nurses looked over at the words. One of them snorted in contempt. "Says the likes of you." She turned on the young woman. "And you. Always wanting us to bring you your baby. Can't, can we? And well enough you know it, since you were the one what killed it. Oh, you fooled the judge, but you'll not fool me."

Scowling, the nurse jerked Amelia away and hauled her back to her cell.
 
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Giveaway:
Enter to win a copy of A Deadly Fortune by Stacie Murphy & a $50 Gift Card to Amazon or your favorite Indie store. Winner’s choice.
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Loxby Manor
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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Review: The Survivors by Jane Harper (audio)


Title: The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
Narrator: Stephen Shanahan
Published: February 2021, Macmillan Audio
Length: 11 hours 57 minutes
Source: Netgalley

Summary:
Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets...

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...


 

My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Jane Harper and I absolutely love her writing style. I read the first book in her Aaron Falk series, which I really enjoyed, and need to get back to that one, but luckily this latest one is a stand-alone and it really was very good.

I love how atmospheric Jane Harper's books are. She really is able to use the setting in her stories to the fullest extent, almost as if they become a character themselves. This particular book was quite a complex mystery and I appreciated that. I love that we have two murders that need solving - one that happens in the present day, and one that happened in the past and was never really resolved. The way the story moves back and forth in time, dredging up secrets long buried, really kept me engaged and guessing as to where things were heading. 

As much as this is a thriller, it's also a great character study into the people we meet. It's dark and gloomy at times, but slowly we come to find out what happened all those years ago, along with what has been happening now in this area. Like a jigsaw puzzle, there are many parts to this story and ever so slowly we are given the pieces, though not without a few shake-ups along the way.

I definitely enjoyed this one and am now quite eager to go back to Jane's earlier books because I am once again reminded of just how much I enjoy her writing. If you enjoy a complex mystery, I highly recommend this one!



Audio thoughts: This was a great audio and I thought Stephen Shanahan did such a great job bringing it to life. His pacing and intonation were spot on, and he had an accent which worked well for the book but wasn't too over-done so as to not be able to understand him. 


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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Review: What Could Be Saved by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz


 
Title: What Could Be Saved
Author: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz
Published: January 2021, Atria Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 460 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary: 
An enthralling, redemptive novel set in Bangkok in 1972 and Washington, DC, in 2019 about an expatriate child who goes missing, whose family is contacted decades later by a man claiming to be the vanished boy.

Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Bea as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers.

Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers of a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand.

Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed, What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty and hope that can exist even in the midst of brokenness.



My thoughts: There is nothing I love more than discovering new-to-me authors and even though this is not this author's debut novel, it's the first time I've read anything by her. And what a fantastic book it was!

I am such a fan of books that deal with family dramas of any kind, but when you add in a missing kid that returns to the family decades later, a family that has lived abroad and because of the child that goes missing becomes broken, I am all in. This book completely captivated me from the beginning and told using a dual timeline, I was equally invested in both time frames as there was just so much to be found out in each. 

One thing that I found so remarkable was the author's ability to really give us such a sense of place, especially when the characters are in Bangkok. This is a place I have never been, yet I found I could easily picture it through the beautifully descriptive writing. It wasn't too verbose, yet it was written with just enough description that I was able to picture the sights and sounds of where these characters were. 

This book shows how just like the ripple effect of a butterfly wing, the little truths we hold back can have devastating effects later on. And that sometimes the lengths we go to protect those we love end up hurting them more than we realize. This book takes you on quite an emotional journey and I could not have loved it more! It is heartbreaking at times, yet also full of redemption and hope, and I definitely recommend it!

 

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Review: And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall (audio)


Title: And Now She's Gone
Author: Rachel Howzell Hall
Narrator: Je Nie Fleming
Published: September 2020, Macmillan Audio
Length: 11 hours 30 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Isabel Lincoln is gone.
 
But is she missing?
 
It's up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray's search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman's secrets and the truth she's hidden from her friends and family.
 
Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She's Gone explores the nature of secrets -- and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.
 

My thoughts:  This is my first book by Rachel Howzell Hall and it most certainly will not be my last. This book, whether it ends up being a stand-alone or the start of a new series, kept me engaged and captivated the entire time.

I love that this is not just your run-of-the-mill missing persons case. Yes, we do have a case where someone is missing, but it's so much more than that. Grayson Sykes is charged with finding out what happened to Isabel Lincoln, who her boyfriend says is missing. But is she really? As Grayson starts investigating, we learn not only about Isabel and her life, but also we learn quite a bit about Grayson herself. We move and back forth in time to find out just what Grayson has been hiding from and how she ended up a PI herself.

I loved that we really get to know Grayson here in this book. It's almost as if the author is setting this book up for a series - how awesome would that be!!! - as she is clearly laying a solid foundation on just who the main character is. Slowly we find out just what Grayson has been running from and why, and what she decides her next steps should be. She is such a complex character and I think, while we do learn quite a bit about her in this book, we've only scratched the surface.

The way this story is told kept me completely engaged the entire time. The suspense is there and each time I thought I knew where things might be heading, something new would come to light to change that. There were so many little twists that really keep things moving forward, which is good because I really think this is so much more of a slow-burning character study type of mystery than a fast-paced thriller. I honestly had no idea how this book was going to end and I loved that...I love a book that can keep me guessing all the way through. What a very clever cat and mouse game this turned out to be!

I can only hope that this is not the last we have seen of Grayson Sykes. This would be the perfect start to an awesome series and if it is...I am here for it! If not, it was still an amazing book! 



Audio thoughts: I loved listening to this one...the narrator, Je Nie Fleming, did such a great job bringing this story to life. I had such a hard time putting this one down that I ended up listening to it in two days! Her pacing was great and she really did a nice job with the voices. If this book is the start of a series, I hope that Je Nie Fleming continues to narrate - I would love that!

 

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: Until We Are Lost by Leslie Archer



Title: Until We Are Lost
Author: Leslie Archer
Published: February 2021, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC Paperback, 418 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl at the Border comes a haunting thriller about one woman’s journey into the painful truths threatening to destroy her.

When Tara Peary’s twin sister Sophie goes missing, Tara dives into New York’s underbelly to find her. Sophie is the one person who’s ever truly understood her, and Tara knows her sister isn’t the only one who needs help.

Tara is also on the run emotionally from her complicated childhood. Her memories are threatening to overwhelm her emotions and derail the hunt for Sophie. A psychotherapist keeps her afloat, but when Tara begins dating her therapist’s young tech-millionaire neighbor, she risks losing the only lifelines she has left.

The more Tara uncovers about her sister’s disappearance and the dark side of the rich elite, the less certain of the truth she becomes. As Tara reaches the center of the mystery, spanning from her childhood home in Georgia to a Southern California beach, she has to decide whether the truth is a price she’s willing to pay.



My thoughts: This is the first time I've read anything by Leslie Archer but it definitely won't be the last. This book is exactly why I love reading psychological thrillers - they are twisty and crazy and keep me flipping the pages.

This is a dark, and at times disturbing, book - let me just say that now. It goes places that you won't expect and may not work for everyone but within the framework of the story, it works. It's also the kind of book that really needs to be read in big chunks of time so as not to lose the momentum of the story. I tried reading little bits here and there and was lost and ended up having to start over when I had time to really devote myself to the book. 

There are quite a few twists in this book and while you may think you know where it is heading once one or two are revealed, think again. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, desperately trying to work out just how all the pieces were going to come together. 

I love a good twin story - they just seem to grab me and this one is like none you have read before. I was completely captivated and even with the darker, disturbing parts, I still found it to be a thrilling read that is complex and full of suspense. I definitely recommend!

 

***I'll be hosting a #giveaway for a SIGNED copy of this book over on my Instagram page...head over to @k2reader to find the post. Open to US/Canada. 

 

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Review: Wild Swan: A Story of Florence Nightingale by Patti Callahan (audio)


Title: Wild Swan: A Story of Florence Nightingale
Author: Patti Callahan
Narrator: Cynthia Erivo
Published: December 2020, Audible Originals
Length: 1 hour 54 minutes
Source: Personal copy

Summary:

In this captivating historical novella narrated by Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo, New York Times best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry celebrates the life of the mother of modern nursing and one of history's greatest heroines: Florence Nightingale.

Wild Swan introduces listeners to the Lady with the Lamp long before she became a legend. In this poignant story, a young woman has just discovered her divine purpose to become a nurse, and struggles to make that dream a reality. While traveling abroad with her close friend, Selina Bracebridge - another strong woman living an unconventional life - a rare opportunity arises for Florence to practice medicine. Intellectually gifted with an advanced education thanks to her father’s progressive political views, can the daughter of a prominent English family defy Victorian societal expectations to fulfill her destiny?

Over the course of a few short years, Florence remains brave and determined in the face of all obstacles, pursuing her passion against her family’s wishes. From her parent’s luxurious countryside estate in England to her travels abroad to the German medical institute where she first began her training and fell in love with her work, we follow Florence during these pivotal early years of her extraordinary life.


 

My thoughts:  I am loving these Audible Original Stories that I have found. While they all tend to be quite short, some novellas or even prequels to novels I have read, some, such as this one, tend to be more focused on giving a snapshot of someone's life. I honestly did not know much about Florence Nightingale before listening to this story and now I am left wanting to know more about her life - isn't that the best feeling? When you read something and it leaves you with a thirst for more knowledge?

I loved getting to see this snapshot into Florence Nightingale's life - how she came to become a nurse and the issues her family initially had with this decision. I loved how Patti Callahan brings to light that fact that it was not custom for women to want to do anything but marry and the fact that Florence wanted to write and become a nurse was basically unheard of, yet she stood her ground. 

This short story really is quite informative and I love that it came out around Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday. It also serves to remind us just how important our nurses have been during this pandemic.


Audio thoughts: This was a great audio and the narrator, Cynthia Ervio did such a fantastic job bringing the story to life. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she really made this story quite enjoyable to listen to. I hope to see her name on some other audiobooks soon!

 

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: The Jane Austen Diet by Jane Austen, Bryan Kozlowski

Title: The Jane Austen Diet
Author: Jane Austen, Bryan Kozlowski
Published: March 2019, Turner
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
What can Jane Austen teach us about health? Prepare to have your bonnet blown... 

From the food secrets of Pride and Prejudice to the fitness strategies of Sense and Sensibility, there's a modern health code hidden in the world's most popular romances.

Join Bryan Kozlowski as he unlocks this "health and happiness" manifesto straight from Jane Austen's pen, revealing why her prescriptions for achieving total body "bloom" still matter in the 21st century. Whether that's learning how to eat like Lizzy Bennet, exercise like Emma Woodhouse, or think like Elinor Dashwood, explore how Austen's timeless body beliefs are more relevant, refreshing, and scientifically sensible now than ever before. After all, it's a truth universally acknowledged -- Jane Austen's heroines don't get fat.



My thoughts:  This book has been sitting on my shelf for way too long and I thought that January was the perfect time to finally get to it. After-all, isn't January the time we all start the year with those pesky resolutions about healthy eating and fitness? 

I loved this book. I admit I was originally drawn to it because of Jane Austen's name. Who knew that Jane Austen herself was so forward-thinking in health and the overall well-being of our bodies, and yet that is exactly what you will find if you take the time to read this book. Not only does Bryan Kozlowski take the time to dig into her life and her books, but he does so with a breath of fresh air and wit. This book was downright funny at times. 

This book is chock full of little tidbits that Jane employs for living a life of enjoyment not one based on any one specific type of diet. Jane was a proponent of healthy living and that included the whole body - skin, size, appetite, energy and spirits (mood). And if you've read any of her novels, this was the yardstick by which she measured their health. And let's not forget that in all Austen novels there is movement of some kind - dancing, walking horseback riding, etc. My favorite is always the "taking a turn" about the room. These characters did not sit idly for too long.

I loved this book and know it will have a treasured spot on my bookshelf. I'm not a fan of "diets" but rather eating in moderation and moving with purpose every day. There is no one plan for all but I think at the end of the day, you have to find what works for you and this book, is just one way of looking at a healthy lifestyle from someone well ahead of her time.

 

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Review: The Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton


Title: The Lady Upstairs
Author: Halley Sutton
Published: November 2020, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Author

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

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

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

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



My thoughts: I love a good revenge story and while this is definitely a dark read, it's also really fun! And kudos to whoever designed this cover...I'm obsessed with the colors!

This is a fast-paced, quick read that kept my attention throughout. I loved the strong, female characters and how they were on a mission to take down some of the most powerful yet corrupt men in Hollywood. Jo in particular is such a flawed, relatable character and I loved getting her backstory, learning how she ended up working for the 'Lady Upstairs' to begin with. 

There are some major twists in this book and while I did end up figuring out a few of them, I still found myself glued to pages, frantically flipping them to see how it would all turn out. I needed to see how all the pieces came together and boy where there still some surprises to come!

This dark, suspenseful little read is filled with quick wit and is Halley Sutton's debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be quite eager to see what comes next from her. 


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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Review: The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson & J.D. Barker (audio)


Title: The Coast-to-Coast Murders
Author: James Patterson & J.D. Barker
Narrator: Jason Culp, Tristan Morris, Renata Friedman
Published: September 2020, Hachette Audio / Little, Brown & Company
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes / 560 pages
Source: Audio via Library / Print - personal copy

Summary:

A detective and FBI agent join forces on what seems like an open-and-shut case -- but a new rash of killings sends them on a pulse-pounding race against time in this intense thriller. 
 
Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past. Both adopted, and now grown -- Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology -- they trust each other before anyone else. They've had to. Their parents are public intellectuals, an Ivy League clinical psychologist and a renowned psychiatrist, and they brought up their adopted children in a rarefied, experimental environment. It sheltered them from the world's harsh realities, but it also forced secrets upon them, secrets they keep at all costs.
 
In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Dobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended --but then there's another killing just like the one they've been investigating. And another. And not just in Los Angeles -- the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators' attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss -- if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?
 
From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer -- one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.


My thoughts:  If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know I am a big James Patterson fan. But this is the first time I've read anything by J.D. Barker, an author I have been wanting to read for some time, so I was excited when I saw this duo paired up...and boy did this book live up to my expectations and then some!

This book is one thrilling, crazy ride so be prepared to not do anything once you start reading it. It completely kept me enthralled and engaged from start to finish and with all the twists and turns, I did not know where it was heading. I thought a few times I had things worked out only to be completely thrown off course with the latest twist. This book has one shock after another and really keeps you guessing all the way through!

I don't typically reread these kinds of books but this one is so twisted and crazy that I really think I might need to. There is so much packed into this book and at the length it is, that's saying something. I loved the way it was told, moving forward, but then going back in time to give us the history of these siblings. There is so much there that gives us the clues if only you are paying attention. 

I think this is one of the better of the books I've read of all the James Patterson pairings and I hope he writes with J.D. Barker again. And now I will certainly be adding all of J.D. Barker's books to my list...hopefully I will find the time to read them!


Audio thoughts: I decided to go the audio route with this book and what a thrilling experience that was. All the narrators were new to me but I thought they all did a fantastic job. This one really kept me glued to the story and the length didn't even bother me as I was totally focused on what was going on. This was definitely a case where I found myself walking just a little longer because I didn't want to stop listening and get back to real life!


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (audio)


Title: Before She Disappeared
Author: Lisa Gardner
Narrator: Hillary Huber
Published: January 2020, Brilliance Audio / Dutton
Length: 12 hours 7 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - Dutton Books

Summary:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


My thoughts: It's no secret that I am a HUGE Lisa Gardner fan. I've read all her Detective D.D. Warren books and many of the books in her other series. When I saw that the author was writing her first stand-alone novel in 20 years, I knew I had to read it, and I loved it!

One thing about Lisa Gardner's books is that while they can be a bit dark, they are incredibly addicting. I was completely captivated by this story and because I listened to it, I found myself walking just a little bit longer or doing just a little bit more cleaning because I did not want to stop listening. 

I also love that we are once again given an incredibly strong main character. Frankie Elkin is not without her own problems, but she is a force to be reckoned with - and I love characters like this. Yes, she is deeply flawed but that's what makes her so interesting. I couldn't wait to get into her backstory as much as I wanted to see what she was going to do about the missing girl. This was an instance where I was as invested in the main character as much as the plot she was involved in, if that makes any sense.

This is such a multilayered story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Frankie is such a fantastic new character and I loved the way she takes her anger about her past and channels that into solving the missing person cases she takes on, cases that have gone cold and everyone else has given up on. I loved her determination and grit, and her never-give-up attitude. And let's not forget all the interesting and intriguing characters we meet that Frankie either needs on her side for the case or meets at the bar where she works to make some money while staying in the area.

This book kept me guessing all the way through and I had no idea where it was headed. The suspense builds quite nicely and the ending took me by surprise. While this is marked as a stand-alone now, the way it ends leaves the possibly that Lisa Gardner could come back and revisit Frankie Elkin one day and nothing would make me happier! I would definitely love to see this turn into a series!


Audio thoughts: This was a stellar audio book. Hillary Huber brought her A-game to narrate this one and I absolutely loved it! Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as necessary. There was even the right humor inflected into her voice when needed, particularly anytime Piper the cat was involved! I'm quite familiar with Hillary Huber and know when I see her name listed as the narrator, I'm in good hands!


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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake


Title: Under a Gilded Moon
Author: Joy Jordan-Lake
Narrator: Kathleen Gati
Published: December 2020, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 12 hours 58 minutes / 414 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy / Print - Hardcover via GetRed PR

Summary:

From the bestselling author of A Tangled Mercy comes an enthralling novel of secrets, a tumultuous war of ideas, and murder as classes collide in the shadow of Biltmore House.

Biltmore House, a palatial mansion being built by the Vanderbilts, American “royalty,” is in its final stages of construction in North Carolina. The country’s grandest example of privilege, it symbolizes the aspirations of its owner and the dreams of a girl, just as driven, who lives in its shadow.
 
Kerry MacGregor’s future is derailed when, after two years in college in New York City, family obligations call her home to the beautiful Appalachians. She is determined to distance herself from the opulence she sees rising in the Blue Ridge Mountains, however close its reach. Her family’s land is among the last pieces required to complete the Biltmore Estate. But something more powerful than an ambitious Vanderbilt heir could change Kerry’s fate as, one by one, more outsiders descend on the changing landscape—a fugitive from Sicily, a reporter chasing a groundbreaking story, a debutante tainted by scandal, and a conservationist prepared to put anyone at risk to stoke the resentment of the locals.
 
As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.


My thoughts: Historical fiction and mysteries are two genres I love, so when I find books that combine the two, I absolutely need to read them and this latest book by Joy Jordan-Lake, an author who I have never read before, was presented to me, I knew I had to give it a chance and I'm so glad I did...I really enjoyed it. Plus...I happened to be a little fascinated by the Vanderbilts, so total win-win!

This book had such an amazing sense of place and really distinguishes between the haves and the have nots. It was so easy to be swept up into the place and time of this book and the writing was so descriptive that I could really picture the building of  the house on this estate - a place that I really do hope to visit at some point.  Add in a murder mystery and I was completely captivated. I found myself glued to the book and even when I had to put it down, I was thinking about everything - the characters, the setting, the lush descriptions that we were given.

I love that this book is based on real people. Reading historical fiction always intrigues me because I learn something new or learn more about something I am interested in. I have read a few books already about the Vanderbilts and have been wanting to read more and this one definitely checked that box. 

I definitely suggest picking this one up...it's such a well-written story that will keep you engaged all the way through. 


Audio thoughts: When I saw that Kathleen Gati was the narrator for this book, I knew I had to listen to it. She is one of my favorite audiobook narrators and she did such a great job bringing this book to life.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (audio)


Title: Long Bright River
Author: Liz Moore
Narrator: Allyson Ryan
Published: January 2020, Penguin Audio
Length: 13 hours 19 minutes
Source: ALC via Libro.fm

Summary:
Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn't be more different. Then, one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit--and her sister--before it's too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.


 

My thoughts:  This is one of those books that I cannot believe I put off reading until now. Everyone was raving about it back when it came out and I had it...but I just kept putting it off. Well...believe me - the hype is totally deserved for this book and then some! If you haven't read it, or listened to it, get on it NOW!

I was completely mesmerized by this book. The writing pulled me in right from the start and it never really let up. This book is such a multilayered story that is gritty, emotional, unsettling and completely addicting. Once you start reading this you will be hard-pressed to walk away until you finish it. The characters are so well-developed and real that you can't help but get caught up in what is going on, their struggles and frustrations being completely relatable.

I loved how it is all told by one narrator, moving back and forth in time to tell the story. While at the heart of the story, we have a serial killer on the loose targeting sex workers, we also see first hand how the drug epidemic, especially the opioid crisis, affects a family. Unfortunately, I've seen how this can impact a family and can relate. It's not an easy road to navigate and I think the author clearly shows this struggle. 

I loved how the flashbacks really gave us an insight into the relationship between Mickey and her sister Kacey and why in the present Mickey was so conflicted. There is a strong bond between Mickey and Kacey, yet there is a long history that we slowly unpack with some interesting surprises that are eventually uncovered. 

This is the type of book that stays with you long after you finish it. It absolutely took me by surprise and definitely packed a few emotional punches. I cannot recommend this one enough and I know for sure I will be keeping an eye out for what this author writes next!



Audio thoughts: This audiobook was amazing. Allyson Ryan nails it with her narration and I found myself completely caught up in the story. She does such a great job bringing the story to life that I would walk just a little bit longer or clean just a little bit more, just so I could keep listening. Her pacing and intonation was spot on and she really nailed Mickey's voice. 


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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review: A Stranger at the Door by Jason Pinter


Title: A Stranger at the Door
Author: Jason Pinter
Series: Rachel Marin Thriller, #2
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Published: January 2021, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 36 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
From the Amazon bestselling author of Hide Away comes the gripping second installment of the Rachel Marin Thriller series.

Rachel Marin is in a good place. After years of struggle, the single mother has found both a stable, loving relationship and a new purpose: putting her investigative skills to work solving crimes for the local PD. But just as the pieces of her life are finally starting to fall into place, her teenaged son’s teacher is gruesomely murdered, starting a domino effect that shatters her peaceful existence.

When Rachel discovers an ominous email the teacher sent to her just before his death, she knows she must help bring his killer to justice. But soon a figure from her past reappears, threatening to expose Rachel’s darkest secrets if she doesn’t tread lightly. And when her son is recruited by a shadowy businessman who may be connected to the murder, Rachel knows this has just gotten very, very personal.

Someone out there is dead set on keeping this grisly cover-up good and buried, which means if Rachel’s not careful, it’s only a matter of time before her dream life becomes her worst nightmare.
 



My thoughts:  This is the second book in Jason Pinter's Rachel Marin Thriller series and I love it. If you love a strong, kick-a** female protagonist who will do anything to protect her children, this is a series for you!

This book starts off with a bang and never lets up. It's a fast-paced and suspenseful read and I love that Rachel doesn't let anything deter her from getting answers. I will say that this is probably a case where you really should read the first book, Hide Away, before picking this one up, so that you have a better idea of Rachel's backstory, though the author does do a good job of giving just enough information without repeating everything verbatim.

Rachel goes all out when she realizes that her own son is being led astray by a sinister scheme that may have some connection to the murder of a beloved teacher at his school. There is nothing more fierce than a protective mama bear and all her instincts are screaming that something is not right.

I love that we continue to get more answers about Rachel and her past. We still do not have the complete story - this will probably take the entire series to flesh out but that is why I love reading series. There is also the continued relationship between Rachel and Detective Serrano. That is a tricky relationship, still in it's early days and they are clearly having growing pains, but I have faith they will learn to work through it as I think they balance each other out.

This is a great series and I cannot wait to see where it goes next!


Audio thoughts: I was so glad to see that Angela Dawe was back to narrate this second installment. She narrated the first book and did such a great job and continued to do an amazing job with this second book. She really brings these characters to life, giving each one their own personality, even Rachel's children. Angela has such a knack for infusing just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed at just the right time to make this book a great listening experience.




Books in this series:

  1. Hide Away
  2. A Stranger at the Door
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