Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly (audio)

 

Title: The Last Garden in England
Author: Julia Kelly
Narrator: Shiromi Arserio, Marisa Calin, Danielle Cohen, Katherine Littrell, Siobhan Waring
Published: February 2021, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 10 hours 46 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

From the author of the international best seller The Light over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place. 

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden. 

The year 1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens - and the people she meets - promise to change her life forever. 

The year 1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades. 

In this sweeping novel reminiscent of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie, Julia Kelly explores the unexpected connections that cross time and the special places that bring people together forever.


 

My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Julia Kelly and I absolutely loved it. It completely swept me up and held me captive from start to finish and was the perfect antidote for these long winter days.

I loved how this story was told, using three different times periods and bringing them all together with a garden. You might think it would be confusing keeping it all straight, but each time line is so vivid and unique in it's own right and I found that I was equally invested in all three...and I loved that! I wanted more of each one. There is the present day, the early 1900s and then the 1940s and it is all set at the historic Highbury House where we have this garden that is first designed, then preserved and finally restored.

This book is filled with five strong female characters, whose lives are tied to the house and the garden and I loved getting to know them. Each had their own issues to combat in their own times and I loved seeing them overcome this. I felt that all the details about the gardens in each of the three time periods were so vivid that I could picture myself walking through them at any point. And I appreciated just how true to the times the author stayed, clearly doing her research and not picking flowers from now to use in the gardens of 1900s. I also loved the explanations of why to pick certain flowers over others as I am most definitely not a gardener.

I also loved that there was a bit of a mystery to this...why was part of the garden locked? As the story unfolds, we slowly learn why and this is where having the three parts comes into play as pieces are slowly revealed to put everything in place.

I cannot recommend this one enough. It's a captivating story that will keep you engaged with a story about friendship, loss, love and hope. I cannot recommend this one enough!


Audio thoughts: I loved listening to this and thought all the narrators did a fantastic job. Some of them were new-to-me, but that did not matter as they all brought their A-game! I found myself glued to my ear-buds and wanted nothing more than to just lose myself in this story and loved the way each narrator brought their character to life. The pacing and intonations were spot on and I loved the emotions that each narrator infused into their voice as needed. This really was a great book on audio.


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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews (audio)

 

Title: Who Is Maud Dixon
Author: Alexandra Andrews
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Published: March 2021, Hachette Audio / Little Brown and Company
Length: 9 hours 11 minutes / 336 pages
Source: Audio - ALC via Libro.fm / Print - ARC via Goodreads

Summary:
For readers of The Silent Patient - a taut, twisty, character-driven suspense novel about a famous novelist and a small-town striver locked in a struggle for fortune and fame

Florence Darrow is a small-town striver who believes that she's destined to become a celebrated writer. When she stumbles into the opportunity to become the assistant to "Maud Dixon," a celebrated-but anonymous-novelist (think: Elena Ferrante), she believes that the universe is finally providing her big chance. The arrangement feels idyllic; Helen can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom on both writing and living. She even invites Florence along on a research trip to Morocco, where her new novel is set. Florence has never been out of the country before; maybe, she imagines, she'll finally have something exciting to write about herself. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car crash, and Helen is dead, she begins to imagine what it might be like to 'upgrade' into not only Helen's life, but also that of Helen's bestselling pseudonym, Maud Dixon...

 

My thoughts:  This is one of my most anticipated March reads and let me tell you...it absolutely delivers on every level! This is such a smart, twisted psychological thriller and I cannot recommend it enough!

Right from the start, I found myself completely engaged and immersed in this book. It's one wild ride and introduces us to characters that you have to meet to believe...or not. I love characters where you aren't quite sure if they are reliable and the choices they make definitely have you questioning everything. Both Florence and Helen are like that and it just hooks you so that you don't want to stop reading. I finished this in a day...I just couldn't put it down!

I loved the pacing of the book. The first half really sets things up, introducing us to the characters and then the second half takes off, and between the twists and turns and all the secrets that keep popping up, you won't know what hit you. And then there's the setting, which comes to life like I've never seen before. I've never been to Morocco, but I felt like I was transported there. It was as if I could feel the heat and sun beating down on me alongside the characters...that's how vivid the writing was.

This is such a clever, brilliantly plotted story and I am shocked that it is a debut novel. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented author - you can be sure I will be keeping an eye out, for sure! In the meantime, I highly recommend picking this one up...you will not be sorry!


Audio thoughts: I was able to snag a copy of the audio and it was perfectly narrated. Therese Plummer did a fantastic job bringing this book to life. Her narration of this book really did the job, her pitch and intonation was spot on and I found that I was so into the book that I ended up listening to it in one day...I just could not put it down. 


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Review: Smoke Signal by Marie Benedict, Kate Quinn (audio)


Title: Smoke Signal
Author: Marie Benedict, Kate Quinn
Series: Audible Original Stories
Narrator: Nicola Barber, Saskia Maarleveld
Published: February 2021, Audible Originals
Length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
Best-selling authors Marie Benedict (The Mystery of Mrs. Christie) and Kate Quinn (The Rose Code) join forces to tell the captivating story of how history's most famous mystery writer crossed paths with one of Britain's top secret code breakers in the throes of World War II.

Recruited as a code breaker of enemy ciphers, ex-debutante Osla Kendall spends her days translating Axis military messages and her nights reading mystery novels. When Osla gets her hands on Agatha Christie's most recent work, N or M?, a mysterious signal within its pages catches her eye, and she and her eccentric book club get in touch with the famous but reclusive writer. Osla's outreach is a welcome distraction for Agatha, who feels restless and underestimated toiling away in a London pharmacy while men like her husband can contribute to the war effort from the front lines.

So begins the story of an unlikely friendship and the secrets that bind two brave women embroiled in war. Based on true events and told by two beloved authors and champions of history's heroines, Smoke Signal is a breathtaking novella of espionage and the unforgettable women who risked everything to serve their country.

To learn more about Osla Kendall and Agatha Christie, see Marie Benedict's The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, a novel of Agatha Christie's disappearance in 1926, and Kate Quinn's forthcoming The Rose Code, a novel of the female code breakers of Bletchley Park.


 

My thoughts:  It's no secret that I love audiobooks and I have to say I am absolutely loving these Audible Originals...especially when I see ones created by some of my favorite authors. Now I knew this one was coming out so I was on the lookout for it, as I had heard Marie Benedict talking about it during an interview she did while on tour for her latest book, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. That book is already out, and I absolutely loved it, but I haven't read Kate Quinn's upcoming book, The Rose Code yet, but am now more eager to get to it.

I loved how this was set up - during the war and then seven years later. It really kept my attention and was quite clever. There are no spoilers for either book, so whether you have read them or not, this short story won't ruin anything. I loved seeing Agatha Christie again and am eager to meet Osla Kendall soon!



Audio thoughts: I could not have picked two better narrators for this. Both Nicola Barber and Saskia Maarleveld are two of my favorites and I thought they did a fantastic job with this narration. They really brought this audio to life, however short it was.


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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review: Widowish by Melissa Gould


Title: Widowish
Author: Melissa Gould
Published: February 2021, Little A
Format: Hardcover, 220 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
Melissa Gould’s hopeful memoir of grieving outside the box and the surprising nature of love.

When Melissa Gould’s husband, Joel, was unexpectedly hospitalized, she could not imagine how her life was about to change. Overwhelmed with uncertainty as Joel’s condition tragically worsened, she offered him the only thing she could: her love and devotion. Her dedication didn’t end with his death.

Left to resume life without her beloved husband and raise their young daughter on her own, Melissa soon realized that her and Joel’s love lived on. Melissa found she didn’t fit the typical mold of widowhood or meet the expectations of mourning. She didn’t look like a widow or act like a widow, but she felt like one. Melissa was widowish.

Melissa’s personal journey through grief and beyond includes unlikely inspiration from an evangelical preacher, the calming presence of some Real Housewives, and the unexpected attention of a charming musician.

A modern take on loss, Widowish illuminates the twists of fate that break our world, the determination that keeps us moving forward, and the surprises in life we never see coming.


 

My thoughts:  One of my reading goals this year is to read more nonfiction, including memoirs, which I enjoy reading, so of course I was thrilled when this book landed in my mailbox. The topic may seem at bit grim at first, but it really is quite an amazing book and I'm so glad I read it.

This book is an emotional, yet hopeful, journey as Melissa Gould struggles to overcome her grief after the shocking loss of her husband, Joel. It is so heartfelt and real, relatable and raw, and whether you are a widow or not, or know someone who has recently passed, this is a book I strongly urge everyone to read. There is something every single person can walk away with from reading this book - from the initial difficulties they had at determining what was wrong with Joel at first - I have first hand experience dealing with this with my brother-in-law; to the end-of-life care - we unfortunately will all be there at some point; to a multitude of other little things peppered throughout. 

Melissa gives us an honest look at her grieving process and shows the unpredictability of grief. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and while you might think a book about grief would be heavy, this one is filled with hope. She has such an engaging way of telling her story that it pulls you right in. I am so thankful Melissa was willing to share this with us and am so glad this book made its way to me. If you like memoirs, I highly recommend picking this one up.


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Review: The Half Sister by Sandi Jones


 
Title: The Half Sister
Author: Sandi Jones
Published: June 2020, Minotaur Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Goodreads

Summary: 
Her arrival will ruin everything

Kate and Lauren. Sisters who are always there for each other. But as they gather for their weekly Sunday lunch, a knock on the door changes everything.

The new arrival, Jess, claims to be their half-sister, but that would mean the unthinkable . . . That she’s the secret daughter of their beloved, recently deceased father Harry. Their mother Rose is devastated and Kate and Lauren refuse to believe Jess’s lies.

But as the fall-out starts it’s clear that each is hiding secrets and that perhaps this family isn’t as perfect as they appear.

Where there was truth, now there are lies and only one thing is certain, their half-sister’s arrival has ruined everything . . .



My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by Sandi Jones and I absolutely love her writing. She has certainly mastered the psychological thriller/domestic suspense genre and this latest one definitely proves that.

I love how addicting these books are and this one is no exception. It slowly pulls you in with an entertaining read about a family that is literally torn-apart when a stranger shows up claiming to be the daughter of their father, who recently passed. From there, secrets start to unravel and sides are taken and you just aren't quite sure who is trustworthy.

I found myself totally glued to the pages, unsure where things where heading and I loved that. I also loved how the story was told, alternating from the two sisters points of view. The sisters relationship was already strained and now you add in this stranger and things become even more strained as one sister believes Jess and one does not. 

This book takes you on such a crazy ride and all the twists and turns will keep you on your toes until the very end. It is definitely a binge-worthy type of read and I cannot believe I waited so long to read this one. The only good thing is that I don't have to wait as long until her next book comes out!


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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review: Hadley & Grace by Suzanne Redfearn (audio)

 

Title: Hadley & Grace
Author: Suzanne Redfearn
Narrator: Christina Traister, Sarah Naughton, Pete Simonelli
Published: February 2021, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 10 hours 7 minutes / 347 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Publishing / Print via Amazon Publishing

Summary:
The author of In an Instant delivers a heart-pounding and emotional roller-coaster ride of self-discovery in the tradition of Thelma and Louise.

Needing to escape her abusive marriage, Hadley flees with her two kids, knowing it might be her only chance. A woman who can’t even kill a spider, Hadley soon finds herself pushed to the limits as she fights to protect her family.

Grace, new mother of baby Miles, desperately wants to put her rough past behind her for good, but she finds it impossible when her path crosses with Hadley’s, and her quest for a new start quickly spirals out of control and turns into a terrifying flight for survival.

Stronger together than apart, the two find their fates inextricably entwined, and as the danger closes in, each must decide how much she is willing to risk for the other.

A powerful story of self-discovery, Hadley and Grace is the heart-racing tale of two women facing insurmountable odds, racing to stay one step ahead of the trouble that is chasing them, and discovering new kinds of love and family along the way.


 

My thoughts:  Suzanne Redfearn has become an author that I know I can count on and even though I have never seen the movie, Thelma and Louise, I knew I would enjoy this latest book from her and I absolutely did. And it's make me want to see the movie, so I guess that's a good thing!

Right away I was pulled into this book. Not really knowing what to expect because I haven't seen the movie, I found myself completely falling in love with these two women who become unlikely partners as they try to get out of their own bad situations. I became so engaged in this story that I really had a hard time putting it down and found myself laughing and even tearing up a few times. This book really has it all - adventure, suspense, a little romance and of course a dose of solid feel-good that really hits you when all is said and done. 

I cannot recommend this one enough...it's the perfect escape read for these long winter days. And if you haven't read Suzanne's other books, I highly recommend those as well!


Audio thoughts: This was such a great book to listen to and the narrators really did a great job making the book come to life. I liked that there were three different narrators and all did well with pacing and intonations and infusing just the right amount of emotion and tension in their voices as needed. I really enjoyed this book and think it translated well onto audio.


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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Book Spotlight: Flowers of Darkness by Tatiana de Rosnay

Today, Tatiana de Rosnay's latest novel, Flowers of Darkness, is being published and to celebrate, I'm helping the publisher get the word out.



 
Title: Flowers of Darkness
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Published: February 2021, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages


Summary: 
From the internationally bestselling author of Sarah's Key comes Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness, a riveting and emotionally intense novel, set in a near future Paris, where a woman confronts past betrayal and present mystery

Author Clarissa Katsef is struggling to write her next book. She's just snagged a brand new artist residency in an ultra-modern apartment, with a view of all of Paris, a dream for any novelist in search of tranquility. But since moving in, she has had the feeling of being watched. Is there reason to be paranoid? Or is her distraction and discomfort the result of her husband's recent shocking betrayal? Or is that her beloved Paris lies altered outside her windows? A city that will never be quite the same, a city with a scar at its center?

Stuck inside, in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, Clarissa enlists her beloved granddaughter in her investigation of the mysterious, high tech building even as she finds herself drawn back into the orbit of her first husband who is still the one who knows her most intimately, who shares the past grief that she has never quite let go.

Staying true to her favorite themes--the imprint of the place, the weight of secrets--de Rosnay weaves an intrigue of thrilling suspense and emotional power.



Praise for Flowers of Darkness: 

"A woman wrestling with writer's block turns to a Parisian residency to get her creative juices flowing, with grim consequences, in Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness. Alone in her swanky, if temporary, apartment, Clarissa can't escape the feeling that she's under surveillance. She pulls her granddaughter in to help her, but soon comes face to face with the secrets of her own past, in this tense thriller."Bustle

"All the alluring ingredients of de Rosnay's work come together in her new novel." Elle (France)

"A fine novel, a thriller that sensitively explores paranoia, grief, and personal redemption. The writing is lush and visually evocative… she has such a compelling voice."Booklist

"I love how Tatiana de Rosnay's novels are always both page-turners and explorations of important issues…The questions the story raises about creativity, loss, and the rich messiness of being fully human are crucial and compelling. The near-future in which Flowers of Darkness takes place is such a logical extension of our own environmentally-challenged and AI-enhanced present that as I read I kept wanting to check to make sure the Eiffel tower was still standing."Jean Hegland, author of Windfalls and Into the Forest

"Lively, engaging and captivating." Madame Figaro

"By exploring the effects of modern technology and the upheavals of contemporary life, de Rosnay continues to thrill us with this hypnotizing intrigue."Tele 7 Jours

 

FLOWERS OF DARKNESS
by Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin's Press
February 23, 2021
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1250272553
eBook ISBN: B08BYC5X76

 

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Review: An Eye for an Eye by Carol Wyer (audio)


Title: An Eye for an Eye
Author: Carol Wyer
Series: Detective Kate Young, #1
Narrator: Henrietta Meire
Published: February 2021, Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 hours 49 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:
A killer running rings around the police. A detective spiralling out of control.

DI Kate Young is on leave. She’s the force’s best detective, but her bosses know she’s under pressure, on medication and overcoming trauma. So after her bad judgement call leads to a narrowly averted public disaster, they’re sure all she needs is a rest.

But when Staffordshire Police summon her back to work on a murder case, it’s a harder, more suspicious Kate Young who returns. With a new ruthlessness, she sets about tracking down a clinical, calculating serial killer who is torturing victims and leaving clues to taunt the police. Spurred on by her reporter husband, Young begins to suspect that the murderer might be closer than she ever imagined.

As she works to uncover the truth, Young unravels a network of secrets and lies, with even those closest to her having something to hide. But with her own competence—and her grip on reality—called into question, can she unmask the killer before they strike again?


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book in Carol Wyer's Detective Kate Young series, but not my first time reading Carol Wyer. She has written two fantastic series - the DI Robyn Carter series and the Detective Natalie Ward series - and while I have hated to see each of them come to an end, I am so excited to see her create this new series that has another strong female lead.

I think this is a great start to a new series. Detective Kate Young is a dynamic character, one that is flawed with many issues in her personal life. She is currently on leave due to a traumatic incident and as the book progresses, we the reader start to clue in on what that incident is. I started to put the pieces together and had an inkling but it wasn't until about a third of the way through that I finally figured it out. I really liked that we aren't told upfront what happens but rather are slowly fed clues until at last it all comes out at the end. This also ties in to the case that Kate is called back to work on...and this will set us up for the next book.

While the murders themselves were a grisly and awful, they didn't take place on the pages of the book, for which I am so thankful. Rather, the focus is on the aftermath and trying to figure out why the murders are taking place. The team that Kate has assembled was small and I am looking forward to getting to know them in future books - I hope they continue to work together!

I loved how quick this book moved. It is non-stop and between the flash-backs that Kate has from the traumatic event to the twists and turns that this book takes, I could not put this one down. While I did put a few things together, I was still shocked at some other developments.  This is going to be a great series and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!!!


Audio thoughts: This was such a great book and I think it lent itself naturally to audio. The narrator was new to me and I think Henrietta Meire did a great job with the voices and the pacing. As this is a series, I do hope she will continue to be the one to narrate for the sake of consistency.


Books in this series:

  1. An Eye for an Eye
  2. A Cut for a Cut - due out June 2021

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Review: The Berlin Girl by Mandy Robotham (audio)


 
Title: The Berlin Girl
Author: Mandy Robotham
Narrator: Kristin Atherton
Published: Audio - October 2020 Avon / Print - December 2020 Avon
Length: 13 hours 17 minutes
Source: Audio - via Library / Print via Publisher

Summary: 
From the bestselling author of The German Midwife comes the heart-wrenching story of a country on the brink of war, a woman who puts herself in the line of fire, and a world about to be forever changed.

Berlin, 1938: It’s the height of summer, and Germany is on the brink of war. When fledgling reporter Georgie Young is posted to Berlin, alongside fellow Londoner Max Spender, she knows they are entering the eye of the storm.

Arriving to a city swathed in red flags and crawling with Nazis, Georgie feels helpless, witnessing innocent people being torn from their homes. As tensions rise, she realises she and Max have to act – even if it means putting their lives on the line.

But when she digs deeper, Georgie begins to uncover the unspeakable truth about Hitler’s Germany – and the pair are pulled into a world darker than she could ever have imagined…



My thoughts:  This is the first book I've read by Mandy Robotham but it certainly will not be the last. I found myself completely captivated by this tale of sacrifice, secrets, love and ambition and I hope all her books are as engaging as this one.

For as many books as I read about WWII, I find that there is always a new angle that I have yet to see and this one is exactly that. I loved seeing Berlin in the twelve months leading up to the war and also from a journalist's point of view. I could feel the tension as things start to get out of control and Georgie realizes what she is seeing. Knowing what we do, this is when the tension really picks up and the suspense kicks in. 

I was immediately taken with Georgie's character. She is determined not to let the fact that she is working in a man's field stop her from getting the word out of the atrocities that are happening in Germany. She may arrive a young reporter in a glamorous Berlin but throughout the book we see her blossom into a hardened and daring journalist in a developing war zone who is more than willing to take chances to get the story she needs told. Not only does she develop friendships with her colleagues but also with the locals and makes it her mission to get her one friend and his family to safety, even if it means putting her life in danger.

This book kept my attention from start to finish. Even though I knew some of the outcomes, I was still on the edge of my seat and found myself shocked all over again at the horrors that the Jewish people experienced. The amount of research put into this book is evident and I know that this is a book I won't be forgetting any time soon. 

 

Audio thoughts: I was able to grab the audio of this from my library, but I was glad I also had the print version, too. The audio was really well-done and it my first time listening to Kristin Atherton narrate. I thought she did a great job bringing this book to life, infusing just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed. 

 

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner


  

Title: The Nature of Fragile Things
Author: Susan Meissner
Published: February 2021, Berkley Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity.



My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by Susan Meissner but it might be my favorite one yet. She has such an uncanny ability to write such captivating historical fiction, and this latest one delves into my newest favorite subgenre - the historical mystery...which just hooked me even more!

I loved the way this story was structured. Having it start with an interview between Sophie and a U.S. Marshall really grabbed my attention and I felt that it never let up. What happened to Sophie's husband, Martin Hocking after the earthquake?  I was completely absorbed and captivated by this story the entire time, loving how throughout the book snippets of the interview would be thrown in, each time giving us just a little more. This just piqued my curiosity even further as I tried to put all the pieces together. 

I love how the author uses the backdrop of the San Francisco earthquake to crack open the major fault lines that tie our characters together. This is where we start to see the secrets of our characters come to light. And all along, you know that these characters have their secrets. But there is also good to come of this. There are friendships that are forged from this earthquake, friendships that happen from three women that had no ties beforehand.

This book is a such a unique blend of history and suspense. It is a story about friendship and courage, what it means to love and what it means to belong. I did not know anything about the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, yet I felt transported there as I was reading. I was completely immersed in this character-driven historical fiction novel from page one and I cannot recommend it enough!


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Review: The Owl Always Hunts at Night by Samuel Bjork


 
Title: The Owl Always Hunts at Night
Author: Samuel Bjork
Series: Holger Munch & Mia Kruger, #2
Published: June 2017, Penguin Group
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Personal copy


Summary: 

The thrilling follow-up to Samuel Bjork s internationally bestselling I'm Traveling Alone, which The Wall Street Journal calls tense and smartly constructed. 
 
When a troubled teenager disappears from an orphanage and is found murdered, her body arranged on a bed of feathers, veteran investigator Holger Munch and his team are called into the case. Star investigator Mia Kruger, on temporary leave while she continues to struggle with her own demons, jumps back on the team and dives headfirst into this case: just in time to decode the clues in a disturbing video of the victim before she was killed, being held prisoner like an animal in a cage. 
 
Meanwhile, Munch s daughter, Miriam, meets an enticing stranger at a party a passionate animal rights activist who begins to draw her into his world and away from her family. 
 
Munch, Kruger, and the team must hunt down the killer before he can strike again in this sophisticated, intricately plotted psychological thriller by the newest phenomenon in international crime fiction.



My thoughts: This is the second book in Samuel Bjork's Holger Munch and Mia Kruger crime fiction series and it was as thrilling and gripping as the first. I am so glad that the group I did a buddy read for the first book has decided to read all three books. This is a series that has been on the tbr for way too long!

These books are dark and very gripping and this one in particular, though not as fast-paced as the last one, still had me glued to the pages. I love that there is such a sense of dread right from the start and that is carried all the way through the entire book. The case itself really kept me guessing as to where it was heading, and at times it was very disturbing to read. It is very much on the level of the Lars Kepler books in terms of just how dark and graphic it is, but I happen to like that, so it doesn't bother me.

The character development continues in this second installment and that is always something I look forward to when reading a series. We not only learn more about Mia and Holger but we also get better acquainted with the rest of the team. I love digging into each of the characters, especially as they are going to be part of the series moving forward. We do see, though that it's not just Mia and Holger that have their issues...a few others have some struggles they are working out. I love flawed characters and this team is certainly made up of a bunch of them!

This book really kept me on the edge of my seat and had plenty of twists and turns. A few times I thought I had worked things out, only to be misled. I am eager to read the next book in the series, especially after the way this one ends!

 

Books in this series:

  1. I'm Traveling Alone
  2. The Owl Always Hunts at Night
  3. The Boy in the Headlights

 

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Review: The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey

Title: The Secret Stealers
Author: Jane Healey
Published: April 2021, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC E-copy, 443 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
A female American spy in Nazi-occupied France finds purpose behind enemy lines in a novel of unparalleled danger, love, and daring by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Beantown Girls.

Anna Cavanaugh is a restless young widow and brilliant French teacher at an all-girls school in Washington, DC. Everything changes when she’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by family friend and legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan.

Donovan has faith in her—and in all his “glorious amateurs” who are becoming Anna’s fast friends: Maggie, Anna’s down-to-earth mentor; Irene, who’s struggling to find support from her husband for her clandestine life; and Julia, a cheerful OSS liaison. But the more Anna learns about the organization’s secret missions, the more she longs to be stationed abroad. Then comes the opportunity: go undercover as a spy in the French Resistance to help steal critical intelligence that could ultimately turn the tide of the war.

Dispatched behind enemy lines and in constant danger, Anna is filled with adrenaline, passion, and fear. She’s driven to make a difference—for her country and for herself. Whatever the risk, she’s willing to take it to help liberate France from the shadows of occupation and to free herself from the shadows of her former life.



My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Jane Healey and I just loved it. It was completely captivating and even a little heartbreaking at times, but I could not put this book down.

I love how the characters in this book come to life on the pages. Equal parts fact and fiction, Jane Healey shows the important roles women played during WWII partly because they were young and pretty and so they were often underestimated to be useful for anything else. We see just how brave and talented some of these women spies really were and what was not only asked of them but what they volunteered to do, knowing the risks they were taking and the dangers they were putting themselves in.

I recently read a book about another real life female spy, so reading this one really intrigued me and I loved that I could feel that dangers that these women were faced with day in and day out. The tension was so palpable throughout the book and knowing that it was based on the lives of real men and women really made the book that much more interesting.  This is why I love reading historical fiction. I always learn something new. For instance, I had no idea that Julia Child was involved in the war effort. Now I'll be going down a rabbit hole researching more about her and what she did during this time. So cool!

I cannot recommend this one enough. It's the perfect combination of suspense, action and even a little romance. It may be long, but it moves quickly and I loved every minute of it. I highly recommend picking this one up when it comes out April 1st!

 

 

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology edited by Zibby Owens


 
Title: Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology
Author: edited by Zibby Owens
Published: February 2021, Skyhorse
Format: ARC Paperback, 312 pages
Source: Publicist

Summary: 
JOIN AWARD-WINNING PODCASTER ZIBBY OWENS OF MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ BOOKS ON A JOURNEY FILLED WITH FOOD, EXERCISE, SEX, BOOKS, AND MORE.
 
It’s impossible to ignore how life has changed since COVID-19 spread across the world. People from all over quarantined and did their best to keep on going during the pandemic. Zibby Owens, host of the award-winning podcast MomsDon’t Have Time to Read Books and a mother of four herself, wanted to do something to help people carry on and to give them something to focus on other than the horrors of their news feeds. So she launched an online magazine called We Found Time.

Authors who had been on her podcast wrote original, brilliant essays for busy readers. Zibby organized these profound pieces into themes inspired by five things moms don’t have time to do: eat, read, work out, breathe, and have sex. Now compiled as an anthology named Moms Don’t Have Time To, these beautiful, original essays by dozens of bestselling and acclaimed authors speak to the ever-increasing demands on our time, especially during the quarantine, in a unique, literary way.

Actress Evangeline Lilly writes about the importance and impact of film. Bestselling author Rene Denfeld focuses on her relationship with food after growing up homeless. Screenwriter and author Lea Carpenter and Suzanne Falter, author, speaker, and podcast host, focus on loss. New York Times bestselling authors Chris Bohjalian and Gretchen Rubin write about the importance of reading. Others write about working out, love and sex, eating and cooking, and more. Join Zibby on her journey through the winding road of quarantine and perhaps you, too, will find time.



My thoughts: Right before the pandemic hit last year, I had started attending Zibby Owen's literary salons in NYC. I had already been listening to her podcasts - which I still do - but attending those salons and other book events were something I looked forward to and hope that one day in the future will be able to happen again. If you have never had the chance to meet Zibby - she is amazing and a true cheerleader for the literary world. 

This collection of essays is something that whether you are a mom or not (and I am most certainly not) you will find appealing and relatable as we still learn to navigate this new normal. We all have our struggles living in some type of lockdown - whether we are alone, home with our spouse, home with kids, working from home and homeschooling, etc - and this collection of essays just shows everyone is trying to figure it out at the same time. They range from funny to serious and touch on topics including eating, breathing, working out and even trying to find time to have sex. 

The authors that have contributed to this book all have appeared on Zibby's podcast, Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books and if you have not had a chance to listen to this podcast yet, I highly recommend it. And in true Zibby fashion, all proceeds from the book are going to COVID vaccine research...again, this woman is truly one of a kind.

Go ahead and pick this one up. It's the type of book that you can leave on your nightstand and read one or two essays at a time, flip around or read cover to cover. But it's definitely one I recommend! You will find you probably can relate to some if not many of the ideas shared in the essays.

 

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Review: Do No Harm by Christina McDonald


 
Title: Do No Harm
Author: Christina McDonald
Published: February 2021, Gallery Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publicist

Summary: 
Emma loves her life. She’s the mother of a precocious kindergartener, married to her soulmate—a loyal and loving police detective—and has a rewarding career as a doctor at the local hospital.

But everything comes crashing down when her son, Josh, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Determined to save him, Emma makes the risky decision to sell opioids to fund the life-saving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, a lethal game of cat and mouse ensues, her own husband leading the chase. With her son’s life hanging in the balance, Emma is dragged into the dark world of drugs, lies, and murder. Will the truth catch up to her before she can save Josh?



My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Christina McDonald and I have to say, she has now become a must-read author. This was one of my anticipated reads for the month and it totally delivered on every level!

This book is fast-paced and begs the question, how far will you go for someone you love? As a physician, Emma has taken an oath to "Do No Harm," but as a mother, she has also promised to love and protect her child forever. What happens when in order to save her child, she needs to do something that might indirectly harm someone else? Does the end ever justify the means?

This book had me on the edge of my seat from page one and it never let up. And not only is it such a tense and crazy thriller, but the character development is top notch. I could see the changes happening in Emma as the book progressed and that was no easy feat. Her internal dialogue was so important to this story, as was her husband's, who plays such an integral part in this story, and you can see how this medical issue with their son is playing out with their careers.

I appreciated how the author shared how this story came to be. And because of that, we get a look at some of the issues associated with opioid addiction without it ever feeling like she was preaching. This book is eye-opening in that respect, yet it also works with the overall storyline without feeling like it bogs it down. She shows just how layered the drug epidemic really is.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a emotional, intense, thought-provoking, dare I say, addicting read that is easily binge-worthy and one that I know I won't be forgetting anytime soon. 


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Monday, February 15, 2021

Review: Black Coral by Andrew Mayne


 
Title: Black Coral
Author: Andrew Mayne
Series: Underwater Investigation Unit, #2
Published: February 2021, Thomas & Mercer
Format: ARC Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Publisher via MB Communications

Summary: 
For a police diver in Florida, solving a cold-case mystery brings a serial killer out of hiding in a deep, dark thriller by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Naturalist.

Sloan McPherson and the Underwater Investigation Unit have discovered a van at the bottom of a murky Florida pond. Sealed inside the watery tomb are the bodies of four teenagers who disappeared thirty years ago after leaving a rock concert. To authorities, it looks like a tragic accident. To Sloan, it looks like murder. Every piece of evidence is starting to connect to a string of cold case vanishings throughout Florida. Clue by clue, Sloan navigates the warm, dark waters where natural predators feed, knowing that the most dangerous one is still above the surface—nesting and dormant.

But when a fresh young kill is found in the Everglades, Sloan fears that her investigation has reawakened a monster. How can she catch someone who’s a genius at hiding in plain sight? By acting as prey. The dangerous gambit is working—only too well. She’s being lured into a deception of the madman’s own design. Has Sloan set a trap for a serial killer? Or has he set one for her?



My thoughts: This is the second book in Andrew Mayne's Underwater Investigation Unit series and I am absolutely loving it! I first became a fan of this author when I read his Jessica Blackwood series and now this latest series is proving to be just as fun and captivating.

It's no secret that I love police procedurals but when you add in underwater diving, it just ups the ante. There's such added layer of tension because of the danger associated with it. I personally don't dive but my husband does, and I know how dangerous it can be but also how exhilarating it can be, too. I love that I feel like I am right there with Sloan when she is underwater - that's such a cool feeling, though at times a bit scary, especially when you come face to face with a rather large alligator!

This book really keeps things moving. After discovering an abandoned van underwater with four bodies inside that had been missing for thirty years, Sloan knows in her gut that the police are off their mark in saying it's just a crazy drug-induced night gone wrong. When more bodies turn up, Sloan knows there is something more to this...possibly a serial killer and it appears the killer has decades of experience hiding in plain sight. Can Sloan and the team figure out a way to lure the killer out before they kill again?

Sloan McPherson is such a fascinating character.  She is complicated and an utter force to be reckoned with! She's stubborn and willing to think outside the box, which works to her advantage in this case. I love her willingness to follow her instincts, even when it means sometimes going up against her superiors. In this second book, we find out more of what makes her tick, what makes her who she is. I love that she has such a hard time thinking before acting...but this is definitely something we see her working on...or at least trying.

This book, the second in the series, does stand on it's own, but of course, I would highly recommend reading the prior book, The Girl Beneath the Sea, first. By doing so, you will understand not only the character dynamics but also a bit more about the Underwater Investigative Unit itself and why it's in the situation it is in right now. Of course, you can always read this one first and then go back.

This is such a fun, thrilling series and I do so hope there is another book to come. This latest one starts with a bang and never lets up...those are always my favorite kind of crime thrillers. 

 

Books in this series:

  1. The Girl Beneath the Sea
  2. Black Coral

 


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Review: Blink of an Eye by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen (audio)


Title: Blink of an Eye
Author: Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen
Series: Kendra Michaels, #8
Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers
Published: February 2021, Hachette Audio / Grand Central Publishing
Length: 8 hours 12 minutes / 343 pages
Source: Audio - ALC via Libro.fm / Print - Hardcover via Publisher

Summary:
A #1 New York Times bestselling author and an Edgar Award winner team up to deliver this gripping new novel featuring investigator Kendra Michaels—whose observational skills are worthy of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.

Delilah Winter is one of the hottest pop stars on the planet, so how in the world was she kidnapped right in the middle of a show at the famous Hollywood Bowl? If anyone can figure it out, it's Dr. Kendra Michaels, who works with local and federal authorities on only the most impossible cases. Blind for the first twenty years of her life until a revolutionary surgical procedure allowed her to regain her sight, Kendra uses her powers of observation—honed during her years in the dark—to detect what other investigators don't. She agrees to lead the race to rescue the young singer before time runs out.

Joined by Jessie Mercado, the singer's former bodyguard and a military hero, Kendra closes in on the hideout location but not before casualties mount up. Desperate for leads, Kendra must set aside her personal feelings when agent-for-hire Adam Lynch also volunteers his special skills to aid in the search.

But as the abductor's true purpose becomes clear, the trio uncover a plot they never could have imagined—leading to a showdown they won't soon forget.


 

My thoughts:  This is the 8th book in the Kendra Michaels series, a series that Iris Johansen co-writes with her son, Roy and I absolutely love this series. I find Kendra Michael to be such a unique and fascinating character, always proving that nothing and no one will stop her from getting the bad guys.

This is a fast-paced mystery that really keeps you on your toes. There are several twists and turns and I found myself guessing all the way through. I loved that Jessie Mercado is back in the mix - she's one of my favorite secondary characters and I always love having her around. I think Jessie and Kendra made a really good team and that is so evident on this case.

While it's not necessary to read this series in order, I always find it better to do so. The authors do a really good job at providing just enough back story on Kendra and why she is such a unique investigator, but to truly understand just how special she is, you really would benefit from going back to the beginning of the series. But that's just my opinion.

I really enjoy this series. With each new book in the series, we find out just how truly gifted Kendra Michaels is and I will never tire of her proving herself to those who do not believe her. She is funny, witty and one smart, fiesty lady.


Audio thoughts: I love listening to Iris Johansen books on audio and am thrilled that Elisabeth Rodgers is always the narrator. She really has a knack for narrating her books - she gets the essence of her characters and stories. And she brings consistency to the series, using the same voice for each character so that no matter how many books it has been since you last picked up an Iris Johansen book, it's like no time at all has passed. This consistency, especially with series, to me, makes all the difference!

 

Books in this series:

  
   
.5  With Open Eyes
      1.  Close Your Eyes
      2.  Sight Unseen  

      3.  The Naked Eye 

      4.  Night Watch
      5.  Look Behind You

      6.  Double Blind

      7.  Hindsight 
      8.  Blink of an Eye

  
 

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