Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Review: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon (audio)

 

Title: The Songbook of Benny Lament
Author: Amy Harmon
Narrator: Rob Shapiro
Published: March 2021, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 14 hours 52 minutes / 448 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Publishing / Print via Amazon Publishing

Summary:

From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob--and Benny--would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on--or off--the stage.



My thoughts:  This is the second book I have read by Amy Harmon and she once again wowed me with her story-telling ability. I am now a fan and cannot believe I haven't read more of her books before now.

I have to say that if it were not for the fact that this was a bookclub pick, I might not have picked this one up because I am not much of a music person, but this book is so much more than just the music. It is such a complex and layered story and I was completely captivated by it. I absolutely loved how it was told, each chapter starting with a snippet from an interview with Benny Lament talking to a radio host and then going on to tell us the story.

This book is set in the 1960s and yet so many of the topics covered - love, racism, interracial relationships, family dynamics, the mafia - are all mostly relevant today. It's a book that is deeply emotional but also one filled with characters that you will grow to love. I could not get enough of Benny and Esther and even when I so disagreed with their actions, I still wanted more of them. They are complete opposites, Benny a quiet soul and Esther a little spitfire, yet together they are magic!

This is the type of book that you simply do not want to end because you don't want to leave these characters. I loved every minute of this book, as hard as some scenes were. Amy Harmon has created a story I know I will not be forgetting, characters that have a special spot in my heart and a book I will be recommending to everyone! And now I'll be ordering all her backlist books I haven't read yet!!!


Audio thoughts: I ended up listening to this one and Rob Shapiro did a fantastic job with the narration. It's the first time I've listened to him narrate a book and he really did a great job bringing this book to life. 


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

 

Title: Libertie
Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
Published: March 2021, Algonquin Books
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with an unforgettable story about the meaning of freedom.
 
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.

When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.
 
Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi.


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book I've read by Kaitlyn Greenidge and I know it will definitely not be the last. As soon as I heard about this one, I knew it was something I wanted to read and I was not disappointed.

This book totally captivated me, yet it is a slow-burn and one that while I wanted to rush to find out how it would end up, I also wanted to savior. It is a book inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors and her daughter, yet what I found incredibly interesting was how much attention the author paid to the mental health of her characters, especially as this is set during the Reconstruction era.

This is the third book that I have read where it talks about a black person being able to pass for a white, the second one just this week. It's not a concept I have ever given much thought to prior to reading these books, yet in this book, it is given much weight. Libertie's mom is very light-skinned, and so she is able to pass for white, which gives her certain freedoms that other blacks do not have. Libertie, on the other hand, is very dark-skinned. When Libertie is working with her mom at the hospital, many of the patients are very leery of having Libertie in the room.

I also appreciated the journey Libertie goes on in trying to find herself. She leaves her mother's house because she doesn't think her mother sees her for who she is, yet she finds that her marriage is not much different. I loved the mother-daughter relationship and how it is portrayed here. It is so realistic. Mothers only want what is best for their children, yet sometimes they project too much onto them without letting their children spread their wings. Libertie pushed too far away yet ultimately ended up where she needed to be.

This is such a beautifully written, thought-provoking read that has left me wanting to know more, which is what I love best about reading historical fiction. The author deftly draws you into the story, providing just the right amount of fact and fiction to tell her story and keep you entertained, while also shedding light on what happened during this time. This is a book I know I will be thinking about for quite some time and I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction. 


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Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: When I Ran Away by Ilona Bannister

 

Title: When I Ran Away
Author: Ilona Bannister
Published: March 2021, Doubleday Books
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Publisher via Author

Summary:
A rich, bighearted debut that takes us from working-class Staten Island in the wake of the September 11th attacks to moneyed London a decade later, revealing a story of loss, motherhood, and love, perfect for fans of Gail Honeyman and Ann Napolitano.

As the Twin Towers collapse, Gigi Stanislawski flees her office building and escapes lower Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. Among the crying, ash-covered, and shoeless passengers, Gigi, unbelievably, finds someone she recognizes--Harry Harrison, a British man and a regular at her favorite coffee shop. Gigi brings Harry to her parents' house, where they watch the television replay the planes crashing for hours, and she waits for the phone call that will never come: the call from Frankie, her younger brother.

Ten years later, Gigi, now a single mother consumed with bills and unfulfilled ambitions, meets Harry, again by chance, and they fall deeply, headlong in love. But their move to London and their new baby--which Gigi hoped would finally release her from the past--leave her feeling isolated, raw, and alone with her grief. As Gigi comes face-to-face with the anguish of her brother's death and her rage at the unspoken pain of motherhood, she must somehow find the light amid all the darkness. Startlingly honest and shot through with unexpected humor, When I Ran Away is an unforgettable first novel about love--for our partners, our children, our mothers, and ourselves--pushed to its outer limits.


 

My thoughts:  While I don't search for emotional reads, when I find one that hits on so many levels, I just know it will be one that stays with me. This book has all the feels wrapped up in one story and I couldn't have loved it more.

While I don't necessarily search for books that touch upon 9/11, this one does so in such an honest yet truly raw way, but that doesn't remain the focus of this book. What ultimately is the focus is how we come to deal with grief and how we learn to love others when we don't always love ourselves and when that love that we have for others is continually pushed to the limits.

I loved how the book was structured, moving back and forth in time so that we had a full picture of what pushed Gigi to the edge. I may not have kids, but there are times I have certainly felt at my wits end and have just wanted to be recognized for all that I do...I get it! But it's so much more than just the little things. There are deep-rooted issues here and it is so expertly explored in this novel.

This may be a fun, flippant book at times, with mention of The Housewives of wherever (so not my thing!), which was great to lighten the mood, but it was also such a deep dive into how we internalize grief, how we put such pressure on ourselves as women to be the best at whatever it is we are doing - whether it be our role as a mother, a wife, our profession, or any combination of the three. 

I loved reading this book. I loved the characters and I loved the emotional journey it took me on. This book is one that will stay with me for quite some time and I cannot recommend it enough. It's both thought-provoking and inspiring. And I definitely cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented author...for a debut novel, Ilona Bannister certainly knocked it out of the park with this one! 


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Review: One in Three by Tess Stimson

 

Title: One in Three
Author: Tess Stimson
Published: January 2021, Avon
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
Both of them loved him. One of them killed him . . .

Louise has had to watch her husband, Andrew, start a new family in the four years since he left her. The ‘other woman’ is now his wife – but Louise isn’t ready to let Caz enjoy the life that was once hers, or to let go of the man she still loves.

As Louise starts to dig into Caz’s past, the two women’s pretence of civility starts to slip. But in trying to undermine each other, they discover more about the man they both married.

And when Andrew is murdered at a family party, both women are found standing over the body.

And when Andrew is murdered during the anniversary celebrations, both women are found standing over the body.

It’s always the wife. But which one?

 

My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Tess Stimson and she is quickly becoming a favorite author. She writes such addicting, twisted psychological thrillers and I just love them!

This book is a fast-paced, dark read that grabs you right away. We find out in the very opening chapter that someone has murdered Andrew. And then we go back and find out what has led to the murder. And interspersed throughout all this are the police transcripts. I loved this format because it gave just a little more each time and kept you guessing as to where things were going.

This book really kept me on my toes all the way through. The characters are so well-developed and while I didn't particularly care for any of them, it was a case of needing to see how things played out. I needed to know who did it and let me tell you - I never came close to guessing. I love when that happens. I love catty women and this one takes the cake. This is just pure fun at times and really had me going back and forth each time something new happened. I never knew who to trust and it makes for such an unsettling read at times.

If you are looking for an entertaining, gripping read, I highly recommend picking this one up. I definitely have Tess Stimson on my list of must-read authors and will be eagerly awaiting her next thriller!

 

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Review: Watch Her Sleep by L.T. Vargus, Tim McBain

 

Title: Watch Her Sleep
Author: L.T. Vargus, Tim McBain
Series: Charlotte Winters, #3
Published: March 2021, Bookouture
Format: ARC E-copy, 375 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary:
Nestled in the autumn leaves, her hair tangled in thick brambles, the girl looks like she could be sleeping amongst the wild roses. But the trail of red across her delicate throat means this is a slumber she will never wake from…

When a search party trawling Salem Island find a girl’s body curled on the damp earth, the hunt for missing waitress Emma Jacobis grinds to a devastating halt. The day before, Emma had come to Detective Charlie Winters convinced someone was watching her. In her trembling hand she held a sketch of herself sleeping peacefully with the stuffed rabbit she’d had since she was a child. On the back, scrawled in black ink: You will be mine…

A box containing handwritten letters found under Emma’s bed is Charlie’s first lead. But the handwriting isn’t a match to the note left for Emma. With the help of her new assistant, a troubled girl eager to learn the ropes, Charlie’s only hope is to canvas the bar where Emma worked. There, she finds a woman with fear in her eyes and a terrifying story to tell about an encounter with a dangerous stranger. Is someone in this small town targeting vulnerable girls as prey?

Certain she’s found a twisted killer’s hunting ground, and with time running out before he strikes again, Charlie has no choice but to use her new assistant as bait to lure him out into the open. But when a scream pierces through the night, will Charlie survive the consequences? She has to, or there’s no knowing how many more innocent girls will die…


 

My thoughts: This is the third book in L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain's new series and it was really good! I love crime thriller series and this is proving to be a fun, thrilling series to read.

Once again we have a fast-paced, suspense-filled read that kept me flipping the pages from start to finish. I was completely engaged right from the start and the short chapters give this one that 'just one more chapter' mentality. Of course, my favorite aspect of this series remains to be the voice that Charlie hears in her head. It happened in the first book and it continued to happened throughout this latest installment. I love this - I find it to be a unique part of the story. It is both humorous at times as well as quite telling in regards to Charlie as a character. I do wonder if this is ever really going to be explored in depth...why does she hear the voice at certain times and then at other times there is radio silence???

While this book can be read as a stand-alone, I do feel it's best to read the series in order. There are threads that are carried through and I really do feel that the character development that has happened over the course of the series really gives you a better feel for who Charlie is. But, if this is the first book you are picking up, perhaps it will entice you to pick up the other two after.

This book has such a great, creepy feel to it. A stalker that haunts their prey, someone watching and waiting. I love books like this and I love that we get the stalker's point of view from time to time. Of course I was trying to figure out if I could guess the stalker/killer's identity before the final reveal and I did...right before it was revealed. Not much of a lead time there, but it's all good. This one really kept me on my toes and I loved how it all plays out in the end.

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

 

Books in this series:

  1. First Girl Gone
  2. Girl Under Water
  3. Watch Her Sleep

  

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (audio)

  


Title: The Good Sister
Author: Sally Hepworth
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik
Published: April 2021, Macmillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 8 hours 18 minutes / 320 pages
Source: Audio - ALC via Libro.fm/Macmillan Audio / Print - ARC Paperback via St. Martin's Press

Summary:

Sally Hepworth, the author of The Mother-In-Law delivers a knock-out of a novel about the lies that bind two sisters in The Good Sister.

There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of unexpected love.


 

My thoughts: I have been absolutely loving Sally Hepworth's latest books and each time I read her newest book, it becomes my favorite one. I devoured this one in a day and it was my first time listening to one of her books and I loved that experience!

I've said it before and I will say it again...I love books that explore sister relationships. Having two myself, I just cannot get enough of these types of books. These relationships can be so complex and I think Sally Hepworth definitely captures that here, in a sinister, twisted way. I loved all the twists and turns this book took and loved how it kept me on my toes the entire times. She really explores some interesting personality traits that I'm not going to go into here so as to not give too much away, but I will say it's done in a very compelling manner that keeps you engaged.

I loved the way the story was told, alternating between Fern's point of view, which are all in the present day, and Rose's journal entries, which are for the most part in the past. The journal entries really do a great job of giving us a look at the sisters' childhood and their upbringing, and boy is that quite interesting. As the book progresses, and we learn more about the sisters - both in the present and the past - secrets are revealed and then you find yourself unable to walk away.

Things are definitely not what they seem in this book and there is a sense of foreboding looming throughout. Add in the fast-pace and you will be racing to see how things play out. I cannot recommend this one enough. If you enjoy domestic suspense and family dramas, this one is definitely for you!



Audio thoughts: I was excited to be able to pick up an early listening copy of this book. It's the first time I've listened to one of Sally Hepworth's books and I think it translated really well onto audio. Barrie Kreinik did a fantastic job with the voices, giving each character their own unique voice and infusing just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed. And she even has an Australian accent!!! I ended up listening to this audio in one day because I just could not put it down.


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Review: Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine (audio)

 

Title: Heartbreak Bay
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Stillhouse Lake, #5
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith, Dan John Miller, Tovah Ott
Published: March 2021, Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 hours 29 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

They’re hunting a killer so silent, so invisible, that his unspeakable crimes are the only proof he exists.

A car submerged in a remote pond. The bodies of two girls strapped into their seats. The mystery of their mother, vanished without a trace, leads Gwen Proctor and Kezia Claremont into dangerous territory.

On the surface, Gwen’s life is good - two children approaching adulthood, a committed partner, and a harrowing past dead and gone. But that past is attracting the attention of someone invisible...and unstoppable. Trouble’s just beginning. So is the body count in this backwoods Tennessee town.

As threats mount and Gwen’s hunted by an enemy who pulls all the strings, Kezia has her back. But working to solve these vicious and unreasonable crimes will expose them both to a killer they can’t for the life of them see coming.



My thoughts:  Ever since first discovering Stillhouse Lake a few years back, this has been one of my favorite series and I was both thrilled and saddened to pick this latest one up, as I knew it was to be the last book in the series. This series has been such an intense, thrilling series and one that I cannot recommend enough.

I do think this series is best read in order as so much is based on what happens in the first book. Yes, all the books can be read as stand-alones and Rachel Caine does give you just enough backstory on the characters that you understand these characters and why they are in the situation they are in, BUT you miss out on so much character development and ALL THE SPOILERS that it just wouldn't be the same reading experience. (See below for full list of books in the series - and bonus, they are excellent on audio, but I've heard they are super fast reads!)

I loved the addition of Kezia's perspective this time around. She is another strong female and such a good friend to Gwen. When she calls Gwen to assist on a case that involves a car that had been driven into a lake with two little girls still inside and the mother missing, little did they know that it would somehow end up linking back to Gwen. Then there are the internet messages that start showing up. Who is targeting the Protector family now and why? And is it related to the other?

I loved how all these moving parts eventually come together. While it takes a while to get there, the case finally comes to a brilliant conclusion at a breakneck speed. And once it does...watch out because you might have a hard time catching your breath!

This was such a great ending for what is definitely going to be one of my favorite thriller series. I knew picking this one up that the author had passed away and it was bittersweet. And then when I got to the author's note at the end, I just broke down. RIP Rachel Caine...you will definitely be missed!


Audio thoughts: I thought the narrators did a great job with this book. Emily Sutton-Smith has been with this series from the start and her consistency has been phenomenal. Dan John Miller has been with the series since book 2 and again, his consistency has been just as great. Tovah Ott is new to the series but her character was a new point of view, so it made sense to have a new narrator, and she made a great addition. The narrators added just the right amount of tension to their voices as necessary and made this audio book an enjoyable listening experience.



Books in this series:
 

  1. Stillhouse Lake
  2. Killman Creek
  3. Wolfhunter River
  4. Bitter Falls
  5. Heartbreak Bay
 
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Monday, March 22, 2021

Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (audio)


Title: The Echo Wife
Author: Sarah Gailey
Narrator: Xe Sands
Published: February 2021, Macmillan Audio
Length: 8 hours 26 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

I’m embarrassed, still, by how long it took me to notice. Everything was right there in the open, right there in front of me, but it still took me so long to see the person I had married.

It took me so long to hate him.

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.

And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.

Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty. 



My thoughts:  Every once in a while I like to take a chance on a book...go out of my comfort zone and pick something up that just sounds different but interesting. I did that with Sarah Gailey's book because it just sounds too good to pass up...and I'm glad I did.

I typically don't read anything to do with science fiction, but I have to say these books that are genre-bending, where they are multiple genres in one, and the other genres are ones I love, then I don't mind the sci-fi parts so much. And this one had such a strong mystery thriller element to it that I was completely engaged the entire time. Plus, I was curious how the clone aspect would work...I'm not going to lie.

I found myself glued to this book and had no idea where it was headed. It was such a wild ride, with such interesting twists and turns that I could never have predicted. It was so clever and well-thought out and I will absolutely be keeping an eye out for what this author writes next...especially if her next book is anything like this one. This gamble definitely worked out in my favor!



Audio thoughts: I was thrilled when I saw that Xe Sands was narrating this one. She is such a great narrator and did a fantastic job with this one. She really brought the book to life and made the characters stand out. 

 

 

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (audio)

 
 

Title: The Four Winds
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published: February 2021, Macmillan Audio
Length: 15 hours 2 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:

From the number-one best-selling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa- like so many of her neighbors - must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it - the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.



My thoughts:  There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to love this book...it was just a matter of how much. Yes, I knew it would be a tough subject to read - it is about the Great Depression after all - but what really comes to light here is just how resilient the human spirit is.

This book pulled me in right from the start and kept me completely captivated all the way through. It tells such a deep and personal story while also giving you a better understanding of the history of the time. I knew very little about the Dust Bowl and the Dust Bowl Migration of the 1930s and I don't think I've really read any books set during the Great Depression. But through Elsa's story, we see firsthand the devastation. This of course sent me right to Google, searching for images from this time period.

One thing that this author does well, no matter what she sets her characters up against, is the deep relationships she establishes amongst her characters. And whether that be love, parental, or even friendship, they are also so strong. She also creates characters that while flawed, are strong in their own right, and here we have Elsa, who I know I am not going to be forgetting anytime soon. The writing was so strong that I feel I went through so much of what Elsa went through - her suffering, she joys, her struggles. She is forced over and over again to make decisions I would only hope to never be confronted with...yet, she has no choice as these impact the safety of her family.

This book left such an impression on me. Once again we have characters that are tested day in and day out, and this one is hard. It's a tough story, but it's a story that leaves you with a sense of hope. And, while we are in the midst of our own crisis, it's one that shows us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot recommend this one enough.


Audio thoughts: As soon as I saw that Julia Whelan was narrating this book, I knew I would be listening to it. She is one of my favorite narrators and her narration did not disappoint. She brought this book to life and while I did not want the book to end, I also could not stop listening. She has such a way of capturing the essence of the story and the emotions of the characters. 

 

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review: The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

 

Title: The Betrayal
Author: Terry Lynn Thomas
Series: Olivia Sinclair, #1
Published: October 2020 , HQ Digital
Format: ARC E-galley, 234 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary:
Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book in Terry Lynn Thomas's new series and it was good. It's also the first book I've every read by her and I will definitely be checking out what else she has written.

This book is a fast-paced, gripping psychological thriller. There are plenty of twists and turns and I loved that it kept me on my toes throughout. This one really takes off running and never really lets up. I loved how even though Olivia is in a race to prove her innocence, she never loses her cool. She is insistent on being part of the team working to figure out just what is going on and I loved how she worked together with her lawyer and the PI. 

I also loved that Olivia is a more mature protagonist - she's on the brink of retirement. There aren't too many books with female protagonists who are of such an age and I really appreciated this. And I think this really shows true in her character when she is able to come at her predicament in a more logical approach rather than an emotional one.

This book is filled with so many suspects and while I had my suspicions about who the guilty party was, this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book as I had no idea of the why. And I needed to know not only that but also how it all plays out.

This was such an enjoyable, entertaining, quick read and I am definitely curious to see where this series goes from here. 


Books in this series:

  1. The Betrayal
  2. The Witness - due out April 2021
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Review: After Alice Fell by Kim Taylor Blakemore

 

Title: After Alice Fell
Author: Kim Taylor Blakemore
Published: March 2021, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Author

Summary:
Until she discovers the truth of her sister’s death, no one will rest in peace.

New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is summoned to Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. She’d been found dead after falling four stories from a steep-pitched roof. Officially: an accident. Confidentially: suicide. But Marion believes a third option: murder.

Returning to her family home to stay with her brother and his second wife, the recently widowed Marion is expected to quiet her feelings of guilt and grief—to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But that’s not easy in this house full of haunting memories.

Just when the search for the truth seems hopeless, a stranger approaches Marion with chilling words: I saw her fall.

Now Marion is more determined than ever to find out what happened that night at Brawders, and why. With no one she can trust, Marion may risk her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice in the family plot.


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book I've read by Kim Taylor Blakemore but it definitely will not be the last. I love gothic fiction and this is definitely one to add to that list!

I was immediately drawn into this book and was captivated throughout. I loved that it involved an asylum...I have such a weird fascination with these buildings and loved how this one was used here. It definitely added to the overall sense of foreboding. Things are definitely not what they seem and there is an overall sense of mystery and whodunit along with major gothic vibes that keep you flipping the pages to see what has really happened.

While it appears that Alice fell to her death off the roof of the asylum, Marion knows her sister would never commit suicide and believes she was murdered. As she starts digging into what really happened she uncovers a whole lot more than she bargained for. And even though Alice is dead from the start of the novel, her presence is felt throughout the book, which I loved. 

This historical mystery is equal parts suspenseful and haunting and has just the right amount of gothic vibes and a creepy atmosphere to keep you on edge. I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more from this author.

 

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Review: Our Last Echoes by Kate Alice Marshall

 

Title: Our Last Echoes
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Published: March 2021, Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC E-copy, 416 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary:
Kara Thomas meets Twin Peaks in this supernatural thriller about one girl's hunt for the truth about her mother's disappearance.

Sophia's first memory is of drowning. She remembers the darkness of the water and the briny taste as it fills her throat. She remembers the cold shock of going under. She remembers her mother pulling her to safety before disappearing forever. But Sophia has never been in the ocean. And her mother died years ago in a hospital. Or so she has been told her whole life.

A series of clues have led Sophia to the island of Bitter Rock, Alaska, where she talked her way into a summer internship at the Landon Avian Research Center, the same center her mother worked at right before she died. There, she meets the disarmingly clever Liam, whose own mother runs the LARC, as well as Abby, who's following a mystery of her own: a series of unexplained disappearances. People have been vanishing from Bitter Rock for decades, leaving only their ghostly echoes behind. When it looks like their two mysteries might be one and the same, Sophia vows to dig up the truth, no matter how many lies she has to tell along the way. Even if it leads her to a truth she may not want to face.

Our Last Echoes is an eerie collection of found documents and written confessionals, in the style of Rules for Vanishing, with supernatural twists that keep you questioning what is true and what is an illusion.


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book I've read by Kate Alice Marshall and I really liked it. It definitely had some supernatural elements to it, which I don't typically gravitate towards, but here in this book it just worked. 

This story really kept me engaged from start to finish. I don't typically read a whole lot of YA or horror but this one didn't seem very scary as a whole, but more creepy and spooky, which was fine by me. It is definitely very atmospheric and I loved that, and I appreciated the legends and how they were worked into the story. I also loved the way the mixed media was worked into the story - the videos, the interviews, the dialogue from the past and present - that really kept things interesting and the book moving.

While this isn't my typical genre - YA or horror, every once in a while, I like stepping out of my comfort zone and something about this book called me to and I'm glad I took a chance on it because it worked for me. I will definitely be checking out more of this authors work and seeing what other books are similar.



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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Blog Blitz - Book Spotlight & Excerpt: Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

I'm happy to be participating in the blog blitz for Are We There Yet by Kathleen West, which publishes today!!! Enjoy this spotlight and excerpt and let me know if you will be picking this one up!
 


Title: Are We There Yet?
Author: Kathleen West
Published: March 2021, Berkley Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages

Summary: 
Among fake Instagram pages, long-buried family secrets, and the horrors of middle school, one suburban mom searches to find herself.

Alice Sullivan feels like she's finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son's school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.

When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice's social standing is quickly eroded to one of "those moms" who can't control her kids. Soon she's facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn't made of glass).

Then her mother unloads a family secret she's kept for more than thirty years, and Alice's entire perception of herself is shattered.

As her son's new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother's choices, Alice realizes that she's been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else's standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she'll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.


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About the author: Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master's degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad goldendoodle.

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook  |   Instagram


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Excerpt:
 
Sadie not liking her favorite movies anymore was just one more indicator of the capriciousness of junior high. At least Meredith had the portal to help her monitor the chaos. As the landing screen loaded in front of her, Meredith raised two fingers to the permanent wrinkle in the center of her forehead. She'd told Alice and Nadia she didn't believe in Botox, which was true. But lately, her eyebrow crease deepened by the day. 
 
This time, the worrying was because of Sadie's science grade. It had been a 93 the night before, and this morning it was an 84. Meredith clicked for a more detailed report just as Sadie arrived in the kitchen, her stockinged feet shuffling on the wood floor Meredith and Bill had installed the previous spring. Alice had overseen the refurbishment and sourced the reclaimed boards from barns in outstate Minnesota. Alice had also helped Meredith choose her dining room table, place mats, and napkins. Soon, Meredith hoped, her friend could advise on new countertops and cabinetry. Bill would have a bonus coming in December. 

"Can I have coffee?" Sadie asked, a smile fluttering. Her daughter had already combed her hair, a heart-shaped barrette holding her growing-out bangs near her right temple.

Meredith laughed. "If you want something hot, you could have herbal tea."

Sadie sat at the table and ran her fingers over the steel-blue place mat. "But Chloe and Mikaela both drink lattes."
 
Meredith put her phone on the counter and ladled a scoop of oatmeal into a bowl. "Maybe their parents don't know about the negative side effects of caffeine," Meredith said. "That's what you get for having a mom who's up to date on medical research." She winked at Sadie.
 
When Meredith herself had been a seventh grader, she'd poured gritty coffee into a perma-stained travel mug and taken the city bus to school most mornings. Her mom worked the earliest shifts at the nursing home, sometimes catching a double to cover groceries and gas. With the basics to worry about, she hadn't had time to think about what it meant to start drinking coffee at twelve, even though she'd been a nurse.
 
But Meredith did consider caffeine. Even though she worked thirty hours per week as a physical therapist, she also made time to think about both Sadie's protein consumption and her science grade. Meredith grabbed her phone again and felt her jaw drop as she looked at Sadie's most recent test score.
 
"Sadie!" she shouted before she could decide whether it would traumatize her daughter.
 
Sadie dropped her spoon, the metal clanking against the side of her bowl. "What?"
 
"What the hell happened on the unicellular and multicellular organism test?" Meredith felt her forehead again, stretching the wrinkle. "Fifty-six?" Probably, Meredith thought, Mr. Robinson had made an error in reporting. And also, why did I say "hell"?
 
Sadie picked up her spoon again. "Yeah," she said calmly. "I just totally bricked that." She pushed an overflowing spoonful of oatmeal in her mouth and chewed, her cheeks puffed.

"Sorry for saying 'hell'" Meredith and Bill had agreed ages ago to watch their language, but the shock of the 56 overwhelmed her. "Fifty-six?" she said again to Sadie. "That's the lowest grade you've ever gotten in your life. Is it a mistake?"

Once she'd swallowed, Sadie lifted her napkin to her face and dabbed her eyes, though Meredith couldn't see any tears. "Sorry, Mom," Sadie said. "I'm not quite sure what happened. I saw it last night before I went to bed."
 
Meredith blinked. So, Sadie had known about the failing grade and not mentioned it. "Why didn't you tell me?" Meredith said next to her at the table and put her hand over her daughter's wrist.
 
Sadie sniffled again, but her eyes were definitely dry. "I guess I was hoping it would just go away overnight. You wouldn't have to know."
 
Meredith squeezed. "Sadie, that's silly. It's right here." She waved her phone over the oatmeal bowl. "In this day and age, it's impossible to keep a secret."


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Are We There Yet  by Kathleen West
Berkley Books
March 16, 2021 
Hardcover ISBN: 9781542047951
Kindle E-book ASIN:  B08BKS36C5
 
 
 
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