Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review: Last Call by Elon Green (audio)

 

Title: Last Call
Author: Elon Green
Narrator: David Pittu
Published: March 2021, Macmillan Audio
Length: 8 hours 11 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:
The gripping true story, told here for the first time, of the Last Call Killer and the gay community of New York City that he preyed upon.

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.


 

My thoughts:  Nonfiction is a genre I'm trying to read more of, and one area I have found a new love of is true crime. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at it...and I'm so glad I did.

This is a gripping story of the serial killer who targeted gay men in New York City during the 1990s. I loved how it was set-up, giving us a little background on each victim and then providing us some information on each murder. We see where each victim was on their last night, their last interactions and the places they visited. It was like being a spectator going along for the ride, that's how vivid the writing was at times.

What I also appreciated is how the author highlighted just how little attention these cases garnered due to the fact of who the victims were. This was a time when the AIDS epidemic was running rampant and the police and local media seemed to not be taking crimes against the gay community seriously. 

I loved that this book focused more on the victims than the killer. Yes, we do eventually learn who the killer is and a bit about him, but I love that this is not an ode to him. And it is so evident just how much research went into this book. It is an intense read but one that flows naturally and doesn't get bogged down at any time. I found myself completely immersed in the victims' stories and then just as interested in who would do these heinous acts. Such a clever way to set up the book.


Audio thoughts: I find listening to nonfiction works really well for me and this was definitely true for this book. I was completely captivated by this book and the narrator, David Pittu did a fantastic job narrating this one. His cadence and tone were just right. And included at the end of the audio is an interview with the author where he discusses the book and his journey to bringing this book to life. It is completely fascinating and answers quite a lot of questions, especially how he structured the story and why he decided to write it in the first place. 


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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

 
 

Title: The Sanatorium
Author: Sarah Pearse
Published: Feburary 2021, Pamela Dorman Books
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .


 

My thoughts:  I love thrillers and I love anything gothic, so when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it...and I am so glad I did. I absolutely loved everything about it!!! 

I flew through this book in two sittings and that's only because I was doing a buddy read and we had a mid-way chat and I didn't want to read ahead and let any potential spoilers slip. I happened to be in the minority of the buddy read in my enjoyment of this book, but oh well - that happens. As soon as we finished discussing the first half, I picked up the book and finished it...and could not read it fast enough!

I am so obsessed with locked-room type mysteries and this one was such a good one. And I loved the fact that this was set in a hotel that had been transformed from an old sanatorium. Hello creepiness! I don't think you could pay me enough to stay there. Maybe I would visit, because I have to say I have a slight obsession with sanatoriums, but staying in one is a completely different story.

I loved the main character, Elin. She is such a flawed, complex character and has her secrets and those are always my favorite. She's at the hotel for her estranged brother's engagement party and when strange things start happening, even though she's on leave from work - she's a detective - she of course steps in. Oh and did I mention that there's a major snowstorm happening and the hotel is cut off from basically anyone getting to them?

This book really kept me on my toes and I loved that as more and more sinister things start to happen, we learn more about not only the sanatorium but also about Elin herself. As much as I tried to work out what was happening and who was behind it, I definitely did not put all the pieces together before the reveal. 

This book was so creepy and atmospheric and that ending completely sets it up for another book, which I'm so happy to report is in the works! You all know how much I love my series and I will be quite eager to see what happens next for our dear Elin. This is a series I will absolutely be continuing!


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Review: The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah (audio)

 

Title:  The Light Through the Leaves
Author: Glendy Vanderah
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Published: Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes / 464 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Publishing / Print via Amazon Publishing

Summary:

Go on a powerful journey of forgiveness and healing with The Light Through the Leaves, a transcendent novel of love, loss, and self-discovery by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars.

One unbearable mistake at the edge of the forest. 

In a moment of crisis, Ellis Abbey leaves her daughter, Viola, unattended - for just a few minutes. But when she returns, Viola is gone. A breaking point in an already fractured marriage, Viola’s abduction causes Ellis to disappear as well - into grief, guilt, and addiction. Convinced she can only do more harm to her family, Ellis leaves her husband and young sons, burying her desperate ache for her children deeper with every step into the mountain wildernesses she treks alone. 

In a remote area of Washington, a young girl named Raven keeps secrets inside, too. She must never speak to outsiders about how her mother makes miracles spring from the earth, or about her father, whose mysterious presence sometimes frightens her. Raven spends her days learning how to use her rare gifts - and more important, how to hide them. With each lesson comes a warning of what dangers lie in the world beyond her isolated haven. But despite her mother’s cautions, Raven finds herself longing for something more. 

As Ellis and Raven each confront their powerful longings, their journeys will converge in unexpected and hopeful ways, pulled together by the forces of nature, love, and family.


My thoughts:  I absolutely loved Glendy Vanderah's debut novel, Where the Forest Meets the Stars, so it was a no-brainer when I was pitched this book as to whether I would read it. And this latest one is just as beautiful and captivating as I expected it would be. 

I adored this book. I immediately became invested in the characters and found myself emotionally attached to them. I needed to know how everything was going to work out and could think of nothing else until I got to the end. This is the type of book where you will go through a range of emotions due to some of the character's actions, but not living in their shoes, it's really hard not to know exactly what you would do.

This book is at times a bit hard to read because it does touch on some difficult topics. But I think it weaves them into the story in such a way that you can't help but keep reading. The characters are so complex yet they also are quite real. They show us just how vulnerable we all can be at times.

I also loved how the author used nature as a way of healing. When things get tough, how many of us turn to the outdoors to take a breath or cool our heads? The connection to nature is very powerful in this book and I appreciated just how that is used.

I was completely surprised by this book, in a good way! It's one of those books that once you start reading, you just cannot put down. As much as you want to savor your time with these characters, you also want to devour it, to find out what the ultimate resolution is going to be. I certainly will be recommending this one to everyone and I cannot wait to see what comes next from this super talented author. She has definitely become a must-read author!



Audio thoughts: I had the opportunity to listen to this book and it really translated well onto audio. It is the first time I've listened to narrator Susannah Jones and I thought she did a great job. She gave all the characters a unique voice and her pacing and intonation was spot on. She really did a great job of bringing this book to life. 

 

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Review: The Last Night in London by Karen White

 

Title: The Last Night in London
Author: Karen White
Published: April 2021, Berkley Books
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Source: Publisher via UplitReads

Summary:
New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a story of friendship past and present, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

A captivating story of friendship, love and betrayal – and finding hope in the darkness of war.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck – she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever.

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie, healing from past trauma and careful to close herself off to others, finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, Precious’ enigmatic surrogate nephew. As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’ haunting past – and the secrets she swore she’d never reveal …


My thoughts:  I'm a fan of Karen White's writing, especially when she partners with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. I haven't read too many of the books she's written by herself, though the ones I have read I did enjoy. And once I saw this book, it definitely became an anticipated read...and it absolutely delivers in every way!

Historical fiction has become my favorite type of read lately. There have just been so many fantastic books released in this genre this year and this book is definitely one of them. I was so lucky to have gotten a copy and once I started reading it, I really had a hard time putting it down. I'm such a fan of the dual timeline and both timeframes equally captured my interest here. Sometimes I find I'm more drawn to one over the over but that was definitely not the case here.

Starting with a very intriguing prologue that sets up a little bit of a mystery, this book just keeps dropping little hints and insinuating that our characters have some pretty hefty secrets that need to be revealed. I love books that involve secrets - it's always so interesting finding out why something was held back and how it ends up being discovered and what the ramifications will be. 

The characters in both timelines really come to life in the story and I had such a hard time walking away from them in the end. This was definitely a story where I wanted to get to the end to find out all the secrets and how it all comes together, but at the same time, I also wanted to savor every last second with this story and the characters.

Historical mysteries are becoming my favorite sub-genre and this one easily fits into this category. But it's not just that. It's also a story about strong women. It's about redemption and reinvention. This book is definitely not one to be missed. 


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Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer

 

Title: The Perfect Daughter
Author: D.J. Palmer
Published: April 2021, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
The Perfect Daughter is a thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl's multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Grace never dreamt she’d visit her teenaged daughter Penny in the locked ward of a decaying state psychiatric hospital, charged with the murder of a stranger. There was not much question of her daughter’s guilt. Police had her fingerprints on the murder weapon and the victim’s blood on her body and clothes. But they didn’t have a motive.

Grace blames herself, because that’s what mothers do—they look at their choices and wonder, what if? But hindsight offers little more than the chance for regret.

None of this was conceivable the day Penny came into her life. Then, it seemed like a miracle. Penny was found abandoned, with a mysterious past, and it felt like fate brought Penny to her, and her husband Arthur. But as she grew, Penny's actions grew more disturbing, and different "personalities" emerged.

Arthur and Grace took Penny to different psychiatrists, many of whom believed she was putting on a show to help manage her trauma. But Grace didn’t buy it. The personas were too real, too consistent. It had to be a severe multiple personality disorder. One determined psychiatrist, Dr. Mitch McHugh, helped discover someone new inside Penny—a young girl named Abigail. Is this the nameless girl who was abandoned in the park years ago? Mitch thinks Abigail is the key to Penny’s past and to the murder. But as Grace and Mitch dig deeper, they uncover dark and shocking secrets that put all their lives in grave danger.


 

My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by D.J. Palmer and once again he has managed to write a twisty thriller that keeps you on your toes all the way through. As much as I have loved his previous books, this one might be my new favorite!

I loved that this one explores so many different topics, yet does so in such a compelling, captivating way. It literally opens with such a shocking scene, one that grabs your attention immediately and from there things take off, with no real lulls in the book at any time. The use of multiple points of view really keeps things moving and gives us different lenses from which to view everything.

I loved that this was such a unique story all the way around. I'm always fascinated when an author decides to use DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) with a character because it always calls into question whether that is truly the case or whether the character is just psychotic. Then there were other mental health issues addressed and the emotional toll that all that was happening was taking on the family members was just fascinating to watch. 

Every time you thought things were moving forward, that the doctor was making progress with Penny, a new twist would pop up that would send things sideways. I never knew what to expect with this book and I absolutely loved it. And that ending was one that I never would have predicted - it completely blew me away! So much so that I almost want to reread the book right away to see how I missed it!

This book had everything I love in a thriller - a complex, multilayered plot with relatable, flawed characters. The writing is addictive and pulls you in from the start, and the intensity is there from the beginning, amping up as the book goes on to a thrilling conclusion. I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to see what D.J. Palmer writes next - he is absolutely on my must-read list!


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Review: The Boy in the Headlights by Samuel Bjork


Title: The Boy in the Headlights
Author: Samuel Bjork
Series: Holger Munch & Mia Kruger, #3
Published: October 2019, Corgi
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
The bestselling series, a former Richard and Judy bookclub pick, returns with another chilling case.

Munch and Krüger. An unexpected pairing. A brilliant team.

Winter 19996 An old man is driving home when his headlights catch an animal on the empty road up ahead. He stamps hard on the brakes. But it is not an animal at all. It is a young boy, frightened and alone, with a set of deer antlers strapped firmly to his head.

Fourteen years later, a body is found in a mountain lake. Within weeks, three people have died. Each time, the killer has left a clue, inviting Special Investigations Detectives Munch and Krüger to play a deadly game – a game they cannot possibly win. Against the most dangerous and terrifying kind of serial killer. One who chooses their victims completely at random.

To find the killer they must look deep within their own dark pasts, but how can you stop a murderer when you cannot begin to predict their next move?


 

My thoughts:  This is the third book in Samuel Bjork's Holger Munch and Mia Kruger crime fiction series and it was as thrilling and gripping as the first two books. 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 my tbr for way too long and I'm glad to have finally read all three of these books!

This book was completely gripping right from the start. I highly recommend reading this series in order if at all possible as you will have such a better sense of who the characters are. While each case that the team works on in every book is self-contained, there are threads that do carry over, particularly from the previous book to this one, so having that previous knowledge would just give you a better appreciation for what the characters have gone through. But again, that's up to you as a reader.

I will say this particular installment really kept me on my toes. The killings were all so strange and seemed at first glance to have nothing to do with each other - but of course, that is not to be the case. I loved how atmospheric this book was and how hard the team worked to put all the clues together to figure things out.

This book had such a strong procedural element to it and I loved that. Mia and Holger are just such an odd pair, yet they work together so well. I just can't put into words how much I love this pairing. I love how they frustrate each other yet they can't seem to work a case without the other one present. They need each other. 

This book becomes such an intricate cat and mouse game that digs deeper than Mia and Holger can ever imagine. It becomes quite a nightmare for them the longer the case goes on. This serial killer might just be the end of them...unless they can figure out the game first.

This series has quickly become one of my favorites. I read somewhere that Bjork plans on writing six books in this series and I so hope that is indeed true...I'm not ready to end my time with these characters! I want more!!!


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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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

 

Title: Under the Southern Sky
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Published: April 2021, Gallery Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Author

Summary:
Two childhood friends discover that love—and family—can be found in unconventional ways in this timely, moving novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “beautifully Southern, evocative Peachtree Bluff series” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife).

Recently separated Amelia Buxton, a dedicated journalist, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.

Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate.

Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Cape Carolina. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: Family—the one you’re born into and the one you choose—is always closer than you think.

From “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Under the Southern Sky is a fresh and unforgettable exploration of love, friendship, and the unbreakable ties that bind.


 

My thoughts:  It's no secret that I love Kristy Woodson Harvey and her books. And this latest one, which was one of my most anticipated reads for this month absolutely delivers in every way possible. I think this may be my new favorite of all her books and that's saying something as I have loved every single one!

One of my favorite aspects of Kristy's writing is her ability to create characters that you are immediately drawn to. She  allows us to see the perfectly imperfect world of her characters that any of us can relate to and I think that's what makes it so readable. You will fall in love with them right from the start, cheering at their successes, cringing at their missteps, and feeling humbled by their hardships. 

All the characters are so well-developed, including the secondary ones. You can't help but feel the emotional struggles that Amelia and Parker are going through. And I loved how Kristy brought Greer to life in this story through her journal entries. But I have to say, it was Aunt Tilly that tended to steal the show, and my heart, throughout the book.

This book is emotionally charged and takes you on quite the roller coaster. It is such a thought-provoking, captivating novel that will totally consume you. It really tugs at those heartstrings and delves into some moral questions that leave you wondering just what you would do. 

I know I won't be forgetting this story anytime soon...these characters have left such an impression on me and this storyline is one that definitely got to me in the best way possible! Kristy Woodson Harvey is one of my favorite authors and I highly recommend picking this one up!


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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

 

Title: Northern Spy
Author: Flynn Berry
Published: April 2021, Viking Books
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
The acclaimed author of Under the Harrow and A Double Life returns with her most thrilling novel to date: the story of two sisters who become entangled with the IRA.

A producer at the Belfast bureau of the BBC, Tessa is at work one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground after the Good Friday agreement, but they never really went away, and lately, bomb threats, arms drops, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the anchor requests the public's help in locating those responsible for this latest raid - a robbery at a gas station - Tessa's sister appears on the screen. Tessa watches in shock as Marian pulls a black mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa knows this is impossible. They were raised to oppose Republicanism, and the violence enacted in its name. They've attended peace vigils together. And besides, Marian is vacationing by the sea. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

When the truth of what has happened to Marian reveals itself, Tessa will be forced to choose: between her ideals and her family, between bystanderism and action. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she fears nothing more than endangering the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son.

A riveting and exquisite novel about family, terror, motherhood, betrayal, and the staggering human costs of an intractable conflict, Northern Spy cements Flynn Berry's status as one of the most sophisticated and accomplished authors of crime and suspense novels working today.


 

My thoughts:  I first discovered Flynn Berry by accident when I found the audiobook  of her debut novel, Under the Harrow, one day. I really liked that book and since then have been keeping an eye on what she's been up to. As soon as I heard about this latest release, I knew I had to read it...and it totally delivered!

I will admit, I do not know much about all the political goings on in Northern Ireland, so that immediately grabbed my attention with this book and I found it made for such compelling reading. I inhaled this book, basically reading it in two sittings because I just could not put it down. I was so consumed with this story, completely caught up in the tension and the family drama that was contained in this book.

I am always a sucker for any book that delves into sister relationships and this one really took it to another level. Not only do you have two sisters that are total opposites of each other, but they also have differing loyalties when it comes to their country. It was such a realistic look at just what lengths we are willing to go for our families but also just how hard it is to deal with the choices that our loved ones sometimes make. While things start off political, it becomes personal for Tessa as she becomes desperate to keep her child safe, and ultimately begins questioning herself at every turn.

This book kept me engaged and captivated from start to finish. It's intense and full of little cliff-hangers that keep you flipping the pages. It also is quite a thought-provoking book at the same time. What would you do should you ever find yourself in this position? I loved this book and it just confirms that Flynn Berry is a master at what she does. I still have to read her second book, Double Life, which I'll be picking up ASAP. She is definitely going on my must-read list and I cannot wait to see what comes next from her!

 

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: No Pain, No Gaines by Chip Gaines (audio)

 

Title: No Pain, No Gaines
Author: Chip Gaines
Narrator: Chip Gaines
Published: March 2021, Thomas Nelson
Length: 5 hours 43 minutes
Source: Publisher via TLC Booktours

Summary:

No Pain, No Gaines is a by-the-bootstraps manual for building a network of people you can count on. Fair warning: Building it will be painful, but what you’ll gain is something strong, something reliable, and something that can change the world.

Spoiler alert number one: This is a book about networks

Spoiler alert number two: This is not a book about networking 

Not networking in the traditional sense, anyway. It’s not about how to leverage your interactions with everyone you meet in an all-out sprint to get ahead. It’s about how to find a group of real people who will stand beside you as you bust your butt, who believe that authentic human connection is more important than any other earthly thing, and who bet on each other instead of the status quo. People with beating hearts and passions who live and love and try and fail and try again. People who lift you up and give your life meaning. 

Written for anyone who believes that relationships are more than transactions, and who is looking to build a network of people they can count on, No Pain, No Gaines will coach you on how to

  • look outside yourself and your circle and foster connections with others
  • value what you bring to the table
  • resist the status quo
  • find the risks worth taking
  • engage and be awake to life, not asleep at the wheel
  • get comfortable with being uncomfortably kind
  • build a network you trust and then, trust the network you build

Chip Gaines has been building that kind of network his whole life, and he can tell you, it doesn’t come easy. The good stuff never does. It requires faith in people. It requires hope. And it requires a willingness to grow even when it hurts. In No Pain, No Gaines, through hard-won lessons and personal stories, Chip will coach you on how to build a network of your own that will make your life rich and your relationships run deep.



My thoughts:  As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I've heard about Chip and Joanna Gaines, have seen bits and pieces of their show the Fixer-Upper, have two of their cookbooks, but beyond that, I don't know much about them. This book came to me and I knew I had to read it.

I loved the simplicity of this book and just how applicable it is to everyone. It is filled with such thought-provoking, encouraging life lessons and I appreciated how he broke it down to bite-size pieces. This isn't a very long book by any means, but it is chock-full of information that I know I will be revisiting at some point.

My particular favorite take-aways were being as authentic as you possibly can and seeing people as a whole-human and not just as a specific role they may play in life. In order to build a network, you need connections, but it doesn't happen overnight. You need to put the work in, but being true to yourself and others and valuing what others have to offer as a whole person will help you all in the long run.

I really enjoyed all that this book had to offer. It was one of those books that I know will stick with me and one that I will be recommending to others as I see fit.


Audio thoughts: I loved that Chip narrated this book himself. His cadence and tone were so easy to listen to and it was as if he was just sitting down having a conversation with you. I also loved that there were a few sections that Joanna and his parents and sister narrated. It really showed that they believed in this book and the message that he was trying to convey here. I enjoyed listening to this book and I would definitely listen to his other books if he narrated them.


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Review: Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

 

Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB, #2
Published: January 2018, Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary:
Inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, an exhilarating thriller in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer

In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI's serial crime unit discover the first victim's body in the woods. She's laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest's darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style--posed like Snow White awaiting her prince's kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology--that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy--dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin's profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people's trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.


 

My thoughts: This is the second book in Meg Gardiner's UNSUB series and as much as I loved the first book, I think I loved this one even more. I am so glad I am finally reading this series...better late than never, right?

Once again, this book is nonstop action right from the get-go and I found myself completely engaged from page one. I could not read this fast enough and I loved that we have two dynamic female leads here. I love Caitlin, but I loved Rainey just as much and I hope this isn't the last we see of her.

I loved that this is different from the previous book. It's not the same cut and paste formula and I so appreciate that. The only thing that is the same is that this case, like the last one, is inspired by a real-life serial killer, which I love. I may not be on top of all the serial killers, as I'm just getting into reading true crime, but these books sure are intense and they do a great job of making sure you keep all the lights on when you read them!

I also loved that we find out who the killer is pretty early on and from there, it's a non-stop race in trying to get one-step ahead of him before he spirals out of control. He's cunning and devious, but he knows his time is limited. It makes for some heart-pounding reading but we also don't really know the why and I needed to know that. 

This book was so addicting and kept me on the edge of me seat the entire time. And it all leads to an ending that sets up for the next book, which I'm hoping to read sooner rather than later. I love this series and if you love dark, gripping reads, I highly recommend reading it if you haven't already!


Books in this series:

  1. UNSUB
  2. Into the Black Nowhere
  3. The Dark Corners of the Night
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review: The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

 

Title: The Lies You Told
Author: Harriet Tyce
Published: December 2020, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
In the playground it's the law of the jungle But at the school gate, there are no rules at all... 

When Sadie Roper moves back to London, she's determined to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. First, she needs to get her daughter settled into a new school-one of the most exclusive in the city. Next, she's going to get back the high-flying criminal barrister career she sacrificed for marriage ten years earlier. But nothing goes quite as planned. The school is not very welcoming newcomers, her daughter hasn't made any friends yet and the other mothers are as fiercely competitive as their children. Sadie immediately finds herself on the outside as she navigates the fraught politics of the school gate. 

But the tide starts to turn as Sadie begins to work on a scandalous, high-profile case that's the perfect opportunity to prove herself again, even though a dangerous flirtation threatens to cloud her professional judgment. And when Julia, queen of the school moms, befriends Sadie, she draws her into the heart of the world from which she was previously excluded. Soon Sadie and her family start to thrive, but does this close new friendship prevent her from seeing the truth? Sadie may be keeping her friends close, but what she doesn't know is that her enemies are closer still... Dark, addictive and compelling, The Lies You Told is a compulsive psychological thriller from a master storyteller.


My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Harriet Tyce and I am definitely a fan. I loved her debut novel, Blood Orange, and this latest book is just as captivating and addicting.
 
This book really captured my attention from the get-go and never let up. I love books where there are unlikeable characters and there are quite a few here. I also love books where I think I know where things are heading and I definitely had things pegged wrong, but that's ok because it just keeps me more engaged and my brain working overtime as I try to work out just how the pieces will fall together. 
 
I loved that there were a few different threads happening in this book so it kept things moving along but it also made me want to read faster to get to the end to see how things in both would end up playing out. And I really did end up becoming equally invested in all threads.
 
The writing in this book is so smart and addicting...I just could not put this book down until I reached the end - and the last few chapters really had my heart pounding as we reached the final conclusion. If you have not picked this one up yet, I highly recommend it...it is definitely a thrilling, binge-worthy read.
 
 
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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic (audio)

 

Title: Dark Horses
Author: Susan Mihalic
Narrator: Alex Allwine
Published: February 2021, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 10 hours 26 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:
A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.

Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.


 

My thoughts:  This debut novel is both heartbreaking and gripping and one that is not for the faint of heart. While I am not usually one to indicate trigger warnings in my review, I think this book absolutely warrants it and I am going to put it right here so that you can make an informed decision as to whether this book is for you.

* This book includes sensitive and serious topics involving abuse and rape among family members.

This coming of age story completely grabbed me from the start and never let up. I found myself gripped by all that was going on and unable to walk away from it. I listened to the audio version of this story and just had to keep listening, unable to put it down until I had completed the story. This book evoked such a wide range of emotions in me, as I followed Roan's journey as she learned to take back her life after all that she endured.

I loved just how complex and complicated the characters are in this story, and if you can stomach all the darkness that makes up this book, you will see what a strong, remarkable character Roan is. This story is haunting and chilling, yet it is one that is so powerful and thought-provoking at the same time. It easily draws you in and you find yourself unable to think of anything else while reading and even long after you finish, you will be thinking about this one.

This book is one I know I won't be forgetting. I definitely recommend it, but be warned, it's not an easy story to read.


Audio thoughts: This audio was simply captivating. Not an easy story to narrate, I think Alex Allwine did a fantastic job narrating it. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed. She really did bring this book to life. 


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Review: Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

 

Title: Our Darkest Night
Author: Jennifer Robson
Published: January 2021, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary:
To survive the Holocaust, a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer’s wife in this unforgettable novel from USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—a story of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice, inspired by true events, that vividly evokes the most perilous days of World War II.

It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.

Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.

But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge. 

As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . .


 

My thoughts:  It's no secret that I am a fan of Jennifer Robson's historical fiction novels. I've read a few of her own books and a few of the ones she's written with others as part of anthologies. I just love the way she writes so as soon as I saw this book coming out, I knew I had to read it and I was not disappointed.

For as many books I've read on World War II, I love that each one brings a different perspective and that is exactly what we have here. This time, our setting is in Italy, which for me is new and I loved that. I also loved that characters that Jennifer created for us. Nina and Nico just come alive on the pages and I could not help but fall in love with them as we learn their story. 

This is the type of book that is as much thought-provoking as it is heartbreaking and emotional. I kept thinking what I would have done if I were to have found myself in either of these character's shoes. Could I have pretended to marry someone for the sake of saving myself? Could I risk my life and those I love for the sake of someone else?

This story captivated me from the beginning and had a hold on me the entire way through. These two characters showed such strength and bravery in the face of uncertain times and it was so hard not to be affected by their stories. I loved that this story is inspired by the author's husband's family. It just has such a deeper meaning to it and I love that she was willing to share it with us. This is definitely a story I won't be forgetting anytime soon and one that I highly recommend.


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Thursday, April 08, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis


 

Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the blog tour for Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis. Thank you Graydon House for inviting me to participate.

 

 

Title: Summertime Guests
Author: Wendy Francis
Published: April 2021, Graydon House
Format: ARC E-copy, 320 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary:
The Seafarer is the place to see and be seen in the summer…

With its rich history and famous guests, the glamorous Boston hotel is no stranger to drama. But the bustle at the iconic property reaches new heights one weekend in mid-June when someone falls tragically to her death, the event rippling through the lives of four very different people.

Bride-to-be Riley is at the hotel to plan her wedding. She would have preferred a smaller, more intimate celebration, but her bossy mother-in-law has taken charge and her fiancé hasn’t seemed to notice. Jean-Paul, the hotel’s manager, is struggling to keep his marriage and new family afloat, but now he must devote all his energy to this latest scandal at work. Claire, recently widowed, comes to town to connect with a long-lost love, but has too much changed in the last thirty years? And then there’s Jason, whose romantic getaway with his girlfriend has not exactly gone the way he'd hoped and instead has him facing questions he can't bring himself to answer.

Over three sun-drenched days, as the truth about the woman who died—and the secret she was hiding—is uncovered, these four strangers become linked in the most unexpected of ways. Together, they just might find the strength they need to turn their own lives around.


 

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Wendy Francis and once again, I found myself not only completely captivated by the story, but totally in love with the cover. I don't know about you, but I am definitely ready for the summery, beachy-type reads and this one is certainly giving off those vibes!

This book grabbed me right from the go and I loved how quick a read it was. I ended up finishing it in two sittings and the drama and mystery really kept me completely engaged. Since traveling has been out this past year, it was so fun to live vicariously through these characters, staying at such a luxurious hotel with all the many amenities at your fingertips! 

Not knowing who falls to their death, I loved how the book moves back and forth from the event to a few days leading up to it, so we can learn about the four main characters and how their lives were intertwined. They had no connections until they all set foot into the hotel and I loved that I had my detective hat on the entire time trying to figure out who had died and how. But I also loved all the drama that ensues with the characters in the meantime. I would almost classify this as part mystery, part character-study as we really learn more about these characters and what is going on with them, which it turns out is more than we see at first glance.

This is such an engaging, quick read, filled with surprising depth, that would be perfect to take with you to the beach or while sitting on your deck outside. It's entertaining, it's got a little mystery to it and that cover certainly gives off all the summer vibes!



About the author: Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of the novels The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good Intentions, Three Good Things, and Best Behavior. Her essays have appeared in Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR's Cognoscenti. A proud stepmom of two grown-up children, she lives outside Boston with her husband and eleven-year-old son.

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

 

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s



 


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