Monday, April 25, 2022

Book Review: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances - most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time - Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others - these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals, and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

If you are a book lover, and who here isn't? You love anything and everything about books, so what better book to read, than a book that book takes place in a book store!

I enjoyed Natalie Jenner's previous novel The Jane Austin Society, so I was extremely happy to be able to get an advanced listen to her newest book Bloomsbury Girls.

As with Jane Austen Society Jenner has expertly written history in the new story, along with intelligent and charming characters that you cant help but like, one of the main charaters is even in the previous book, but do not let that stop you from reading Bloomsbury Girls if you havent read Jane Austen, because while they do share a character, this is not a sequel, it is a story in its own right and can be read as such.

The story is very character driven and although it takes place in the 50s and the women are facing all the sexism and other problems that may have befall upon women working and living in that time period, I would not neccesarriy  consider the book historica fiction, to me it would fall more in line with the genre of women's fiction,

There are a lot of characters in this story but Jenner was able to give them each purpose and place, helping you navigate them without getting confused on who they are or where they fit within the story. 

The Bloombury Girls is a charming read that will hit the mark for a lot of readers...Historical Fiction, General Fiction, Womens Fiction and Book Clubs, it really has something for everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Book Review: The Shadow House by Anna Downes


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Alex, a single mother of two, is determined to make a fresh start for her and her children. In an effort to escape her troubled past, she seeks refuge in a rural community. Pine Ridge is idyllic; the surrounding forests are beautiful and the locals welcoming. Mostly.

But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home. As a chain of bizarre events is set off, events eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years, Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before. And that the only way to protect them all is to confront the shadows lurking in Pine Ridge.

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Alex has left her abusive husband to move, along with her children to Pine Ridge, a seeming long welcoming community. But the area doesn’t stay idlic for long when creepy things begin to happen .
he story has all the elements of a creepy story … a creepy doll ( I gotta tell you I find dolls super creepy ) Bones and blood all over, but the creepiness didn’t seem to hold up for me. Despite the feel of the book, there is nothing supernatural going on- which was fine with me as I am not a huge fan of that genre, I find somethings that humans do are much more creepy.
The book is told from two point of views, Alex is course, is the main voice of the story. But there is also Renee, who is married to the son of the builder of Pine Ridge. The same creepy things that happen to Alex also happen to Renee, cumulating into the kidnapping of Renee’s son Gabriel. So what is the connection between these two women? I can’t tell you, but it does play I to the mystery.
The ending of the book wraps up quite well. There are surprises and a few twist along the way, some you will see coming and others … well those are the surprises. For me, the story was very much a slow burn. I listened to the audio book and enjoyed the reader’s Australian accent, which seemed to bring the location alive for me. It was neither jarring or hard to understand.
My biggest complaint… there was a gruesome cat killing which I found totally unnecessary . I think this played into my factor of not giving it a higher star rating .


Monday, March 28, 2022

Book Review: Infamous by Alyson Noel


Jacque's Review:

This is the third and final book in the Beautiful Idols series. I was first introduced to the series when I picked up a copy of Unrivaled at BEA shortly before it was released. The book sat on my shelf for quite some time until I needed a book that started with a U a couple of years ago for the the A to Z reading challenge. The concept behind the series is that a club owner in LA, Ira Redman, recruits Tommy, Layla, and Aster to participate in a contest to help promote his clubs. At the end of the first book, an A list celebrity, Madison Brooks, vanishes and everyone presumes she was murdered. 

The second book in the series involves the contestants trying to unravel the mystery of Madison's disappearance to clear their names. Tommy Phillips is linked to the murder because he was the last one to see her alive. Aster is the primary suspect because her dress was found with what appears to be Madison's blood on it. Layla is a celebrity blogger that had a feud with Madison and is guilty by association with the Tommy and Aster. While none of the contestants think any of them are responsible, they do not have any good evidence that suggests who is.

Throughout Infamous, Tommy, Aster, and Layla find a number of clues that lead them to believe Madison is still alive. They, however, do not know where she is or who is really behind her disappearance or the motive behind it. They discover Madison has a secret past that she has spent a lifetime trying to keep buried. Someone is determined to bring to light all of her past indiscretions and does not care who goes down with Madison in the process. Tommy, Aster, and Layla must find Madison not only to clear their names, but to prevent any further harm to Madison. 

Overall, this was an entertaining series. I really enjoyed the characters and how everything connected together. I think, however, it could have been consolidated into two books to eliminate some of the drag and make it a more enjoyable and fast paced read. As I said in my review of Blacklist, the story did not advance much. In addition, there were parts of the third book that I considered filler as well. I get that authors and publishers want to sell more books to generate additional revenue, but they need to take into consideration the readers who are spending their hard earned money and time on these books. I read for entertainment, not to log the highest number of pages read. Keep the readers actively engaged and they will keep coming back for more. If not, they are moving on to something bigger and better regardless of how many books you want to publish in a series. I shouldn't feel like a have to persevere just to see how a story ends. All of the books in a series should be just as captivating as the first. 

If I had it to do all over again, I would stop after the first book in the series. Hindsight is always 2020, so hopefully you will find this knowledge useful.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Book Review: The 9th Judgment by James Patterson

  


Jacque's Review:

I really enjoy the Women's Murder Club books. The camaraderie between the women and the unique skill set each brings to the table definitely keeps me coming back for more. This is a lengthy series with 22 books currently published, so it is a major undertaking if you plan on reading this series straight through. I have been reading a book or so a year and am not sure if I will ever catch up with the pace Patterson puts out books, but I am still enjoying them none the less.

This time around Claire, the medical examiner, and Lindsay, the detective, are busy trying to tackle the murders of several mothers and small children that have been taking place around the city. The perpetrator is extremely good and doesn't leave any clues behind that he doesn't want to leave. He is toying with them by leaving clues written in lipstick or blood. 

At the same time Cindy, the newspaper reporter, has been writing about a series of burglaries that have been taking place at some of San Francisco's wealthiest homes. When one of the burglaries results in the murder of an A-list celebrity's wife, the chief puts Lindsay on that case as well. Lindsay and her partner Rich are working long hours trying to unravel the cases, but things get a little too close to home when the perpetrators in both cases reach out to Lindsay and she has to put her life on the line to protect the lives of others.

Yuki, the prosecutor, didn't have as instrumental of a part in the book, but she does make several appearances and contributes in her usual way within the legal system. She does seem to make a connection with the bartender at their favorite meeting spot when she needs someone to lean on. Hopefully this budding relationship doesn't crash and burn like her last one.

Overall, this was one of the best books in the series yet. It kept me engaged and sitting on the edge of my seat. Once the mystery was unraveled, everything made sense and you could see how all of the pieces fit together, which is an important characteristic to a mystery for me. I don't really enjoy when elements come out of nowhere just to tidy up the conclusion. This was a very well thought out and action packed story and I can't wait to see what is in store for these ladies in the next installment. Somehow I don't think they will every have any rest and relaxation in their future.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Book Review: You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen McManus

  


Goodreads Overview:

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day. Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out from working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again.

So when the three unexpectedly run into each other, they decide to avoid their problems by ditching. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school—and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse. It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common...like a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

Jacque's Review:

This is the third book of McManus's that I have read. I started with One of Us is Lying and then read the sequel One of Us is Next. One of Us is Lying was REALLY good. I was a huge fan of The Breakfast Club as a kid and could definitely see the similarities. Five students with very different backgrounds all end up in detention together. One of them ends up dying and the rest are being investigated for murder. One of Us is Next continued the original saga with a game of truth or dare spiraling out of control at the school. This book wasn't quite as good as the original, but it was still a very entertaining story.

By the third time around, I feel like it is time for McManus to move onto another topic. This book had more of a Ferris Bueller's Day Off vibe with three students skipping school. They were close friends growing up, but have drifted apart since the start of high school. Them reconnecting out of nowhere was odd enough, but then witnessing the murder of another student, who was also skipping school, was completely random. Throw in an odd relationship between one of the characters and a teacher and I really felt like McManus was grasping at straws to keep this school themed murder mystery theme going. While this book did not take place in the same school and involved a completely new set of characters, it was essentially the same concept readers have already experienced twice already.

The threads to this mystery were so far fetched and convoluted that it is not something readers can relate to. Something going terribly wrong in detention...YES. A game of truth or dare getting blown out of proportion....YES. The events that took place in this book...NO WAY. I guarantee if I gave these books to my son, who is a junior in high school, he would have the exact same reaction. This was so unrealistic that you couldn't help but think McManus has jumped the shark and it is time to move onto a new subject matter.

I gave the book 3 stars simply because I liked the characters and enjoy McManus's writing style. I do plan on reading her book The Cousins, which does seem to have a new subject matter, to hopefully turn things around. In addition, I just noticed she has a One of Us Is Lying book 3 now listed on Goodreads. Seriously? Is there going to be a third death at Bayview High? I will have to read the description and some reviews before diving head first into that one. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Book Review: Illusionary by Zoraida Cordova

  


Goodreads Overview:

Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she's reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They're united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.

With the king's forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She'll have to control her magics--and her mind--to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.

For years, she was wielded as weapon. Now it's her time to fight back.

Jacque's Review:

I received the first book in the series as part of an Owlcrate book box, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I immediately downloaded the Audible audio book when Illusionary was released to see how the series would conclude. There is a lot of tension and lack of trust between Renata and Prince Castian at the start of the book, but they must work together if they want to defeat King Fernando and bring peace to the kingdom.

I had a hard time understanding why the Whispers seemed to be working against Renata the majority of this series. She was a part of their group for so long, but they turned their backs on her when she needed them the most. Their lack of trust in her type of magic should have been outweighed by her years of loyalty and service to their cause. 

Prince Castian was her childhood friend, but those memories were lost in the depths of "The Gray" and replaced by the illusions he projected in more recent times. She believes he is the ruthless prince who has been trying to destroy the Moria and killed her boyfriend, but this couldn't be further from the truth. I enjoyed seeing them rekindle their friendship and seeing Ren discover who her true allies are. Appearances are often deceiving, especially when dealing with the types of magic the Moria can yield. Some are able to manipulate emotions while others, like Castian, can crate elaborate illusions.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Leo, Castian, and Ren grow as they traveled the kingdom in search of the Knife of Memory. They discover a hidden community of Moria, and for the first time in her life, Ren sees that her magic can be used for something other than a weapon. Their leader teaches her to control her magic and eliminate The Gray, which allows her abilities to soar instead of consuming her.

I am happy this was only a duology and the author/publisher did not feel the need to turn it into a trilogy. Both of the books were action packed, fast paced, and easily held my attention. It was a unique world and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and their magical abilities. There were some twists and revelations that I did not see coming that really added to the enjoyment of this final book. In addition, I really enjoyed this book on audio. The narrator did a great job and I never would have pronounced the names of some of the characters and cities correctly.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

  


Jacque's Review:

The "Gator Girls" book club, which consists of several residents in Florida's Bonita Bay community, selected this book for their February meeting. I have an exceptionally long to be read list, so I don't usually read all of the new releases when they are the hot topic of conversation. In fact, I am usually years behind the times, but this new release did pique my interest.

Molly is a little quirky, and if I had to guess, may be on the autism spectrum. She is high functioning with an exceptional vocabulary and manner of speaking. She is extremely proud of her job as a maid and takes it very seriously. One should not expect to find so much as a fingerprint left behind after Molly returns a room to a "state of perfection". Why I say she may be autistic is because of her obsessive compulsive love of cleaning as well as her lack of social skills. She has a very hard time reading other people's emotions and finds herself in some difficult situations as a result. 

Molly was raised by her grandmother, who passed away prior to the start of the book. She is barely making ends meet and doesn't have anyone to turn to for emotional or financial support. She becomes "friends" with Mrs. Black, who is the wife of one of the wealthy guests that frequents the hotel. One day, Molly finds Mr. Black dead in the room and quickly becomes the prime suspect. Fortunately for her Mr. Preston, the doorman, was good friends with her grandmother and agreed to look out for Molly after she passed away. Mr. Preston's daughter is an attorney and quickly steps in to help clear Molly's name, but the web of suspicious activity taking place at the Regency Grand Hotel is much larger than Molly ever could have imagined. Mr. Preston, on the other hand, is very observant of the comings and goings at the hotel and has a good idea who is behind the shady activity.

This was a very entertaining and quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think my mom may have suggested this book because she has a bit of Molly in her as well. Not the lack of social skills, but the obsessive compulsive cleaning. She is always trying to return things to a state of perfection when the average person wouldn't find anything out of sorts. I should recommend this book to my teenage son who could certainly benefit from some inspiration from Molly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Book Review: The Favor By Nora Murphy


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
taying is dangerous. Leaving could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t—ever—find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop. They don’t—ever—discuss their problems and find common ground. They don’t—ever—acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Because Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be more dangerous than what’s outside. Driving past McKenna’s house one night, she sees what she knows only too well herself from her own marriage: McKenna’s “perfect” husband is not what he seems. She decides to keep an eye out for McKenna, until one night, she intervenes.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will.
 

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

    Leah and McKenna lead parallel lives, they both are in abusive marriages and can't get out. Leah, on her regular run to the liquor store, sees McKenna and instantly feels a connection to her, following her home. Over the next few days, she stalks McKenna, who lives a life so similar to her own, even in her neighborhood, until one night she sees something that sets their lives on a crash course. And here I will stop because there is no way to not give away most of the story if I continue.

I found The Favor to be an engaging psychological domestic thriller, the abuse was realistic and I am sure will be triggering to some people. I did find some of the bits a bit slow, but when I put it down I found myself wanting to pick it back up and get back to reading. Nora Murphy's writing was raw and she proved her talent in this debut, along with the fact that the time she spent as a lawyer, really helped bring realism to the story.

One of the best parts of the book was an impactful afterword written by the author that helps to remind us just how common abuse really is. If you are a fan of domestic thrillers, pick up The Favor.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Book Review: Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto


 SUMMARY:
Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can't wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can't believe Staphanie and her family aren't just like her own, they are The Family--actual mafia, and they're using Meddy's wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won't let Meddy's wedding ceremony become a murder scene--over their dead bodies--and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Y'all...I was so excited when Net Galley approved me to read Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto. I loved Dial A For Aunties, the first book in this series and I hoped that Four Auntie's would continue the fun. I often struggle with the second book in a series, in fact, I am not even much of a series reader for this very fact. Maybe it is me. Maybe I put too much pressure on that second book and it lets me down. But nope. Four Aunties gave me everything and more!

I laughed. I laughed out loud. I laughed out loud in public places. I saw the looks people gave me. I suspect they were just wishing they had such a great read like I did. I think I laughed more at Four Aunties than I did at Dial A. 

I love Meddy Chen, and have so much love for her crazy family, who honestly are the real stars of these books. Let's face it, when I say crazy, that is probably putting it lightly, this family is bat shit crazy, there just isn't another description that fits them than that.

I don't want to go into the story much, because I don't want to spoil the fun for you, but imagine Meddy and her family taking on the Mafia. Can you even imagine the pure chaos that will take place??

If you have not read Dial A For Aunties- pick it up so you will be ready for Four Aunties on March 29th when it publishes. I promise you, it will give you a laugh, and you will not want to put either of them down.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Book Review: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.
 

TEE'S THOUGHTS

Katy and her mother had a mother-daughter trip planned to Italy, but instead of them both going, Katy ends up on the trip alone. Before the trip happened, Katy had to upend her life and take care of her mother who was dying. While on the trip, Katy learns a lot about her mother, getting a whole new look at the woman she thought she knew.

The first thing I can tell you is to have a tissue ready…yes…early on, you will need it, One Italian Summer starts right off ripping your heart out and continues taking you on an emotional rollercoaster. Katy grieves, and you will grieve right along with her, especially, if like me, you know the feeling of losing a parent.

While One Italian Summer is sad, it is also magical, in a way you’d never expect it to be.  Did you read In Five Years by Serle? Do you know how it had that tiny bit of magical twist to it? The author has also us the same twist in this book, taking you to an alternative universe that will surprise you. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like it when it happened, but Serle’s writing is beautiful and it fits the story perfectly, making it unique and one of my favorite parts of the book.

I liked In Five Years, but there were a few things in there that I didn’t care for, but reading One Italian Summer has definitely put her on my auto-buy list. Everything about this book was beautiful. In fact, I finished this book in two days, not an easy feat for me being what I often feel like is the slowest reader on Instagram, cause I know y’all and y’all are some speedy readers, but this book will keep you reading from the moment you pick it up until you reach the last page.

Also, I would be doing you wrong if I didn't mention Positano Italy. Serle will have you looking up travel agents wanting to book a trip, her descriptions of the area are exquisite, and will pull you into the sun-soaked Amalfi coast.

One Italian Summer is magical, and it is beautiful, and it is a book that will stay with me for a long time.



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Book Review: Freckled by T.W. Neal / Toby Neal

  


Goodreads Overview:

Born in 1965 to hippie surfer parents who just want to ride waves, use substances, and hide from society, red-headed Toby grows up as one of only a few hundred Caucasian “haole” people on the rugged, beautiful North Shore of Kauai, Hawaii.

“I wish I could slow down time, turn every moment to honey and watch it drip by.” Told from the immersive, first-person view of a child experiencing turbulent times as they occur, Freckled will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget as Toby catches an octopus with her bare hands to feed the family, careens on her first bike down a rugged dirt trail deep in the jungle, and makes money by selling magic mushrooms to a drug dealer. Living in tents and off the land without electricity or communication with the outside world, Toby escapes into reading and imagination to deal with racial harassment and indifferent parenting.

Toby’s idealistic parents, breaking away from high achieving families, struggle with mental health and addiction issues as they try to live according to their own rules. Despite the hardship and deprivations of life on Kauai, they return again and again to an island whose hold on them is more powerful than any drug, as sensitive and resilient Toby clings to a dream of academic achievement and a “normal” life.

Jacque's Review:

This was Preston's book club selection in his high school English class. Author Toby Neal is known for her mysteries and thrillers. This is her first attempt at nonfiction and she hit it out of the park. I haven't read any of her other novels, but I will definitely give them a try after reading Freckled.

Freckled is Toby's memoir about growing up in Hawaii in the 60's and 70's. Her parents were hippie surfers who were content living well below the poverty level in order to enjoy the sun and surf in Kauai. Discrimination against non-native white people, referred to as "haoles",  was worse than anything I have ever witnessed on the mainland. 

Toby shares her experiences of what it was like living in a homeless tent community or out of their van at various times during her childhood. The few times her father got a decent paying job that provided an actual house to live in, he found the work to be more than he could handle. He wasn't used to working 40 hours a week and simple manual labor was too much for him. He split the work up between himself, his wife, and children so he only had to work a fraction of the time and could relax, drink beer, and surf. Her parents often neglected the children and left Toby to take care of the younger ones.

What is inspiring about this story is how Toby was able to overcome her upbringing. She was always an avid reader and did well in school. The library was one of the few safe places she could go and the books provided an escape that she desperately needed. She refused to follow in her parents footsteps and always wanted more for herself. She was not afraid to work hard and knew that getting off the island, and obtaining a college degree, was her only chance of breaking the cycle and achieving her goals in life.

This book not only tells Toby's story, but shares a first had account of the discrimination on the islands. Everyone thinks of Hawaii as paradise, but that was far from the case for non-natives that wanted to live there. We are all too familiar with the stories of discrimination against people of color and initiatives like the Black Lives Matter campaign, but I had never heard of the reverse discrimination in Hawaii. This book is a great resource for schools and communities to educate students and residents about the effects of discrimination and to hopefully prevent the past from repeating itself in the future.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Audiobook Review: The Guilty by James Patterson

  


Goodreads Overview:

Tonight, Osmond Box, the reclusive yet wildly successful writer/director known for his completely surprising Broadway plays is debuting his seventh and most highly anticipated production of his career.

'THE GUILTY'. Nothing is known as the story, the setting, the premise, or even the actors involved. The first people to discover the truth will be the lucky ones sitting in those seats opening night. Phones are collected; doors are locked. The rest of the world eagerly awaits the first reviews....

Two hours later, when the doors are finally allowed to open, half of the audience will be applauding wildly. The other half will be fleeing the theater in mortal terror. Has Osmond Box done it again? Or has he done something far, far worse?

Jacque's Review:

This is a free Audible original murder mystery that is short and sweet at about 3 hours and 20 minutes long. I enjoyed the fact that there was a full cast of characters, which made it feel like I was listening to a live production vs. reading a book.

I never could tell if they were acting or improvising as the story went along. The actors all insist the story is unscripted and they are getting sucked into participating in something they did not sign up for. How all of the characters are connected, and why Box summoned them for this monumental occasion, is as much of a mystery as the murder itself.  I enjoyed listening to the police interrogations and felt like I was part of the actual investigation. 

This was a very unique way of telling a story and something that I think would appeal to reluctant readers. I haven't experienced anything like this before and would definitely be interested in future full cast productions. While I wouldn't sign up for Audible just for this book, it was worth the time invested if you are already a member. 

I was reluctant to sign up for Audible for a long time and did two separate free trials just to get the free credits to buy a book my son needed for school. The fact that he prefers to listen while following along with the text is what finally sold me. My husband, son, and I all share one account and we use at least half of our credits on books he needs for school that are not available in audio from the library. With three people using the account ,we definitely get our money's worth. If it were just me, I would stick with the library since I am fine with any format and don't usually care if I have to wait. My TBR list is filled with books that have been out for quite some time, so there is always something available when I am looking. My son needing specific books in less than a week, in both audio and print, made Audible a no brainer for us. The app tracks your listening time and we average at least 40 hours per month. That is equal to 35 cents an hour and you get to keep the audiobooks you purchase, even if you cancel your subscription. That is a pretty inexpensive way to encourage my son to read more. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

  


Goodreads Overview:

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. 

Jacque's Review:

Several of Larson's books have been recommended to me over the years. I was going to start with Dead Wake, which is about the sinking of the Lusitania, but my brother has read both and said to start with The Devil in the White City.

This is a true story that is so unbelievable that you would think it was a James Patterson murder mystery. I was not aware of any of the events that surrounded the Chicago World's Fair, so this was a complete shock to me. The fact that they had to pull off such an enormous construction project in such a short period of time would be dauting enough. Add in the poor soil, wind, and the Chicago winters and most people would have chalked it up as impossible. Through sheer determination, they were able to achieve and even exceed expectations.

I found the storyline regarding the construction and the fair to be enlightening, but at times it was a bit much. The detailed descriptions of the landscape, types of plants, architecture, etc. could have been streamlined to make it a more entertaining read. The chapters about Dr. Holmes, on the other hand, kept the pages turning. The man was supposedly handsome, charming, and everyone was drawn to him like a magnet. He was a smooth talker and conned his way into or out of just about any situation. The elaborate scheme he developed to lure in and murder his victims is unimaginable. If he simply weren't so greedy, he could have gotten away with everything. 

I ended up giving this book 3 stars simply because it dragged at times. I have heard that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are working to turn this book into a Hulu series. It has been discussed for quite some time, with a number of potential actors linked to the project. I think it would be a FANTASTIC movie or series, but I'm sure it will be very costly to make, which is probably why it has been kept on the back burner for so long. Replicating all of the buildings for the fair will not be an easy task, but it will be dazzling to see if it is eventually brought to life.  In this case, I think the movie has potential to be even better than the book.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Book Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
Natalie Collins hasn't heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood's guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they're prohibited from contact with the rest of the world--no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it's a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister's cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she's been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she's about to learn that Wisewood won't let either of them go without a fight.

TEE'S THOUGHTS

This book centers around Natalie, a successful career-driven businesswoman, and her sister Kit, who seems unable to get her life together. Kit goes to Wisewood, a retreat on a private island of the coast of Maine to try and get her life on track, but basically disappears. After six months of not hearing from Kit, Natalie goes to Wisewood to tell Kit a secret that is threatening to get out, but once she arrives at the retreat she realizes that Wisewood is not exactly what it seems.

The story in This Might Hurt unfolds with the POVs of mainly Natalie and Kit, with the occasional sprinkle of some of the other characters in the story. It toggles between the present and the past, to get to the backstory and how it relates to what is going on in their lives now.

I will admit, I neither liked nor disliked the main characters in the book, however, I did enjoy the story. The writing was very engaging with plenty of surprises and twists, making this psychological thriller one that will keep you turning pages. I had no problem following the dual timelines of the story or staying entertained.

If you are a lover of thrillers. mysteries or cult books give This Might Hurt a try, it is a riveting tale of family abuse and its long-term effects.

Thank you to Net Galley and Berkley Publishing for the advance copy. This Might Hurt will publish February 22

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Book Review: All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

  


Goodreads Overview:

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.

Jacque's Review:

I received the first book in this series, All the Stars and Teeth, in one of my Owlcrate book boxes. I really enjoyed the story and was pleased with how it concluded in this installment.

This time around Amora is determined to break her curse and restore her magic. To disguise her real agenda, she sets out on a tour of the islands to find a husband. The entire charade is ludicrous since she is already in love with Bastian, but she will not admit that even to herself. Amora gathers the crew together from last time, with a few notable additions to bolster their magical talents. 

For the majority of the book Amora is haunted by the death of her father, even though he was far from the type of leader she hopes to be. She is very naive and falls victim to a couple of attacks from her subjects that no longer want to be ruled by a monarchy. While she believes she can be a better ruler than her father and wants to help her people, she constantly considers what she would do if she had the opportunity to bring him back to life. The pressure is more than she wants to endure and, in my opinion, she is looking for the easy way out.

Lies and deception put a lot of strain on the relationships of the crew. Once everything is out in the open, there are some hurt feelings, but they need to work together if they have any chance of breaking the curse. I was shocked by the ending, but it really was the only way things could have worked out in the end. I was happy to see that this was only a duology and Adalyn didn't try to stretch it into a trilogy. There was plenty of content and action to keep readers engaged, but an additional book likely would have fallen short of expectations. I wish more authors would follow suit when there simply isn't enough content to justify an additional book in a series.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

 

Goodreads Overview:

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there's an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Jacque's Review:

Just One Day has been on my TBR list since 2014. I loved If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, so I was pretty sure I would love this series as well. I'm not sure what took me so long to read it, but I'm certainly glad that I did.

Allyson receives a European vacation as her high school graduation present from her parents. It wasn't what she had hoped for until she has one magical day in Paris with Willem De Ruiter, an actor she meets at a street performance of Twelfth Night. When he is nowhere to be found the next morning, she assumes the worst of him. 

She returns to the United States and goes off to college to fulfill her Mother's dream of becoming a doctor. Her first semester of school is a disaster. She is not interested in her classes, has very poor grades, and isn't fitting in socially. She is consumed by what happened in Paris and simply can't put it behind her. She is depressed and the book drags as a result. When the guidance counselor convinces her to take a class on Shakespeare and some other electives outside of the pre-med curriculum, she finally begins to find her place and the book takes off again. She meets Dee, who is a drag queen, and begins to form her first real friendship on campus. She eventually opens up about what happened and the two begin searching the internet for a way to contact Willem. She needs to know what really happened so she can move on with her life.

Very little turns up, so she decides to get a summer job. She saves enough money to return to Paris to continue her search for clues. Just when her quest appears to have gone bust, she finds a glimmer of hope. Perhaps Willem didn't just disappear after all. 

The ending was very abrupt with a bunch of unanswered questions left hanging in the balance. I can hardly wait to read Just one Year to get Willem's take on the events that took place that day in Paris and to see what he went through this past year.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Book Review: If Only In My Dreams by Carrie Aarons

GOODREADS SUMMARY:

'Tis the season to … be freshly divorced at twenty-six and moving back into your parents' house?

Because that’s my reality this Christmas. As if it isn’t bad enough that my entire hometown is buzzing with the news of my failed marriage, who is the first person I bump into at the grocery store? The guy who treated me like his personal booty call in high school just happens to be looking at spices while I’m trying to pick up cinnamon for my mother.

And get this; Porter Kelly, the broody, mysterious recluse who exposed his own secrets to the world by writing a book about his family years ago, is the one who acts like I wronged him. His rude remarks on aisle nine are the final straw as my exhausted unhappiness breaks, and I’m officially calling off the most wonderful time of the year.

Too bad it’s literally impossible for the woman whose parents own a railroad that specializes in Christmas train rides to ignore the holiday season. Because I’m back under their roof, it’s mandatory to work in the middle of the red and green merriment, Santa himself, and wait for it …

Porter serenading us with the greatest festive hits of all time. That’s right, apparently, my teenage heartthrob turned nemesis not only works for my parents but can strum a guitar like he’s trying to get every soccer mom on board pregnant. As we’re forced to spend more time together than ever, his past baggage and my marital rejection make their way to the surface, bonding us in ways neither of us knew possible.

I thought I was heartbroken about my ex-husband wanting to end our marriage, but that pain is nothing compared to what Porter could inflict. He seems like a changed man, one on the precipice of a new chapter, which is exactly where I find myself. Would it be crazy to think we could turn the page together?

Returning home was the only option I had. But as I come dangerously close to counting on the first man who broke my heart, I wonder if all of my future dreams are too good to be true

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Carrie Aarons has outdone herself with her new book If Only In My Dreams. This book has everything I love, between two beautifully decorated covers ( I mean seriously that cover is everything ) It has my favorite trope enemies to lovers, second chance romance, a sexy musician, an idyllic small town, and of course Christmas.


Madison goes back to her mall hometown after the breakup of her marriage, a bit embarrassed by the fact that her perfect marriage was now in shambles. Finally getting out of the house to run to the grocery the first person she runs into is  Porter Kelly, the boy she gave her heart and more to in high school, only to be treated like a toy by him. If seeing him isn’t bad enough, she finds out he is working for her parents.


Aarons did a great job with the enemies to lover trope I love so much, though I had no doubt she would, as I have read a few of her books and she is good at it. The amount of dislike, frustration, and animosity she gives her characters and makes you feel is over the top.


The main characters were written realistically, with valid feelings, and I think we can all agree that Porter Kelly is a J. E. R. K. especially at the beginning of the book. But as the book moves on, you get a different perspective of him and he grows on you. Also, the book is written in dual POVs from both Madison and Porter, which I felt helped hash out the story a bit better. I love the banter between Madison and Porter, and their chemistry was undeniable, and once they realized their attraction..oh my the steam came on full force.


The enemies to lovers trope quickly moves into a second chance at love theme, and to me, that is when it began to feel like a Christmas romance even though it had been in the background from the beginning it never seemed so Christmasy.


If Only In My Dreams, which I thought was the perfect title for a story about people coming home for Christmas ( IYKYK ), is a great book, it is a quick read, the perfect book for the holidays without feeling so much like a Hallmark Christmas movie… it's a bit too spicy for that!  Def put it on your holiday reading list.