Monday, September 12, 2022

Audio Review: The Lost Girls Of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

 



GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined . 


TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Oh wow...let me start off by saying that this book is DISTURBING, and at times it may be hard to read, there are many many triggering points in it, but if you can handle it, I recommend reading it. Ellen Marie Wiseman has based to story around the notorious Staten Island state school for disabled children called Willowbrook ( look it up, it was a real school ). The school ran from 1947 to 1987 and was plagued with rumors of unsanitary living conditions and medical practices that were not on the up and up. Geraldo Rivera did one of his popular investigation reports into the school in 1972 and brought it to light.

Wiseman does not hold back in the story, and at times you might feel a bit overwhelmed in the story of Sage, whose twin Rosemary ( I want to sing Simon and Garfunkel every time I read their names together) a student at the school goes missing. Sage takes it upon herself to go to the school to try and find her, and instead, she is mistaken for the missing Rosemary and gets sucked into the school. From this point on n the book you read about the horrors that Sage has witnessed in the school, the sexual and physical abuse, the horrid living conditions, and the questionable experiments that are at times performed on the students.

The story revolves around Sage's survival, of her trying to find her missing sister while trying to convince the powers to be that she is not Rosemary. She also gets in the middle of a mystery, that includes her sister, and also the Urban Legend of Cropsey. Reading all of this will shock you, sadden you, and keep you reading late into the night.

I urge you to not let the label of " Historical Fiction " turn you away if you are not a fan. Yes, The Lost Girls Of Willowbrook is Historical Fiction, but if you took away that label you will have a stunning piece of suspenseful writing that will keep any Suspense/Thriller fan entertained.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Book Review: A Dreadful Splendor by BR Myers


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
In Victorian London, Genevieve Timmons poses as a spiritualist to swindle wealthy mourners--until one misstep lands her in a jail cell awaiting the noose. Then a stranger arrives to make her a peculiar offer. The Lord he serves, Mr. Pemberton, has been inconsolable since the tragic death of his beautiful bride-to-be. If Genevieve can perform a séance persuasive enough to bring the young Lord peace, she will win her freedom.

Soothing a grieving nobleman should be easy for someone of Genevieve's skill, but when she arrives at the grand Somerset Park estate, Mr. Pemberton is not the heartbroken lover she expected. The surly--yet exceedingly handsome--gentleman is certain that his fiancée was murdered, even though there is no evidence. Only a confession can bring justice now, and Mr. Pemberton decides Genevieve will help him get it. With his knowledge of the household and her talent for illusion, they can stage a haunting so convincing it will coax the killer into the light. However, when frightful incidents befall the manor, Genevieve realizes her tricks aren't required after all. She may be a fake, but Somerset's ghost could be all too real...

A Dreadful Splendor is a wickedly whimsical brew of mystery, spooky thrills, and intoxicating romance that makes for an irresistibly fun and page-turning read.

TEE'S THOUGHTS
I will start by saying that I would not consider this so much a gothic book as I would a period mystery. Gothic romance, mystery, whatever, it is one of my favorite genres, so in the end, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't really get what I thought I was going into.

With that being said, the writing, especially toward the end of the book was wonderful. The Victorian setting did give the feel, ever so slightly of gothic, however, the book got much better when I pushed the word out of my mind. I actually loved the haunting atmosphere of the story and the writer certainly kept me guessing who the killer actually was.

There is a slow build romance that takes place in the book as well. I did not feel that the two love interests had much chemistry between them, but I do appreciate that Myers gave us a slow build instead of insta-love. There is nothing I dislike more in a book than insta-love. I want the drama, the tension...

There were times I felt that the story was a bit slow and during those times I caught my mind wandering off to trivial things. I think what really kept me reading and pushing through the thing that I did not like was Myers's very vivid descriptions throughout the book.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Book Review: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune


GOODREADS SUMMARY:

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually, that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past. 

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

GUYS...if ever there was a book to read this summer THIS IS IT...yes, I know it has gotten a lot of hype...but in this case, BELIEVE the hype!

It stuns me that Every Summer After is Carley Fortune's debut, she tells a story as well or better as many seasoned writers.

Set in a lake community in Canada, the story is told in dual timelines about 12 years apart, past and present. Beginning with Percy and her family occupying a cottage on the lake for 6 summers, living next door to the Florek family. Percy and youngest brother Sam, start out as friends but build up to a relationship before breaking up that last summer. Oh there are some major feels in this book when you go through their problems and their mistakes with them, but you will also cheer them along in the present day.

It is a quick read, mainly because you will not want to put it down, but the story holds your interest with plenty of family issues such as grief and parental loss, struggling relationships, both friendships and lovers, the struggles of growing up, and of course forgiveness.

The characters in the book are flawed and they make some stupid mistakes like we all do growing up, but they grow up and deal with them like adults do, and no matter what, they stay true to themselves and you seem to always root for them despite what is going on. They are young in much of the book, which kind of grows with them, so at times where you will feel like you are reading a YA, but the present will slip in and remind you that you are not.

Every Summer After is full of washed-out summer nostalgia that will have you remembering your first summer crush. I loved this book so much that I am sure I have told everyone I know to read it..so if you haven't, I am telling you also! And y'all can I get a hell yeah on how beautiful Carley Fortune wrote the character of Sam?... Book boyfriend crush material right there!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Audio Book Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

30-year-old New Yorker Liv Reese has no memory when she wakes up in a cab, so she heads home only to find strangers living in her brownstone, to make matters worse she discovers a blood-stained knife in her pocket and the words " Stay Awake " written all over her.

In the beginning, I found Stay Awake a bit confusing and thought maybe I might have missed something as I was listening and working, but I soon found my bearings with it and found the story entertaining and thrilling. The story is told by Liv in two timelines, the present and also the past which takes place two years before.

There is a lot of action in this book to keep your attention, however, to me, the middle got a bit bogged down in the storytelling and dragged a bit. It was really interesting to see how Liv slowly began figuring the clues out and what was going on. 

I have seen several people say that they easily figured the ending out, but not me. I thought I had it figured out and then Goldin threw in a twist that surprised me.

Thriller readers will enjoy Stay Awake, especially if you enjoy Goldins previous book Night Swim. I personally thought Stay Awake was a bit better.

I listened to the audio and found it engaging. Imogene Church and January LaVoy, the narrators gave a great performance and brought it to life for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and MacMillian Audio for the advanced audio

Book Review : Meant to Be by Emily Giffin


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:
The Kingsley family is practically American royalty, beloved for their military heroics, political service, and unmatched elegance. When Joseph S. Kingsley III is born in 1960, he inherits the weight of that legacy. Growing up with all the Kingsley looks and charisma, Joe should have no problem taking up the mantle after his father’s untimely death. But he is also a little bit reckless, and can’t seem to figure out how to channel the expectations of an entire country.

No one ever expected anything of Cate, on the other hand. She, too, grew up in a single-parent household—just her and her mom scraping by in their small apartment. As a teenager, though, Cate is discovered for her looks. Modeling may be her only ticket out of the cycle of disappointment that her mother has always inhabited. Before too long, her face is everywhere, though she is always aware that she’d be a pariah in her social circles if anyone knew her true story.

When Joe and Cate’s paths cross, their connection is instant. What remains to be seen is whether their relationship will survive the glare of the spotlight that follows Joe everywhere. And just as they find themselves in the make-or-break moment, the tragedy that seems to run in Joe’s family right alongside all that privilege will repeat itself.

In a beautifully written novel that recaptures a gilded moment in American history, Emily Giffin tells a story of a love that may or may not have the power to transcend circumstances that seem arrayed against it... and the difficulty of finding your way to the place you belong

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

It has been a while since I have picked up an Emily Griffin book. I enjoyed her books Something Borrowed and Something Blue, but then seemed to lose track of her, that is until I was searching Amazon for a new audiobook and come across Meant To Be. I knew nothing about the book going into it, and that it was new and sounded decent, so I jumped in.


The first thing I noticed was that the story seemed to somewhat mirror the relationship of John F Kennedy Jr and Carolyn Bessette. I grew up in a huge Kennedy family, everyone in my family was a fan of all the Kennedy's so naturally, I knew a bit about them. I also was a huge fan of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, I thought she was elegant, the perfect wife for JFK Jr, who I was also a fan of, and loved reading George every month. Also, as a lover of fashion, I thought Carolyn Bessette had fantastic taste in clothes and loved that she loved Yohji Yamamoto, one of my favorites.


Griffin did a great job keeping me entertained with this story. While Joseph’s family background def mirrored the Kennedys, Cate’s family was nothing like Carolyn’s. She came from a lower-class family with one parent, and that played heavily into the story. I like both of the characters, which isn’t usually the case with me reading a romance. I won’t lie, I think the similarities in the story with the real-life romance, helped me quickly zoom through the book, it was something I really enjoyed and I loved seeing the ways she veered off from real life to make it her own story.


I think if you are a reader of Kennedy books you would really enjoy this, even if you basically know the story, and if you know absolutely nothing about JFKJr and Carolyn Bessette, you will enjoy just a great romance. 


Luckily for Joe and Cate, Emily Griffin gave them a much happier ending than what JFKJr and Carolyn got, and I have always felt, that would have been the way RL would have went for those two.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt


 GOODREADS SUMMARY

After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she's been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors--until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova's son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it's too late.

TEE'S THOUGHTS:

Y'all my heart is bursting with love for this new book. So many feels on this one!

Remarkably Bright Creatures is about Tova Sullivan a 70-year-old woman who lost her son 30 years ago and recently lost her husband. She takes a job as a night shift cleaner at the Sowell Bay Aquarium so she will have something to do to keep her busy.

Tova forms a friendship with Marcellus, a giant pacific octopus who, when the book begins is on his 1299 day of captivity in the aquarium.

This is such a creative, heartfelt story with characters you will fall in love with. Tova is determined to carry on with her life despite her loss and enjoys her cleaning job at the aquarium, it helps pass a lot of would-be empty and lonely hours. Author Shelby Van Pelt did a wonderful job of installing sadness into Tova's character without making her depressing and miserable.

Marcellus the aging octopus steals the show in this story in my opinion. He gives Tova life and reason without speaking a word to her. I might have thought this interaction was a bit overdone, the book is fiction so..., but a few weeks ago I watched a Netflix documentary called My Octopus Teacher and it saw how highly intelligent these creatures are, and they are capable of forming attachments to humans. Marcus may not speak verbally to Tova but he gets his point across and in the book he does have a voice.

There is also Cameron, who is a bit lost in life and searching for a father that he never knew. He ends up at the aquarium working after a failed search led him to the area.

I don't want to go into any greater detail, but I will tell you that all the characters and the story will tug at your heart, but at the same time make you smile.


********
My Opinion...

I won't lie, I am a huge fan of aquariums. I love the ocean and any creatures that live there. An Aquarium has always been a place of joy for me, being able to see these magnificent creatures up close amazes me. When I finished Remarkably Bright Creatures it got me thinking, especially about Marcellus's POV in the story. It made me question keeping these creatures in captivity. For the first time, someone has given one of these creatures a voice and it has really made me think a bit differently about things.

Please read or listen to this book, it could be one of the best beach reads of your summer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

BOOK REVIEWS: BOOK LOVERS BY EMILY HENRY


GOOD READS SUMMARY:

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.


TEE'S THOUGHTS:

I really enjoyed Beach Reads by Emily Henry and People We Met On Vacation was just a bit ehh for me, so admittedly I was a bit skeptical going into this one, but Emily Henry managed to win me over again with her new book Book Lovers. In fact, of the three I would have to say that Book Lovers is probably her best.
 

Henry lured me in with loads of banter and enjoyable characters. I really liked both Nora and Charlie, both were snarky and I love snarky! I also really enjoyed Nora's sister Libby, she was a wonderful secondary character. Charlie was a great guy and very likable. Many times in the enemies to lovers trope the men, are usually asses. I guess you need a reason for them to be enemies! Nora felt relatable, not perfect, but very driven in her career as a literary agent. I will give Emily Henry big props in her writing of characters, she makes them relatable, even if the book isn't to your liking.

Book Lovers was a refreshing and quick read. There are some slightly steamy scenes and Charlie and Nora had good chemistry, plus the ending was cute. Pick this one up if you need a cute sweet Rom-Com to get you out of a reading slump or if you just need a break from something a bit more serious.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Book Review: The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C McPhail

 


GOODREADS SUMMARY:
The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.

Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all-female Krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control of their interactions with men and upend social conventions. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.

But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controlled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . . .

TEE'S THOUGHTS

I love New Orleans, we are regular visitors to the city, so I was instantly intrigued by The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C McPhail. Not to mention that cover is so eye-catching and beautiful it makes you want to pick it up no matter what it was about.

I loved Diane C McPhail's writing, the story was well written and I enjoyed how she incorporated a mystery into the historical fiction, however being a fan of New Orleans, I was really hoping that the historical fiction part of the book was the major story and it really did not seem to be to me. The story spent most of its time on the mystery of the two men. Usually, I would have enjoyed that, I do love a good mystery, but in the case of this book, it did not work for me.

The two main characters were fantastically written as strong women who in the time of having a husband taking care of you, as a rule, showed strength in being able to do without one. 

The Seamstress of New Orleans was very well researched, the females are empowering and have a wonderful friendship. I only wish it had more on the lead-up of Mardi Gras, which the blurb spoke about, the glamour of the dresses that were being made, the female Krewes, and of course the magic that is New Orleans.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: SOMETHING FISHY THIS WAY COMES BY GABBY ALLAN

 



GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Gabby Allan’s second Santa Catalina Island-set mystery series with a rom-com twist, boat tour guide Whitney Dagner, her chunky cat Whiskers, and Whitney’s not-so-ex police diver boyfriend must lead a dangerous investigation into years of scandal and bad blood...

Take in the wild beauty of Santa Catalina Island with tour guide and eclectic gift shop owner Whitney Dagner. On the itinerary: dramatic Pacific coastlines, diverse marine life, and murder!

Since returning home from mainland California and finding her groove with the family tourism business, Whitney Dagner’s daily routine has become a wonderfully chaotic adventure. She and her nimble kitty, Whiskers, often find themselves at the center of the action on Catalina, from staged treasure hunts to gossipy birdwatchers. But before Whit can get too comfortable in the place where she grew up, a gift shop order leads to a stunning discovery—someone’s dead body . . .

One of Whit’s best boat tour clients, Leo Franklin was young and newly engaged when he unceremoniously took his own life. Only it doesn’t seem like that’s what really happened—not after the suspicious activity displayed by his family’s old rivals at the scene of his death. As a bitter, generations-long feud between Leo’s kin and the local Ahern clan comes to a head, Whit and her police diver not-so-ex-boyfriend must lead a dangerous investigation into years of scandal and bad blood to figure out who’s innocent . . .and who’s covering a killer’s tracks.
 


TEE'S THOUGHTS:


I adored Gabby Allan's Much Ado About Nauticaling so I was excited to get the chance to read her newest book Something Fishy This Way Comes.


The first thing I want to say is that I love her titles and their take on classics, but with that nautical twist. Also, her covers are so appealing with their bright colors that just scream summer, and I will admit, the cover cat Whiskers who I swear could be kin to my Marmalade they look so much alike!


Speaking of Whiskers, I think he or she ( I cannot for the life of me remember if the cat is male or female )  and Whitney make the cutest detective duo, they are both so fun.

Whitney again finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery, this time it involves a feud between two families.


I love the setting on Catalina, Gabby Allan makes it come to life for me and gives it such a cozy feel, and I was glad to be able to pay it another visit. She makes you want to call your travel agent and book you a room ASAP. I suggest you put it on your vacation bucket list because I have been there and loved it!


Allan writes colorful characters that really add to the store, doesn't matter if they are the main or the secondary characters, they are all vibrant and entertaining. In both books, my favorite is Goldie, Whitney's grandmother who adds excellent comedic parts to the story with her quirkiness.


A Little Note to first-time readers, this is the second book in the Whit and Whiskers Mystery Series, but you can totally pick it up today and read it without needing to read Much Ado About Nauticaling....but if you do, be sure to go back and read the first one because if you like Something Fishy This Way Comes you will love Much Ado!

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.