Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Book Review: Elizabeth & Margaret the Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters by Andrew Morton


GOODREADS SUMMARY:
 

This biography from a New York Times bestselling author follows Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Margaret as they navigate life in the royal spotlight. They were the closest of sisters and the best of friends. But when, in a quixotic twist of fate, their uncle Edward Vlll abdicated the throne, the dynamic between Elizabeth and Margaret was dramatically altered. Forevermore Margaret would have to curtsey to the sister she called 'Lillibet.' And bow to her wishes. Margaret's struggle to find a place and position inside the royal system—and her fraught relationship with its expectations—was often a source of tension.. This book explores their relationship over the years.


TEE'S REVIEW

One of the very first biographies I ever read was Andrew Morton's biography on Diana, Princess of Wales. At the time it was one of the most read books at the library, and after weeks of waiting, I finally went out and bought my own copy. I think I read it in a day. He gave us all a look into the Royal Family with that book and now he is back with yet another book on the famous family, this time with Elizabeth and Margaret.

Though written with respect to the Queen and family, he gave us a thorough history Of Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret, beginning with their childhood and continuing until Margaret's death in 2002.

He shows us how the decision of their Uncle David who became Edward VIII gave up his title and throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, altered Elizabeth, and Margaret's future greatly. It thrust the girls and their parents into a limelight none really wanted when their father then became King. This put Elizabeth next in line for the throne ( even though I am pretty sure she was anyway, because David was in his 40s and still not married when he took the throne ). This also made Margaret pretty much just the heir's sister, later the Queen's sister, and caused her a bit of jealousy. You will follow them through disagreements, love affairs, marriages, family deaths, and childbirth, and of course how they dealt with each other, Margaret a loyal servant to her sister and the crown until the day she died, and Elizabeth the loving sister to Margaret.

The two sisters differed greatly in personality and temperament, Elizabeth was shy and obedient, while Margaret was the life of the party, an attention seeker, very outgoing. He writes about Elizabeth and Margaret as sisters , and as individuals, giving us an insight into their relationship with each other, with lovers, and with family. He does spend a bit more time with Margaret which I enjoyed, as there are already so many biographies on just the Queen.

If you are a fan of the Netflix series The Crown, or just want a deeper look into the lives of these two women, or the Royal Family in general then you need to pick up Elizabeth and Margaret, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Book Review: The Bookstore On The Beach by Brenda Novak


GOOD READS SUMMARY:


Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.

TEE'S REVIEW:

The Bookstore on The Beach by Brenda Novak isn’t your typical light beauty read, there is a lot going on in it. It is the story of three generations of women, each troubled and each carrying secrets. The book contains several stories, a husband who has gone missing, kidnapping, teen pregnancy, abuse, and a lover from the past.


It is a rollercoaster of a read with many ups and downs, you will smile and you will cry, it is a very emotional read and for some, it may even have a triggering effect. The storylines are easy to read and keep up with despite the number, however, some of them I quickly grew tired of, for me, I think it was trying to keep everything straight. I am very basic-minded, and while I can keep up with one or two major stories in a book, any more seems to lose me. 


Brenda Novak has never disappointed me with her writing, and The Bookstore n The Beach is no exception, her writing was descriptive and entertaining. Her characters felt real and they were flawed, which I appreciate, I do not like characters in a book that feels perfect. I like the majority of characters in the book, and ones I didn’t give me a good reason not to.


My biggest problem with the book…the ending, I am still not sure how I feel about it, I felt a lot was left hanging, and maybe an epilogue or one last chapter would have made it better for me. 


Overall The Bookstore On The Beach was a great read, with great family dynamics, but I would have enjoyed a bit more time in the bookstore! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book Review: The Music Of Bees by Eileen Garvin


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren't helping her feel better these days.

In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake--a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County--while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake's sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.

And then there's Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice's ad for part-time farm help, he's shocked to find himself hired. As unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees--and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.

Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don't turn out the way you expect

TEE'S REVIEW

The Music Of Bee’s is the debut novel by Eileen Garvin and deals with three people …


Alice is a beekeeper, a widow who struggles with panic attacks and feels trapped in her desk job. 


Jake is an angry ex-skateboarder who because of a prank that went bad is now confined to a wheelchair


Harry who is full of worry and indecision, he lives with this uncle in a trailer that has been condemned.


All three of them come together at a local bee farm.


Garvin does a great job writing the three characters who are all lost and broken, who all come together on the Oregon Bee Farm where they are able to forge out a friendship with each other and finally find healing. It can be a bit difficult to read when you get into the backstories of the main characters. The journey that each one takes is hard and emotionally difficult to read at times. Each character is rich in personality and struggles. However it is the bee farm that helps lighten up the story, and it is one of the reasons I was so attracted to the book. Gavin brought the farm to life with respect to the bees and the keepers and gave me a bit of in-depth education on the keeping of bees, which I really enjoyed.


The Music of Bees is a beautifully written debut, about friendship, hardships, and beating the odds.

Book Review: Love By Design by Effie Kammenou


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Mia Andarakis just landed her dream job at a luxury magazine. And even better, her boss is the handsome and enigmatic Nicholas Aristedis, a man she has crushed on from afar. But Nicholas isn’t who she imagined. Irascible and mercurial, his instant dislike for Mia makes it almost impossible for her to work with him.

Nicholas has faced many losses and heartaches in his thirty-two years. Determined to avoid heartbreak, he has closed his heart to love. But Mia awakens feelings in him he had long since denied. And soon he discovers their connection is deeper than he realized.

Mia and Nicolas embark on an adventure across picturesque locations as they launch a new publication and uncover the mystery behind her grandfather’s disappearance. But perhaps the greatest challenge is in learning to set aside their insecurities and fears. Can the two forget the traumas of their past? And will they ever learn to trust in the possibility of love?

TEE'S REVIEW:

I was so excited to be able to revisit the Andarakis family once again in the new book Love By Design by Effie Kammenou, which is the second book in the Meraki Series.


Love By Design is all about Mia, the sister of Kally who was in the first book Love Is What You Bake Of It. Mia the middle sister has just landed her dream job with the new luxury travel magazine Opul as the Associated Art Director. When she meets her new boss Nicholas Aristedis for the first time, sparks fly, but they are not the type either expected, they seem to bring out the worse in each other each time they have to be around the other.


Enemies to Lovers is one of my favorite tropes and Kammenou writes it so well. The tension between Mia and Nicholas is great, you will find yourself cringing along with Mia as Nicholas comes off short with Mia about things she is doing. However, the pair are thrown together thanks to Penelope, Nicholas’s sister who with him owns and runs the magazine. She sends them on a trip to Greece, the first location that the magazine is featuring, to scope out the places they are focusing on. 


Just like Kally’s story Love by Design is a quick read, mostly because once you start reading, you won't want to stop. The characters are real and heartwarming. They struggle, they love, and they hurt. The Andarakis family, which is a major secondary character in itself, especially YiaYia the grandmother that lives with the family. The sub-story of her and her long-missing husband Panos is absolutely one of my favorites and could stand on its own as a book. I love the way that Effie has worked it in the books, teasing us with a little bit more info in Love By Design. 


We also meet Nicholas’s family, which only includes his sister Penelope, who is so likable, especially the way she shows her concern and love for her little brother Nicholas. I found their grandfather Pavlos hard to warm up to, but I also felt he was written as he should have been,  a real man with real concerns about his grandson. 


I really enjoyed both the main characters, Mia and Nicholas. Mia is strong, but she is also sensitive and sometimes wears her heart on her sleeve. Nicolas is a troubled sort and there were times I wanted to scream at him for his unwillingness to admit his feelings, yet moments later my heart broke for him. I was especially surprised by the sweet little twist that Effie puts into Mia and Nicholas’s relationship, it is one of my favorite moments in the book and definitely sweet and swoon-worthy.


I can not say it enough, Effie Kammenous's writing is spectacular. She makes you a part of this big loving and lively Greek family. I know that there is a third book that features the youngest sister Krystina and I hope Loukas. I won’t lie however, I am looking forward to learning the truth about what happened to Panos. And if I am honest I wouldn’t be opposed to a fourth book that deals with brother Theo. It would be great to read about a lead male character and I know Effie would do it justice. 


If you love romance, learning about other cultures, and maybe a bit of mystery, I highly recommend  Love By Design, and while you can read it as a stand-alone, you’d be missing so much of the families dynamics by not reading Love Is What You Bake Of It before it!


**Thank You  Effie Kammenou and Kate Rock Tours for the gifted copy **

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Book Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

  


Jacque's Review:

Stephanie Plum is not your typical bounty hunter. She is all luck and minimal skill, but she always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Or maybe it is the wrong place at the wrong time depending upon how you look at it.

This time around she is after Eddie DeChooch. He is an elderly man with connections to the mob who skipped his court date for smuggling cigarettes. If you watched The Sopranos, I was picturing Junior. He is a feisty old guy with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. It doesn't make sense that he would run from the law for such a minor offense when you compare it with his usual dealings. Stephanie begins to realize there is more to the story when a couple of mobsters start following her around trying to get to Eddie first.

Two of Stephanie's friends, Mooner and Dougie, disappear without a trace and then her Grandma Mazur is nowhere to be found. She realizes she is in way over her head and calls in Ranger for assistance. Ranger is one of the other bounty hunters with Navy Seal level skills. I wouldn't want to cross him if I were a fugitive, but his assistance doesn't come without a price. While Stephanie is technically engaged to Joe Morelli, neither of them is ready to go through with it. Ranger is one of the nagging what ifs that is constantly in the back of Stephanie's mind. She is attracted to him, but he is not the marrying type. 

Overall, this is a light and funny mystery series. Each book is an independent story or case, but the characters and relationships do evolve. I would recommend reading them in order, but it isn't completely necessary. It is a VERY lengthy series with 29 books currently available. I'm not sure if I am in for the long haul or not, but I have enjoyed them so far and will continue plugging along. I am intrigued by the possible love triangle and want to see how that eventually plays out. I do not feel compelled to binge read the series, so I will continue reading one or two a year and hope I don't fall even further behind.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Book Review: One by One by Ruth Ware

 Goodreads Overview:


Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Jacque's Review:

When I first started reading this book and could see where it was leading, it reminded me of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. A group of coworkers from Snoop, a tech company that started a music app, are trapped at a beautiful French chalet after an avalanche hits. One of the party goes missing during the avalanche, but then others start dropping just like the "ten little soldier boys" in Christie's novel. Nobody can be trusted, including the chef and housekeeper, who have done everything within their power to keep things moving forward during this crazy situation.

Topher and Eva are the founders of Snoop. They planned this holiday for their employees to soften the fact that Eva wants to sell out. Topher has bigger plans for the company and wants to hold out until their next update is launched. The two are trying to gain support from the other share holders and need Liz to cast the tie breaking vote. Liz is a former employee that left the company. She could use the money and wants to side with Eva, but she is loyal to Topher and is conflicted. 

When one of the party disappears during the avalanche, everyone assumes it was a tragic accident. When other members of the party start dying of unusual causes, nobody feels safe. Everyone is a suspect and even the original death starts looking less like an accident. With no method of communication to the outside world, they are trapped with a killer until they can either solve the crimes or help arrives. 

The story is told with an alternating point of view between Liz and the housekeeper Erin. Everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. You could make a case that just about anyone in the party is the murderer, but I just couldn't figure out a motive that justified the extreme measures. The book was filled with suspense and had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I was absolutely shocked when I found out who was behind everything and why. I never would have guess in a million years, but it all made sense in the end.

I enjoyed Ruth Ware's The Woman In Cabin Ten and believe this book was equally as good if not better.  If you enjoy a good murder mystery, I have yet to go wrong with one of Ware's books. I will definitely check out some of her others.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Book Review: Love Is What You Bake Of It by Effie Kammenou

 


GOODREADS SUMMARY:

The only love Kally Andarakis is baking is in the form of the sweet treats she whips up in her cafe, The Coffee Klatch. Kally never believed herself to be a person worthy of love, but when an intoxicating man she considered out of her league pursues her, she risks everything to be with him. Later, when tragedy strikes, truths are revealed that leave Kally brokenhearted and untrusting. Eight years later, Kally is a successful pastry chef running the cafe she'd always dreamed of owning. With a home of her own, a profession she's passionate about, and the support and love of friends and family, Kally is content with the life she has carved out for herself. Until the day Max Vardaxis walks into her cafe...With arguing parents, meddling relatives, an overly energetic grandmother, a man-crazy best friend, and the long ago, mysterious disappearance of a grandfather, this new man in town is just one more complication in Kally's life, if not the main one.


TEE'S REVIEW:

Love Is What You Bake Of It was such a fun and cute read. I totally devoured the book in a little over a day and I am a card-carrying member of the Slow Readers Club. The story centers are Kally Andarakis and the small bakery/cafe that she owns in the town she grew up in.


Kally is afraid of love, she has been hurt, and she has vowed not to love again, but in walks Max, a local police officer. Max is good-looking and single. He is also afraid to fall in love and is concentrating on raising his daughter Athena, he is also Greek, which would please Kally’s big Greek family.


There were so many things to like about this book… Kally’s family was one. They are humorous and have Kallys best interest at heart, even though at times Kally herself doesn’t always realize this. I especially loved her grandma, who was a bit feisty and seemed to say what she wanted. Like during the romance book club meeting ( yeah Coffee Klatch held book club meetings, how cool is that? ) when she said :


The book needs more sex “………” What it is true. I might look old but inside the fire still burns…” 


For some reason, anytime she was mentioned in the book, Sophia from The Golden Girls popped into my head. 


I loved all the Greek traditions that were portrayed in the book, learning about another culture is always an added bonus to me when I read. They gave me the feeling of the tightness and importance of these traditions to the families that keep them alive, the same as so many in my own Jewish culture. This brought me so much closer to all the characters in the book, and the descriptions seem to just open up this new world that beforehand I had no idea about.


Both Kally and Max were very likable, though at times I wanted to bop Kally for being so stubborn. She was determined to set her own path away from her family and I really liked that strength in her. However, she always held her family close and would step up when needed, as when she went to Greece to help out a family member.


Max was a sexy single dad and I loved the relationship he had with his daughter Athena, and the determination he had to raise her properly. 


All in all, I found very little I did not like about Love Is What You Bake Of It, Effie Kammenou's writing weaves together a storyline that is clear and descriptive, she throws in well-developed characters that we all can relate to. The book was humorous, with strong family dynamics and just a sprinkle of mystery and suspense. OH! and I can’t forget one of my favorite parts…BAKING…mmmmhmmm you have to try some of the recipes that are in this book, the blueberry scones are to die for!


** I was gifted  this book as part of a blog tour with Kate Rock Book Tours **



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Book Review: Float Plan by Trish Doller


GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Critically acclaimed author Trish Doller's unforgettable and romantic adult debut about setting sail, starting over, and finding yourself...

Since the loss of her fiancĂ©, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.


TEE'S REVIEW

I don’t even know where to begin with Float Plan the new romance by Trish Doller. It was nothing like I expected it to be, intact it was much more. By looking at the cover I expected it to be a light-hearted romance that somehow incorporated sailing. You know what they say…never judge a book by its cover. While the cover is a brightly covered happy yellow, the book does not always live up to the look.


The book begins with a suicide note, so you are instantly forced into the feeling of grief that Anna is feeling over the loss of her fiance Ben. She is devastated, she quits her Hooters-type waitressing job and decides to take the Caribbean sailing trip they had planned on Ben’s refurbished sailboat, visiting the islands that they had planned to see together. However, Anna soon learns she might not be the person to be off sailing the high seas by herself and she hires Keane, an Irish sailor to guide her on the rest of the trip.


Keane is struggling with a loss of his own, a freak accident that had left him without a leg, and the people he had sailed for in the past doubting his ability to continue his job.


Float Plan is an emotional ride, it is a heartbreaking and honest look at trying to start your life over after a loss, of any kind. Trish Doller’s writing is beautiful and compassionate, helping you feel the pain that Anna is feeling as she navigates her way into learning that it is ok to leave the memory of Ben behind and continue on with her life.


The descriptions she weaves of the islands that Anna and Keane visit are vivid and took me away from a freak winter storm, transplanting me into the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean.  The secondary characters, however short their time is in the book are unforgettable as they move in and out of Anna and Keane’s live, providing what they need physically and emotionally. And there is a dog…you can’t go wrong putting a dog to love in a book! 


The romance between Anna and Keane is a slow burner, as it should be. I would have been very disappointed in the book if the two were thrown into instant love. It starts with friendship, and learning to trust, and feeling the pain of liking someone and not knowing if you were being unfaithful to someone else memory.  Anna and Keane have great chemistry and they play well off each other with humor and kindness, and sometimes anger. It feels real, it feels raw, and this entire book will have you on a rollercoaster of laughing and crying. This book is real because that is exactly how life makes us all feel. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Book Review: Too Good To Be True by Carola Lovering


 GOOD READS SUMMARY

Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.


TEE'S REVIEW
Too Good To Be True, the new book by Carola Lovering is a psychological thriller that has all the things you want in one…a clever sociopath, revenge, and lies. But it is also hard to review because if you say too much you will give a lot away.

The book is definitely a page-turner that will keep you guessing and at times will have your jaw-dropping, unfortunately, that all seems to take place in the first half of the book, which ends with a huge twist. For me the second half of the book just didn't live up to the beginning, it seemed to fizzle out and was not as strong. I also thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic. 

The story moves back and forth between three narratives, and all three of the POV’s are compelling. The story will have you questioning the truthfulness of each character. You never seem to figure out who you can believe and who you can't which I think helped with the suspense of the book.

Lovering’s writing is fantastic and the character development is wonderful. The story is driven by the characters and their actions and is full of suspense that will thrill any thriller reader. Even with the slowness of the second half of the book, I think Too Good To Be True is a good read, and I would definitely recommend it to fellow thriller readers. I give it a solid three...I didn't hate it, I thought it was a good read, however I did not love it.

** Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

  


Incendiary was the May 2020 Owlcrate selection. Below is a picture from their website showing what was included in the box. I am not really into graphic novels, so I put that book in my little free library to share with others.  I do use straws regularly and like having an additional set of reusable straws. I have some from Tervis Tumbler that I use, but those are fatter and don't fit in some of my cups with smaller openings in the lid. I have also found an additional set of pot holders to be useful. Overall, I was pleased with the gifts included in this month's box. 


Jacque's Review:

Renata is one of the Whispers, which is a group of rebels working to protect the Moria from the crown. Moria have various magical powers, but the King is trying to eliminate all Moria that are not directly within his control. It is believed the King now has a secret weapon that can strip them of their powers, so they must act quickly to destroy the weapon and get as many Moria to safety as possible.

Renata lived in the palace as a child and was once part of the King's prized collection of Moria. She has the rare ability to steal another person's memories. This skill can be beneficial if someone no longer wants to remember something unpleasant, but it can also be very dangerous. Removing too many memories can leave someone in a vegetative state. In addition, any memories Renata steals now plaque her memory.

The Whispers "rescued" her during an attack on the palace and she has been helping their cause ever since. She isn't trusted by most of the other members because they believe her skill is too dangerous. Dez, who is the leader of her group, believes she could be the key to their success and trusts her completely. 

Renata has witnessed the crown Prince leading the raids agains Moroi and burning towns in his wake. She believes he knows where the weapon is and is the real threat to the Moroi. When the Prince takes Dez captive, she knows it is her responsibility alone to free him. Things do not go as planned and Renata soon discovers there is far more going on behind the palace walls than she ever could have imagined. Her friends and enemies are no longer as clearly defined as she once believed.

I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to find out what happens next. It took a while for the plot to really take off, but when it finally did, we were left hanging in the balance. Everything Renata believed to be true was turned upside down. We finally know where everyone stands and then the book comes to an abrupt ending. 

There was a lot of history, world building, and discovery of Renata's past that took place within this book. I think Illusionary, which will be released on May 11th, should take off like a cannon. This is a duology and there is a lot that still needs to take place if Renata is going to save the Moria and the Kingdom. I am glad I did not read this book as soon as it was released. I now only have to wait a couple of months to see how this story will conclude.

This isn't a book I probably would have selected on my own, but it was another excellent pick by Owlcrate.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay


 GOODREADS SUMMARY

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late-night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother, and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay's Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, but it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through fame they never wanted.

TEE'S REVIEW

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.

Two days after the family had missed their flight home.

Six days after all the texts and social media had gone dark.”


Every Last Fear by Alex Finley was the thriller I needed this month. I have been reading loads of Rom-Coms, which I love, but until I picked up this book I didn't realize how much I missed the thrill of a thriller. 


It pulls you in right from the beginning line…


“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.

Two days after the family had missed their flight home.

Six days after all the texts and social media had gone dark.”


and keeps on going from there when Matt Pine finds out his mom, dad, sister, and little brother have all been killed while on vacation in Mexico. Now the only family he has left is the older brother who is in prison for murdering his girlfriend. The one his father was convinced was innocent and would go through hell to prove, even going to Mexico on a fake vacation to follow a lead.


Matt goes to Mexico after FBI Agent Sarah Keller informs him that he has to go and pick up the bodies, he also finds out that his family was not killed by a gas leak as first thought, but murdered. Strange things start happening to Matt as well, he gets pushed into oncoming traffic by a stranger and once in Mexico, meets a girl who seems to be in on the plan ( whatever that is ) and tells him to run when finding out that it is his family that has been killed, then goes missing also. 


Every Last Fear twists, and turns, it will leave you questioning everyone and racking your brain trying to figure things out. The plot seems to intensify as the story moves forward. It contains everything you want in a thriller/mystery, excitement, surprises, coverups.  It kept me guessing until the end. 


The book is very character-driven, the author doesn’t go into much on the locations that are in the book, and you do travel, to New York, to Mexico, to Chicago, and to Nebraska. The characters are flawed but likable. Matt’s friends from college, who are called  “ The Island of Misfit Toys “Gather around him, and support him, and show the meaning of true friendship. You get to know his parents and brother and sister through their narrative that gives you the story of what happens in Mexico. You also get bits and pieces of Danny’s story through transcripts of a Netflix Documentary called A Violent Nature.


It is a hard book to discuss without giving too much away, but it is a wonderful introduction to Alex Finlay, Every Last Fear is his debut book, and proves he has strong writing and storytelling skills. I am looking forward to what he throws at us next.

Book Review: The 12 Days of Book-Club-Mas by Once Upon A Book Club



Jacque's Review:

This is the 3rd volume of the Once Upon a Book Club's 12 Days of Book-Club-Mas. Last year it was a single story that was broken up into 12 chapters. Similar to their subscription boxes, there was a section in each chapter that instructed the reader to open the corresponding gift.  


This year each chapter was an independent story by a different author. The author was given a gift that they needed to incorporate into the story for the reader to open. I really enjoy the Once Upon a Book Club concept of bringing a book to life. The issue that I have with this company is that some of the gifts seem cheap and in other cases aren't practical or useful. The cost of the box was $89.99 + $12 shipping within the US. I did enjoy the fact that there was an adult AND a YA version of the box this year. I read mostly YA and will definitely enjoy the books selected for the YA version better than the adult selections.

Below is a link to a nice YouTube Unboxing that I found for the YA edition of this year's advent calendar.


My favorite gifts from this year's box are the 4 books, the winter hat, and the Shhhh I'm Reading pillow case. The rolling bag with small plastic wheels and the camp stool are two of the gifts that I do not see lasting. I am smaller than average and would not even consider trying to sit on that stool. The wheels on the rolling bag also do not seem very sturdy or durable. I understand there is a budget for each gift, but a standard tote bag without the gimmick would have been far more practical. In addition, the steering wheel cover is not something I would ever consider using. My skin cream roller arrived broken and I received a $7 refund for the cost of that item. The blanket as she mentioned is very thin. I received a blanket recently in an Owlcrate box that also had a book quote, but was considerably higher quality.

Overall, I really enjoyed the 12 stories and the concept of opening a bookish gift each day for advent. The YA books that were selected all sound like books I will enjoy, so I was very pleased with that. I just wish some of the other gifts were more useful. A candle, tea, bookish socks, etc. would have been more my speed. It was a fun experience, but after trying it for two years, I probably will not purchase next year's advent calendar. I will be interested in watching the unboxing, however, to see if they improve the quality of their gifts.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Book Review: Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf

 


Goodreads Overview:

Guided by “Akira-sensei,” John comes to realize the greatest adversity on his journey will be the challenge of defeating the man in the mirror.

This powerful story of one boy’s journey to achieve his life long goal of becoming a samurai warrior, brings the Train to be CLUTCH curriculum to life in a powerful and memorable way.

Some things you will learn…
—No matter how it feels, you are always building your own house.
—How and why you must surrender to the outcome in order to be at your best.
—Why you never want to have your identity wrapped up in what you do.
—Why your strength lies in faithfulness to the little things.
—How to develop a heart posture of gratitude.
—How to use the biggest challenges as a training ground for greatness.
—Why the process is more important than the goal.
—Why comparison is the thief of all joy.
—How to develop a growth mindset.
—Why talent is more of a curse than a blessing.

Jacque's Review:

This is one of 3 books recommended by my son's golf coach to help him with the mental game. There are a lot of great messages and one line quotes that are very inspirational and motivating. Most people are focused on what they want to accomplish. In my son's case, "I'm going to make the Florida Gulf Coast golf team and get my degree in PGA golf management." It is necessary to set goals, but this book teaches you the importance of the day to day dedication and training that is essential to achieve greatness.

Before you can focus on winning, you must work on the fundamentals EVERY DAY. You can't take the day off simply because you are tired or it is raining and windy. Pushing through adversity is what makes you stronger and will ultimately give you an edge over your competition. You should always focus on the positive and what you learned today vs. your perceived shortcomings. 

My son and I read this book together and discussed each chapter. He appreciated the message and has definitely improved his work ethic. Some of the conversations between John and Akira were lengthy and my son lost interest. Instead of reading this book like a typical novel, I would recommend reading a chapter a day. This would have given him something to think about, digest, and implement into his daily routine before going onto the next chapter. In shorter chunks the stories and conversations may not have felt so long. 

Overall, it was a good story with a great message that everyone could benefit from. I gave it 3 stars simply because a book this short really shouldn't have felt like it was dragging.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten


 GOODREADS SUMMARY:

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…
But what if it finds them first?

TEE'S REVIEW:

Don’t be fooled when you read the summary of The Lost Village, the one that tells you the story is about a documentary film crew that gets to a Swedish village where the people mysteriously disappeared in 1959.  I mean that is true, they do go there, but only to scout, not film, and they do nothing with filming whatsoever. 


Also, this book says it is a thriller/horror book. I disagree with that. Hear me out. I am a big scary cat, I have trouble reading Riley Sager books, they creep me out, I can only read them during the day. I spent the majority of my time reading The Lost Village in the dark, alone. Is it a horror …yes..but it is not scary. The horror is that people fall prey to religion and religious leaders. I have questioned that so many times in my life, and here again with this book I found myself questioning it, especially as this book unfolds and you are beginning to understand what has actually happened in 1959. Maybe it is easier to fall prey to these people than I realize, people certainly “ drink the Kool-Aid “ so to speak…The Salem Witch Trials, Jim Jones, Waco, you could even count in Hitler and Manson, however, they were less religious-based. What must people's life be like to grasp so heavily at the words of these people?  Ok sorry off point…back to the story…


The Lost Village is fast-paced, bouncing between two time periods, Then ( 1959 ) and Now.  The then takes you through events that lead up to the cause of the mysterious disappearance of the entire village and the chapters are interspaced throughout the Now chapters that deal with a film documentary crew who has come to make a film about the disappearance. Shortly after arriving they begin to notice small things, often wondering if it isn’t their imagination getting the best of them, but they soon realize they are not alone out there as more and more things happen, and the things begin to get worse.  The timelines also connect the two times together fairly neatly. I found myself more invested in the Then timeline, I really wanted to know how a village of 900 people could just disappear off the face of the earth, and I think it was that want that kept me reading, as I was not very fond of any of the characters, I felt a bit detached from them.


Don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad book, I give it a solid three stars, which to me is neither great nor bad. I read it through the worse snow and ice storm we have had in years, and it felt like the perfect setting even without the book dealing with winter weather, and it kept me entertained. If anything I would say it was a good mystery, it has its moments of suspense, a feeling dread mostly, but if you were looking for creepy, or horror, or an outright thriller, you might be better off looking elsewhere.


** Thanks to Minotaur Books for the Advanced Copy **