Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay


“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.


“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


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?


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 **

Friday, February 12, 2021

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt


Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil 


I think as readers when we pick up a new book and begin reading the front pages, we are hoping that the book we are holding in our hands will be the one. The one book that will be listed as our favorite. But have you ever had to kick yourself because that book had actually set on your TBR shelf for a couple of years, being passed up like a small kid in an elementary gym class time after time? This was what had happened with The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I always seemed to have an excuse in my head when scanning over my shelf to pick my books for the month…I need to read this or that because it is coming out soon. Did I really want to take on a story about Classical Lit students at an elite Eastern College? And the number one reason, at more than 500 pages, it was a bit longer than most books I read, and I am a card-carrying member of the slow readers club.

What changed and made me pick it up? This year, with the exception of BOTM, I am trying to not buy books. My TBR shelf is overloaded and at the moment I am getting plenty from publishers to keep me busy during the month, so what the heck, let's read The Secret History..finally.

The book starts with a murder... you even know who has committed the murder, but you do not know why. The story takes you back to the first of the school year, you meet the main players in the story, 5 students that are studying Greek and a small college in Vermont.  In the first part of the book, you are getting to know the characters, just as they are getting to know each other, learning to trust or not trust each other. They face a tragedy together that will ultimately lead to the murder.  And while it was a bit strange reading one half of a more than 500-page book knowing that at the end a murder would take place, the story twists and weaves and surprises you, as well at times shocks you. 

The characters are different, and of course, they all have secrets. They feel immortal almost, the way they are so proper, almost from a bygone era. They are highly intelligent, well-spoken, and very pretentious. They are not perfect, they have addictions that they don’t even notice. Cigarettes, one too many cocktails. To them this is normal, it is how their lives are normally lived. They are also devious. I am not even sure if they are likable, but the trauma they face is raw, and you feel it, sometimes more than they seem to.

While I think the first part of the book is interesting and I enjoyed the relationships of the characters and getting to know them, I imagine some people would find it slow, and if you are one of those, I recommend staying with it, as it is worth it in the end. Part two of the book deals with the chaotic aftermath of the murder, and can at times put you on edge. 

The second part of the book is where Tartt’s writing shines. It is beautiful all through the book, but her world and character-building here are exceptional. She builds a world few of us will ever actually know, and lets us feel part of it, even at times when we don’t want to feel that way. She sprinkles in classical languages and literature, giving it a mysterious feel, but by doing so, she also gives you the feeling of being among the players, the preverbal fly on the wall I suppose.

I absolutely adored this book, and it now has the ranking of one of the few books I call “ my favorite “. I imagine picking it up again at some point and revisiting it. It was dark, and classic, a modern masterpiece and it is a book that will stay with me for quite some time.

"It's a very Greek idea and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, "more like deer than human being." To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn."....The Secret History 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Book Review: Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan


Goodreads Overview:

Dash and Lily were feeling closer than's just too bad they're now an ocean apart. After Dash gets accepted to Oxford University and Lily stays in New York to take care of her dogwalking business, the devoted couple are struggling to make a long distance relationship work. And when Dash breaks the news that he won't be coming home for Christmas, Lily makes a decision: if Dash can't come to her, she'll join him in London. It's a perfect romantic gesture...that spins out of Lily's control. Soon Dash and Lily are feeling more of a gap between them, even though they're in the same city. Will London bring them together again--or will it be their undoing?

Jacque's Review:

I loved Dash & Lily's Book of Dares and watched the Netflix series as a refresher prior to reading this book. I have also read the 12 Days of Dash and Lily and don't think either of the sequels really lived up to the expectations of the original book. They were cute and entertaining stories, but they didn't have quite the same magic as the original.

I love London, so a book with Dash & Lily in my favorite city was sure to be a winner. After the 12 Days of Dash and Lily, I was hoping there would be less drama in their lives. Instead, Dash is second guessing his life long dream of attending Oxford. The one positive is that Dash has the chance to spend time with his father's mother, who lives in London. When he was a child she sent him an Oxford sweatshirt, which first planted the Oxford seed in his mind. In addition, she always sent him books, which he absolutely loved and cherished. He and his grandmother hit it off from the very beginning and it is nice to see them enjoying each other's company. He has never been close to his parents, so this was something he desperately needed.

Lily is struggling with her own indecision. Her mother wants her to attend her alma mater in New York, but Lily isn't sure college is for her. She has taken a gap year to grow her dog walking and craft business and has experienced some success. She would like to attend a dog training program in London, but she doesn't want everyone to think she is just following Dash. She also doesn't know what Dash will think about the idea.

When Dash decides to stay in London with his Grandmother for Christmas, Lily decides to send Dash a personalized handmade advent calendar. It was a really cute idea and went along with the book of dares theme, which I enjoyed. I just wish it could have been more of a cute love story as they explored London for Christmas, but everything spiraled out of control.

Some of our favorite characters from the first two books surface to help guide and support Dash and Lily with their struggles. Mrs. Basil E., Langston, Boomer, Sophia, and Mark all make appearances. We are also introduced to a couple of Dash's acquaintances from Oxford.  Overall, I enjoyed the story and was happy with how it ended. I wouldn't, however, recommend reading this book as a stand alone. Without the backstory from the pervious books in the series, I don't think readers will fully appreciate the story. Start with Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. It is the best book in the series and introduces you to all of the characters.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Book Review: Zero Day by David Baldacci


Jacque's Review:

I have read all of Baldacci's King and Maxwell series and decided to start the John Puller series. The King and Maxwell series was about a couple of former secret service agents who become private investigators. I loved that series and hope he will release additional books, but this is another great series with a similar feel.

John Puller is a former Army Ranger and war hero. He is now working for the Army's Criminal Investigations Division and is one of their top investigators. When a Colonel, his wife, and two children are found murdered in a small town in West Virginia, Puller is sent to investigate. He finds the situation extremely unusual because he would usually be accompanied by a team of investigators. In this case, the Army insists he must work alone. The Colonel had access to high level classified information and Puller is convinced the Army is trying to keep something under wraps. He begins collaborating with Samantha Cole, who is a local police officer. She was born and raised in Drake and her brother-in-law is by far the wealthiest man in town. He owns and operates a coal mining business and has a number of other businesses in town. Teaming up with Cole gives him access to just about everyone and everything in town.

When additional bodies start turning up and attempt are made on Puller and Cole's lives, they begin to realize this is more than just a military or personal family matter. The colonel wasn't the victim of a random act of vilience and the killers are still after something. Puller and Cole must get to the bottom of things before the entire town falls victim. 

This was a fast paced and highly entertaining start to the series. If you enjoy murder mysteries / thrillers, this was an excellent read. I wasn't able to unravel the mystery until everything was pretty much spelled out for me in the end, but it made perfect sense in retrospect. I will definitely continue the series to see what is in store for Puller in The Forgotten.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Spotlight: All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

So, who here picked up All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace when it published on February 2nd? I was waiting for this one to come up so I could read it and All the Stars and Teeth back to back, so now that they are both here -- I am ready!

How it started: 

All the Stars and Teeth 

Book Summary

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

How it's going:

All the Tides of Fate

I won't put the book summary here because I want to be sensitive to spoilers. But these covers are gorgeous and I cannot wait to dive into this duology!

Have you read them? Let me know your thoughts if so. If you haven't and you want to join me as I read them, then let me know! 🤗

For more information:

Visit Adalyn's website:

Friday, February 5, 2021

Book Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles


Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.


I have a natural love of history, I grew up with a father that was a history buff and he engrained that love in me. I would say that at least if not more than 1/4 of my bookshelves are stacked with books from my favorite historical time period because every history buff has one they gravitate to. So it stands to reason I am also a big fan of Historial Fiction. 

When it comes to reading Historial Fiction I do gravitate to WWII, maybe because it is not so distant in the past, or that being Jewish, it reminds me of the horrible obstacles my people overcame, or that it is a way to learn and honor the 6 million Jewish people that died for no reason other than believing differently than others. Mostly I think I enjoy the stores of the preserver of the common people, the ones who quietly fought against the Nazis away from the front lines, their small stories and actions are what made this was so different from others.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles was the first HF book I picked up this year. Drawn to it by its gorgeous cover, I was quickly taken in by the story, especially having had worked in a library for years. The story has dual storylines. One taking place in 1939-1944 during the war, and the other later in the 80s. It is the story of Odile Souchet, a young determined girl who gets her dream job at The American Library in Paris ( ALP ) It also features Odile in later years living in America in a small Montana town, lonely and alone until she meets her neighbor Lily who comes to visit wanting to interview her for a High School class.

While I enjoyed the small glimpses of Odile in the more present day, the part of the book that captivates me was the period in Paris during the war. I fell in love with the American Library and understood Odile’s need to work there. I also fell in love with the people of the library, they were the soul of the building. As a former librarian, I understood their need to make sure people were able to read,  the need to get books to people who wanted them, such as the soldiers and the Jewish subscribers that had been banned from reading. In fact, for the book to have taken place in WWII, there is little mention or details of the war, you are transported to the library during the occupation of Paris by the Nazi’s. That is the purpose of the book, showing how the library and the people inside risked their lives for the love of books and reading.

The entire book was well researched by the author. Many of the happenings and people in the book are base on truth and real people, it is a flawless blend of fact and fiction that will keep you captivated. The Paris Library held so much magic for me. The friendships, and how they are depended on trust and easily torn apart when that trust is tested. The love of family, and how the dynamics of a family can change at any given moment. But mostly it was reading about the power of books and literature, and how much these things actually mean to people, especially when they are no longer readily available, and people who are willing to risk their lives to continue to provide the means to read.

** Thank You Net Galley for providing me with a review copy **

American Library in Paris