Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: The Private School Murders by James Patterson


Goodreads Overview:

In the sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Murder Suspect, James Patterson keeps the confessions coming breathlessly as Tandy Angel delves deeper into her own tumultuous history-and proves that she can rise above the sordid Angel legacy.

Wealthy young women are being murdered on Manhattan's exclusive Upper West Side, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. The first case she cracked was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now, while she's working to exonerate her brother of his glamorous girlfriend's homicide, she's driven to get involved in the West Side murder spree. 

One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer, but the NYPD isn't listening to her...and Tandy can't ignore the disturbing fact that she perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?

Jacque's Review:

This is the second book in the Confessions series and was equally as captivating as the first. I enjoy listening to these books vs. reading them since Tandy is speaking directly to the reader. She is telling her story and sharing her secrets, which comes across very effectively through the audiobook. 

This time around the family is broke. The courts freeze all of their assets due to the pending legal cases against their parents. Their Uncle Peter is assigned as their guardian, but delegates the job to Jacob, who is an uncle the Angel kids didn't even know existed until he moved in with them. He has a military background and runs a tight ship. He installs a sense of discipline and accountability the kids desperately needed.

The family's primary focus is trying to clear their brother Matthew of murder charges, but the situation isn't looking good. Matthew was heavily intoxicated at the time of the murder and isn't even sure of what happened. He is very strong and has a known temper, which can definitely be used against him.

As if that weren't enough, girls Tandy's age that meet her exact demographic are being murdered not far from her home. The police do not see the connection, but Tandy does and decides she needs to solve this case before she becomes the next victim. 

Even off their "vitamins", which were prescription medications their parents gave them to enhance their performance in just about every way, the Angel kids are extraordinarily talented. Tandy has a gifted IQ and can conduct an investigation and work through the evidence more efficiently than investigators with decades of experience. She did get lucky with a few of her discoveries, but I guess that is probably the case with most investigations. 

Tandy also begins to remember her relationship with James Rampling. James is the son of one of the investors that lost millions of dollars in their mother's investment scandal. He is now suing their estate and wants his son to stay as far away from Tandy as possible. Her parents were in agreement prior to their deaths and sent her to a mental institution to put an end to the relationship. While she was there, her memories of the relationship were erased. I'm not sure how one can maintain a genius level IQ and have only certain memories erased, but that is what happened. 

I don't want to give everything away, but will say that I was happy with the ending. All of the pieces came together nicely and in a believable fashion. I wish they would have shared the motivation behind the Private School Murders, but the case is solved and Tandy can breathe easier. The future of the Angel children is up in the air and I look forward to seeing how things will unfold in the next installment in the series.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Book Review: The Innocent Man by John Grisham


Goodreads Overview:

In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life…and let a true killer go free. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence—a book no American can afford to miss.

Jacque's Review:

I read all of John Grisham's books as they were released from A Time to Kill through the Runaway Jury. Then I was too busy with college and eventually work and got really far behind. In fact, I didn't even know he had a nonfiction book until I was talking to my brother and he mentioned that he had just finished reading The Innocent Man and it was his favorite Grisham book yet.

This book is about two men who are accused and convicted of a murder they did not commit. The police refused to look at evidence that would have exonerated them and based their entire case on lying witnesses and trumped up evidence. It was absolutely shocking that with DNA evidence these men even went to trial let alone were convicted.

The story reads like one of Grisham's fiction novels and I was immediately engrossed in the story. Ron Williamson was a star baseball player with hopes of playing in the major leagues. He played for several seasons in the minors, but never hit it big. He struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder and required medication and treatment to stay balanced, which he didn't always take. He also enjoyed partying and drinking, which didn't help his situation. He got into some trouble here and there, which made him an easy target for the police when their investigation came up empty. Dennis Fritz was simply guilty by association.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for these two men. They insisted they were innocent and the legal system completely failed them. The corruption in the District Attorney's office and with the investigators working the case was appalling. It is scary to think that this can really happen to innocent people. 

I haven't watched the Netflix series yet, but I look forward to seeing some of the live footage that is described in the book. I also hope to hear some of Grisham's thoughts on the case and the events that took place during the investigation and the trial. As a fiction author, I don't think Grisham could have written such an unbelievable series of events and made it sound believable. It is crazy to think this can really happen in a place where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra


Goodreads Overview:

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Jacque's Review:

I picked up a copy of this book at BEA several years ago. I was finally motivated to bump it up my TBR list when I started hearing all of the gossip about the Netflix series. Always one to read the book before watching the TV show or movie, I started reading. I have since watched the series and let me tell you....Netflix really took some liberties with this one. The book is definitely YA, but the series is NOT. 

Both the book and movie tackle some difficult issues with eating disorders, the fierce competition in the performing arts, racism, coming out, and substance abuse. 

The book seemed very realistic and could be an insiders view of what it is like trying to make it to the top of the ballet world. Everyone is looking out for only themselves and nobody can be trusted. Netflix took the story and sensationalized it. They added a ton of content for shock value that did not add to the value of the story. In fact, their additions were embarrassing to watch and I was glad my sixteen year old son didn't watch the series with us.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will read Shiny Broken Pieces, which is the final book in the duology. Cassie is a character that had a distant role in this book. She held the top position as the prima until something happened (the versions of this are drastically different between the book and movie) that sent her away from the school for a while. She returns at the very end of Tiny Pretty Things and I am sure she will shake up the dynamic at the school. There are so many little cliques and everyone seems to have something to hide. Who was really involved in what happened to Cassie is still up in the air. I have my ideas, but I do not see her as a victim. I think she is just as ruthless as the rest of them and will come back with a vengeance. She may have even had it coming in the eyes of most of the other students.

After reading this book, I will not watch a ballet in quite the same way. There is a lot more that goes into a performance than hard work, grace, and elegance. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Book Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard


No one knew they'd moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who - and what - he really is.

Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?


I just finished this book and am having mixed feelings about it. 

But I will start here: I listened to this on audio. I enjoyed the narrator, her accent was not overly heavy and it made it easy to understand. Some audiobooks have a narrator that is so hard to understand with their accent, that you tend to miss things.

The author had a great concept. The book appealed to me because the subject was close to us all and easy to relate to, however, I do know some wh felt that it was a bit too soon. 

It was a slow burner of a thriller, if you could call it that, I felt it was more a mystery than a thriller. Trying to figure out who each of the players were, that was the mystery. There were a lot of lies and deception going on. There was a bit of a twist at the end, but nothing that would blow your mind or really surprise you at that point.

The story goes back and forth a lot and I was afraid it would confuse me, but I feel that the author generally keeping the story between the main characters and not throwing in others made it easy to follow. There were others but they were scattered through and rarely seemed like major players. Even the " now " chapters with the police investigation were easy to follow. In fact, I loved those chapters in the story. The investigation was more of a draw than the actual characters.

I give this book 3 stars, It did not thrill me but I did not hate it either. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Book Review: The Lost Boys Of Montauk by Amanda M Fairbanks


In March of 1984, the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage. Its captain, a married father of three young boys, was the boat’s owner and leader of the four-man crew, which included two locals and the blue-blooded son of a well-to-do summer family. After a week at sea, the weather suddenly turned, and the foursome collided with a nor’easter. They soon found themselves in the fight of their lives. Tragically, it was a fight they lost. Neither the boat nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered.

The fate of the Wind Blown—the second-worst nautical disaster suffered by a Montauk-based fishing vessel in over a hundred years—has become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End’s year-round population. Back then, on the easternmost tip of Long Island, before Wall Street and hedge fund money stormed into town, commercial fishing was the area’s economic lifeblood.

Amanda M. Fairbanks examines the profound shift of Montauk from a working-class village—“a drinking town with a fishing problem”—to a playground for the ultra-wealthy, seeking out the reasons that an event more than three decades old remains so startlingly vivid in people’s minds. She explores the ways in which deep, lasting grief can alter people’s memories. And she shines a light on the powerful and sometimes painful dynamics between fathers and sons, as well as the secrets that can haunt families from beyond the grave.


I love the ocean. I grew up constantly surrounded by it and in it. My dad was a sailor until I was 16 years old, and from then he was on the water because he wanted to be. So I found that The Lost Boys of Montauk really resonated with me. It is a book about a boat accident and the crew of four that went down on the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown.

Wind Blown which was skippered bu Mike Steadman went down 120 nautical miles from the Montauk Harbor in March 1984. Along with Steadman were a crew of three. First Mate Dave Connick, and two deckhands Michael Vigilant and Scott Clarke.

The author, Amanda Fairbanks interviewed friends and family members of each of the crew members. You learn about the lives they lived and how they came to be aboard the 65 ft trawler. Of course, there is very little about the actual wreck, no one on board survived to tell what really happened. There is speculation. Several people said the boat wasn't sea worthy enough to hold up against the storm that hit the east coast that day, and that the communications ( weather reports etc... ) were bad, and then just the sheer force of this storm, making it rough on any boat out to sea that day.

The book is well researched, you get to know the crew members, however I did question some of the things that Fairbanks wrote about the men. Things I thought that should be left private, things the world just didn't need to know and should have been left private.

The bodies of the crew member were never found and the author did a great job sowing the lasting grief that was felt over the deaths and not having a body to give them closure. One mother refused to believe her son was dead and searched for him until she died. I think the author probably gave some closure to the families with this book, along with the statue that the families erected for the crew. It was a place where they could go and grieve, or to feel close to their lost one. 

I enjoyed this book, but there were slow parts, and I imagine some would find it a tedious read, there are a lot of facts, and as I did, I think many people might go in thinking they would know more about the actual accident. But for me and I hope for the families that were left behind this book is a beautiful memorial to four young men that lost their lives doing what they loved. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review: Then You Saw Me by Carrie Aarons

You know what’s guaranteed to send your heart into your throat? Opening the front door of your off-campus house to find the boy you had a crush on all through high school telling you he’s the new subletter.

Of course, he barely knew I existed back then, and still doesn’t even though we attend the same university. But in a house of six college kids, it should be easy to remain invisible while carrying a torch for him. After all, I’m skilled at being overlooked and playing second fiddle.

Except Austin Van Hewitt, my hometown’s golden boy, doesn’t get the memo. After we throw our first party of the year, I’m on his radar and somehow my lips miraculously end up on his. The budding romance is one I’ve always dreamt about. As he shows more and more interest, I push aside the plaguing insecurity of never being good enough.

But then a letter shows up in our mailbox. A time capsule I wrote to myself when I was fifteen. You know, the kind where a teacher sends it to you years later? Guess who opens it by mistake and reads all about how I plan on marrying him and having his babies one day? Did I mention I signed it using his last name?

Mortifying would be an understatement. After he starts pulling away, I’m once again the girl in the background hoping that someone will understand me enough to pay me all of their attention. 

The old me, the one conditioned to settle for what she’s given, would back down. This time, though, if I want everything I almost held in my hands, I’ll have to speak up. I’ll have to admit exactly how I feel, fight for the love that was blossoming. And I’m not sure what’s scarier; voicing my inner thoughts or facing his ultimate rejection.


We have all been there. Had that one crush in school, the one that seemed to last forever. The one who didn't even know you were alive.

So imagine this: a few years later you are in college and one of your roommates' leaves, and who shows up to sublet their room? Yep. The guy. The one you had crushed so hard on.

Carrie Aarons knows how to write romance. She keeps you engaged and turning pages. She gets you invested, not only in the story but the characters themselves. She makes them feel like they are your friends, and that you are right in the middle of the action. In fact, she is becoming one of my go-to authors on contemporary romance.

The main characters Taya and Austin are both complex characters. Austin's last name is synonymous with the town they grew up in. Well-known and well connected. He is the perfect son, the perfect student. He is the golden boy. Taya has spent her life playing second best to her little sister.

I enjoyed both characters. Surprisingly Carrie Aarons did not make Austin a character you dislike, the arrogant high school jock that so many seem to focus on. He is very likable and you instantly understand where he is coming from and his actions. And of course, you feel for Taya, she goes through this horrible humiliation that we would all want to avoid.

Both of them are human, they feel real to the reader. They are vulnerable, they are insecure, and like anyone from a dysfunctional family they struggle with things, but the thing that really drew me to these two was their ability to be fighters and the intense connection between them.

Are you a fan of close proximity roommate romances? Do you like stories that are full of angst and emotions?  If you answered yes to either of these, do yourself a favor and pick up Then You Saw Me By Carrie Aarons. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Book Review: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan


Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret. 

Her own. 

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth? 

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?


I struggled with this book, mostly I think, because I could not connect with the main characters, nor did I like them at all. I found Lily whiney, obsessive, and self-centered. I never trusted her producer Greer, right from the start she seemed way too jealous of Lily and was just all-around sneaky.

The story is told in dual timelines, about 25 years between them. The past timeline centers around Cassie, Lily's older sister who leaves for college and while there disappears never to be heard from again. No one had ever figured out what had happened to her.

Present time deals with Cassie, a well-known and successful news personality, and her producer Greer. Cassie is always looking for Casie in every female that is the age she would have been, but she is also hiding secrets of her own, such as the father of her daughter.

There are some great twists in the story, some that I had figured out and some that I was totally off on. I can certainly see why Hank Phillipi Ryan has such a large and faithful fan base, her writing is masterful. It was just hard for me to enjoy the book when I disliked the characters so much. I am looking forward to trying other books that she has written.