Sunday, December 31, 2017

Paint It All Red

Book: Paint It All Red
Series: Mindf*ck #5
Author: TS Abby

Hush, little baby, don't say a word...

Will Logan choose them? Or will we watch them burn together?

It's time to fuck with their minds.
It's time to finish it all.
It's time to paint it all red...

Monsters don't usually wish for happily-ever-afters.-Goodreads

Review: Okay readers, Logan knows who Lana is now, how will it all turn out?!  Will he turn her in? Will she have time to exact her revenge? 

While I enjoyed this , I felt this was the weakest of the series. It really jumped the shark in terms of being believable on any level. The sheriff has a lot of control over the town, which makes sense as to the townsfolk behavior but hello, this is set in present time. People leave for college, hard to believe no one would talk about what went on there. And everything going on in the town...there is internet and people have cell phones. Lana and her friend running around town painting buildings. The crazy epilogue? Totally ridiculous on every level but I still really enjoyed this series! 

Grade: 3/5

All the Lies

Book: All the Lies
Series: Mindf*ck #4
Author: TS Abby

To understand the monsters in the world, you have to get inside their heads. It's a dangerous place to be, especially when you start to empathize and lose your own sense of morality.

But that's never happened to me...

I've never felt conflicted on any case. Right is right and wrong is wrong. It's simple. Black and white. There's no such thing as a gray area.

But fuck this case. I don't even know what side I'm on anymore. I don't understand how this town can continue to function without breaking under the weight of all the lies they've spun and lived.

Every time I find a shard of truth, my gut twists, my heart beats faster, and I hate this place a little more. Every time I think I've heard the worst, another truth is dug up from the ashes of more burning lies.

Worst of all, I don't even know who to trust anymore. My head is all messed up.

I pride myself on being impossible to fool.
I'm an expert at knowing when someone is lying to me.
I never believed in being blinded by love...until Lana.-Goodreads

Review: Lana is working through her kill list and Logan is getting closer. He's in her hometown now and knows something isn't right there. I feel like he came across pretty dense in this installment but it will still tons of fun and I couldn't stop reading. 

Grade: 4/5

Scarlet Angel

Book: Scarlet Angel
Series: Mindf*ck #3
Author: TS Abby

To kill a monster, you have to be twice as monstrous. To love a monster, you have to share your soul...

Logan Bennett makes me want to have a future not tainted by the constant hunger for revenge. Doesn't mean I can stop. Doesn't mean I want to stop. It just means I want more... one day.

But how do you make a good man love the monster inside you without stripping his soul away as well? He is all the best parts of me right now, resurrecting bits of my heart I forgot could even exist.

He makes me feel something other than cold.

He also thinks I'm weak and fragile. Something I laugh about to myself, while secretly soaking in all his protectiveness and concern.

If anyone touches him, harms him, or even threatens him, then they should probably run. Because his girlfriend is a little bit crazy. They just don't know it yet.-Goodreads

Review: Boogeyman, the killer Logan has been hunting, goes after Lana and she's ready for him. Unbeknownst to her, Hadley witnesses the entire fight and knows there is way more to Lana than meets the eye. What will happen next?

Another fun, fast-paced book in this series. Once again, I'd like to reiterate that the sexy covers are extremely misleading-this is a thriller series, more attune to the show Criminal Minds. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Sidetracked
Series: Mindf*ck #2
Author: S.T. Abby

They always want to break me, but I'm too strong now. Untouchable.
Or at least I was...until her.


I've had tunnel vision for one main goal for so long, that I forgot there was a whole other world just outside. Until Lana.

She's everything I never expected, and I love the fact I can never guess her every move or reaction. It's part of the reason I keep falling. But I also know she shuts me out, hides things from me she feels she can't share.

One day, I hope she trusts me enough to share.

It isn't until my job puts her at risk that I realize just how fierce she is, but it doesn't stop me from doing all I can to protect her. I should walk away to protect her better, but I can't. Instead, I'm forced to find other ways to keep her safe.

I just hope it's enough.

Though she is fierce, she's still fragile...


Review: Another page turner! I couldn't put this down. We learn more about what is driving Lana as her relationship continues with Logan. So fun!

Grade: 4/5

The Risk

Book: The Risk
Series: Mindf*ck #1-#5
Author: S.T. Abbey

They took too much.
Left too little.
I had nothing to lose...until him.
I didn't expect him.
I didn't want to fall in love.
But I can't let him go.
Logan Bennett makes the world a safer place.
He's brilliant.
He's a hero.
He locks away the sick and depraved.
But while he's saving lives, I'm taking them. Collecting the debts that are owed to me.
Ten years ago, they took from me. They left me for dead.
They should have made sure I stayed dead.
Now I'm taking from them.
One name at a time.
I've trained for too long.
I've been patient.
I can't stop now.
Revenge is best served cold...
They never see me coming, until I paint their walls red.
Logan doesn't know how they hurt me. He doesn't know about the screams they ignored. He doesn't know how twisted that town really is.
He just knows people are dying.
He doesn't know he's in love with their killer.
No one suspects a dead girl.
And Logan doesn't suspect the girl in his bed.
They're looking for a monster.
Not a girl who loves red.
Not a girl in love.
I'm a faceless nightmare.
At least until I tell them the story they've pretended never happened.
But in the end, will Logan choose them? Or will we watch them burn together? -Goodreads

Review: Lana is serial killer working through a kill list. She was traumatized as a teenager and is out for revenge. Logan is a profiler for the FBI. They meet at a coffee shop and have a connection. Little does he know that the killer he's looking for is right in front of him.

Don't let the sexy cover or the provocative series name fool you. Reading this was like watching a season of Criminal Minds and each book was an episode. There was an over-arcing storyline (Lana's revenge killings and Logan getting closer to her) while each book also had it's own plot. We know Lana is out for revenge but her reasons aren't fully fleshed out until the last book in the series. Logan is an all-around nice guy who falls in love with a killer. The question is, when he discovers who Lana really is, will their relationship survive?

This book started a little slow but I overall really enjoyed it. Lana has a kill list but we don't know her exact motivations. She has a connect with Logan, where will it go? 

Grade: 4/5

The Fall of Lord Drayson

Book: The Fall of Lord Drayson
Series: Tanglewood #1
Author: Rachael Anderson

When Colin Cavendish, the new earl of Drayson, informs Lucy Beresford that she and her mother need to vacate the house they've called home for the past two years, Lucy is fit to be tied. They have no money, no relations they can turn to for help, and nowhere to go. How dare the earl break the promise his father had made to the Beresfords without so much as a twinge of conscience?

Fate plays her hand when Lucy discovers the earl unconscious and injured in the middle of the road. When he awakens with no recollection of who he is, Lucy seizes the opportunity to teach the earl a much-needed lesson in humility and tells him that he is nothing more than a mere servant. Her servant, in fact.

And thus begins the charming tale of a pompous lord and an impetuous young woman, caught together in a web so tangled that it begs the question: Will they ever get out? -Goodreads

Review: Colin Cavendish, the new earl of Drayson, decides to sell one of his families homes in Tanglewood that is not used and financially draining. When he discovers his father was allowing a widower and her daughter to live on property, he travels there to tell them they have a few months to find new accommodations. Lucy's mother is out of town and she receives the message. As the earl is leaving the house, he has an accident and loses his memory. Lucy, still furious about his desire to sell the property, tells him he is her servant. 

This was a very cute romance. The beginning chapters featured sections written from both Lucy and Colin. Oddly, the story shifted completely to Lucy's perspective for the remainder of the book. I would have loved to have both. 

Grade: 3/5

All the Little Children

Book: All the Little Children
Author: Jo Furniss

Struggling with working-mother guilt, Marlene Greene hopes a camping trip in the forest will provide quality time with her three young children—until they see fires in the distance, columns of smoke distorting the sweeping view. Overnight, all communication with the outside world is lost.

Knowing something terrible has happened, Marlene suspects that the isolation of the remote campsite is all that’s protecting her family. But the arrival of a lost boy reveals they are not alone in the woods, and as the unfolding disaster ravages the land, more youngsters seek refuge under her wing. The lives of her own children aren’t the only ones at stake.

When their sanctuary is threatened, Marlene faces the mother of all dilemmas: Should she save her own kids or try to save them all?-Goodreads

Review: Marlene and her sister-in-law Joni take their children camping for the weekend (ages 3 through 15, plus a friend of her son). One of the boys climbs a tree and reports fires all over. Then, their cell phones aren't working. A trip home confirms Marlene's fears that something is wrong when she finds dead bodies everywhere covered in flies. She eventually learns a domestic terrorist unleashed a biological weapon resulting in the English plague. The island has been quarantined and no one appears to be coming for help. Marlene and Joni work together to keep everyone alive.

It's been awhile since I read a post-apocalyptic book and I really enjoyed the one. As a working mom, I could relate to Marlene's guilt about her career and how she disconnects when she travels. While I didn't agree with every decision she made, I thought she was a strong character who was doing her best in a bad situation. I also appreciated that she was a regular person, not someone who knew extreme survival skills. One thing that was kind of odd was that other than Marlene, Joni and Marlene's 3 year old Billy, I'm hard pressed to remember any other characters. Marlene had 3 children total, Joni 1 and they acquired several others on the way. Other than Billy, none of them made an impression. 

Grade: 3.5/5

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Book: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls
Author: Lynn Weingarten

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn’t believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else—before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, binding them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this—things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.-Goodreads

Review: This book is being marketed as Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why. Who is writing these blurbs? They are ruining the 'twists' in the book before anyone has read the first chapter. This book is also described as 'sexy.' Um, no. I'm not sure in what universe anyone would call this book sexy. This is a story about a toxic friendship between Delia and June. Delia is manipulative and possibly a psychopath. June has no apparent personality for the entire book. I don't buy for a minute these two were friends, even toxic ones. I think the 'twist' mid-way through could have been good but as mentioned earlier, the marketing ruined it. And don't even get me started on the end-I have no idea what even happened there.

Grade: 1/5

The Marriage Lie

Book: The Marriage Lie
Author: Kimberly Belle

Iris and Will's marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.-Goodreads

Review: Will and Iris are a happily married couple living in Atlanta trying to start a family. He's an IT professional and she's a counselor at a private high school. Will is flying to Orando on business when a plane heading to Seattle crashes, killing everyone on board.  Iris is shocked when she is told her husband was a passenger on the fight. Was he leading a double life? Cheating her on? Iris is determined to figure it out.

I read The Pilots Wife years ago and thought this would be similar. I was completely wrong. While both deal with spouses harboring secrets, this is definitely a thriller. Iris was annoying and naive but this was fast paced and I couldn't put it down (wanting to forgo sleep is my definition of a good book). The end also surprised me.

Overall, loved it!

Grade: 4.5/5

The Breakdown

Book: The Breakdown
Author: BA Paris

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…-Goodreads

ReviewCass is driving home in a bad rain storm and promises her husband she won't take the shortcut through the woods. She takes the shortcut anyway and sees a woman in a car on the side of the road. She stops and waits but the woman doesn't wave her over or seem distressed, so Cass leaves. When the woman is found murdered the next day, Cass feels extremely guilty, but not guilty enough to tell anyone that she saw her alive. Then Cass, who has a family history of dementia, starts forgetting things. What is going on? 

I really enjoyed BA Paris' Behind Closed Doors but this book was a huge disappointment. I'm not a detective but I was able to figure out almost everything in the first chapter. And how she figures almost everything out in the end, with the phone and exchange students, is so far fetched..I mean, come on. I was surprised by the murderer, I will refrain from spoilers but I definitely thought more than one person was 'in on it.' 

Overall, I didn't like this one. 

Grade: 1/5

The Marriage Pact

Book: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples--and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.-Goodreads

Review: After winning a big case at her law firm, Alice (an attorney) invites her client, a famous musician, to her upcoming wedding to Jake (a psychologist). Her client gives them a unique gift-an invitation to join an exclusive club called The Pact. The Pacts purpose is to keep marriages happy and intact (no Pact member has ever been divorced). Alice and Jake sign their contract with the Pact without reading it carefully. There is a thick manual with rules to follow and references to consequences if the rules are broken, but how nefarious can a group be that is dedicated to the sanctity of marriage? At first Alice and Jake like the rules-mandatory gifts to each other every month and a minimum 72-h vacation every 3 months. But when Alice is 'reported' for lack of dedication to her marriage, Alice and Jake quickly realize The Pact isn't all it appears to be. 

As I was reading this I kept wondering if the author was reading Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief (by Lawrence Wright, an incredible book if you haven't read it) while she was watching Fight Club and going through a divorce. That is the only explanation I can come up with for a book about a successful, supposedly smart couple who end up in a cult. The idea of this book isn't bad and I understand suspending some level of disbelief but the reader is expected to suspect disbelief at almost every turn. Alice is a successful attorney (who specializes in intellectual property and contracts) and I don't buy that she would sign the contract without reading it. Of course, this has to happen to keep the book going. A different profession for her would have worked better. The Pact has clear rules on marriage including mandatory weigh-ins to make sure you aren't +/- 10% of your wedding date weight, you must always answer is your spouse calls. If you break the rules, you have to deal with their own legal system that involves prison, attorneys, judges, torture and interrogation. I just could not believe any of this would happen. The Pact is somehow able to spy on members, eavesdrop, even intercept 911 calls. I rolled my eyes at least 100x. I was hoping the end would be amazing but alas, no such luck. 

Grade: 1/5

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wherever Nina Lies

Book: Wherever Nina Lies
Author: Lynn Weingarten

Nina was beautiful, wild & adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But, one day, Nina disappeared. 2 years later, everyone has given up hope that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look.Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she's got a chance - her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn't planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth.-Goodreads

Review: It's been two years since Nina's older sister disappeared without a trace. When Nina finds one of her sister's drawings in a donation box at her friend's workplace, she tries to track her sister down. After meeting a handsome stranger at a party, they embark on a road trip looking for answers. 

On one hand, this book was completely ridiculous. A teenage girl meets a guy and within 24 hours, they are on a road trip across the country. She doesn't know his last name and neither of their parents know where they are. The plot is far fetched and Nina's actions are mind-blowing. On the other hand, this was  page turner and while I suspected where the story was going, there were still a few surprises. 

Overall-if I had read this in high school, I probably would have loved it. The mother in me kept thinking "OMG if my daughter was doing this, I'd kill her." 

Grade: 3/5

The Good Girl

Book: The Good Girl
Author: Mary Kubica

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter. -Goodreads

Review: Mia Dennett is a high school art teacher and the estranged daughter of a powerful judge in Chicago. When her boyfriend cancels on her, she meets a stranger at a bar and goes home with him. Instead of a one night stand, she finds herself kidnapped and trapped in a remote cabin in the woods with her abductor. Told in alternating narratives and timelines, we follow various characters right after Mia disappears and a few months later, when she is found but asking to be called Chloe with a seemingly new personality. What happened to Mia? 

A book about a kidnapped woman living in the woods with her kidnapper, her grieving mother and the detective working on the case should have been fast paced and exciting. Unfortunately, this fell completely flat. I'm willing to suspend disbelief to some extent but a kidnapper who decides not to hand her over to the people who hired him...for no real reason at the time, was just preposterous. Reading about two people trying to live in a freezing cabin for a few months wasn't thrilling to say the least. Mia's mother was a weak character and while her father was written as more of a villain, I wish he was....more evil than he turned out to be? If that makes sense. Mia's sister had potential to add some color and she was mostly forgotten. The detective didn't come across as particularly intelligent at any time. I did enjoy the final chapter although I think the motivation wasn't quite strong enough. 

Grade: 2/5

Watch Me Disappear

Book: Watch Me Disappear
Author: Janelle Brown

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. Billie’s husband and teenage daughter cope with her death the best they can: Jonathan drinks, Olive grows remote.

But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.-Goodreads

Review: Billie Flanagan goes on a hike and is never seen again. Her cell phone and boot are recovered, but they never find a body. One year later, her husband Jonathon finds himself struggling with her death and financial issues. Their teenage daughter, Olive, is having visions of her mother and is adamant that she is still alive. When Jonathon finds a locked file on Billie's laptop and realizes his seemingly loving, honest wife was lying to him about some things, he begins to question who his wife really was.

I love the idea of peeling back the layers of a person. Do we really know 'everything' about a person? How do we present ourselves to others? Do we present our true self or the self we think they want to see? What types of secrets exist between husbands and wives? In that sense, I like the theme of this book and Jonathon's journey of sorts to figuring out his wife. While I initially felt some kinship to Billie as a fellow mom, I quickly changed my opinion of her as the book progressed. She was an awful person. As such, it was a challenge to push through to the end to officially find out what happened to her. The first chapter heavily foreshadowed what happened and I wish the author had left the ending more open ended. Instead, we were spoon fed exactly what happened on the hike in extreme detail. Some readers may love having everything tied up in a neat bow, I think some ambiguity would have been stronger. 

Overall, I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Monday, November 27, 2017

All the Secrets We Keep

Book: All the Secrets We Keep
Series: Quarry Road #2
Author: Megan Hart

Still stuck in his small Central Pennsylvania hometown, Ilya Stern is used to feeling like a disappointment. After his high school girlfriend, Jennilynn, drowned, he married her sister, Alicia, only to divorce a decade later. The business they started together is threatened by a luxury development—and Alicia has already sold her stake. Now that Babulya, Ilya’s gentle Russian grandmother, has died, there’s no one left who believes in him. Or so he thinks.

Theresa Malone was Ilya’s stepsister for only a year, until his mother threw her pill-popping father out of the house in the middle of the night, forcing teenage Theresa to follow. Now she’s returned for Babulya’s funeral—and to facilitate the quarry-development deal. As she tries to convince Ilya to sell, she realizes her feelings for him have ignited—from sisterly into something more.

Working together closely, Ilya and Theresa struggle to define their intense attraction. When the details of Jennilynn’s death surface, will Ilya and Theresa’s deep connection keep their hope for the future afloat—or submerge them once and forever in their tragic past?-Goodreads

Review: All the Secrets We Keep starts off after the first book ended. Ilya and Theresa take center stage in this installment and proved to be more interesting than Alicia and Niko. Ilya's teenage girlfriend died and he married her sister on the rebound. While the marriage did not work out, the two remained business partners until Alicia sold her stake in the company to a development company. Ilya feels betrayed and it trying to hold onto his business, which is the only thing he believes in. Theresa lived with Ilya and Niko for 6 months as a teenager before being kicked out in the middle of the night with her drug addict father. She's in a precarious financial situation and needs Ilya to sell desperately. 

I really liked Theresa as a character. I felt for her financial situation and how she was working to get out of it. I also completely understand her desire to keep things under wraps. Ilya was a frustrating, as he is someone who needs external feedback to boost his self esteem. I didn't initially buy into them as a couple, but as the book progressed Hart handled their relationship well. I could have done without the chapters from Alicia and Niko's perspectives, it didn't add anything to this book.

Overall, I Liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

The Silent Child

Book: The Silent Child
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son's red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year - a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned.

His body was never recovered.

Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She's married, pregnant, and in control again...

... until Aiden returns.

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken.

As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It's Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.-Goodreads

Review: Emma's six-year old son goes missing during a flood and is never found. He's  legally declared dead and Emma tries to move on with her life. It's ten years later and Emma is now married and pregnant. She is shocked when a teenage boy is found in the woods and his DNA matches her son. It's clear terrible things happened to him, but he cannot speak and tell anyone what happened. Emma struggles to integrate her son with her new family while trying to figure out what happened to her son all those years ago.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The plot was engaging and while I didn't agree with all of Emma's actions, I felt she came across like a real person reacting to a very bad situation. I think the biggest challenge with this book was that there were so few characters, it wasn't difficult to guess part of the mystery. I'll refrain from spoilers but one character was written so one-sided, I can't imagine anyone thinking this person was innocent. I will say that one person's actions were very shocking at the end...wowsa, 

Grade: 3/5

Last Breath

Book: Last Breath
Series: The Good Daughter 0.5
Author: Karin Slaughter

Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home – and after that shocking night, Charlie's world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honour-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?-Goodreads

Review: The Good Daughter is one of my favorite reads this year so I was excited to see Slaughter published a short prequel. In Last Breath, Charlie is a 28 year old attorney who takes on an emancipation case for 15-year old Flora. Charlie feels a kinship to Flora, who also lost her mother at a young age. But Charlie quickly realizes that there may be more to Flora than she originally thought. 

I'm not usually a fan of shorter stories but this was well executed. I enjoyed the mystery and didn't see the end coming. Very good read!

Grade: 4/5

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Royally Matched

Book: Royally Matched
Series: Royally #2
Author: Emma Chase

Some men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry John Edgar Thomas Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to force her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora goes on a much-needed safari holiday—and when the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world's most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit... and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love. -Goodreads

Review: I didn't love the first book in this series but I am so glad I gave this one a chance. I loved it! After Henry's brother abdicates the throne, Henry quickly goes from his grandmother's favorite to her least favorite. He cannot do anything right, nor does he seem to care to. When an opportunity arises to be the star of a Bachelor type show, he jumps at the chance. Of course, things behind the scenes aren't what the appear and he finds himself spending more and more time with Lady Sarah, whose sister is a contestant on the show. Can they find true love? 

This was sweet and most importantly-funny. I chuckled numerous times throughout the story.  I loved Henry and Sarah together and can't wait for the next in the series. 

Grade: 4.5/5


Book: Unloved
Author: Katy Regnery

My name is Cassidy Porter...

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware - every day of my life - that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It's a promise I would have kept...if Brynn Cadogan hadn't stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain...


Review: Brynn Cadogan's fiance was killed in a mass shooting 2 years ago and she is still struggling to cope with her grief. She decides to climb his favorite mountain in Maine to say goodbye and try move on. Meanwhile, Cassidy Porter, the only son of a serial killer, has lived in almost complete isolation in Maine for years. The two meet unexpectedly after Brynn's trek to say goodbye to her fiance does not go as planned. 

Please don't let my 2/5 rating deter you. The book starts strong and Regnery's writing is very readable. My challenge with this was that I was expecting a dark, gritty, read ('son of a serial killer' definitely drew me into this one) and this was more butterflies and rainbows. **spoiler alert** Still here? Okay, Cassidy saves Brynn after she is attacked by a madman on the mountain. For someone who has lived in isolation for so long, I didn't find him awkward enough. And I'm not sure how anyone in Brynn's situation would not be completely freaked out that some random person took them to their isolated cabin the woods and provided medical care. Her reactions to the situation didn't ring true to me. 

If you are looking for a sweet, sappy love story, you might love this book.  

Grade: 2/5

Before We Were Yours

Book: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate

An engrossing novel inspired by shocking real events—the kidnappings and illegal adoptions of children conducted by the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society—Before We Were Yours is a poignant, uplifting tale for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.-Goodreads

Review: Told in alternating narratives, we follow Avery in present day and Rill in the 1939. Avery's father is a state senator and she's an attorney who is being groomed to take over for him. When she encounters a woman at a nursing home who is adamant that Avery's grandmother's bracelet is her own, Avery begins to research her grandmother's history. Rill is the eldest of 5 siblings living along the river with their carefree, gypsy parents. When her parents head to the hospital for the birth of her new sibling, Rill and her siblings are picked up by the police and placed in the Tennessee Children's Home Society. 

This book has been compared to Orphan Train and while both books follow similar narratives, I found this a much more compelling and well-written. While Avery's storyline was the weaker of the two, I still enjoyed her narrative and how she didn't let anything deter her from her research. The 'romance' part of the book wasn't completely necessary but didn't bother me. Rill's storyline was the highlight of this book. Inspired by true events, we learn how Georgia Tann, the head of the organization, tricked poor parents into signing away their parental rights and sometimes even stole children that were later adopted out for exorbitant fees. In many cases, she blackmailed the families who adopted children. The conditions at the TCHS were beyond horrific, rampant with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and even murder. 

Overall, this was heartbreaking but uplifting at the end. Very good read about a part of history I didn't' know about. 

Some favorite quotes:

Do we carry the guilt from the sins of past generations? If so, can we bear the weight of that burden?

Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment. I let go of the river’s song and found the music of that big house. I found room for a new life, a new mother who cared for me, and a new father who patiently taught me not only how to play music, but how to trust.

A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things

Grade: 4/5

Monday, November 6, 2017

Firefly Lane

Book: Firefly Lane
Series: Firefly Lane #1
Author: Kristin Hannah

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.-Goodreads

Review: Kate and Tully meet in 1974 when they are neighbors and 14 years old. Tully, who is beautiful and popular, does not have a stable home environment while Kate, quiet and studious, comes from a loving family. The two form a friendship that spans several decades. Told in alternating narratives, we follow Kate and Tully from their teens through their mid-40s.

I loved Kristin Hannah's 'The Nightingale' and I thought 'Night Road' was very thought provoking. I was so excited to read this (first selection of a new book club) and this was such a huge disappointment. This was essentially 500+ pages of an extended Lifetime movie remake of Beaches (the 1980s movie with Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler). Tully is extremely driven and wants to be a successful reporter. She is willing to sacrifice everything to achieve her goal. She is narcissistic and known to never apologize for anything. She eventually finds herself wealthy and successful but alone. Kate is a complete doormat with no backbone (she may be one of the most frustrating characters I've ever read). She is unable to tell her (supposed) best friend that she doesn't want to go into the news industry for YEARS. She marries a man she knows was in love with her best friend. She is a stay-at-home mom with 3 children who clearly has depression issues but never seeks help. She and her husband are millionaires but she refuses to ask for help or even allow her children to take the school bus. We are constantly told how busy and tired she is (I have 3 children, it isn't that bad). 

It was inconceivable to me that these two would stay friends throughout the years. I could understand it as teens and the beginning of college, but their paths were so different I didn't find the relationship realistic. They also bizarrely had no other female friends other than each other. The surprising "event" that tore them apart was just one of many slights against each other. Tully was always a bitch and Kate was always a doormat. That literally never changed the entire book. I found the end predictable and I was so annoyed with both characters, there were no tears. 

This book did have an important message about a rare type of breast cancer that I found informative. 

Grade: 2/5

A Man Called Ove

Book: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations. -Goodreads

Review: I love when a book catches me by surprise. My friend received two copies for Mother's Day and graciously gave one of them to me. I started the book and initially found myself very annoyed by Ove and his 'grumpy old man' attitude (side note, he wasn't even that old). However, as the book continued I found I loved his non-nonsense approach to things and I began to love him. And then I shockingly cried at the end!!

Overall-very good read. 

Grade: 4/5

The Party

Book: The Party
Author: Elizabeth Day

Ben, who hails from old money, and Martin, who grew up poor but is slowly carving out a successful career as an art critic, have been inseparable since childhood. Ben's wife Serena likes to jokingly refer to Martin as Ben's dutiful Little Shadow.

Lucy is a devoted wife to Martin, even as she knows she'll always be second best to his sacred friendship. When Ben throws a lavish 40th birthday party as his new palatial country home, Martin and Lucy attend, mixing with the very upper echelons of London society.

But why, the next morning, is Martin in a police station being interviewed about the events of last night? Why is Lucy being forced to answer questions about his husband and his past? What exactly happened at the party? And what has bound these two very different men together for so many years?

A cleverly built tour of intrigue, THE PARTY reads like a novelistic board game of Clue, taking us through the various half-truths and lies its characters weave, as the past and present collide in a way that its protagonists could never have anticipated. -Goodreads

Review: Told in alternating narratives and timelines, we follow Martin as a young man in school and college, Martin as he is interviewed by the police, his wife Lucy who is speaking to a therapist and both of them as they attend a 'party' that occurred several weeks ago. 

Martin is an only child who has never fit in. When he's sent to boarding school, he's enamored with Ben, who is rich and popular. Martin befriends Ben and weasels his way into his life as the boys get older. He eventually ingrains himself into Ben's wealthy family. Martin is not a character anyone will particularly like. He reminded me of the Matt Damon character from The Talented Mr. Ripley (it was inconceivable to me that Ben would have ever taken him home for the holidays). Martin's big "secret" was not shocking in the least and the events tying the boys together was not difficult to figure out. The event at the party leading to the police investigation was rather anticlimactic. I did enjoy Lucy's sections which explained how and why she married Martin and how she was much more observant than he thought. 

Overall-while I despised Martin and the 'twists and turns' were not shocking, I liked how the book was constructed and I really enjoyed Lucy's narrative. 

Grade: 3/5

The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

Book: A Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Anoinette
Author: Meghan Masterson

It's Giselle Aubry's first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette's newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it's a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen's wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.

From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.

But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything...maybe even her head.-Goodreads

Review: This is the story of Giselle, a sixteen year-old undertirewoman for Marie Antoinette. We see the French Revolution through her eyes, as well as how the royal family handled everything going on around them. Although Giselle ends up working as a spy for her uncle, she is sympathetic to the queen and her family.  Giselle was not the most dynamic narrator and her love interest was uninspiring, but the historical piece of this book was very interesting. This book starts approx. 5 years before Marie Antoinette's execution and it was fascinating to see how the French people hated her and blamed her personally for many of the countries problems. 

Overall, I liked this.

Grade: 3/5

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Women in the Castle

Book: The Women in the Castle
Author: Jessica Shattuck

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.-Goodreads

Review: After WWII, Marianne returns to her family castle and upholds a promise to her late husband, who was executed as a conspirator: she will find the widows of other conspirators and try to protect them. Marianne is a force of nature. She sets a goal and then goes out to achieve it. She is strong willed, principled and tenacious. She locates Martin, the son of her childhood best friend, and then locates her friend's widow, Benita. She then finds Ania, another wife and her two sons. They live together trying to rebuild and face trials and tribulations along the way. 

This was a very interesting read. I've read a lot of WWII books and this was a different perspective. Fans of WWII fiction should give this one a try. 

Grade: 4/5

Dating You / Hating You

Book: Dating You / Hating You
Author: Christina Lauren

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human?-Goodreads

Review: Carter and Evie are both talents in LA. They meet at a friend's Halloween party and hit it off. I loved how they met and loved their dynamic. Their companies end up merging and they find themselves competing for the same position at work. There is absolute tension as they try to impress their boss, serve their clients and try to ignore the sexual tension between them. 

This was cute. It was more of a book about the talent industry in LA with a side of romance. Christina Lauren books are known for their humor but other than chuckling when they first met, I never laughed again. They end up playing pranks on either other that I found mean spirited than funny. 

Overall, a cute, fast read. 

Grade: 3/5

The Autobiography of Santa Claus

Book: The Autobiography of Santa Claus
Series: The Christmas Chronicles #1
Author: Jeff Guinn

It all started when Jeff Guinn was assigned to write a piece full of little-known facts about Christmas for his paper, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A few months later, he received a call from a gentleman who told him that he showed the story to an important friend who didn't think much of it. And who might that be? asked Jeff. The next thing he knew, he was whisked off to the North Pole to meet with this "very important friend," and the rest is, well, as they say, history.

An enchanting holiday treasure, The Autobiography of Santa Claus combines solid historical fact with legend to deliver the definitive story of Santa Claus. And who better to lead us through seventeen centuries of Christmas magic than good ol' Saint Nick himself? Families will delight in each chapter of this new Christmas classic-one per each cold December night leading up to Christmas!-Goodreads

Review: The first third of this book is fantastic-we learn about a young, wealthy boy who wanted to help those around him. Eventually he became known as Saint Nicholas. I absolutely loved this section. The book started to reach eye rolling territory when he became this magical person who got help for a random assortment of historical figures throughout the years (Attila the Hun...King Arthur...Leonardo a famous person and they were probably thrown in there). I think my 9 year old would love this though, I might read it with her. 

Grade: 2/5

Tower of Dawn

Book: Tower of Dawn
Series: Throne of Glass #6
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.-Goodreads

Review: I excitedly downloaded this book and after a few chapters realized...this is Chaol's story told during the same timeline as the previous book. Manon. Boo! I am not a Chaol fan. He went from nice but kind of boring guy to jerk pretty quickly in the previous books. I guess this was the author's attempt to rehabilitate him. Did we need almost 700 pages to do that? I don't think so. This could have been a novella or a much shorter book. Chaol and his love interest, Yrene, were about as exciting as watching paint dry. And they way she ended up healing him....nothing exciting about that. I did enjoy Nesryn's story arc and that was the saving grace of the entire book. The only important plot point was about Maeve. 

I have high hopes for book #7 in this series. 

Grade: 2/5

The Bat

Book: The Bat
Series: Harry Hole #1
Author: Jo Nesbø

Before Harry took on the neo-Nazi gangs of Oslo, before he met Rakel, before The Snowman tried to take everything he held dear, he went to Australia. Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction.-Goodreads
Review: I was at the movies recently and saw a preview for a new Michael Fassbender thriller called 'The Snowman.' I thought it was an odd title and researched it...and was thrilled to discover it's based off of a book series called Harry Hole (oddly enough, they made book #7 into a movie but none of the earlier ones). Reading reviews, I discovered book 1 was translated into English after several of the later books were already published and several fans said book 1 isn't the best but don't give up. Okay...I went into it with low expectations. 

Harry Hole is a Norwegian detective who is sent to Sydney when a Norwegian woman (who is somewhat of a local celebrity) is murdered there. Harry teams up with a local detective and they work the case. 

I actually enjoyed this one. Harry Hole is an acquired taste. While he initially came off as someone with no personality, we slowly learn about his background and his past. He is a man with a lot (A LOT) of personal issues. There was a good amount of Aboriginal history that was pretty interesting and I really liked the dynamic between Harry and Andrew (the Sydney police officer he worked with).

I will definitely continue with the series. 

Grade: 3/5

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Book: Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Author: Mark Sullivan

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.-Goodreads

Review: This was my first WWII book from an Italian perspective and Pino Lella certainly lived an incredible life. The story itself is worthy of 5 stars. An Italian teenager is sent to a boys school is northern Italy and ends up smuggling people across the Alps into Switzerland. He returns home, enlists in the war and becomes the driver for a Nazi general reporting directly to Hitler. He spies on his boss while friends and family revile him for being a Nazi. Fascinating, right? I wish this story had been written by someone else because while the story and plot points are amazing, the writing was mediocre at best. At points I thought a middle school student had written it. I was shocked when I finished the book and saw Sullivan has co-authored things with James Patterson and is an award winning author. Say what?!

Overall-amazing storyline, poor execution. This would be a great movie or mini-series though. 

Grade: 2.5/5