Friday, October 26, 2018

Look For Me

Book: Look For Me
Series: Detective DD Warren #9
Author: Lisa Gardner

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.-Goodreads
Review: A family is massacred and their teenage daughter is missing, along with the family dogs. Was she involved with the killing or is she innocent? DD is on the case, with the help of Flora Dane. I love to addition of Flora to DD's team (of sorts) and I love their interactions today. The case itself was interesting and while I guessed a few parts of the ending, some of it was a surprise. 

Another great read in the DD Warren series. 

Grade: 4/5

The Banker's Wife

Book: The Banker's Wife
Author: Cristina Alger

On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew's death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies.

Meanwhile, ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau has finally landed at the top. Now that she's engaged to Grant Ellis, she will stop writing about powerful families and finally be a part of one. Her entry into the upper echelons of New York's social scene is more appealing than any article could ever be, but, after the death of her mentor, she agrees to dig into one more story. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including some who are too close to home. The story could also be the answer to Annabel's heartbreaking search—if Marina chooses to publish it.-Goodreads

Review: Annabel's husband has died in a plane crash after leaving London. Annabel struggles with his death and doesn't understand why Matthew was in London when he told her he was in a different country. Was he having an affair? Marina is an engaged journalist and her future father-in-law, a very wealthy businessman, is running for President. When her mentor is murdered after investigating a big story, Marina wants to know what he was working on. 

Two women. Two engaging storylines that eventually merge. This was fast paced and I loved the financial aspect to it. A fantastic read from start to finish. 

Grade: 5/5

Three Days Missing

Book: Three Days Missing
Author: Kimberly Belle

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.

Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.-Goodreads

Review: Kat's 9-year old son is kidnapped during an elementary school overnight trip. She's distraught, suspicious that her abusive ex-husband may be involved and wants her son back. Meanwhile, Stef, a politicians wife and mom to a son in the same class, finds herself involved with the case. 

I found the pacing of this book rather sluggish. Kat is written very well as a woman scorned who wants her son back at all costs, however it also doesn't make her very likable. There were very few characters so the 'culprit' was rather obvious, although there was a final scene at the very end that was good. 

Overall, I didn't love it or hate it. I will definitely read her next book. 

Grade: 2.5/5

The Girls in the Garden

Book: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.-Goodreads

Review: Like a Liane Moriarty book, this starts off with a tragic event: Grace, 13 years old, is found unconscious in the communal garden that is surrounded by condos, apartments and single family homes. The book then jumps forward a few months leading up to the event. 

After a truly awful event involving their father, Grace, Pip and their mother move to a new flat in London, ready to start a new life. The girls soon meet the other kids who all share the central garden. Three home schooled sisters with seemingly perfect parents, a girl whose mother works with foster children but ignores her own daughter with a few boys sprinkled into the mix. This book is well written and really explores different types of parenting styles and asks the question "How well do we really know our children?" This was a solid 4* read for me until the end, which I felt had no real consequences.  

Grade: 3/5


Book: Loot
Series: Loot #1
Author: Jude Watson

On a foggy night in Amsterdam, a man falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. It's Alfie McQuinn, the notorious cat burglar, and he's dying. As sirens wail in the distance, Alfie manages to get out two last words to his young son, March: "Find jewels."

But March learns that his father is not talking about a stash of loot. He's talking about Jules, the twin sister March never knew he had. No sooner than the two find each other, they're picked up by the police and sent to the world's worst orphanage. It's not prison, but it feels like it.

March and Jules have no intention of staying put. They know their father's business inside and out, and they're tired of being pushed around. Just one good heist, and they'll live the life of riches and freedom most kids only dream about.

Watch out! There are wild kids on the loose and a crime spree coming . . . -Goodreads

Review: This year I'm leading a 5th grade book club at my daughter's school and this was our first pick. Twelve year old March's father is in the middle of a jewelry heist when he falls off a roof and dies. Afterwards, March discovers he has a twin sister and they are sent to an orphanage in NYC. They soon find themselves on quite an adventure. 

This was fast paced, fun and a great book for young readers. We had a lively discussion regarding who we'd rather grow up with (Alphie or Blue, the consensus was Alphie),  schooling, living in a city vs suburbia among other things. As an adult reading this, I realize the plot is not feasible but it will still great fun. It reminded me of a Heist Society targeted toward a younger audience. 

Grade: 4/5

The Keeper of Lost Things

Book: The Keeper of Lost Things
Author: Ruth Hogan

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer—

Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancĂ©e, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?-Goodreads

Review: Anthony, The Keeper of Lost Things, has been collecting random items for years. After his death, his housekeeper, a divorced lonely woman named Laura, is tasked with trying to match the items with their rightful owners. Told in alternating time-frames, we follow Laura in the present day and Eunice, a woman who goes to work for Bomber, a publisher in the 70s/80s. Both narratives come together at the end of the book. 

Like many books written with different timelines, I found myself really enjoying the Eunice/Bomber years. I loved Eunice, I loved Bomber and I loved their friendship. Their friendship also sparked some good discussion in book club as to the nature of their relationship. Is friendship enough for some people or do you "need" romance too? Some of us felt sorry for Eunice while others felt she lived the life she wanted. Bomber's sister was quite the character and I was very happy to see her last act in the book. 

The present day narrative with Laura was not as enjoyable. I found her almost devoid of any real personality and I was not emotionally invested in her at all. The ghost storyline did not seem necessary to the story. 

Overall, the Eunice/Bomber plot saved this book for me. I did like how Hogan tied the stories together at the end. This was a good book club selection as it sparked some good conversations.   

Grade: 3/5

Spinning Silver

Book: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk--grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh--Miryem's fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love. -Goodreads

Review: I absolutely LOVED Uprooted and was so excited for this book. I saved this for last on our summer vacation. After burning through 8 books in 8 days I got to this one took me over 2 weeks to finish it. I just had to check the page count on Goodreads because I can't believe it was only 466 pages, I would have estimated 1.5k. It started off good enough with Miryem, the daughter of an ineffective moneylender, taking over her father's business. I really admired Miryem's business sense and desire to support her family. She eventually hires Wanda, a peasant girl in town who has an abusive father to help around the house and eventually with the money lending business. While the girls weren't friends, I admired the work they did together. Another storyline (it all eventually ties in together) involved Irina, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman who is married off to a sinister Tsar. Lurking within the woods (in a different kingdom but they can travel back and forth) near all of these young women are Staryk (I couldn't help thinking about them as White Walkers from GoT). Miryem attracts the Stark kings attention with her ability to turn silver into gold and finds herself on a dangerous track that involves all of them. 

Okay-sounds pretty interesting, right? It was, at first. The world building (medieval times in eastern Europe/Russian area) was pretty interesting. The Staryk were plenty creepy. I loved the idea that Miryem was a version Rumpelstiltskin. The book just really became monotonous and dragged for what seemed like 1k+ pages. I was so bored I had to force myself to finish it. It lacked the humor of Uprooted and there was some romance thrown in toward the end that didn't seem believable. There are multiple points of view from Miryem, Wanda and Irina. Additional points of view were added as the book went on and it was just a little odd that we all of a sudden were getting chapters from Wanda's brother's viewpoint. There was even a random bit from Irina's husband. 

This book is very highly rated and I wish I could do the same. This was a complete "miss" for me. I will continue to read what Novak has planned next because she is a talented writer. 

Grade: 2/5

A Killer's Mind

Book: A Killer's Mind
Series: Zoe Bentley #1
Author: Mike Omer

Three Chicago women have been found strangled, embalmed, and posed as if still alive. Doubting the findings of the local PD’s profiler, The FBI calls on forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley to investigate.

Zoe quickly gets off on the wrong foot with her new partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray. Zoe’s a hunter, intense and focused; Tatum’s a smug maverick with little respect for the rules. Together, they must descend into a serial killer’s psyche and untangle his twisted fantasies, or more women will die. But when the contents of three inconspicuous envelopes reveal a chilling connection to gruesome murders from Zoe’s childhood, suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted.-Goodreads

Review: We are first introduced to forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley in the first Glenmore Park book. She's smart,focused and dedicated to her job. I'm a fan of Criminal Minds and I really enjoyed this book from (primarily) her perspective. This book follows two time frames. Teenage Zoe and present- day Zoe. I thought both were well developed and interesting. In the older timeline, a young girl has been murdered. Zoe is interested in the case and starts researching crime, murderers and what motivate them (This is what jump starts her future career as a forensic psychologist). She thinks she knows how the rapist/murderer is but no one believes her. My heart was definitely pounding during a few scenes. In the present day timeframe, Zoe is working with Agent Gray. While they get off on the wrong foot, they eventually find a way to work together. 

Can't wait for the next in the series!

Grade: 4/5

Web of Fear

Book: Web of Fear
Series: Glenmore Park #3
Author: Mike Omer

Detective Hannah Shor gets a case in the worst way possible – a friend calls her for help. Her twelve year old daughter has been kidnapped, and Hannah joins forces with the FBI to bring her home safely.

A ransom note gone viral

When the kidnappers post an image of their captive on Instagram, the situation spins out of control. Now, the whole world is watching. Rumors spread like wildfire, and online vigilantes add fuel to the raging flames.

As Hannah digs deeper, she unravels dark secrets from the family’s past. With the realization that the kidnapping is about more than just a ransom, Hannah needs to close in on the truth, before Abigail’s time runs out.-Goodreads

Review: Another enjoyable read in the Glenmore Park series. In this installment, Hannah is on a bad blind date when she receives a call from a family friend. Hannah learns the woman's 12 year old daughter is missing. Glenmore Park and the FBI are on the case, as they race against time to save a little girl.

The 12-year old in this book meets a "boy" online and leaves her house to meet him one night. This "boy" is actually a kidnapper with sinister motives. As a parent of a 10 year old, this scares me because I know this happens in real life. I thought it was very creative how the kidnapper posted messages via the girls own Instagram feed requesting ransom money. One of the kidnappers was rather obvious (only because no other characters were provided as possible suspects) and Omer could have left out the romance with the detectives, but this was an enjoyable mystery. 

Grade: 3/5

Deadly Web

Book: Deadly Web
Series: Glenmore Park #2
Author: Mike Omer

One Night, Two Dead Victims

Killers don’t patiently wait their turn before committing murder

Detective Hannah Shor is desperate to prove her worth to her superiors, and herself. When a middle aged man is found stabbed to death in his apartment, she might just get her chance. But then she finds that the victim was a vile Internet Troll, sexually harassing women on Twitter. Hannah starts wondering if she really wants to catch his killer.

And the night is far from over. Only several hours later, a young woman is strangled to death. Detective Jacob Cooper discovers that the victim was lost in her own online world–a recluse who spent all day sucked into a violent online role-playing game. To find the killer, Jacob might have to step into the game.

Now Hannah will have to push aside her qualms, and Jacob will have to find a way to overcome his technophobia, if they want to crack the cases. Their search will take them into the seedier parts of the Internet and uncover shocking secrets as they attempt to expose a killer.-Goodreads

Review: Deadly Web follows the Glenmore Park detectives as they work to solve two different murders. Hannah and her partner are assigned a case of a vile man who harassed women on Twitter. While I found the case itself quite interesting, Hannah grated on my nerves. I felt like her focus was on impressing her higher ups than really wanting to find justice. The 2nd story line, which I thought was really good, involved Mitchell and Lonnie as they investigated a depressed recluse (who is a huge gamer) who is found strangled in her house. 

Overall, I enjoyed it. 

Grade: 3/5

Spider's Web

Book: Spider's Web
Series: Glenmore Park #1
Author: Mike Omer

There’s a killer prowling the streets. He stalks and murders young women seemingly at random, and he always warns them first…
Twenty year old Kendele Byers is savagely killed and buried in a shallow grave. She had a violent past, a bizarre kinky line of work, and the suspect list grows longer every day.

But when another woman is murdered, Detective Mitchell Lonnie realizes that there’s something much more sinister afoot, a connection between the two murders. Both victims had received a clue hinting their incoming demise several minutes before they were attacked. There’s a serial killer in Glenmore Park. Even worse, he seems to be accelerating his murder pace.

Now Mitchell and his partner need to locate the killer before more innocent women die. But when his sister gets involved, Mitchell’s focus begins to unravel. Soon his pursuit becomes personal, and the stakes rise very high… -Goodreads

Review: Spider's Web is a police procedural novel which takes place outside of Boston. A killer stalks, provides warning and then kills young women.  Detective Lonnie and his partner are on the case. 

This book was a nice surprise. I liked how Omer didn't focus on one detective and gave perspective from multiple people on the force. I felt like I was reading the script to a Law & Order episode (and I'm a huge fan of L&O, this was a good thing). This was a mystery but not a "thriller" and I enjoyed the change of pace. 

Grade: 4/5

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Good Sister

Book: The Good Sister
Author: Jess Ryder

When her father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover he led a secret life: another house, another family and a half-sister called Valentina.

Both with red hair and icy blue eyes, Josie and Valentina could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there...

Josie – Sweet, reserved, jealous, thief.
Valentina – Care-free, confident, dangerous, liar.

They share secrets. They tell lies. And for one sister, dark memories begin to surface... Should the other be scared for her life? -Goodreads

Review: The blurb about book sounds amazing. The concept sounds fun. Sisters born within a few days of each other who don't know the other existed until their father dies? Lots of possibilities. Unfortunately, Josie was too sweet and Valentina was too...not sure the correct term but she had no redeeming qualities (I'm talking zero). It's one thing if there is a sociopath or psychopathic main character who can hide their true intentions, but everyone could see Valentina's craziness a mile away (except for Josie).The 'twist' was kind of obvious but definitely the most interesting part of the story. 

Overall, not my favorite but I think this author is talented (Loved 'The Ex-Wife') so I'll definitely read more from her. 

Grade: 2/5

The Ex-Wife

Book: The Ex-Wife
Author: Jess Ryder

Newly married Natasha has the perfect house, a loving husband and a beautiful little girl called Emily. She’d have it all if it wasn’t for Jen, her husband’s ex-wife who just won’t leave them alone …

Then Natasha returns home one day to find her husband and Emily gone without trace. Desperate to get her daughter back, Natasha will do anything even if it means accepting an offer of help from Jen. But can she trust her? And do either of them really know the man they married?

If you loved The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl or The Couple Next Door then this dark, twisting psychological thriller from Amazon chart bestseller Jess Ryder is guaranteed to have you gripped.-Goodreads

Review: Beautiful house? Check. Gorgeous daughter? Check. Husband who is still best friends with his ex-wife? Check. Natasha's almost perfect life is turned upside down when she is locked out of her house and both her husband and child disappear without a trace. Natasha is forced to work with his ex, Jen, to try to find out what happened. Is Jen trustworthy? 

I loved this. I am not a huge audio book fan but I listened to this on audible and want to say I finished it in a day or maybe two. This was past paced and kept me guessing. The end was very far fetched but I thought it was so fun, I didn't even care. 

Grade: 4.5/5

The Kiss Quotient

Book: The Kiss Quotient 
Author: Helen Hoag

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...-Goodreads

Review: Stella is beautiful, brilliant and successful but bad at sex and relationships. So she hires Michael, an escort, to help her in those areas. Stella has Asperger's and has trouble connecting with people (imagine a reverse Pretty Woman of sorts). The good? This was surprisingly steamy! The not as good? While not a bad read, I never really fell in love with either character or their relationship. I could put this book down and not pick it up for days (which is unusual for me). 

Grade: 2.5/5

The Last Time I Lied

Book: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.-Goodread

Review: Twelve year old Emma is excited about summer camp at Camp Nighingale. But her summer comes crashing to a quick end when all of her bunkmates leave one night and disappear, never to be heard from again. 

Years later, Emma is an artist in NY and shocked when she's invited back to Camp Nightingale to teach an art class. She decides it's an opportunity to find out what happened all those years ago and goes. What happens next is fast paced, creepy and a delicious read. I thought this was very well done-a perfect balance of thriller and detective story (if that makes sense). I couldn't stop turning the pages! I also did not see that ending coming, well done Ms. Sager!

Grade: 5/5

The Perfect Mother

Book: The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.-Goodreads

Review: A group of new moms go out for a relaxing girls night when the unthinkable happens: a baby is stolen from his crib while the babysitter is sleeping. Did someone steal the baby or did Winnie, the mother, orchestrate the entire abduction because she was suffering from post-partum depression? While Winnie fades from the circle of moms, three of them find themselves increasingly involved in the investigation. 

This book reminded me of Big Little Lies. Told in alternating narratives, we primarily follow three of the "May Mothers" during the night of the event and the weeks afterward during the investigation. There are a few chapters written from Winnie's POV. This is being marketed as a thriller but I found it read more as fiction that focused more on women, motherhood and friendship. I think where the story lacked a little was that 2 of the main narrators had very similar personalities (working moms who weren't ready to go back to work) and none of the characters were true 'friends.' They all just met a few months earlier because they were having babies in the month of May and their relationship mostly revolved around being new mothers. 

Overall, I liked it. I was interested to see how everything would play out (and I didn't guess the ending, always a huge plus!). 

Grade: 3/5

Iron and Magic

Book: Iron and Magic
Series: The Iron Covenant #1
Author: Ilona Andrews

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she's trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both. -Goodreads

Review: Anyone who reads my reviews knows I'm a HUGE Ilona Andrews fan. HUGE. I was so excited for this book and I'm thrilled to say...I really enjoyed it! Years ago I was on a FB chat with Ilona and Gordon and I was one of several people who suggested a Hugh book (also a Roman book, hopefully that is in the works). I didn't think they would write one but here we are. Yay!

Okay, let's get to the book. Readers of the Kate Daniel's series know Hugh as Roland's warlord. He and Kate bicker, they are well matched in a fight and have some funny exchanges but he isn't known as a good guy. In the last Kate Daniels book, Roland cut him off. This book starts with Hugh drunk and depressed. The Iron Dogs find him and let him know that they told Roland they follow Hugh's command, not his. Roland, being the benevolent person that he is, decided to have all the Iron Dogs hunted down and killed. The ID's need Hugh back to lead and protect them. They have a few problems, namely a lack of food and shelter. Never fear-Hugh's advisers arrange a marriage with the elusive Elara, who has ancient, unknown powers. 

This book had humor, action and of course, a touch of romance. I loved Hugh and Elara together. Mostly, I appreciated that there was no love at first sight. I loved their snarkiness and look forward to the relationship progressing. I like that we don't know the extent to Elara's powers. I also loved that the buda's made an appearance here. I can't wait for the next book in the series!


“Hugh was abandoned by everyone in his life.” Her words rang out. “His parents, his teacher, his surrogate father. They all threw him away. He trusted us. He sacrificed himself to save us. This is his home. I’m his wife. I will not abandon him. Bring the cows.”
Grade: 4/5

Final Girls

Book: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.-Goodreads
Review: Quincy Carpenter is the sole survivor of a massacre that claimed the lives of her close college friends. Dubbed a 'Final Girl' by the press, she's now part of a trio of women who survived horrible crimes. Years later, Quincy seems to put the past behind her. She has a nice NYC apartment, steady boyfriend and Martha Stewart type baking blog. She claims she can't remember anything about the night in question...but is that the truth? She soon finds that the past has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it.

What a fun read. Told in alternating timelines, we follow Quincy and her friends on the fateful night as well as Quincy in the present time frame. In the present time frame, she's sought out by another Final Girl who quickly turns Quincy's life upside down. I enjoyed both narratives equally and while this was slow for 2/3, the last third was pretty action packed. I did not see the end coming and I loved how Sager wrapped up the book. 

I will definitely read more from this author!

Grade: 4/5

The Whip

Book: The Whip
Author: Karen Kondazian

The Whip is inspired by the true story of a woman, Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst (1812-1879) who lived most of her extraordinary life as a man in the old west.

As a young woman in Rhode Island, she fell in love with a runaway slave and had his child. The destruction of her family drove her west to California, dressed as a man, to track the killer.

Charley became a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her.
Charley was the first woman to vote in America (as a man). Her grave lies in Watsonville, California.-Goodreads

Review: This book reminds me of Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Amazing story, not so amazing execution. The Whip is about Charlotte Parkhurst, a woman who survived an orphanage, rape and the murder of her family to live her life as a man, become a stagecoach driver. She heads west to California to catch a killer. This is based on a real life person (also the first woman to ever vote) and it's incredible everything that she lived through. While the writing was not my favoritet, I think this would make a fantastic mini-series. Truly a fascinating woman. 

Grade: 2.5/5

A Steep Price

Book: A Steep Price
Series: Tracy Crosswhite #6
Author: Robert Dugoni

Called in to consult after a young woman disappears, Tracy Crosswhite has the uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary missing-persons case. When the body turns up in an abandoned well, Tracy’s suspicions are confirmed. Estranged from her family, the victim had balked at an arranged marriage and had planned to attend graduate school. But someone cut her dreams short.

Solving the mystery behind the murder isn’t Tracy’s only challenge. The detective is keeping a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. And now her biggest fear seems to be coming true when a new detective arrives to replace her. Meanwhile, Tracy’s colleague Vic Fazzio is about to take a fall after his investigation into the murder of a local community activist turns violent and leaves an invaluable witness dead.

Two careers are on the line. And when more deadly secrets emerge, jobs might not be the only things at risk.-Goodreads

Review: I've loved all the Tracy Crosswhite books but this was a miss for me. When a young woman disappears, Tracy finds herself investigating a missing persons case. The young woman in question was estranged from her family because they wanted her to have an arranged marriage while she wanted to attend medical school. There wasn't much to this mystery, it was quite clear who the culprit was early on. The other story line focused on Vic as he is kidnapped trying to solve a murder. I think his portions were stronger than Tracy's. 

Overall, not my favorite but I'll definitely continue with the series. 

Grade: 2/5

Jane Doe

Book: Jane Doe
Author: Victoria Helen Stone

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.-Goodreads

ReviewJane is an attorney masquerading as a low level office worker, with one purpose. She's seeking revenge on the man she believes is responsible for her best friend's suicide. Jane has a plan to integrate herself into Steve Hepsworth's life and then ruin it. While the plot itself wasn't as juicy as I was hoping (Jane is a sociopath but not a violent one like Dexter), I absolutely loved being inside Jane's head. She's snarky. She's sharp. She's witty. She has great observations about everyone and everything around her. If you are looking for something a little different and fun, give this book a try!

“I’d heard it before, of course, usually from my mother. A nasty, cold-blooded, selfish, grasping, uppity, ungrateful goddamn little bitch. And I know that to be true. I could feel the coldness in my own veins.”

"That first time I read about sociopaths, I felt filled up with a bright light that was equal parts terror and joy. Finally—finally!—I understood. It was scary to know the truth, yes, but not nearly as frightening as ignorance… later research at the county library assured me that most people like me don’t grow up to be killers. We lie and manipulate and take advantage, but usually that just makes us great at business. Yay for capitalism… "

“Even a sociopath likes to hear that she’s beautiful.”

"Don’t believe the movies about us. Being a sociopath doesn’t automatically make someone a genius at killing. I’m learning on the job here."

Grade: 4/5

Thursday, July 26, 2018

All the Beautiful Lies

Book: All the Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson

Harry Ackerson has always considered his stepmother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an "otherworldly" way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, Harry returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help each other pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth-Goodreads

Review: When his father dies suddenly twenty-two year old Harry returns home to spend time with his beautiful, 35-year old step-mother. Harry ends up helping at his father's bookstore when he meets a young woman who claims his father was murdered. Harry isn't sure what to think..could his beautiful step-mother have had something to do with it? Or was it really suicide or an accident? 

Overall, I enjoyed this book but it was extremely slow. The found the back half more interesting. 

Grade: 3/5

Educated: A Memoir

Book: Educated: A Memoir
Author: Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.-Goodreads

Review: Fantastic. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Go out and read this book people! This is an outstanding story about a woman born to a fundamentalist family who doesn't believe in education or modern medicine. Forced to work in her father's (unsafe) junkyard from a young age and abused by one of her siblings, Tara eventually finds her way to BYU, Cambridge and Harvard. Inspirational-a must read. 

Grade: 5/5

The Lying Game

Book: The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister...

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).-Goodreads

Review: This is my second Ruth Ware book. I wasn't impressed with 'In a Dark, Dark Wood' and I wasn't impressed with this. Four girls are best friends as teenagers (well, in this case they were at school for less than a year together), did something bad, go their separate ways, come back together in their 30s when one of the girls summons the others and eventually the "bad deed" is revealed. While I think the premise of the book is good and this could have been interesting, the characters were flat, it lacked suspense and it was predictable. I didn't believe the tight friendship of the girls as teens and our narrator, Isa, was so dry and boring. When the bad deed was revealed I couldn't help thinking....that was it? 

Grade: 2/5

The Lies They Tell

Book: The Lies They Tell
Author: Gillian French

Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor, Maine, knows about the Garrison tragedy. How an unexplained fire ravaged their house, killing four of the five family members. But what people don’t know is who did it. All fingers point at Pearl Haskins’s father, the town drunk, who was the caretaker of the property, but she just can’t believe it. Leave it to a town of rich people to blame “the help.”

With her disgraced father now trying to find work in between booze benders, Pearl’s future doesn’t hold much more than waiting tables at the local country club, where the wealthy come to flaunt their money and spread their gossip. This year, Tristan, the last surviving Garrison, and his group of affluent and arrogant friends have made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section. Though she’s repulsed by most of them, Tristan’s quiet sadness and somber demeanor have her rethinking her judgments. Befriending the boys could mean getting closer to the truth, clearing her father’s name, and giving Tristan the closure he seems to be searching for. But it could also trap Pearl in a sinister web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that, once untangled, will leave no life unchanged . . . if it doesn’t take hers first.-Goodreads
Review: When the wealthy Garrison family is killed in a suspicious home fire, their teenage son is lucky to have been out of town surviving the flames. Pearl's father was manning the gate that night and swore he didn't see anything, but that doesn't stop him from losing work over the suspicion he had something to do with it. Six months later, Pearl finds herself hanging out with a group of wealthy boys, including Tristan Garrison. Can she figure out what happened and salvage her father's reputation?

I really wanted to love this book but it was so slow and boring. There was no mystery who set the fire, it was clear from the first chapter. Overall, a disappointment. 

Grade: 2/5

The First Time She Drowned

Book: The First Time She Drowned
Author: Kerry Kletter

Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?-Goodreads

Review: The mother/daughter relationship is extremely complex for most of us. Add a mentally ill mother in that mix and it's a whole new ballgame. My heart absolutely broke for Cassie throughout the book. While I hated her mother with every fiber of my being, I could understand how Cassie continued to try to win her love. Just heartwrenching. 

Some quotes I highlighted:

Suddenly I don’t even care that I fell, because of that brief moment when I stood, and I wonder if this is what other people seem to have that I do not—this courage to fall because they have the memory of standing.

James, who insisted every day that I see my own worth beyond my mother’s rejecting eyes. But of course, a mother’s eyes are the very first mirror we look into, the image that gets imprinted on our souls—whether they gaze back at us with love or with disgust. So I don’t know how to differentiate between her perceptions of me and my own when hers were the first I’ve ever known, so deeply ingrained from the second I hit the world.

...being healthy is being able to hold and remember who people actually are instead of who we wish they were. It’s a daily struggle against a brain that tends to want to cling to fairy-tale hope, but it’s also the only way to guarantee a life surrounded by those who build rather than destroy. In the end, the loss is about letting go of what I never had in the first place.

Grade: 4.5/5

What Happened to Cass McBride?

Book: What Happened to Cass McBride?
Author: Gail Giles

Kyle Kirby has planned a cruel and unusual revenge on Cass McBride, the most popular girl in school, for the death of his brother David. He digs a hole. Drugs Cass. Kidnaps her. Puts her in a box-underground. He buries her alive. But Kyle makes a fatal error: Cass knows the power of words. She uses fear as her weapon to keep her nemesis talking - and to keep herself breathing during the most harrowing 48 hours of her life. -Goodreads
Review: After asking out Cass McBride, one of the most popular girls in school and being rejected, David Kirby kills himself. Seeking revenge, his brother Kyle kidnaps Cass and buries her alive. 

This book was a surprise. Told in alternating chapters, we follow both Cass and Kyle. Cass, while not an angel, is also not your typical "mean girl." She's goal oriented and has a life plan.When she finds herself buried alive, she has to use the only thing at her disposal, her ability to communicate with her captor, to try to stay alive. I liked her resilience. Where this book was a total surprise (for me) was Kyle. I was uncomfortable reading about Kyle's history (childhood and family dynamics), because it resonated with me. At times I felt like the author and I must have been raised in similar homes. It was eery. 

Grade: 4/5

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Kept Woman

Book: The Kept Woman
Series: Will Trent #8
Author: Karin Slaughter

With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.

Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn't belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.

Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.

But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.-Goodreads

Review: Another excellent installment in the Will Trent series. Will's childhood friend/estranged wife Angie has been a polarizing figure throughout this series. Here we are given a close and personal look into her life. And I have to say...Angie might not be a great human being most of the time, but she sure is interesting to read about. I was shocked to find myself rooting for her to succeed in her shenanigans.

Dark, gritty, filled with dynamic characters. Loved it! 

Grade: 4.5/5


Book: Unseen
Series: Will Trent #7
Author: Karin Slaughter

Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. The cover has worked and he has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer who thinks he might be a useful ally. But undercover and cut off from the support of the woman he loves, Sara Linton, Will finds his demons catching up with him.

Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s shooting is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.-Goodreads

Review: Will is working undercover in Macon (I had a hard time imagining this) while Sara is also in Macon because her step-son Jared has been shot. Sara blames Jared's wife, Lena, for the death of her husband and is convinced Lena had something to do with what happened to Jared as well. Sara doesn't know Will is undercover and is furious when she finds out. 

As mentioned previously, while Will has grown on me, my favorite characters in this series are Faith and Amanda. This book was light on them and heavy on Sara, Will's girlfriend, who I find better in small doses. Her annoyance at Lena got old fast and her frustration at Will doing his job was even more annoying. I did enjoy the mystery part of this but it was too much Sara. 

Grade: 3/5


Book: Criminal
Series: Will Trent #6
Author: Karin Slaughter

Will Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Newly in love, he is beginning to put a difficult past behind him. Then a local college student goes missing, and Will is inexplicably kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot fathom Amanda’s motivation until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before, when his father was imprisoned for murder, this was Will’s home. It appears that the case that launched Amanda’s career forty years ago has suddenly come back to life—and it involves the long-held mystery of Will’s birth and parentage. Now these two dauntless investigators will each need to face down demons from the past if they are to prevent an even greater terror from being unleashed.-Goodreads
Review: It's hard to keep a series fresh after awhile but Karin Slaughter doesn't have that problem here. In fact, 'Criminal' is my favorite book in the series to date. I LOVED IT. Will Trent is not your typical alpha-male type investigator. He's a damaged man with a tragic past and I'll admit, I didn't love him at first but he's grown on me throughout the series. But my favorites in these books are the side characters, particularly Will's partner Faith and his boss, Amanda. In this installment, Amanda and Evelyn (Faith's mother) are the standout characters in one timeline as we follow their careers in the mid-70s. I thought this storyline was absolute perfection. We learn so much about Evelyn and Amanda and it provides a lot of insight into Amanda's actions in present day. I almost teared up at one point! In the present day timeline, we follow Will as he tries to solve a case that may or may not involve his father. 

Loved it!

Grade: 5/5


Book: Fallen
Series: Will Trent #5
Author: Karin Slaughter

There's no police training stronger than a cop's instinct. Faith Mitchell's mother isn't answering her phone. Her front door is open. There's a bloodstain above the knob. Her infant daughter is hidden in a shed behind the house. All that the Georgia Bureau of Investigations taught Faith Mitchell goes out the window when she charges into her mother's house, gun drawn. She sees a man dead in the laundry room. She sees a hostage situation in the bedroom. What she doesn't see is her mother. . . .

""You know what we're here for. Hand it over, and we'll let her go.""

When the hostage situation turns deadly, Faith is left with too many questions, not enough answers. To find her mother, she'll need the help of her partner, Will Trent, and they'll both need the help of trauma doctor Sara Linton. But Faith isn't just a cop anymore--she's a witness. She's also a suspect.

The thin blue line hides police corruption, bribery, even murder. Faith will have to go up against the people she respects the most in order to find her mother and bring the truth to light--or bury it forever. -Goodreads

Review: Another great book in the Will Trent series. Fast paced and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Grade: 4/5

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Song of Achilles

Book: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.-Goodreads

Review: The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Illiad, told from the perspective of Petroclus, Achilles closest friend and confidant. I loved Miller's take on Patroclus and Achilles relationship, she did a good (and believable) job of creating young men who don't quite fit in but find solace in each other. The writing was beautiful and I could visualize characters (especially Thetis). The Trojan War section dragged a little for me but overall, I really enjoyed this. 

Grade: 4/5

Not That I Could Tell

Book: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.-Goodreads

Review: A group of women gather for a night of drinking and the next morning, one of them has disappeared with her two young children. Kristin was in the middle of a divorce, did her ex have something to do with her disappearance or did she leave on her own? The book primarily follows neighbors Clara (Kristin's closest friend) and Izzy (another neighbor hung up on her brother-in-law) in the aftermath. We are treated to a few very short sections from Kristin's point of view leading up to the disappearance. 

This book reminded me a lot of Big Little Lies, unfortunately without the humor or engaging story line. While this book deals with an important topic and really nails how things can appear perfect on the outside but anything can happen behind closed doors, it was incredibly slow, boring and predictable. 

This had a lot of potential but fell flat for me. 

Grade: 2/5

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Life She Was Given

Book: The Life She was Given
Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.-Goodreads

Review: Lilly Blackwood has lived in an attic her entire life. The only people she knows are her mother and father. Her mother calls her an abomination and while her father spends more time with her, he won't even hug her. Her life is forever changed when her mother drags her from the attic one night and sells her to the circus as part of the freak show. Lilly, an albino, has to learn to survive on her own. In a separate timeline approx. 20 years later, we follow Julia Blackwood as she returns home to the Blackwood estate upon her mother's death. 

Yes, this book is similar to Water for Elephants and yes, the author gets several things wrong about albino's (eye color being the glaring one). That being said, I still enjoyed this thoroughly and really empathized with Lilly, especially her childhood years in the attic. I was frustrated with her decision making at the end of the book but could understand where she was coming from. Like most books with different timelines, Lilly's narrative was much stronger and interesting than Julia's. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this. 

Grade: 4/5

The Killing Lessons

Book: The Killing Lessons
Series: Valerie Hart #1
Author: Saul Black

When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims--women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them--has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she's losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn't quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena's ten-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more dangerous than what she's running from.

In this extraordinary, pulse-pounding debut, Saul Black takes us deep into the mind of a psychopath, and into the troubled heart of the woman determined to stop him.-Goodreads

Review: This book starts out strong-strong and extremely violent. A woman and her 2 children live in a remote Colorado town and never even bother to lock the front door. Their life is forever changed when two psychotic killers walk right in. Detective Valerie Hart has been chasing these killers for awhile and will stop at nothing to find them. 

This book started very strong and I liked the point of view of both Valerie and the killer. Valerie herself was your typical "this case has turned me into a functioning alcoholic detective that is good at my job but a hot mess in my personal life" that seems commonplace these days but I still enjoyed her as a character. It did drag in the middle and the 'big break' of how Valerie identifies the killer was beyond comprehension. I'll refrain from spoilers but I don't see that ever happening in real life. Huge reality jump.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. 

Grade: 3/5

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Friend

Book: The Friend
Author: Teresa Driscoll

On a train with her husband, miles from home and their four-year-old son, Ben, Sophie receives a chilling phone call. Two boys are in hospital after a tragic accident. One of them is Ben.

She thought she could trust Emma, her new friend, to look after her little boy. After all, Emma’s a kindred spirit—someone Sophie was sure she could bare her soul to, despite the village rumours. But Sophie can’t shake the feeling that she’s made an unforgivable mistake and now her whole family is in danger.

Because how well does she know Emma, really? Should she have trusted her at all?

Time is running out. Powerless to help her child, still hours from home, Sophie is about to discover the truth. And her life will never be the same.-Goodreads

Review: Sophie is a stay-at-home mom to 4-year old Ben. When single mom Emma moves into the village with a young son, they become friends. Emma rubs everyone the wrong way but Sophie can't see it-she's thrilled to have a new friend and someone for Ben to play with. Told almost exclusively from Sophie's point of view, we follow a present day time frame where Sophie is on a train and has discovered something has happened to Ben and another timeline, a few months earlier, as the women develop their friendship. 

I enjoyed this book but there was a big miss here with Emma. This book is almost entirely Sophie's point of view (with a few chapters from Emma and Sophie's husband). I think a more even split with Emma would have spiced things up quite a bit. 

Grade: 3/5

Sometimes I Lie

Book: Sometimes I Lie
Author: Alice Feeney

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth?-Goodreads

Review: You know those books you read where they are super slow in the beginning but the back half blows you away? This is one of those books. It started very 'blah' for me and I was bored with 'coma Amber' and 'Amber leading up to the coma.' I'm glad I stuck with it because I loved the second half of the book and couldn't put it down. 

This was a slow burn with a great ending. Loved it!

Grade: 4.5/5