Friday, October 30, 2020

In an Instant

Book: In an Instant
Author: Suzanne Redfearn

Life is over in an instant for sixteen-year-old Finn Miller when a devastating car accident tumbles her and ten others over the side of a mountain. Suspended between worlds, she watches helplessly as those she loves struggle to survive.

Impossible choices are made, decisions that leave the survivors tormented with grief and regret. Unable to let go, Finn keeps vigil as they struggle to reclaim their shattered lives. Jack, her father, who seeks vengeance against the one person he can blame other than himself; her best friend, Mo, who bravely searches for the truth as the story of their survival is rewritten; her sister Chloe, who knows Finn lingers and yearns to join her; and her mother, Ann, who saved them all but is haunted by her decisions. Finn needs to move on, but how can she with her family still in pieces?-Goodreads

Review: This book was recommended to me on Kindle and I started it without reading a synopsis (tt was also a Kindle Unlimited book which is often hit or miss). I'm so glad I read this. After Finn is killed in a terrible car accident, she watches her family and friends in the aftermath. Kind of similar to The Lovely Bones in that regard but this isn't a murder mystery per say like that is. I found this well written, emotional and I really loved most of the characters. 

Grade: 5/5

How to Be a Family: the Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together

Book: How to Be a Family: the Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together
Author: Dan Kois

What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family?

Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, they scheduled their children's time wisely, and when they weren't arguing over screen time, the Kois family-Dan, his wife Alia, and their two pre-teen daughters-could each be found searching for their own happiness. But aren't families supposed to achieve happiness together?

In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois' go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home-but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble.

HOW TO BE A FAMILY brings readers along as the Kois girls-witty, solitary, extremely online Lyra and goofy, sensitive, social butterfly Harper-like through the Kiwi bush, ride bikes to a Dutch school in the pouring rain, battle iguanas in their Costa Rican kitchen, and learn to love a town where everyone knows your name. Meanwhile, Dan interviews neighbors, public officials, and scholars to learn why each of these places work the way they do. Will this trip change the Kois family's lives? Or do families take their problems and conflicts with them wherever we go?-Goodread

Review: Unpopular opinion time. This was a book club read and everyone seemingly loved this one...yes, everyone except for me. This reminded me a lot of Eat, Pray, Love: Family Style. I understand from a few of my friend's that Kois has a popular podcast and they think he's super funny and relatable but I found him grating the entire book. He spent a lot of time talking about his eldest daughter, who had trouble fitting in. I really think some longer sections written from his wife's point of view and both of his daughter's could have made this more interesting. Overall, not my favorite but everyone else I know gave it 4 to 5 stars, so maybe it's just me. 

Grade: 2/5

Beautiful Demons Box Set: Books 1-3

Book: Beautiful Demons Box Set: Books 1-3
Author: Sarra Cannon

Beautiful Demons
In Peachville, even the cheerleaders have a dark side...

Harper Madison isn't like other girls. She has extraordinary powers, but her inability to control them has gotten her kicked from so many foster homes she's lost count. Shadowford Home for Girls is her last chance, and she hopes Peachville High will be the fresh start she needs.

But when evidence ties her to the gruesome murder of a Demons cheerleader, Harper discovers this small town has a big secret.

Inner Demons
Becoming a Demons cheerleader was the last thing Harper Madison expected when she moved to the small town of Peachville. She's willing to do whatever it takes, though, to get the answers she needs about her mother and about her own strange powers.

Now that she's an official member of the squad, her training can begin. Only, this is no normal group of cheerleaders. The training opens up a new world for Harper. It's a world of beauty and magic beyond her wildest dreams, but also a world of pressure and impossible expectations.

A world where every secret hides an even darker secret.

Bitter Demons
So far, life in Peachville has been tough for Harper Madison. She's survived attacks on her life, learned how to control her magic and met the most gorgeous boy with an unbelievable secret. After her latest stunt at Brighton Hospital, life has gotten even more complicated. The Order of Shadows is determined to tighten their control on her life.

When a future Prima from a nearby demon gate comes to town, she and Harper decide to use glamours to switch places at a party. All Harper wants is to have a little fun.

But the night will end in blood.

And Harper will find out the attack was meant for her..-Goodreads

Review: I enjoyed Cannon's YA urban fantasy series featuring Harper. Harper is a foster kid with extraordinary powers who finds herself in a new town with secrets. I liked the world building and felt most of the characters were fleshed out. I wanted to shake Harper a lot reading this but she is a teenager, some bad decision making is going to happen. Overall liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Sacrifice Me: Season One

Book: Sacrifice Me: Season One
Author: Sarra Cannon

On her twenty-first birthday, Franki Smith receives a dozen black roses and an unsigned invitation to a nightclub. Two handwritten words near the top haunt her. "Little Bird." Her mother's nickname for her.

Only, Franki's mother disappeared without a trace exactly three years ago to the day.

And the nightclub doesn’t seem to exist.

Who sent the dark gift? Franki's need to answer this question leads her to the doorway of a strange and glamorous new world. A world her mother went to great lengths to keep hidden.

A world someone desperately wants Franki to discover, where forbidden romance and dangerous truths await.-Goodreads

Review: While I found Franki an interesting character with a lot of potential, the world building was lacking in this series. Upon further research, this is the 2nd book in this world and I should have read that book first. Overall, it was okay but I would definitely give this author another try. 

Grade: 2.5/5

The Dark Light of Day

Book: The Dark Light of Day
Series: King #0
Author: TM Frazier

Homeless, sleeping in a junkyard, and on the run from a system that has failed her over and over again, Abby meets Jake, a tattooed blue-eyed biker with secrets that rival her own. Two broken souls that can't be healed, they can't be saved. Abby and Jake have to decide if they can accept the darkness not only within one another, but within themselves.

If they can accept each other for who they really are they might learn that love isn't always found in the light...-Goodreads

Review: Have you ever read a book that snuck up on you? This one did. It was an interesting story about Abby (tragic backstory but trying to do good) and Jake (tragic backstory, not on the best path). The material is not for everyone (abuse, drugs, graphic violence) but these two "worked." I didn't find Jake's profession realistic or necessary for the book (although this is part of a series and I'm not sure how he plays into the other books) but I did like how Frazier handled their relationship, especially at the end. What surprised me the most was Abby and Jake's father. Surprisingly heartwarming. 

Grade: 4/5

Lying Next to Me

Book: Lying Next to Me
Author: Greg Olsen

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug—and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of a puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know—or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married.-Goodreads

Review: Adam witnesses his wife's abduction..or did he? Olsen certainly crafts an interesting story but unlikeable characters made it hard for me to really sink my teeth into this story. Sometimes evil characters are fun, in this case, they leaned more towards boring. I figured out most of the final twist and overall liked this, but it didn't "wow" me. I think it could be a really good mini-series though. 

Grade: 3/5


Book: Mercy
Series: Brigham Theodore #2
Author: Victor Methos

Brigham Theodore is a courtroom brawler, a criminal defense attorney who spends his time slugging it out with the government in court. A year after winning his biggest case, he finds himself at a new firm defending clients of every kind. Drug dealers, gangsters, con men and thugs are the people he defends every day. For him, the fight is what matters.

As the new hotshot lawyer in town, Brigham is referred an engineer accused of euthanizing his wife who was dying of pancreatic cancer. Brigham believes the case to be an easy one, a plea deal down the line for a sympathetic husband. But Vince Dale, once the prosecutor on Brigham's biggest case and now the County Attorney, remembers the sting of defeat and refuses to make a plea bargain on the case. With nothing left to lose, Brigham must use every ounce of fight he has in him to defend a man who has the full weight of the government pressing down on him, and who might not survive it.-Goodreads

Review: Brigham Theodore is back, this time defending a man accused of euthanizing his cancer stricken wife. Methos is best crafting courtroom scenes and letting the readers see how an attorney works. The romance storyline with Brigham and Molly could have been left out entirely and while I really enjoy how the story was crafted, the ending was not logical. 

Grade: 3/5

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Neon Lawyer

Book: The Neon Lawyer
Series: Brigham Theodore
Author: Victor Methos

With money and hope in short supply, newly minted attorney Brigham Theodore decides it’s time to lower his standards. He joins a seedy fly-by-night firm in Salt Lake City out of desperation. After he loses his first case—a speeding ticket—he’s convinced his career is over. But to his shock, his boss hands him a slightly more complex case: capital murder.

Brigham’s new client is Amanda Pierce, a lost, exhausted woman who gunned down the man who tortured and killed her six-year-old daughter. A jury may prove sympathetic to her unbearable pain, but the law is no fan of vigilante justice—and neither is Vince Dale, the slick and powerful prosecutor who’s never lost a murder case. There’s no question that Amanda pulled the trigger—she did it in front of five witnesses. If she pleads guilty, she will avoid a death sentence, but saving her life this way comes with an admission that what she did was wrong. However, if she refuses the “guilty” label, Brigham will have no choice but to fight for his career—and Amanda’s life. -Goodreads

Review: Another legal thriller by Victor Methos. This book reminded me a lot of 'A Time to Kill' although not as layered. I think Brigham Theodore has an intereting backstory and a lot of potential as a strong lead. Overall I enjoyed it although it was predictable. 

Grade: 3/5

A Killer's Wife

Book: A Killer's Wife
Series: Desert Plains #1
Author: Victor Methos

Fourteen years ago, prosecutor Jessica Yardley’s husband went to prison for a series of brutal murders. She’s finally created a life with her daughter and is a well-respected attorney. She’s moving on. But when a new rash of homicides has her ex-husband, Eddie, written all over them—the nightmares of her past come back to life.

The FBI asks Jessica to get involved in the hunt for this copycat killer—which means visiting her ex and collaborating with the man who tore her life apart.

As the copycat’s motives become clearer, the new life Jessica created for herself gets darker. She must ask herself who she can trust and if she’s capable of stopping the killer—a man whose every crime is a bloody valentine from a twisted mastermind she’s afraid she may never escape.-Goodreads

Review: An enjoyable legal thriller from Victor Method. Jessica Yardley is a strong protagonist (albeit one with terrible taste in men) and I loved her daughter. Good new series.  

Grade: 4/5

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Book: Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Author: Erik Larsen

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.-Goodreads

Review: This was an interesting, albeit extremely boring at times, account of Isaac's Storm, a hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. I love Erik Larsen and his attention to detail but this one dragged for me. 

Grade: 3/5

The Demon

Book: The Demon

Author: Sarra Cannon

On her twenty-first birthday, Franki Smith receives a dozen black roses and an unsigned invitation to a nightclub that doesn't seem to exist. Two handwritten words near the top haunt her. "Little Bird." Her mother's nickname for her.

Only, Franki's mother disappeared without a trace exactly three years ago to the day.

Who sent this dark gift? Franki's need to answer this question will lead her to the doorway of a strange, dangerous, and sexy new world. A world her mother went to great lengths to keep hidden.

A world someone desperately wants Franki to discover.

See the world of Peachville High Demons series from the eyes of a brand new, kickass heroine. You do NOT need to have read the original Peachville series to understand this one!-Goodreads

Review: After reading some heavy books about abusive parents, I needed a change of pace and tried this new urban fantasy series. This book read more like a prologue than a finished product but I was interested enough to read the entire installment. 

Grade: 3/5

Me & Emma

Book: Me & Emma
Author: Elizabeth Frock

In many ways, Carrie Parker is like any other eight-year-old—playing make-believe, going to school, dreaming of faraway places. But even in her imagination, she can't pretend away the hardships of her impoverished North Carolina home or protect her younger sister, Emma.

As the big sister, Carrie is determined to do anything to keep Emma safe from a life of neglect and abuse at the hands of their drunken stepfather, Richard—abuse their momma can't seem to see, let alone stop.

But after the sisters' plan to run away from home unravels, Carrie's world takes a shocking turn—and one shattering moment ultimately reveals a truth that leaves everyone reeling.-Goodreads

Review: An absolutely devastating account of abuse from the perspective of an eight year old, at the hands of her alcoholic stepfather. While not overly graphic, the story really grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let me go. I thought about this for awhile after finishing it. Heartbreaking. 

Grade: 4/5

Regretting You

Book: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.-Goodreads

Review: I love several of Hoover's books/series and she is no doubt a talented writer, but this book was a 'miss' for me. I could not relate to Morgan at all (in terms of her being a stay at home mom who seemingly wants more out of life but has never done anything about it, she reminded me a little of Kate from Firefly Lane). The purpose of this book is Morgan and Clara healing from the death of Chris (Morgan's husband and Clara's father), rebuilding their mother/daughter relationship and Morgan following her heart. The big reveal was very obvious and while I'll avoid spoilers, Morgan chooses to burn something at the end of the book that I don't see any wife actually doing in real life. 

While I didn't love this, I will continue to read Hoover because anyone who can write Verity knows how to craft a story. Hopefully her next one will blow me away. 

Grade: 2/5

The Pale-Faced Lie

Book: The Pale-Faced Lie
Author: David Crow

Growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation, David Crow and his three siblings idolized their dad. Tall, strong, smart, and brave, the self-taught Cherokee regaled his family with stories of his World War II feats. But as time passed, David discovered the other side of Thurston Crow, the ex-con with his own code of ethics that justified cruelty, violence, lies—even murder.

A shrewd con artist with a genius IQ, Thurston intimidated David with beatings to coerce him into doing his criminal bidding. David’s mom, too mentally ill to care for her children, couldn’t protect him. One day, Thurston packed up the house and took the kids, leaving her with nothing. Soon he remarried, and David learned that his stepmother was just as vicious and abusive as his father.

Through sheer determination, and with the help of a few angels along the way, David managed to get into college and achieve professional success. When he finally found the courage to stop helping his father with his criminal activities, he unwittingly triggered a plot of revenge that would force him into a showdown with Thurston Crow. With lives at stake, including his own, David would have only twenty-four hours to outsmart his father—the brilliant, psychotic man who bragged that the three years he spent in the notorious San Quentin State Prison had been the easiest time of his life.-Goodreads

Review: Readers who enjoyed The Glass Castle and Educated may like this memoir about David Crow, a man with an alcoholic, abusive father and mentally ill mother. I found David's story equally fascinating and horrifying. No child should go through what David and his siblings did in their youth. And anyone who has grown up with a manipulative parent knows how hard it can be to break free, even as an adult. 

Dad always had more compassion for animals than he did for humans. I was almost jealous of that poor coyote. Why couldn’t he show the same kindness toward his four children and their mom?

“You can’t change your childhood, but you can let it go,” he said.

Grade: 4/5

Baby Teeth

Book: Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.-Goodreads

Review: I loved this book. It was dark, devious and most definitely not a book for everyone. I haven't dived in the reviews but I would suspect a lot of either "I loved it" or "I hated it" and few in-between. The characters are all unlikable for the most part and as a parent, it was straight up uncomfortable to read at times. It reminded me a lot of "We Need to Talk About Kevin." In this book we also have a clueless father, a woman who probably shouldn't have had kids but is trying her best and a child that may or may not be a budding sociopath. 

Grade: 5/5

The Dalai Lama's Cat

Book: The Dalai Lama's Cat

Author: David Michie

Not so much fly-on-the-wall as cat-on-the-sill, this is the warmhearted tale of a small kitten rescued from the slums of New Delhi who finds herself in a beautiful sanctuary with sweeping views of the snow-capped Himalayas. In her exotic new home, the Dalai Lama’s cat encounters Hollywood stars, Buddhist masters, Ivy-league professors, famous philanthropists, and a host of other people who come visiting His Holiness. Each encounter offers a fresh insight into finding happiness and meaning in the midst of a life of busy-ness and challenge. Drawing us into her world with her adorable but all-too-flawed personality, the Dalai Lama’s cat discovers how instead of trying to change the world, changing the way we experience the world is the key to true contentment.

Featuring a delightful cast of characters, timeless Buddhist wisdom, and His Holiness’s compassion pervading every chapter, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is simply enchanting.-Goodreads

Review: This is a cute, short read introducing readers to the basics of Buddhism from the perspective of the HHC, the Dalai Lama's Cat. I think cat lovers (sorry, I'm team dog) would probably enjoy this more than dog people but even I'll admit, I chuckled at the cat's thoughts sometimes. She is quite a character!! If you are a looking for a quick, easy read, try this one. 

Grade: 3/5

Dear Edward

Book: Dear Edward
Author: Ann Napolitano 

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself?
 How do you discover your purpose?-Goodreads

Review: A 12-year old boy is the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash. The author weaves timelines of passengers on the plane prior to the crash and Edward's life afterwards.

I was expecting a tear jerker and while this had some emotional elements, it was really filled with more hope and inspiration. I loved Lacey and John, his mother's sister and her husband who took Edward in after the crash. Loved Edward's friendship with his neighbor. Overall, really enjoyable. 

*Also worth noting that the author had the idea about this book based on the crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 in 2010. The flight crashed killing 103 passengers, a 9-year old Dutch boy was the sole survivor. 

Grade: 4/5

Sapphire Flames

Book: Sapphire Flames
Series: Hidden Legacy #4
Author: Ilona Andrews

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.-Goodreads

Review: It's tough switching main characters in a series when the initial main character, Nevada, is all-around perfection. I will admit the new protagonist, Nevada's younger sister Catalina, had to grow on me. Once I was halfway through the book, I officially became a fan. Loved Catalina's interactions with her family and love that the Andrews writing team made her a different personality and really differentiated her from her older sister. Catalina has a different skill set, different way of interacting with people and was still a strong female lead. I'm interested to see how the romance progresses in the next few books. 

"Failure is the best teacher, and fear is the best motivator. Of the three of you, you’re the most like me. You’re smart like me. You’re sensitive like me. The world cuts you deeply, and it will either kill you, or you will grow armor the way I did."

Grade: 4.5/5

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Other Einstein

Book: The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict

In the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein's enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein's wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight.

Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed this book about Einstein's first wife, Mitza. The story itself was fascinating enough to me that I did a lot of research on Einstein, Mitza, their marriage and the events as to how they are portrayed here.

Grade: 4/5