Thursday, May 4, 2023

Remarkably Bright Creatures

Book: Remarkably Bright Creatures
Author: Shelly Van Pelt

After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she's been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors--until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova's son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it's too late.-Goodreads

Review: Based on the synopsis for this book, I was expecting a friendship and mystery of sorts between Tova and Marcellus, the octopus. I'd classify this more as fiction, with the main characters being Tova, a stoic woman who cleans the aquarium and mourns her missing son, and Cameron, a 30-year old whiny man-child who was abandoned by his mother as a child. Marcellus, the best written character in this story, was a side character-an absolutely amazing side character who deserves all the stars, I just wish there was more of him. 

Kudos to Ven Pelt on her first novel, it's well written and as mentioned above, Marcellus is the chef's kiss. I just could not stand Cameron and wanted to throat punch him every time I had to read a chapter from his perspective. I think his character could have worked if he was in his late teens and/or had had a traumatic childhood. 

Overall, enjoyed this and will read the next book by this author. 

Grade: 3/5 

Love On the Brain

Book: Love on the Brain
Author: Ali Hazelwood

Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project - a literal dream come true - Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school - archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

But when her equipment starts to go missing and the staff ignore her, Bee could swear she sees Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas... devouring her with those eyes. The possibilities have all her neurons firing.

But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there's only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?-Goodreads

Review: The positive? I like the STEM focus of this book, it's unusual to see a love story between a neuroscientist and engineer. Bee was very quirky and a unique heroine. I liked the relationship she had with her sister. The not so positive? Levi had no personality and I did not find their relationship believable. Also, and I realize this is nitpicking, but I live in Houston exactly where this book takes place and it's clear the author did zero research into the area. My husband used to work onsite and most of my friends and neighbors do as well. No one (NO ONE) refers to NASA as "the center." No one can get onsite without a badge or going through security. There is no graveyard close to JSC. You cannot see the Houston skyline from here. Bee's wardrobe was not dress code appropriate (these are all things that happen or are referenced in the book). Please, research an area if you are writing about it. 

Grade: 2/5 


Book: Creep
Series: Creep #1
Author: Jennifer Hillier

If he can’t have her . . .

Dr. Sheila Tao is a professor of psychology. An expert in human behavior. And when she began an affair with sexy, charming graduate student Ethan Wolfe, she knew she was playing with fire. Consumed by lust when they were together, riddled with guilt when they weren’t, she knows the three-month fling with her teaching assistant has to end. After all, she’s finally engaged to a kind and loving investment banker who adores her, and she’s taking control of her life. But when she attempts to end the affair, Ethan Wolfe won’t let her walk away.

. . . no one else can.

Ethan has plans for Sheila, plans that involve posting a sex video that would surely get her fired and destroy her prestigious career. Plans to make her pay for rejecting him. And as she attempts to counter his every threatening move without her colleagues or her fiancé discovering her most intimate secrets, a shattering crime rocks Puget Sound State University: a female student, a star athlete, is found stabbed to death. Someone is raising the stakes of violence, sex, and blackmail . . . and before she knows it, Sheila is caught in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with the lover she couldn’t resist—who is now the monster who won’t let her go.-Goodreads

Review: This was a creepy novel with almost all unlikeable characters and I couldn't stop turning the pages. Professor Sheila Tao is a recovering sex addict who had an affair with her grad student. He does not take it well when she breaks things off. To top it off, Sheila is engaged to Morris, a recovering alcoholic (the only character I liked although he's written almost in caricature form) who knows nothing about her addiction. This definitely went in a direction I was not expecting. Really enjoyed it!

Grade: 4/5 

The Fix

Book: The Fix
Series: Amos Decker #3
Author: David Baldacci

Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution-style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself.

Even with Decker's extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter--a family man with a successful consulting business--and his victim, a schoolteacher. Nor is there a hint of any possible motive for the attack.

Enter Harper Brown. An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, she orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team aren't cleared for it.

But they learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government--or worse, an international terrorist group--and an attack may be imminent.-Goodreads

Review: I keep reading this series because I love the idea of the main character. This was a weird read in that I actually felt like Amos was written by a different author and very different from the other books but I really enjoyed the mystery here. 

Grade: 3/5 

Do Not Disturb

Book: Do Not Disturb
Author: Freida McFadden

Quinn Alexander has committed an unthinkable crime.

To avoid spending her life in prison, Quinn makes a run for it. She leaves behind her home, her job, and her family. She grabs her passport and heads for the northern border before the police can discover what she’s done.

But when an unexpected snowstorm forces her off the road, Quinn must take refuge at the broken-down, isolated Baxter Motel. The handsome and kindly owner, Nick Baxter, is only too happy to offer her a cheap room for the night.

Unfortunately, the Baxter Motel isn’t the quiet, safe haven it seemed to be. The motel has a dark and disturbing past. And in the dilapidated house across the way, the silhouette of Nick's ailing wife is always at the window. Always watching.

In the morning, Quinn must leave the motel. She'll pack up her belongings and get back on the road to freedom.

But first, she must survive the night.-Goodreads

Review: Quinn has killed her husband in self-defense and makes a run for it. She gets stuck in a bad snowstorm and ends up at the Baxter Hotel, where things aren't what they seem. This book was a fun ride. It definitely took a turn I wasn't expecting. It reminded me of 'Woman in the Window' in some respects but overall, enjoyed it!

Grade: 4/5 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Memory Man

Book: Memory Man
Series: Amos Decker #1
Author: David Baldacci

Amos Decker's life changed forever--twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect--he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare--his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.

His family destroyed, their killer's identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.-Goodreads

Review: I read the second book in this series awhile back and finally got around to reading this one. Amos Decker is a fascinating main character but this book was incredibly repetitive (He can't forget anything..we must have been told this at least a hundred times). The actual mystery just demonstrated all of the cops and detectives Decker works with are incompetent and the motive for the killing of his family was completely unbelievable. 

Grade: 2/5 

These Hallow Vows

Book: These Hallow Vows
Series: These Hallow Vows #1
Author: Lexi Ryan

Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she'll do whatever it takes to get her back—including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie's only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.-Goodreads

Review: This book was such a fun read. It's been awhile since I read a YA urban fantasy book and this really hit the spot. Light, engaging and fun. Brie was a great heroine (snarky, interesting, complicated) and can't wait to read the next in the series. 

Grade: 5/5 

The Night Swim

Book: The Night Swim
Series: Rachel Krall #1
Author: Megan Goldin 

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.-Goodreads

Review: Another winner by Megan Goldin! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about Rachel Krall, a crime podcaster who is working a rape trial. Detailed, engaging and disturbing. I will say that this is marketed as a thriller and I definitely would not classify it as such. It's more of a slower paced mystery. 

Grade: 5/5

There Are No Saints

Book: There Are No Saints
Series: Sinners Duet #1
Author: Sophie Lark

I loathe Alastor Shaw.

The city of San Francisco thinks we’re rival artists.

In truth, we’re predators battling for hunting ground.

We never chased the same prey. Until the night we both laid eyes on Mara Eldritch.

Shaw wants to use her as a pawn in his twisted game.

I’m fixated on her for a different reason…

She makes me feel things I never thought I could feel. Want things I never wanted.

Only she can make me lose control.

I don’t know if I should protect her at all costs… or destroy her before she ruins me.

Mara knows I’m no saint. But she has no idea she’s dancing with the devil…-Goodreads

Review: A serial killer falls in love with a woman he almost kills. She, in a completely unbelievable twist, ends up falling in love with him. I can suspend disbelief at times but the plot of this just didn't work for me. I kept rolling my eyes reading it. I was interested enough to read a summary of the next book so I could see how it ends. 

Grade: 2/5

The Escape Room

Book: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style―but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room challenge as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high-rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?-Goodreads

Review: I absolutely loved this book. Narrated in two timelines, in present day we follow a group of colleagues who are locked in an elevator for an escape room 'teambuilding' exercise. Believe me when I say they are all horrible, horrible, people. In the past timeline, we follow one of their co-workers as she describes her rise and eventual fall in the world of corporate finance. 

This was completely entertaining and many of the topics discussed about corporate America (including prioritizing work above all else, misogyny, unequal pay for women, backstabbing co-workers) will resonate with anyone who has worked a corporate job. As someone who just left corporate America after 20+ years, I feel like I've met all these characters in real life (albeit not so evil LOL). I thought the pacing of the book was good and it was extremely entertaining. Some things definitely stretch the imagination at times but I still loved it. 

Grade: 5/5 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Inhuman Acts

Book: Inhuman Acts
Author: Brooke L. French

A deadly, incurable disease creeps silent through Chattanooga. And its victims aren't random.

When inexplicable human rabies cases appear in Tennessee, disease ecologist Letty Duquesne jumps at the chance to trace the virus back to its source. But the closer Letty gets to finding the outbreak's origin, the further someone will go to stop her.

With an unwanted promotion threatening to take Letty far from the fieldwork she loves, this outbreak feels like her last chance to make a difference. It's not something she can ignore, especially now. The spillover of zoonotic diseases to the human population is on the rise and violent animal attacks—like the one that killed her sister—are becoming all too common.

Something in nature has gone very wrong.

Local authorities would rather she go home, but Letty can track a source animal like no one else. With the help of disgraced detective Andrew Marsh, Letty follows the virus's epidemiological trail. But her every move is watched. And the source animal is closer than she thinks.-Goodreads

Review: Inhuman Acts is the first book published by Brooke L. French. I absolutely loved Spillover by David Quammen and one of my best friend's is an epidemiologist at the CDC (she works on ebola outbreaks), so I was excited to read a book about a disease ecologist trying to contain human rabies cases. This was well researched and absolutely fascinating. Letty is a smart, likeable main character and I could see this expanded into a series. 

Fabulous from start to finish!

Grade: 5/5 

Stay Awake

Book: Stay Awake
Author: Megan Goldin

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.-Goodreads

Review: One Goodreads friend rated this 5 stars and another 2 stars so I was excited to start this one and see what camp I was in. I'm happy to say that this Momento type book, about a woman who wakes up in a taxi covered in blood with no recollection of how she got there, worked for me. I enjoyed almost every page of it, even when Liv was making dumb decision after dumb decision. 

Grade:  4/5

The Investigator

Book: The Investigator
Series: Letty Davenport #1
Author: John Sanford

Letty Davenport, the brilliant and tenacious adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, takes the investigative reins in the newest thriller from #1 bestselling author John Sandford.

“Sandford fans rejoice! Davenport next generation has arrived and Letty is exactly the kind of cool-eyed, smart-mouthed, lethally dangerous heroine we’ve been waiting for.” --Lisa Gardner, author of One Step Too Far

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her. He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning. -Goodreads

Review: I read the Prey series many moons ago and was excited for this new series. Letty is essentially Lucas 2.0 and almost "too perfect" but I thought the investigation, while dragging at time, was pretty interesting. 

I look forward to see where this series takes her. 

Grade: 3/5 

There He kept Her

Book: There He Kept Her
Author: Joshua Moehling

They thought he was a helpless old man. They were wrong.

When two teenagers break into a house on a remote lake in search of prescription drugs, what starts as a simple burglary turns into a nightmare for all involved. Emmett Burr has secrets he's been keeping in his basement for more than two decades, and he'll do anything to keep his past from being revealed. As he gets the upper hand on his tormentors, the lines blur between victim, abuser, and protector.

Personal tragedy has sent former police officer Ben Packard back to the small Minnesota town of Sandy Lake in search of a fresh start. Now a sheriff's deputy, Packard is leading the investigation into the missing teens, motivated by a family connection. As clues dry up and time runs out to save them, Packard is forced to reveal his own secrets and dig deep to uncover the dark past of the place he now calls home.-Goodreads

Review: In a small Minnesota town, two teenagers break into an old man's house to steal his prescription medication and things go wrong almost immediately. One of the missing teenagers is the niece of Ben Packard, a sheriff deputy who recently moved back to the small town. 

While marketed as a thriller, I would classify this as more of a police procedural (as we know exactly who the bad guy is from the first few pages). Packard was a strong lead with an interesting backstory and I liked how the investigation unfolded. I assume this will become a series at some point, I'll definitely read the next one. 

Grade: 4/5 

Little Fires Everywhere

Book: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost . . .-Goodreads

Review: This is a soapy saga about Mia, a free spirited artist and her teenage daughter, Pearl, who move to a master planned suburban community in Ohio. Ng is a talented writer who writes engaging stories and this was definitely a page turner, however I disliked almost every character in the book. That isn't always a bad thing but here, I felt Ng shoved Mia's "perfectness" down the readers throat repeatedly and I just had an undercurrent of annoyance reading this.  I get it, we, the readers, are supposed to love her. I was very turned off by her parenting style and the big reveal as to what she did as a college student did nothing to change that. Elena is also an unlikeable character who does despicable things. I don't like, I didn't hate this by any means but it was disappointing. 

Grade: 2.5/5 

Monday, May 1, 2023

People Like Her

Book: People Like Her
Author: Ellery Lloyd

Followed by Millions, Watched by One

To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is.

To her skeptical husband, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.

To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.

In this deeply addictive tale of psychological suspense, Ellery Lloyd raises important questions about technology, social media celebrity, and the way we live today. Probing the dark side of influencer culture and the perils of parenting online, People Like Her explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we’ll go to be liked by strangers. It asks what—and who—we sacrifice when make our private lives public, and ultimately lose control of who we let in. . . .-Goodreads

Review: Lloyd excels are writing unlikeable characters and this book was no exception. In this installment, she tackles lifestyle influencer Emmy 'mambare' Jackson. This was sharp, well crafted and really shows the "person" behind the curtain with these 'influencers.' Just like reality tv, most of these people have PR firms behind them to help craft their online personas. I finished this and immediately started to unfollow certain people on social media. 

Overall, I loved this (as well as the creative title, can be interpreted a few ways). However, if you are someone who needs to like the main character (or even a side character), there is no one like that in this one.  

Grade: 5/5 

The Club

Book: The Club
Author: Ellery Lloyd

Everyone's Dying to Join . . .

The Home Group is a glamorous collection of celebrity members' clubs dotted across the globe, where the rich and famous can party hard and then crash out in its five-star suites, far from the prying eyes of fans and the media.

The most spectacular of all is Island Home—a closely-guarded, ultraluxurious resort, just off the English coast—and its three-day launch party is easily the most coveted A-list invite of the decade.

But behind the scenes, tensions are at breaking point: the ambitious and expensive project has pushed the Home Group's CEO and his long-suffering team to their absolute limits. All of them have something to hide—and that's before the beautiful people with their own ugly secrets even set foot on the island.

As tempers fray and behavior worsens, as things get more sinister by the hour and the body count piles up, some of Island Home’s members will begin to wish they’d never made the guest list.

Because at this club, if your name’s on the list, you’re not getting out.-Goodreads

Review: Rich celebrities, an exclusive club where anything goes and the workers who make it all happen. This was a quick, soapy, enjoyable read. I think this would translate very well to a mini-series or movie. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life ... as only a dog could tell it.-Goodreads

Review: I'm a sucker for all things dog related and this book was no exception. Even though I already saw the movie before reading this, I absolutely loved it. Fantastic from start to finish. Loved the narration from Enzo's point of view. 

Grade: 5/5 

The Younger Wife

Book: The Younger Wife
Author: Sally Hepworth

A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?-Goodreads

Review: I enjoyed this book about an a*hole surgeon who plants to divorce his wife, who is suffering from dementia, to marry a younger woman. Throw in his concerned daughters who have issues of their own, and this reminded me of a slightly watered down Liana Moriarty book. Overall I liked this but was left wanting 'more' from the plot. 

Grade: 3/5 

All the Dangerous Things

Book: All the Dangerous Things
Author: Stacy Willingham

One year ago, Isabelle Drake's life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle's entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle's past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust... including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.-Goodreads

Review: I recently finished (and loved) 'Why We Sleep? Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams' so it was intriguing to read this book were the main character suffers from insomnia. Her memory lapses and behavior seemed well researched and realistic. 

This is a slower 'thriller' per say with two timelines, one from Isabelle's childhood and present day, where her son was abducted and she's struggling (to put it mildly). I equally liked both timelines and while I found the book mostly predictable (there was one element of the abduction I didn't see coming), I thought the story was well crafted. 

Grade: 4/5 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Second First Impressions

Book: Second First Impressions
Author: Sally Thorne

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.-Goodreads

Review: I absolutely loved The Hating Game and it pains me to write this review, but nothing about this book worked for me. Ruthie was a boring, bland, main character. I did not buy into the relationship with her and Teddy. We are constantly reminded about Teddy's 'long beautiful hair' and it was just really strange. The only saving grace was Melanie, Ruthie's co-worker, who earns this an extra star. 

I would not recommend this one. 

Grade: 1.5/5 

The Judge's List

Book: The Judge's List
Series: The Whistler #2
Author: John Grisham

In The Whistler, Lacy Stoltz investigated a corrupt judge who was taking millions in bribes from a crime syndicate. She put the criminals away, but only after being attacked and nearly killed. Three years later, and approaching 40, she is tired of her work for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct and ready for a change.

Then she meets a mysterious woman who is so frightened she uses a number of aliases. Jeri Crosby's father was murdered 20 years earlier in a case that remains unsolved and that has grown stone cold. But Jeri has a suspect whom she has become obsessed with and has stalked for two decades. Along the way, she has discovered other victims.

Suspicions are easy enough, but proof seems impossible. The man is brilliant, patient and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most cunning of all serial killers. He knows forensics, police procedure and most important: he knows the law.

He is a judge, in Florida - under Lacy's jurisdiction.

He has a list, with the names of his victims and targets, all unsuspecting people unlucky enough to have crossed his path and wronged him in some way. How can Lacy pursue him without becoming the next name on his list?-Goodreads

Review: The premise of this book is great-a state judge who is also a serial killer? Sign me up! Lacy is reluctant to take the case, as Jeri, the woman reporting it is so scared she refuses to give Lacy all the information she needs to investigate, uses alias after alias and is very skittish. 

The first half of this book is very slow as Lacy doesn't want the case. We (reader/listener) know who the killer is so this is a 'cat and mouse' type of story. The judge was so unrealistically evil and an expert at seemingly EVERYTHING, it was completely unrealistic. 

Audiobook listeners: I started this as an audiobook and was excited to see Mary Louise Parker as the voice actor. I love her as an actress but this was terrible-she sounded exactly the same for every character, could have been reading note cards for the amount of emotion she put into it. I switched to the book version about mid-way through and it was much better. 

Grade: 2/5 

Things We Do In The Dark

Book: Things We Do In The Dark
Author: Jennifer Hillier

When Paris Peralta is arrested in her own bathroom—covered in blood, holding a straight razor, her celebrity husband dead in the bathtub behind her—she knows she'll be charged with murder. But as bad as this looks, it's not what worries her the most. With the unwanted media attention now surrounding her, it's only a matter of time before someone from her long hidden past recognizes her and destroys the new life she's worked so hard to build, along with any chance of a future.

Twenty-five years earlier, Ruby Reyes, known as the Ice Queen, was convicted of a similar murder in a trial that riveted Canada in the early nineties. Reyes knows who Paris really is, and when she's unexpectedly released from prison, she threatens to expose all of Paris's secrets. Left with no other choice, Paris must finally confront the dark past she escaped, once and for all.-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed Jar of Hearts and Little Secrets, so I had high hopes for this one. While I enjoyed it, it was predictable and a tad boring. I think this would work well as a mini-series though. 

Grade: 3.5/5 

Hotel Nantucket

Book: Hotel Nantucket
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

After a tragic fire in 1922 that killed 19-year-old chambermaid, Grace Hadley, The Hotel Nantucket descended from a gilded age gem to a mediocre budget-friendly lodge to inevitably an abandoned eyesore — until it's purchased and renovated top to bottom by London billionaire, Xavier Darling. Xavier hires Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton as his general manager, and Lizbet, in turn, pulls together a charismatic, if inexperienced, staff who share the vision of turning the fate of the hotel around. They face challenges in getting along with one another (and with the guests), in overcoming the hotel's bad reputation, and in surviving the (mostly) harmless shenanigans of Grace Hadley herself — who won't stop haunting the hotel until her murder is acknowledged.-Goodreads

Review: This book is the perfect beach read for your summer vacation. I thoroughly loved Lizbet, the hotel manager, all of the employees and even the ghost. I was absorbed in the story from the first chapter. My only complaint would be the big reveal regarding Chad, one of the hotel employees, was not as 'alarming' I thought it would be. Overall, loved it!

Grade: 4.5/5 

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Book: Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
Author: Agatha Christie

Was it a misstep that sent a handsome stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? Or something more sinister? Fun-loving adventurers Bobby Jones and Frances Derwent's suspicions are certainly roused--especially since the man's dying words were so peculiar: Why didn't they ask Evans? Bobby and Frances would love to know. Unfortunately, asking the wrong people has sent the amateur sleuths running for their lives--on a wild and deadly pursuit to discover who Evans is, what it was he wasn't asked, and why the mysterious inquiry has put their own lives in mortal danger...-Goodreads

Review: When Bobby is golfing with a doctor, they find a man dying over a cliff. He says "Why didn't they ask Evans?" to Bobby before dying. Bobby and his friend Frances end up investigating the strange death. This was a classic Agatha Christie with sharp dialogue, a detailed investigation and well thought out plot. Very enjoyable for mystery fans. 

Grade: 4/5 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Meant to Be

Book: Meant to Be
Author: Emily Giffin

The Kingsley family is practically American royalty, beloved for their military heroics, political service, and unmatched elegance. When Joseph S. Kingsley III is born in 1960, he inherits the weight of that legacy. Growing up with all the Kingsley looks and charisma, Joe should have no problem taking up the mantle after his father’s untimely death. But he is also a little bit reckless, and can’t seem to figure out how to channel the expectations of an entire country.

No one ever expected anything of Cate, on the other hand. She, too, grew up in a single-parent household—just her and her mom scraping by in their small apartment. As a teenager, though, Cate is discovered for her looks. Modeling may be her only ticket out of the cycle of disappointment that her mother has always inhabited. Before too long, her face is everywhere, though she is always aware that she’d be a pariah in her social circles if anyone knew her true story.

When Joe and Cate’s paths cross, their connection is instant. What remains to be seen is whether their relationship will survive the glare of the spotlight that follows Joe everywhere. And just as they find themselves in the make-or-break moment, the tragedy that seems to run in Joe’s family right alongside all that privilege will repeat itself.-Goodreads

Review: This is a historical fiction novel based on John F Kennedy Jr and Carolyn Bessette. While a great idea for a book, this was a really strange reading experience. I remember when their plane crashed in 1999 so I was interested in the story Giffin created. But the way this was written, I felt very detached from the characters. I also could not stand Joe almost the entire book. 

Grade: 2/5


Life's Too Short

Book: Life's Too Short
Series: The Friend Zone #3
Author: Abby Jimenez

When Vanessa Price quit her job to pursue her dream of traveling the globe, she wasn't expecting to gain millions of YouTube followers who shared her joy of seizing every moment. For her, living each day to its fullest isn't just a motto. Her mother and sister never saw the age of 30, and Vanessa doesn't want to take anything for granted.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, life goes from "daily adventure" to "next-level bad" (now with bonus baby vomit in hair). The last person Vanessa expects to show up offering help is the hot lawyer next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. No one warned her that he was the Secret Baby Tamer or that she'd be spending a whole lot of time with him and his geriatric Chihuahua.

Now she's feeling things she's vowed not to feel. Because the only thing worse than falling for Adrian is finding a little hope for a future she may never see.-Goodreads

Review: Another fabulous romance in 'The Friend Zone' series by Abby Jimenez. She has cemented herself as my new favorite romance author with this final installment. This was equal parts heartwarming and sad. I loved Vanessa and Adrian. 

Guys, I actually teared up a little while reading this! Loved it!

Grade: 5/5 

The Happy Ever After Playlist

Book: The Happy Ever After Playlist
Series: The Friend Zone #2
Author: Abby Jimenez

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can't seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a "take me home" look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker's owner reaches out. He's a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan's not about to give up her dog without a fight. As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can't deny a connection. There's no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?-Goodreads

Review: I loved this book from start to finish. Two years after losing her fiancé in a motorcycle accident, Sloan is still struggling. When a random dog jumps into her car, her life changes. I loved Sloan and her journey. Her grief seemed very real. I loved Jason. I loved the evolution of their relationship (this might the most times I've typed the word 'love' in a review). Interestingly, this is the first book Abby Jimenez ever wrote. The Friend Zone was written afterwards to set this book up and published first, but Abby Jimenez absolutely knocked it out of the park with her debut novel. 

Grade: 5/5 

The Friend Zone

Book: The Friend Zone
Series: The Friend Zone #1
Author: Abby Jimenez

Kristen Petersen doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.-Goodreads

Review: This was an adorable romance with likeable main characters. I actually chuckled a few times reading this one (rare for me). It did have some heavy themes including infertility and a strained mother/daughter relationship. 

Overall, great debut novel!

Grade: 4/5 

Hell Bent

Book: Hell Bent
Series: Alex Stern #2
Author: Leigh Bardugo

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed the first book in this series and was very excited to read this one. Alex is a fascinating main character and I love her commitment to try to rescue Darlington. There is a lot happening in this book, which is both a good and bad thing. This was a long (almost 500 pages hardcover) and there is a lot of action to keep the plot moving. At times it seemed like there was so much going, Alex, Dawes and the crew never processed what they were actually going through. As a reader, I had a hard time connecting to anyone (even Alex at times) because of this. 

Overall, still liked this one and will absolutely continue with the series. 

Grade: 3/5 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Into The Night

Book: Into the Night
Series: Gemma Woodstock #2
Author: Sarah Bailey

Troubled and brilliant, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock finds herself lost and alone after a recent move to Melbourne, brokenhearted by the decisions she's had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet, the partner she has been assigned, is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can't help feeling a connection with the victim and his lonely, isolated existence.

Then Sterling Wade, an up-and-coming actor filming his breakout performance in a closed-off city street, is murdered in the middle of an action-packed shot, and Gemma and Nick have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor's life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime? Who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, and none of them can be trusted. Gemma can't imagine a pair of victims with less in common--and yet as Gemma and Fleet soon learn, both men were keeping secrets that may have led to their deaths.-Goodreads

Review: This was a wonderful follow-up to book 1 in the series. After the demise of her relationship, Gemma leaves her son with her ex and  moves to Melbourne. Her personal life is still a complete and utter hot mess but her character is well developed. This book read more like a traditional police procedural and I really enjoyed it. 

Grade: 4/5 

The Dark Lake

Book: The Dark Lake
Series: Gemma Woodstock #1
Author:  Sarah Bailey

The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind's student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.

As much as Rosalind's life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town's richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?

Rosalind's enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.-Goodreads

Review: This was an interesting start to a new series. Although this is a murder/police procedural, this book seemed to focus more of a character study on the lead detective Gemma, who is an interesting woman. She was borderline obsessed with the murder victim in high school and is still grieving over the suicide of her best friend (and murder victim's high school boyfriend) from years ago. Her personal life is a hot mess. The format of the book was a tad strange with 90% of the chapters written from Gemma's perspective with a few random chapters from others. 

Overall, I liked it and will continue with the series. 

Grade: 3/5

All the Blood We Share

Book: All the Blood We Share
Author: Camilla Bruce

A sinister novel based on the real Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers in the old West bound by butchery and obscured by the shadows of American history.

The winds shift nervously on the Kansas plain whispering of travelers lost and buried, whispering of witches. Something dark and twisted has taken root at the Bender Inn.

At first the townspeople of Cherryvale welcome the rising medium Kate Bender and her family. Kate's messages from the Beyond give their tedious dreams hope and her mother's potions cure their little ills—for a price. No one knows about their other business, the shortcut to a better life. And why shouldn’t their family prosper? They’re careful. It’s only from those who are marked, those who travel alone and can easily disappear, that the Benders demand their pound of flesh.

But even a gifted seer like Kate can make a misstep. Now as the secrets festering beneath the soil of the family orchard threaten to bring them all to ruin, the Benders must sharpen their craft—or vanish themselves.-Goodreads

Review: A historical fiction novel about a family of serial killers from the 1800s? Sign me up! Not much is known about the Bloody Bender family, a real life family of killers. While I liked this one, I failed to truly fully connect with the characters making this forgettable. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Housemaid

Book: The Housemaid
Series: The Housemaid #1
Author: Freida McFadden

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.

I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

They don’t know what I’m capable of…-Goodreads

Review: The positive: this book is a page turner. The chapters are short and it's a quick read. The con? The book is a complete rip off of The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. The endings were different but there are so many elements that are identical I was honestly in disbelief as I read this. If you haven't read The Last Mrs. Parrish and you are a fan of domestic thrillers, you will most likely enjoy this. If you have read it, I'd skip this one. 

Grade: 2/5 


Book: Crave
Series: Crave #1
Author: Tracy Wolff

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.

Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.-Goodreads

Review: I'm not sure if this book started as Twilight fanfiction but it definitely seems like it. Human girl from a warm climate moves to cold climate (from San Diego to Alaska in this one) to go to a new school. She falls in love with a vampire boy. Even though I felt like I read it before, I still liked this. I'm not completely buying the mating bond between the main characters but I'm interested to see where their story goes. A shining light was Grace's roommate, Macy. 

Grade: 3/5 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Christie Affair

Book: The Christie Affair
Author: Nina de Gramont

Every story has its secrets.
Every mystery has its motives.

“A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman. It’s a particular feeling, the urge to murder. It takes over your body so completely, it’s like a divine force, grabbing hold of your will, your limbs, your psyche. There’s a joy to it. In retrospect, it’s frightening, but I daresay in the moment it feels sweet. The way justice feels sweet.”

The greatest mystery wasn’t Agatha Christie’s disappearance in those eleven infamous days, it’s what she discovered.

London, 1925: In a world of townhomes and tennis matches, socialites and shooting parties, Miss Nan O’Dea became Archie Christie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted and well-known wife, Agatha Christie.

The question is, why? Why destroy another woman’s marriage, why hatch a plot years in the making, and why murder? How was Nan O’Dea so intricately tied to those eleven mysterious days that Agatha Christie went missing?-Goodreads

Review: The idea of this book is 5 stars. I absolutely love de Gramont crafting a fictional story around Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance in 1925. It is told from the perspective of Nan, Agatha's husband's mistress (and eventual wife). And while well written, the actual plot was rather boring and this was a slog to read at times. 

Grade: 3/5 


Book: Overkill
Author: Sandra Brown

Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger hasn’t seen his ex-wife, Rebecca Pratt, for some time—not since their volatile marriage imploded—so he’s shocked to receive a life-altering call about her. Rebecca has been placed on life support after a violent assault, and he—despite their divorce—has medical power-of-attorney. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off of it. Buckling under the weight of the responsibility and the glare of public scrutiny, Zach ultimately walks away, letting Rebecca's parents have the final say.

Four years later, Rebecca's attacker, Eban—the scion of a wealthy family in Atlanta—gets an early release from prison. The ludicrous miscarriage of justice reeks of favoritism, and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. Rebecca’s parents have kept her alive all these years, but if her condition were to change—if she were to die—Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder.

It isn’t lost on Zach that in order for Eban to be charged with Rebecca’s murder, Zach must actually be the one to kill her. He rejects Kate’s legal standpoint but can’t resist their ill-timed attraction to each other. Eban, having realized the jeopardy he’s in, plots to make certain that neither Zach nor Kate lives to see the death of Rebecca—and the end of his freedom. -Goodreads

Review: This book was a pleasant surprise. A retired NFL player has medical power of attorney over his ex-wife, who is brain dead after a violent assault. He defers to the wishes of her parents, who are extremely religious, and chose to keep her on life support for years. His feelings on Rebecca (the ex-wife) and how to handle the situation seemed very realistic. The insta-romance with the state prosecutor was not necessary (slow burn romance would have worked with the plot) and Eban, Rebecca's attacker was almost cartoonishly evil, but I couldn't stop turning the pages. 

Grade: 3.5/5 

Something Wilder

Book: Something Wilder
Author: Christina Lauren

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession… or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.-Goodreads

Review: I was contemplating a summer vacation to a dude ranch when I started this book. A guys weekend on a ranch, complete with horses, treasure and a guide who has a history with one of the guys, sign me up! This was cheesy and had me rolling my eyes a few times (could not see this group of guys being good enough friends to go on vacation) but it was also fun. I loved Lily, Leo and their journey. Fun read!

Grade: 4/5 

Girl, 11

Book: Girl, 11
Author: Amy Suiter Clarke

Elle Castillo once trained as a social worker, supporting young victims of violent crime. Now she hosts a popular true crime podcast that focuses on cold cases of missing and abducted children.

After four seasons of successfully solving these cases in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Elle decides to tackle her white The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK was terrorizing the community, kidnapping and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. Then, after he took his eleven-year-old victim, the pattern—and the murders—abruptly stopped. No one has ever known why.

When Elle follows up on a listener tip only to discover the man’s dead body, she feels at fault. Then, within days, a child is abducted—a young girl who seems to fit suspiciously into the TCK sequence halted decades before. While media and law enforcement long ago concluded that TCK had suicided, Elle has never believed TCK was dead. She had hoped her investigation would lay that suspicion to rest, but her podcast seems instead to be inciting new victims.-Goodreads

Review: This was my first book by Amy Suiter Clarke and it definitely will not be my last. I listened to this as an audiobook and the format fit perfectly, as the main character has a podcast. This was disturbing and well crafted with a satisfying ending. 

Grade: 4/5 

The Whistler

Book: The Whistler
Series: The Whistler #1
Author: John Grisham

We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.-Goodreads

Review: I'm a fan of legal thrillers and was excited for this series. In typical Grisham fashion, there are short chapters which makes the book a fast read. Investigating a corrupt judge was pretty interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the investigation unfolded. My main challenge with this book was the main investigator/attorney, Lacy, who fell a little flat. She was a pretty boring character and never really came alive off the pages. Still, I overall enjoyed this one. 

Grade: 3/5 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Book: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Author: Matthew Walker

Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshalling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night's sleep every night.-Goodreads

Review: Loved, loved, loved this book. It is very dense and reads like a textbook at times (this was a book club selection and only two of us finished it) so while I understand it's not a book for everyone, everyone (and I mean everyone) should read a cliff notes version at some point. It really delves into the importance of sleep and how it impacts pretty much every aspect of our lives. Walker discusses why it's good to take a hot bath/shower before bed, optimum temperature for sleeping, how many hours we need, how it impossible to 'catch up on sleep' (like we all try to do at times). We learn about the impact of caffeine and alcohol on REM sleep, and so much more. It is very well researched and immediately upon finishing you are going to want to take a nap. 

I read this book months ago and still think about it. Highly recommend!

Grade: 5/5 

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

Book: The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music
Author: Dave Grohl

So, I've written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities ("It's a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!") I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I've recorded and can't wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn't mean that I'm quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it's like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.-Goodreads

Review: This is an absolutely fascinating look into Dave Grohl's journey from a suburban kid in Virginia to one of the most recognized drummers in the world. From Nirvana to the Foo Fighters and so much in between this was a really interesting memoir. Highly recommend this as an audiobook as Dave narrates.  

Grade: 5/5

Gray Hair Don't Care

Book: Gray Hair Don't Care
Series: Never Too Late #1
Author: Karen Booth

Everything went wrong. And then she went gray.

At 47, newly divorced makeup artist Lela Bennett is dreading her next steps. Dating. Meeting people. Not letting herself go. But then she runs into Donovan James and tries something different—sleeping with her sexy crush from college. Unfortunately, in a post-orgasm stupor, Lela confesses she was in love with Donovan all those years ago. He responds by leaving while she sleeps. The next morning, her gray hairs are practically taunting her. She knows she has to get it together. Forget men. Embrace her age. Own her gray.

Donovan James is a marketing genius, but his ex-wives will tell you—nothing freaks him out like feelings. Three years after his one-night stand with Lela, he’s focused on his daughter’s lifestyle company, but unprepared to meet the face of the beauty division. It’s Lela. With stunning silver locks and new confidence, she’s no longer swayed by his charms. When business starts booming, the universe seems intent on throwing them together time and again. And suddenly, two people convinced that romance was behind them are wondering if love could be what’s next.-Goodreads

Review: A romance with a woman in her 40's who embraces both her beauty, aging and gray hair? Sign me up! Lela was a fun character and this was a cute romance. 

Grade: 4/5 

The 6:20 Man

Book: The 6:20 Man
Series: Travis Devine #1
Author: David Baldacci

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.-Goodreads

Review: This is the first book in a new series by David Baldacci. In typical Baldacci fashion, this book has short chapters and the pace moved rather quickly, so it's a quick read. Travis Devine, the main character, was interesting and likeable. The actual mystery wasn't that interesting but I'll definitely read the second book in the series. 

Grade: 3/5

The Lost Apothecary

Book: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them - setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose - selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate - and not everyone will survive.-Goodreads

Review: This was dark, moody and the perfect winter read. As with most dual narratives/timelines, I was more drawn into Nella's story in 1791, but Caroline grew on me as I read. I did not guess the ending and really enjoyed this one. 

Rating: 4/5