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