Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Short & Sweet Review: Private India: City on Fire by James Patterson

Title: Private India: City on Fire
Author: James Patterson
Series: Private #8
Published: November 2014, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Personal copy

When Santosh Wagh isn't struggling out of a bottle of whisky he's head of Private India, the Mumbai branch of the world's finest PI agency.

In a city of over thirteen million he has his work cut out at the best of times. But now someone is killing women - seemingly unconnected women murdered in a chilling ritual, with strange objects placed carefully at their death scenes.

As Santosh and his team race to find the killer, an even greater danger faces Private India - a danger that could threaten the lives of thousands of innocent Mumbai citizens.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: As I make my way through the Private series this year, I have to say this one definitely hasn't been a favorite in the series so far. It still has a lot of the trademark qualities I've come to enjoy in the Private series - lots of action, many different threads going on at once, the Private team on the hunt for a killer - but something just didn't click for me. I think it's that I had a hard time connecting with this new Private team.  I didn't particularly like Santosh and that might have been the problem. But luckily, the mystery itself kept me interested enough to keep me from abandoning this book. Hopefully the next one will be better!

Books in this series:
*This list contains both the Private home office books and the Private other offices books combined. Some lists keep these as separate. And some books have 2 different names, depending on where you buy them.

     1.  Private
     2.  Private #1 Suspect
     3.  Private Games
     4.  Private London
     5.  Private Berlin
     6.  Private L.A.
     7.  Private Oz / Private Down Under 
     8.  Private India: City on Fire
     9.  Private Vegas
     10.  Private Paris
     11.  Private Rio / The Games
     12.  Private Sydney / The Missing
     12.5  Bookshots - Private Royals
     13.  Private Delhi / Count to Ten
     13.5  Bookshots - Private: Gold 

     14.  Private Princess


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

Title: The Party
Author: Robyn Harding
Published: June 2017, Gallery/Scout Press
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Personal copy

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.

Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the picture-perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

My thoughts: I won a copy of this book from a friend's blog and it certainly is the type of book that provides much food for thought. I definitely don't envy parents today...there is so much you need to worry about and this book is just one example of how even when you have the best intentions at heart, all it takes it one bad call in judgement for a ripple-like effect of epic portions to occur.

I think what strikes me the most with this book is that as much as I liked it, I did not necessary like any of the characters - or rather, most of the time, I disliked most of the characters the majority of the time for the way they acted. They seemed to have a sense of self-importance about them, a sense of self-entitlement that just grated on me. It was only a a select few characters and only in a few circumstances that did in fact redeem themselves so that I did not completely dislike all of them. 

But despite this - I still liked the book, weird as that sounds. I think the message this book conveys is an important one. I know that this is a work of fiction and it is meant as a means of escapism, but just how much of this is happening in today's world? This book is going to make you think and it will make you realize that there are often far reaching consequences from one little accident. That pebble that falls or gets thrown into a pond doesn't just make one ripple - it makes many ripples - and that is what we see here.

This book would make a fantastic book club pick - it is rich with points for discussion. Between the secrets that the parents keep from each other to the secrets the children keep from their parents to the actions that each take to the way everyone behaves after the accident, and even to the question of culpability.

 All in all, this is a compelling read that deals with some moral dilemmas that will have you thinking about the situation long after you read the last page.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

Title: The Summer I Met Jack
Author: Michelle Gable
Published: May 2018, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 448 pages
Source: Publisher

New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark - and the child they may have had.
Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack.

Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other.

The Summer I Met Jack is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedys to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together.

My thoughts: I have a whole shelf dedicated to books on the Kennedys... and even though I might not have read them all, I am a bit obsessed about them and so when I saw this book, I was desperate to read it!  And let me tell you, I am so glad I did...I loved it!!! It was so enlightening, so easy to get into and really kept me engaged the entire way through.

I have to say, I knew nothing about Alicia before picking up this book. Again, not having read many of those books I have in my collection (too many books, so little time) - which I'm now so bummed are in storage, because of course I am desperate to read more about the Kennedys after reading this book - I found this book to be easy to read, easy to get into, and very interesting. The whole time I was reading this, I was asking myself - was this really true, did this really happen? I really had to restrain myself from heading to Wikipedia every few minutes to check every detail - I didn't want to ruin anything for myself. I wanted to enjoy the book for what it was...and I'm glad I did. 

This book is certainly about the romance between Alicia and Jack, but it is so much more than that. It's about Alicia's life...and what a life she lived! She certainly met some interesting, famous people in her life, and knew some of them quite well. But her life wasn't all glitz and glam. She went through some very trying and difficult times in her life. The book also paints quite the picture of the Kennedys'. Some of this I was aware of and some I was not - and this is what I love about reading historical fiction - the little tidbits you pick up that make you want to read more on certain topics - not only am I dying to read more about Alicia Dare herself, who I really do find to be quite a fascinating person, but I am also eager to read more about the other people mentioned in this book, particularly the Kennedys. Maybe this will spur me to read some of my own books!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is highly readable, highly engaging and if you are at all curious about the woman who had a romance with Jack prior to his meeting and then marrying Jackie, I recommend picking up this book. It is well worth the read!


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Published: May 2018, Gallery/Scout Press
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel. 

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

My thoughts: Ruth Ware is one of those authors that I put everything down to read - I've read each of her books so far, discovering her when she was signing copies of her debut book, In a Dark, Dark Wood at Book Expo back in 2015. Since then, I've been such a fan - and I'm so excited that she will once again be at Book Expo this year - I so hope to see her again, so I can gush about her books!!!

As much as I have enjoyed her previous books, I think this latest one might be my favorite one yet. I love it as much for the characters as for the atmosphere - this one definitely has a much more Gothic feel to it and it works so well. Even the tarot card angle added to the overall creepiness of this book - all these layers give this book such dimension and suspense to create a well-rounded, utterly dark, unsettling sense of foreboding that makes up this book. 

This book is not so much a fast-burning mystery as it is a more slow-burning one, which I also really liked. And I loved the diary entries interspersed throughout the chapters that added to the overall mystery. At first, you are trying to figure out who they are written by and then you are trying to figure out who they are referring to. The overall mystery of this book is made up of many layers, so while you might figure out one, it's unlikely you will figure out everything...and that's the fun in this book. It really will keep you on your toes as all the pieces are slowly unraveled. 

This was such a creepy, twisty read. It is intriguing and cleverly crafted so that you just don't want to put it down. This is definitely going down as a favorite!!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review: What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel (audio)

Title: What Lies Below
Author: Barbara Taylor Sissel
Narrator: Donna Postel
Published: May 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 hours, 12 minutes
Source: Publisher

Everyone has nightmares. One woman is living hers…Gilly O’Connell’s nightmares aren’t just bad dreams; they’re glimpses of terrifying realities to come. Gilly has spent her entire life trying to suppress the foreboding visions. So when a dismissed premonition leads to her husband’s murder, she buries the guilt and pain of the unsolved crime in the only way she knows how—she runs from it.

Three years later, after overcoming a battle with addiction and starting over in a small Texas town, Gilly dares to believe the worst is over. That is, until another crime rips her heart open: the abduction of a three-year-old girl. Gilly knows more about it than anyone…

She’s dreaming again.

Gilly is convinced that if she tells the police she dreamed of the kidnapping before it happened, there’s no way they’ll believe her. But when she finally gets the courage to come forward with what she saw, people don’t see her as crazy—they see her as a suspect.

Now, in order to help a desperate single father save his child, Gilly must first clear her own name. But as the nightmares of the past catch up to her, Gilly’s only chance for salvation might be the dreams she’s spent so long trying to ignore.

My thoughts: This is only the second book I've read by Barbara Taylor Sissel but she is slowly becoming an author I can count on to deliver a story that pulls you in right from the start with compelling characters that you aren't quite sure you can trust. I love this and will definitely be reading more of her work soon!

I love when I become so engrossed in a book that I totally lose track of time - and yes, that even happens when listening to audio books! This book has such engaging characters and story lines that grab you and don't let up. It moves at break-neck speed so that you really don't want to put the book down, with twists coming here and there - some little and some quite jaw-dropping. And even though I did figure out who was behind Zoe's kidnapping about halfway through the book, I had no clue as to the why, which to me is the most important part. I don't think I ever would have gotten there, so in no way did my guessing ruin this book.

This is such a multi-layered story. Yes, it's about a kidnapping and about the aftereffects of a murder, but it's so much more than that. It's about asking ourselves what we might be capable of when are worlds are turned upside down. Do we really want to exact the revenge back on the guilty party or is it better for all involved to offer forgiveness?

This book is emotional, it's suspenseful, it's engrossing. And at the end of it all, it's a story full of hope.

Audio thoughts: This was a great book to listen to on audio - I found myself glued to my phone, not wanting to stop listening as this story was intense at times! Donna Postel is a new narrator to me, but I thought she did a great job narrating this story. She gave all the characters unique voices, even giving young Zoe an appropiate young child-like voice. Her pacing and intonations were spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and tension in her voice as needed. 


Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Title: Dead Girl Running
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, #1
Published: April 2018, HQN
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Harlequin Publicity Team

I have three confessions to make:
1. I've got the scar of gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.

Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another.

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?

My thoughts: Christina Dodd is a new-to-me author. This book intrigued me and was part of a bookstagram campaign being held by the Harlequin Publicity Team. I'm always on the lookout for new authors and when I saw that not only did this book look good, but that it was the start of a new series, it just seemed like a homerun to me!

I loved the way this book opens up - it just pulls you into the story and for me, the book never really let up. It was intense and the suspense builds at a steady pace throughout the book until the ending. I found myself glued to the pages, desperate to figure out just what was going on - thinking I had it figured out, only to be thwarted as something new would be discovered. This one really kept me on my toes!

I really liked getting to know Kellen - she is complicated and has quite the backstory. I mean - a missing year - hello!?!? I always find the amnesia storyline to be so cool and I really do hope that in the upcoming book(s) this gets explored more because I really want/need to know what happened here. Kellen is a survivor for sure, yet what I really appreciated about this book is that we don't get her full story all at once. It is ever so slowly given to us, and what we do find out about her is only part of the story - there is so much of her to uncover. There are many facets to Kellen and we have only scratched the surface.

We meet a lot of characters in this first book and while it was a bit confusing at first to keep everyone straight, I did like that way Kellen cataloged everyone in her brain - whenever I forgot who someone was, I would flip back to the data mine of their character to refresh my memory of who they were. This seemed to help until I could keep them straight. I'm not sure who is going to be continuing on in the next book as I don't know if the setting will remain constant, but I sure do hope Kellen continues to do this trick moving forward.

Besides the mystery, we are left with quite a cliffhanger, leaving me desperate for the next book in this series! As much as I love reading series, I really do hate waiting for that next book, especially when it ends like this one does...this is why sometimes it's better to wait to read series when all the books are out - then you can read them one right after another! What do you think? 

Books in this series:
  1. Dead Girl Running
  2. What Doesn't Kill Me - due out Feb 2019

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blog Tour & Review: Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank (audio)

Title: Same Beach, Next Year
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Published: Audio - May 2017, Harper Audio / Paperback - April 2018, William Morrow Paperbacks
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - via Library / Paperback - Publisher via TLC Book Tours

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank returns to her magical Lowcountry of South Carolina in this bewitching story of marriage, love, family, and friendship that is infused with her warm and engaging earthy humor and generous heart.

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.

My thoughts: To me, Dorothea Benton Frank is just synonymous with summer and beach reads...she's one of those authors, along with Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, that has her usual setting for her books and it works. This time, I was especially excited as I have been to the Isle of Palms and even stayed at Wild Dunes.

For some reason I missed this book when it first came out in hardcover last year. I don't know if it was that the description threw me off or I was just inundated with other books, but for whatever reason, I never ended up picking up this one. Now, a year later, I finally end up reading it - and I will say, at one point, I did think it was going to head down a road I really didn't want to follow. But, luckily it never did...and I really shouldn't have Dottie Frank is such a gifted writer, full of heart and compassion herself, that I should have known this story would be more than just a tale of cheating spouses.

I love the characters that Dottie Frank creates - there is just something about them that end up being memorable. They are so well-developed and relatable on so many levels that you just can't help but want to keep reading about them, even if you aren't so keen on the choices they are making. Deep down, you know they have the capacity for good and will eventually, hopefully, get there. And let's not forget the one-liners and wit she infuses into her characters - this by far is what makes these characters stand out. 

The family dynamics that Dottie creates are always so spot on. She really has a gift for delving into these relationships and not always making them so pretty and neat. She shows them like they might be in real life - messy and uncomfortable at times, yet also loving and fun at others. 

This book ended up being so much more than I expected it to be, which is a good thing. I always enjoy reading Dottie Franks books, but this one just had a little more substance to it than I thought it would. It's still a good beach read, for sure, but also gives a little food for thought on family and marriage. Dottie Frank has once again proven she's still got it!!!

Audio thoughts: I love listening to Dottie Frank's books on audio - they always come across really well, with the sass and vibrant characters. I've listened to quite a few, though this was the first time I've heard Bernadette Dunne narrate one of her books. While the narration was still good, and Bernadette did a decent job with the story, I have to say, I missed Robin Miles' narration...she really does a fantastic job narrating Dottie's books. I just felt that Berndatte's voice was a bit flat at times and not as vibrant for the characters as Robin typically is. Still, it was a good listening experience and certainly won't prevent me from listening to future books of Dottie's, whoever the narrator might be.

About the Author: New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   
|   Instagram

Purchase Links:   HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtags:  #TLCBookTours & #SameBeachNextYear).


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Title: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
Author: Heather Harpham
Published: August 2017, Henry Holt & Company
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: Publisher

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant - Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, "Get dressed, your baby is in trouble."

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled "like sliced apples and salted pretzels" but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie's condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham's writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions - new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it's a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.

My thoughts: I don't tend to read a ton of memoirs...but every once in a while, I pick one up because the topic speaks to me in some way. This one was Reece Witherspoon's Book Club selection for April and so I was seeing a lot of it around social media and decided to give it a go...and am so glad I did!

If you know anything about me, it may surprise you that I would pick up a memoir about a woman finding herself not only pregnant, but then dealing with an infant who is sick because of all the fertility issues I went through myself and then all the miscarriages. But, having made my peace with all that, there was something that called to me about this book - and I found that while there were some parts that were a bit hard to read, I did enjoy it...I did find the happiness in this book, much like Heather herself did in the end.

Sometimes, we need to go through the trials that life throws at us just to learn to appreciate all the little things, and that is a lesson I have learned and come to value everyday. So, as I was reading this, I could definitely empathize with Heather - life isn't always a bed of roses and sometimes what we think is going to be an easy journey is anything but, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it. 

This book is written from the's honest, it's raw, it's emotional. And yet it's also got a touch of humor thrown in at times. I cried, I laughed, I got angry - I went through a roller-coaster of emotions right along with Heather as I was reading this book - the emotions this book evokes are that palpable.

I found myself completely wrapped up in this memoir. Once I started reading, I just couldn't put it's that absorbing. The writing is genuine and engaging and you just can't help but want the best not only for Heather, but also for little Gracie. This is one memoir that I won't be forgetting about anytime soon.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: The Good Twin by Marti Green

Title: The Good Twin
Author: Marti Green
Published: May 2018, Thomas & Mercer
Format: ARC E-copy, 263 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publicist

In Marti Green’s twisting novel of psychological suspense, twin sisters become engaged in a dangerous deception…

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now having it all might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

My thoughts: Marti Green is a new-to-me author, but I jumped at the opportunity to read this book as it sounded right up my alley - and I am so glad I did! I devoured this book and it kept me engaged from start to finish...and loved the surprises that came along!

I love a good twin story - I've always been fascinated with genetics and this one just grabbed me from the get-go. I have to say, I didn't see the twists coming, and for someone who is constantly reading psychological thrillers, that's a good thing! I love being surprised and while I can usually guess one or two pieces, this one really crept up on me. 

What I really enjoyed about this book are the characters - they really are the type that as much as you want to like just might not. And I love that! I love when there are unlikeable, but somewhat redeemable characters if that makes sense? They aren't completely horrible, but they aren't the type that you want for your best friend either. They are, though, the type that you cannot turn away from - you need to keep reading on to see just what they are going to get up to next.

This book is filled with constant surprises and really keeps you engaged throughout. Just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was left speechless - a few times! The suspense builds at just the right pace and keeps you flipping those pages. This really is a good read and I devoured it in only a few sittings!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter (audio)

Title: Every Single Secret
Author: Emily Carpenter
Narrator: Kate Orsini
Published: May 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 22 minutes
Source: Publisher

Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancé, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.

My thoughts: I just love Emily Carpenter's books - I have since I first stumbled on her debut novel, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls as an Audible Daily Deal a few years back. She writes Southern Gothic mystery/suspense like no one else...and I find that I get so involved in her stories, I feel like I know the characters by the time I get to the conclusion.

One of the things I love about Emily's books is that she writes such a good scary, ghost story without involving ghosts - meaning they are creepy and chilling and have all the aspects you would expect in a typical ghost story, but there are no ghosts. I so appreciate this because I really am not such a fan of the whole paranormal genre, but I do a good, chilling, creepy story and I really think Emily Carpenter does that and does it well. This book got to me, it got under my skin with all that was going on - I mean, dead birds? Really! That freaked me out!!!

I loved the characters in this book and the secrets - both Daphne and Heath have such baggage and as we those secrets are ever so slowly uncovered, the book gets more and more delicious! This book kept me on the edge of my seat almost from the get-go, and I never could quite put my finger on where it would head...and I loved that! I also loved that we would head into the past to learn all about Daphne's past - oh those chapters were so good and juicy! Fraught with tension, as the whole book really is, but still. This book is just the right amount of dark and engaging, without being gory. It's disturbing without going over the top. 

I have loved every book Emily Carpenter has written so far - she is definitely on my must-read list and for good reason. I know I am going to get an atmospheric, addicting story that will keep me engaged from start to finish. I cannot wait for her next book!

Audio thoughts: Kate Orsini excels in this narration - she definitely brought her A-game when it came to narrating this story. Between the unique characterizations she gave each character to the pauses she put in while speaking - which I found so effective at times - I just loved listening to this story. 


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Published: April 2018, Atria Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 368 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Ten years after her teenage daughter goes missing, a woman connects with a charming single father, but she is still haunted by her child’s disappearance in this “deeply emotional and incredibly clever” (Mail Online) thriller from the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of I Found You.

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

My thoughts: I just love Lisa Jewell's books and this one was no exception. I find that I become completely absorbed in them, not wanting to do anything but read to the detriment of anything else!

This book hooked me right from the start. And what I loved is that it is so much more than just a missing girl story. It is a layered story that it not only addicting but also quite compelling. It easily blends the psychological drama with a family drama, keeping you glued to the pages as everything starts to unravel, and the short chapters give that mentality of just one more chapter until you find yourself at the end of the book in no time at all.

I find with each Lisa Jewell book that I read that she really takes the time to develop all her characters, and she also really builds intricate relationships between the characters. We get the nuances that come with these relationships, making them all the more based in reality. It's this that makes these characters and the story itself all the more engaging.

As much as I started to suspect some parts of where the book was headed, I still found myself completely hooked until the very end. I wanted to know the why as much as the final resolution and I still hadn't worked everything out. It's a suspenseful book, slowly building that suspense over time as clues are dropped here and there. With strong characters, raw emotion, and a good story line, I found myself hard-pressed to put this book down. 

This book packs quite an emotional punch. It's a relatively fast-paced, yet highly addictive read with a great ending. I think it would be a perfect summer read!


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Title: Wicked River
Author: Jenny Milchman
Published: May 2018, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 464 pages
Source: Netgalley

Six million acres of Adirondack forest separate Natalie and Doug Larson from civilization. For the newlyweds, an isolated, back country honeymoon seems ideal: a chance to start their lives together with an adventure, on their own.  But just as Natalie and Doug begin to explore the dark interiors of their own hearts, as well as the depths of their love for each other, it becomes clear that they are not alone in the woods.  

Because six million acres makes it easy for the wicked to hide. And even easier for someone to go missing for good. 

As they struggle with the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches them, wielding the forest like a weapon. And once they are near his domain, he will do everything in his power to make sure they never walk out again.

My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Jenny Milchman's books and so of course, I jump at any chance to read what she writes. I find she can craft one heck of a dark, twisty thriller and this latest one certainly delivers on all accounts - and let me just say, I definitely won't be heading out to the wilderness or on any camping trips any time soon!

One of the things I love about Jenny's books is just how fast she can get your adrenaline pumping. I for one am not really of the outdoorsy, adventure kind of vacation people, and you certainly would never find me taking a honeymoon where I have to do any kind of physical labor - other than lifting a drink to my lips and picking up my next read :) - so right away, I was a bit on edge when Natalie and Doug went off on their honeymoon in the woods.

This book is jam-packed with action. Once Doug and Natalie start off on their adventure, it seems that one mishap after another befalls them, and ever so slowly we start to see how this affects them both individually as well as a couple. We also learn about Kurt, a psychopath who now lives in the woods after his group deserted him. As Doug and Natalie edged closer and closer to Kurt's camp, I found the tension amping up, not knowing what might happen next. And then there's Mia, Natalie's teenage niece, who becomes quite important in realizing that Natalie and Doug are in danger. The chapters that focused on Kurt and Mia added to an already tense book and really got my heart thumping.

This book had me flipping pages at a break-neck speed. Like I already mentioned, I may not be the out-doorsy, adventurous type of person myself, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a book where the characters partake in these activities. All along, I felt as if I were right there with these characters...and there was some anxiety-ridden, paranoia going on while reading this - but all in good fun, let me tell you! This is why I love reading Jenny Milchman's books - she does dark, wicked good suspense in the outdoors and I love it!!!


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Review: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (audio)

Title: I Liked My Life
Author: Abby Fabiaschi
Narrator: Susan Bennett, Dan Bittner, Therese Plummer
Published: Audio - January 2017, Macmillan Audio / Print - May 2018, St. Martin's Griffin
Length: 9 hours, 47 minutes / 288 pages
Source: Audio via library / Print - Paperback via GetRed PR

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

My thoughts: This is one of those books that while I wanted to read it, I was a bit apprehensive about it at the same time. I'm not really a big fan of the whole ghost story, to be honest...and so I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into the story with one of the characters being telling their parts from beyond. But, I needn't have worried - I found myself completely engaged with from the start.

This book is so much more than what it might first appear to be - and I so appreciate books like that. I love books that have little life lessons and really delve into familial relationships. This one caught me by surprise. It was the perfect balance of emotional, heaviness with lighthearted, funny moments - I really felt that I went through quite the ringer of emotions here and quite enjoyed the ride. 

The characters that we meet along the way, the three main narrators, as well the other characters we meet through them, all felt genuine and real. They were relatable and not without their faults. It was so easy to grow attached to them. And I loved that Brady and Eve use Maddy's journal as a way to work through their grief. Not only did it give them some answers, but it was as if it helped solidify their relationship, too.

This book is such a powerful read - it's heartfelt, thought-provoking and hopeful. I really enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. And to think it's a debut novel - I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented author!!!

Audio thoughts: There are times when a book calls for a cast of narrators and there are times when it can be done just as efficiently with one narrator. This time, having a cast of narrators made the most sense and it really worked well. Having a different narrator for each of the three main narrators of the book really helped to make this book come alive and I think each of the three narrators did a fantastic job. The pacing and tone each of the narrators used was good and each infused just the right amount of emotion into their voice as needed. This was a great book to listen to on audio.

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