Review: That Weekend by Kara Thomas

That WeekendThat Weekend by Kara Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the hospital, Claire is scared and confused. What day is it? What happened to her?

The last thing she remembers was the Friday night she spent at her best friend Kat’s family lake house. Kat’s boyfriend, and Claire’s other BFF, Jesse, was there as well. They were skipping prom.

Initially, Claire’s boyfriend was supposed to be there too. The group had planned to go hiking on Saturday. It was going to be a whole thing, but then they broke up.

As you can tell, things are not going well for Claire. Well, they’re about to get worse.

As mentioned above, Claire has no memories of the hiking trip on Saturday, or how she got injured. She was found bloodied on a mountain trail by a lone hiker; he was able to get her to safety.

Unfortunately, no one has heard from Kat and Jesse. They’re missing and the last known person to see them was Claire. The police consider her to be a suspect.

She’s shocked, but what could the explanation be? Why would she have ever left them and headed down the mountain alone? Did they get in a fight?

That Weekend was one of my most anticipated YA Mysteries of 2021. I mean, it’s by the Queen, Kara Thomas. Who wouldn’t be excited?

I finished this over a week ago and I’m still not confident on my feelings about it. I love the premise, I love the setting and the initial set-up of the mystery.

For me though, the mystery itself, what was actually happening, the root of it all, I just wasn’t sold.

Don’t get me wrong, I generally love wild, over-the-top plot twists, but this just was not fun for me. I didn’t buy it. I didn’t like the twists and overall, I was disappointed, as I truly expected to love this.

I also found Claire’s perspective to be very, very bland. As a protagonist, she bored me. Just being honest, she did.

I feel like I would have preferred to be following anyone else; towards the end, you do get some of that, so that was a nice perspective shift.

With this being said, just because this wasn’t quite as great as I was expecting, don’t let that sway you from reading it.

I had incredibly high expectations for this one going in and honestly, I may have set myself up for disappointment.

This is still a good story, well written and fast-paced. I know a lot of Readers will love this one.

As far as Kara Thomas goes, she’s fantastic; super talented. My opinion matters not at all in comparison to all she has achieved. I love her ideas, style and creativity. I will absolutely continue to pick up anything else she writes. Trust!

View all my reviews

Review: While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (The Wedding Date #6)

While We Were DatingWhile We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While We Were Dating is the sixth book in Jasmine Guillory’s Adult Romance series, The Wedding Date.

If you are unfamiliar with this series, they are all companion novels with some connecting characters. You can read them in any order, or as standalones.

In this installment, we follow Ben Stephens, who is the younger brother of Theo Stephens, the leading man of The Wedding Party.

Ben, who is known as a bit of a ladies man, works for an ad agency. When he is sent to pitch an important ad campaign featuring movie star, Anna Gardiner, he’s nervous.

Turns out, he had nothing to worry about. Ben is charming and he knocks it out of the park; making a great first impression with Anna.

Anna is at a turning point in her career. She is popular and well-known, but she really wants to get to that next level.

She views this ad campaign as a great distraction while she waits for her latest movie to drop. She’s anxious about what the reception to her role will be, but she remains hopeful that amazing things will come from it.

After Ben’s company wins the campaign, Anna makes sure Ben is the lead on the project. He could be just the right kind of distraction she needs.

Anna generally doesn’t mix business with pleasure, but there’s always room for exceptions.

Due to an unusual set of circumstances, Ben and Anna spend quite a bit of one-on-one time together and their light flirty banter quickly evolves into something more.

As the two are forced into a bit of a fake-dating relationship in order to aide Anna’s image, the lines blur even further. Is it real, or is it not? It’s so hard to tell in Hollywood.

I had a lot of fun with this one. I enjoyed Ben and Anna so much. Both of their characters worked for me and their banter together was adorable.

As with the earlier books in the series, I appreciate how Guillory included some important real life issues. Her characters are never just laser focused on love and romance. They always have issues they are working through and for me, I feel like they always grow in a satisfying way.

In this one, Anna’s celebrity was interesting to read about. I think frequently about how anxiety-inducing it must be to live that sort of fishbowl lifestyle. It must be challenging and exhausting to separate who you really are from all that constant chatter.

Ben is a breath of fresh air in Anna’s life. He’s a sincere person, who having worked in the past as a back-up dancer, is used to the buzz and craziness that comes with the entertainment business. He doesn’t get blinded by all that. He just sees Anna.

While I felt this one was wrapped up a little abruptly, I’m still very happy with the ending. My heart is full and I’ve got a big ole smile on my face!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will definitely continue to pick up anything else Guillory chooses to write. She’s got her own style and I’m here for it!

View all my reviews

Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Overnight GuestThe Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Overnight Guest is the second novel I have read from Heather Gudenkauf. The first was This Is How I Lied, which I really enjoyed when I read it in 2020, ultimately giving it 3.5-stars and rounding up.

In this one, I feel like Gudenkauf’s writing is elevated to a whole new level!

Wylie Lark is a True Crime writer. In the course of her work, she frequently travels to the locations where the crimes she is writing about have taken place.

She currently finds herself alone, staying at a remote farmhouse where a brutal double homicide once occurred, with a vicious snowstorm bearing down on her.

As horrifying as this may sound to some, Wylie isn’t concerned. She’s got a fireplace and enough supplies to last her until the storm passes.

When her dog alerts her to something he has found just outside the house, Wylie expects it to be some sort of animal, who wasn’t able to find shelter in time and succumbed to the elements. What she doesn’t expect is for it to be a child, half-frozen and unresponsive.

As the truth of the child’s sudden appearance begins to be revealed, Wylie realizes she may not be as alone as she once thought.

Will she be able to protect the child, and herself, from the dangers lurking outside long enough to be able to reach help?

Y’all, this novel is intensely-gripping. It follows both Wylie’s present timeline, as well as the perspective and timeline of a girl who lived in the house at the time of the gruesome murders.

But that’s not all! There’s a third perspective of a child that is quite disturbing.

The way Gudenkauf paced out the reveals of each perspective, drawing them together into one unsettling conclusion, was so well done. It kept me completely engrossed.

There was some really creepy moments in this. Reading on my kindle, in the dark, while home alone, on the night of a windstorm, I’ll admit to being scared. I had to read something else for a bit just in order to be able to sleep that night.

I loved the In Cold Blood vibes I got from this. It wasn’t overdone, but felt like a respectful nod to that work.

Overall, I had a ton of fun reading this. It featured some of my favorite tropes and was fast-paced and exciting to read. I would definitely recommend this one.

Thank you to the publisher, Park Row Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to reading more from Gudenkauf!

View all my reviews

Review: You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

You'll Be the Death of MeYou’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

After high-strung teenager, Ivy, loses the student council election at Carlton High to the class clown, Boney Mahoney, she’s horrified. How could this happen?!

The following day, Boney is supposed to be giving a speech addressing the school, thanking them for his victory.

Ughhhh, Ivy can’t face that.

Luckily, that morning she runs into her two estranged best friends, Cal and Mateo, in the parking lot before class and the three decide to skip school together and head into Boston for the day.

In a way, they are hoping to recreate the ‘best day ever’, a day they skipped school together and went into the city that happened to coincide with a celebration parade after the Red Sox had won the World Series.

But in truth, they’re all just hoping for an escape. A way to avoid facing all the things that are bringing them down.

When they get into the city though, Ivy spies Boney! What is he doing skipping out on his speech?

She sees red and decides to follow him, with the hopes of an epic confrontation. However, what she gets instead is the honor of stumbling upon a crime scene with a newly murdered body.

From that point forward, their potential best day ever turns into the craziest day ever as the trio attempt to avoid the cops, the media, the killer and suspicion. Oh yeah, they’re also hoping to solve the crime.

Taking place over the course of a single-day, this is a fun story, but I gotta say, probably my least favorite out of all of McManus’ prior works.

I can’t really put my finger on what it was about this one that didn’t vibe with me. Perhaps I just built it up so much in my head, anticipating it for so long, that it was destined to disappoint.

If I had to point to any one thing, I think the mystery just wasn’t compelling for me. I didn’t feel invested in it at all.

I did enjoy Ivy, Mateo and Cal; learning about their friendship, what drove them apart and their current woes. I found them to be interesting, just not the crime itself.

Regardless, the ending did have McManus’ signature final twist, which I always appreciate and because of that, I was leaning toward rounding this up to 4-stars, but have decided that just wasn’t enough.

With all of this being said, this is still a fun book. I think it will work for a ton of Readers and would be a great introduction to the YA Mystery genre. If you’ve read all of McManus’ other books, however, this one could seem lackluster in comparison.

Overall, McManus is an autobuy author for me and I will continue to pick up everything she writes.

Even though this isn’t my favorite of hers, I will still proudly display it on my shelves!!!

View all my reviews

Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

A History of Wild PlacesA History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five years after popular Children’s author, Maggie St. James, goes missing, her parents hire Travis Wren to search for her. Known for her dark fairy tale-style stories, it seems Maggie may have wandered into her own nightmare.

Travis, although a last resort of sorts, has an uncanny ability for finding people; one that channels his own very unique set of abilities.

Chasing one particular clue, Travis heads out alone into a cold, unforgiving stretch of forest in search of a place known only as Pastoral.

Founded in the 1970s, Pastoral is a commune, where the residents gathered searching for a simpler way of life. Fully self-reliant, Pastoral was essentially able to cut itself off from the rest of the world.

According to local lore, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore, but after Travis stumbles upon it, he disappears just like Maggie before him.

Years later, a commune member, Theo, breaks the rules of the community and explores past the marked boundary. It is at that time that he discovers a broken down old truck once owned by a man named Travis Wren.

Theo and his wife, Calla, come to believe that Travis wasn’t just in Pastoral at some point, he’s been in the their house. They both become completely focused on solving the mystery.

Who was Travis and what was he doing there? They believe it had something to do with a woman named, Maggie, but they don’t know her either.

The more they dig, the more the couple come to understand that the community they thought they knew so well, may not be the safe oasis they’ve always believed it to be.

Calla’s sister, Bee, who has been secretly engaged in a romantic relationship with the community’s charismatic leader, begins to come to her own unsavory conclusions about Pastoral. Have they all been living a lie?

A History of Wild Places is a unique and contemplative story, channeling all the haunting vibes of The Village.

I really enjoyed how this story began. Getting to know Travis, his abilities and the case he was currently assigned to. I became attached to him very quickly and was shocked when he disappeared.

For me the pace slowed a bit once I was introduced to our main characters in Pastoral. Eventually it picked back up, most notably after Theo and Calla begin investigating who Travis was and what might have happened to him.

Overall, I felt a little detached from Calla and Theo. While I liked them both, they were initially so rigid, it was hard to relate to them in a way. As the story progressed, however, I felt them both loosening up as their commitment to the community began to wane.

The pace steadily increases from there as Calla, Theo and Bee continue to lift the veil from Pastoral.

Ernshaw’s writing is absolutely beautiful. There’s something so enchanting about it, as she truly has the ability to build out a sense of place. I could picture the setting of Pastoral perfectly in my mind. She really excels at atmosphere.

This is an intricate story; one I had to think about quite a bit upon completion. I was torn on how to rate it. I did really, really enjoy this story, but it never crossed the line into love territory for me. I think mainly because it slowed down a bit too much for my taste around the middle.

With this being said, this is Ernshaw’s Adult debut and I think she did a fantastic job expanding into that space. This is a great book, one that I know so many Readers are going to absolutely adore.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This one will stick with me for a long time!

View all my reviews

Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

ShiverShiver by Allie Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shiver brings the chills and the thrills!

πŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ₯Άβ„πŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ₯Άβ„πŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ₯Άβ„πŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ₯Άβ„πŸ’™πŸ–€πŸ₯Άβ„πŸ’™

When Milla receives an invitation to Le Rocher, a ski resort in the French Alps, to reunite with her old friends, nearly all former pro-snowboarders, she’s anxious to go.

It has been 10-years since they were all together and they hadn’t parted under the best of circumstances.

That final winter, they were staying at Le Rocher and fiercely training for a snowboard competition.

It was the winter that Milla’s frenemy, Saskia, disappeared, presumed dead. Lost to the brutal forces of the mountain.

Upon arrival, things are a little awkward. There’s a lot left unsaid. One can easily tell there is a giant elephant joining the friends on this weekend getaway.

Awkwardness aside, it doesn’t take long before the five friends realize that something sinister may be in the works.

The resort is completely deserted and as soon as they are deposited there, the cable cars that brought them stop working, their cell phones disappear and the game begins.

It’s an ice breaker game aimed at drawing out everyone’s secrets. Disturbingly, everything about this scenario is making them think of Saskia.

Who would do this? Who would want to reunite them, strand them and then bring up such a terrible tragedy? They’re all just trying to move on, aren’t they?

The thing is, they’re the only guests, so one of the five friends must be behind it, right?

As more and more frightening things begin to occur, and with a serious snowstorm on the way, Milla realizes they are well and truly stuck.

Escaping from the resort, down the mountain, could prove just as dangerous as what, or who, has brought them there.

This was a really entertaining locked-room mystery with a final line that gave me chills.

One of my favorite tropes is when a group of people get stranded somewhere remote due to inclement weather. Reynolds not only included that within this story, she excelled at it.

I felt the stress and pressure these characters were under, particularly Milla. It felt claustrophobic. I swear, I wanted to get out of there as much as they did.

I also had fun with the past timeline, as we learn more about what happened the winter they were training together for the competition. Saskia was a vibrant character. You could see why she had such an impact on everyone around her.

As past and present begin to merge, the truth edges closer and closer to being exposed. I felt Reynolds pulled off that merge, and the subsequent reveals, very well.

It kept me at the edge of my seat and I absolutely flew through this one. I really wanted to know what had happened. Everyone was a suspect.

Overall, I was really impressed with this as a debut. I loved that it included the character’s sport, training and competition elements. It seems, as an athlete herself, that may be a theme Reynolds continues to incorporate into her stories.

I am really looking forward to her next release, The Bay, set to release in Summer 2022!!

View all my reviews

Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade TearsRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Ike Randolph’s son, Isiah, is brutally murdered, Ike isn’t just heart-broken. He’s also filled with regrets.

When Isiah came out to him, Ike handled it poorly and never ended up fully accepting Isiah’s relationship with his husband, Derek.

Derek’s father, Buddy Lee, struggled with his son’s sexuality also and knows all too well the regrets Ike is experiencing.

Although Ike and Buddy Lee have never really associated, Buddy Lee seeks Ike out after their son’s murders. He wants to get to the bottom of it and thinks that Ike will be able to help him.

Besides their son’s relationship and subsequent deaths, Ike and Buddy Lee have something else in common. They’re both ex-cons. A fact that put additional strain on their relationships with their boys.

Initially, Ike is offended that Buddy Lee has come to him in such a way. He feels like Buddy Lee wants to use him on his mission of revenge, but then something happens that Ike can’t ignore. He won’t see his son’s memory scandalized in such a way.

After that, the two men pair up and an investigation of epic proportions ensues.

Ike and Buddy Lee are like the lovable odd couple in every buddy cop movie, except that they’re ex-cons. Which personally, I just think added to their depth of character and likability.

Neither one of them is perfect. They’ve both made a lot of mistakes and done many things they aren’t proud of. They’re open about that though and I appreciated that about them.

The conversations between the two men, as they got to know one another, were quite moving to read. They had frank discussions involving race and sexuality that really packed a punch, but in a natural way. It never felt overdone, or in your face.

I feel like Cosby did an incredible job of incorporating such social commentary seamlessly into the narrative.

I grew so attached to these characters over the course of the story; not just Ike and Buddy Lee, but side characters such as Ike’s wife and a woman named, Tangerine.

As I raced towards the conclusion, I knew this one would break my heart and it did, but in a good way. That doesn’t really make sense, does it?

I think if you read this, it will become clear. At it’s heart a story of revenge, this is also a story of hope, personal growth, change and possibly even redemption.

I grew to love these two men, flawed though they were. Cosby’s writing is captivating from the very start. This was expertly-crafted for maximum impact. If you don’t have this on your TBR yet…

I had the pleasure of Buddy Reading this one with my fabulous niece, Alyssa. We had some great discussions throughout.

I would definitely recommend this one for Book Club, Buddy Reads, or even a solo venture. In summation:

View all my reviews

Review: The Bone Cay by Eliza Nellums

The Bone CayThe Bone Cay by Eliza Nellums
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Magda Trudell is the caretaker of Whimbrell Estate in Key West, Florida. The stately property was once home to a famous American poet, Isobel Reyes, who committed suicide on the property in 1918.

Magda, a botanist and historian, has dedicated her most recent years to restoring Whimbrell Estate to its former glory; something Isobel could be proud of.

Magda’s hope is for Whimbrell to be recognized as a national historic site. It’s important to her that Isobel’s legacy be passed down for future generations to enjoy.

Some might say she is a little obsessed with it actually.

When a fierce hurricane is reported to be headed straight for the Keys, local authorities call a mandatory evacuation.

Magda isn’t hearing it. There is no way she is fleeing and leaving her life’s work at risk to Mother Nature. She must stay and protect the property, whatever the cost.

Once the storm hits, it proves to be just as dangerous as the experts predicted. Go figure.

Now with her supplies wiped out and the house barely livable, Magda has company arrive. A teenage girl and her father, seeking shelter from the storm.

Without many resources to spare, Magda nonetheless takes them in. It’s the three of them against the storm. Will they be able to survive?

In amongst all of this, Magda discovers some hidden artifacts that she believes may be tied to Isobel’s death. You know she will never leave those artifacts behind. This is her chance to leave her imprint on Isobel’s story.

The Bone Cay is a good book. I had never read anything by Eliza Nellums and I’m glad that I had a chance to.

I think for a lot of people, this will be a really great story. For me, it was good. It kept my attention and I’m glad that I read it. However, I wouldn’t say it will remain particularly memorable for me.

It’s a simply-told, linear story that makes a great escape from regular life. I enjoyed the setting of the Keys and Magda’s role as caretaker for the Estate.

Some aspects of the storm and the discovery of the new artifacts seemed a little strange to me, but in the context of the story, it did flow fairly well. As I mentioned above, I do think a lot of Readers will enjoy this.

I think it could work well for history buffs, particularly Florida history buffs, and people just getting into the Thriller genre.

Thank you so much to the publishers, Crooked Lane Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I did listen to the audiobook and would recommend that as a medium for reading this story. It was quite well narrated.

View all my reviews

Review: If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

If This Gets OutIf This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

πŸ€πŸ’™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅πŸ€πŸ’™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅πŸ€πŸ’™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅πŸ€πŸ’™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅πŸ€πŸ’™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅πŸ€

Ruben, Zach, Angel and Jon are all members of the American boy band, Saturday.

This fabulous foursome is currently riding sky-high on the wings of their world-wide popularity, but their lives are not as carefree as they first appear.

The boys are fiercely controlled by their management company, pigeon-holing them into preordained personas that they are heavily pushed not to stray from.

Particularly struggling with this is Ruben, who is gay. He has been asking management to let him come out to their fans, but he is continually told that it isn’t the right time.

Ruben feels stifled, like he is unable to be his true self in any public way. This fact is beginning to weigh heavily on him.

On a European tour, Ruben and Zach begin to grow closer as Ruben confides to Zach how he has been feeling. Zach, for his part, discovers he is having feelings for Ruben that he has never experienced before; at least not that he has admitted to himself.

As their friendship evolves into romance, they decide that they want to be able to live openly, not just with their friends and family, but with everyone; particularly with their fans.

It becomes clear this will never be acceptable to their management. What are they to do? They can’t let down their best friends, Jon and Angel, sacrifices need to be made to be in a group, but how much is too much?

I really enjoyed my time reading If This Gets Out. I became so attached to these characters. The boys were all well-fleshed out and lovable in their own unique ways.

While this story is sticky sweet, it also explores a lot of challenging topics. I thought the authors beautifully blended the light-hearted aspects with the serious. It really is a well-rounded Contemporary.

I love stories featuring music, or musicians, so I had a feeling this one would work for me, but I was truly impressed with how deeply I came to care for these guys.

I will say, it did feel a little long to me, but in the end, that is a minor complaint compared to all the goodness I received within these pages.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I think this is a top-notch story and look forward to reading more from both of these authors. Also, if they could work together again, that would be so fantastic. Clearly, a great partnership!!!

View all my reviews

Review: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1)All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once every generation, in the city of Ilvernath, seven families must choose a champion who will represent them in a tournament where the contestants fight to the death.

The prize is an inexhaustible supply of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world. The family whose champion wins, gains control over that magick for their family until the next tournament.

Obviously, this is extremely important and puts a whole load of pressure on the contestants.

With this tournament in particular, thanks to a recently released tell-all book, the contestants are thrust into the spotlight like never before.

Will the contestants be able to use this difference to their advantage, or will it distract them to the point of death? Can anything ever change the cycle of the Tournament? Does their world have to be this way?

All of Us Villains is basically The Hunger Games if it were fought exclusively by members of Slytherin House.

Well, Slytherin and maybe one Gryffindor.

If you read this statement and you’re thinking, why would I want to read that? I’ve read those stories. I want something new. I will just stress, this is something new!

Even though it channels those vibes. Particularly, the vibe of Knockturn Alley at night in the midst of a thunderstorm, this is its own thing.

I loved how the authors formatted this, with the Reader finding out who the champion of each house would be along with the rest of the citizens of Ilvernath.

Following some of the contestants perspectives, we get to know each one of them and the challenges they face in pursuit of their goals. There’s plotting, scheming, strategizing and like a good season of Survivor, a lot of alliances.

The writing in this story is just beautiful. It’s exceptionally detailed, lush and dramatic.

I could definitely feel both Foody and Herman within these pages; the darkness, monsters, violence, despair, but also highly developed and likable characters, even in all their antihero-ness.

Honestly, these two authors working together is everything I have ever wanted. I feel like they have created something truly memorable here.

You may be wondering after all of my gushing, why I only gave this 4-stars, as opposed to 5. For me, I don’t think I ever truly understood the magic system.

I am not sure if it is because I was so distracted by the characters themselves, that perhaps I missed out on some details, but I feel like there was something missing.

With this being said, I still really enjoyed this story and would love to read it again actually. Most likely, before the next book is released, I will do so.

Basically, this book is the love child of Draco Malfoy and Katniss Everdeen. It’s amazing and feels like a dark fantasy reader’s dreams come true. Yep, that’s right.

Thank you so much to the publishers, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. I cannot wait for more collaborative efforts from these authors!!!

View all my reviews