Review: She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens, #1)She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1983: Topaz. Coralie. Jojo. Benners. Connor. Brett.

Aurora.

When Aurora Jackson accepts an invitation to go camping with her older sister and her friends, she has no idea it will be her last night on Earth. The younger girl feels shy and out of place as the older kids get to drinking, drugs, dancing and more. The party goes late into the night and everyone basically passes out. In the morning, when they wake, the older kids find nothing of Aurora but her cold sleeping bag.

No trace of her is ever found and suspicions circle the group of friends for the next thirty years.

Present Day: A young girl on a camping trip with her family, stumbles upon the bones of a human hand in a small cavern at the base of a tree. Aurora has been found and so begins the cold case that may finally end up concluding what happened on that ill-fated night in the woods.

The small-town cop in charge of the investigation, DCI Jonah Sheens, knew the kids involved that night. In fact, when it happened, he was just a kid himself, at school with all the rest. Trying to keep his own past to himself, DCI Sheens and a great cast of fellow officers slowly unravel what happened to poor Aurora.

This gripping crime thriller is told in a format of alternating timelines. You get to see what happened on that camping trip in 1983 and the police procedural aspects of the current investigation. I thought the timelines were really well done and the pacing, for me, was perfect. I was so impressed with the fact that this is a debut novel. I hope that Lodge continues on with DCI Sheens character. I enjoyed him and the other officers he had on his team. I would absolutely continue on with this series, no question.

If you like police procedural and split timeline narratives, you should check this one out. Plus, it is always great to support new authors. Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to getting my hands on more Gytha Lodge books in the future!

Trigger Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, drug use and emotional abuse.

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Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow HallThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Forced to flee Boston in the wake of scandalous rumors, the Montrose Family, moves into their summer estate, Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, Massachusetts. The three sisters – Catherine, Lydia & Emeline – take the move as well as can be expected and before too long are settling into their new life with only minor complaints.

The setting and language of this novel are absolutely beautiful. I was surprised to learn this is a debut as the writing seems so experienced. I loved the gothic vibes that extend throughout the story. There is always an underlining feeling of menace just under the surface. In regards to witchcraft, it is subtle in nature, and I felt very well portrayed. It is by no means the bulk of the story but hints of it are sprinkled throughout with it becoming a more prominent feature in the second half.

The interactions between the sisters, particularly Catherine and Lydia, reminded me so much of Downton Abbey with Mary and Edith. It is not a warm and fuzzy sisterly relationship by any means and in fact, their constant battling provides most of the drama in the book.

There is also quite a bit of romance. I am so exhausted by the courtship patterns of this time period. I just cannot even imagine dealing with all that formality. No one ever seems to say what they feel. GAHHHHHHH. Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone ended up with the person they wanted to be with!

Overall, I was very impressed with the book. It was a pleasure to read. All the drama, the overarching feeling of suspense, the subtle supernatural undertones, the hauntings, the domestic drama – soooo fun!

I did take off a half a star just because there were moments where I felt the drama was repetitive and could have been shortened up a bit but that is very slight and 100% my opinion. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially if you enjoy things with a gothic atmosphere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity and and am kicking myself for not having picked this up in October as I had originally planned. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Fox comes up with next!

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Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“How do you know if you can really trust someone?” I finally ask.
“If you need to ask that question, then you probably already know the answer,” he says.

Wow! First book of 2019 on record and WOW, I loved it!

An Anonymous Girl follows two main perspectives:


Jessica:
A single-gal, late 20s, living in NYC and working as a make-up artist. Jessica lives a fairly solitary life. She has a sweet little dog and a couple of close friends but most of the time, she’s alone. She is a bit haunted by her past. Back when Jessica was a teenager, an incident occurred with her little sister and she has a lot of residual guilt stemming from that. Also, due to this incident, she can find it painful at times to be with her family and they are under extreme financial distress.


Dr. Lydia Shields:
Dr. Shields is a wealthy and successful psychiatrist and author who works at a local college teaching seminars and performing research studies, mainly on morality. Her perspective is written in second person which I did find jarring at first but eventually became used to and even enjoyed.

Jessica and Dr. Shields become acquainted when Jessica lies her way into participating in one of Dr. Shields studies. Motivated exclusively by money at first, Jessica eventually finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into Dr. Shields web.

The relationship lines are extremely blurry with Jessica and Dr. Shields. I was so confused as to who was the predator and who was the prey initially. They both seemed so enamored with one another.

To add to the complication we get Dr. Shields husband, Thomas, thrown into the mix. Again, is he good, is he bad?

Everyone in this book is just too damn smart for their own good! Manipulation FACTOR 10!!!

The story is extremely fast-paced, a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs….

Someone pass the dramamine! I loved every minute of it. There was mystery, there was investigation, there was an ultimate game of cat-and-mouse…I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! In my opinion, this could definitely be one of the top Adult Thrillers I read in 2019…if not, the top. I know it is early but I really, really enjoyed this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for kindly providing me with a e-copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This book is definitely a winner. The Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen combo is something very special! I hope they continue to write books together in future, as I would certainly love to read them!

When money and morality intersect, the result can illuminate intriguing truths about human character.

Original:

Ummmm, this is going to be so good -ARC received and I am already rearranging my life to fit it in NOW!

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Review: Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of OilInsane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Even if it died tomorrow, Tesla has already achieved what it set out to do: accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport. It has convinced the world that electric cars can be great.”

I really enjoyed Hamish McKenzie’s overview of the pending electric revolution within the auto industry. I learned so much, particularly in regards to the progress various nations around the world are making to be rid of gas powered vehicles.

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Elon Musk fangirl and Tesla shareholder.

This being said, my enjoyment factor for this book may be a bit heightened compared to an average reader who perhaps doesn’t have that love ((ahem, background)) in regards to Musk & Tesla. I believe in him and his passion for his companies and their products is absolutely contagious.

As far as the format and writing for this book, I think they were both very well executed. McKenzie has a journalism background and I think that definitely shines through in the best ways. His ease with explaining a fairly large and complex sector of the market was impressive and I appreciated the way he examined the big picture; aka. looked at the issue of transitioning to electric vehicles from a global perspective and the effects that it could have long-term.

If you are a gear head or a tech guru you should definitely check this book out. It is loaded with up-to-date information on where we stand in our transition away from the internal combustion engine into a more sustainable, as well as potentially autonomous vehicular future.

Whether you are a believer yet or not, it stands to reason that within a generation or two, the kids of the future will look at our current gas powered vehicles like my nieces and nephews look at rotary dial telephones. This concise book is a great start to understanding the history, scope and issues in a nonpolitical way and extends forth a positive outlook on the future while also questioning how these changes will affect our economy and society in future.

My parting words are, Elon, I love you…oh and I want to thank the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my feedback. Cheers~

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Review: Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

Hunting AnnabelleHunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, Hunting Annabelle wasn’t the story for me. I did not like this. It started out promising, as the author’s writing is actually quite strong, but the story, yeah, just did not do it for me.

Around the 50% mark was where it seemed to turn for me and I never got my interest back. Our protagonist, Sean Suh, is a Korean-American in his early 20s who you discover early on has some pretty strong urges to hurt and kill young women. In fact, you learn that he acted on these urges at least once in a severe enough manner to have him sentenced to a psychiatric prison. However, at the point where we meet him, he is living with his overbearing and severe mother in a different state from where he committed his crime(s).

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the beginning. It started off strong. It is revealed to you overtime the extent of Sean’s illness and resulting actions and I enjoyed the way that was slowly unfolded for us. He is very much an unreliable narrator and it is unclear early on how much of his thoughts you can actually believe as the truth.

After a certain point however it just got to be too much. Then plot twists occurred where my eyes legit almost rolled out of my head. I just didn’t buy what the author was trying to sell. It completely lost me on the story.

By the final 20% I just couldn’t. I had to push to make it through. However, just because this story wasn’t for me, in no way makes this a bad book. The author’s writing style is very fluid and easy to read. The suspense and uncertainty at the beginning definitely kept me turning the pages. If you are okay with the plot twists, this could probably be a really strong book for you. It is very violent, very messy, very over-the-top but also explores some interesting topics of identity and mental health.

There are readers for every story but unfortunately, this one just didn’t work for me. I want to thank the publisher, Harlequin – MIRA, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity and I would read more books by Wendy Heard in the future.

**Please note, the protagonist in this has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but he doesn’t self-identify as such and I in no way can comment on how the rep was for that.

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Review: The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone

The MansionThe Mansion by Ezekiel Boone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

…there’s no way we’re going to stay here and wait for Nellie to go all redrum on us.

What would happen if HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey were set up to run The Overlook Hotel from The Shining? This book would happen.

Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle created ‘Nellie’ – a computer system built to serve, better than AI and continually rewriting herself for your ‘happiness’ – and installed her into a creepy old haunted mansion secluded in the woods of upstate New York. Then Billy and his wife go to live in the mansion, during the winter when they could be snowbound there for days at time, in order to work out the kinks. What could go wrong?

Heavy in The Shining feels…I mean REALLY heavy…I appreciated the ubermodern twist it took. The Shining is one of my all time favorite books, and I know some fans who I could possibly see not liking this or calling it a ‘rip-off’, but to me it was a solid doffing of the cap to one of Sai King’s masterpieces ((in my humble Constant Reader opinion)).

To me, this book reads like a techy-scifi with some horror elements sprinkled throughout. There were a few scenes that really raised my anxieties but I suppose it all depends on what you are afraid of. If you’re like me and more than slightly nervous about your Smart Phone, Smart TV or the ever-looming Smart House, this may be a good one for you to pick up. Additionally, I always love a good ‘haunted house’ story and there were definitely some ghosts woven throughout this book…and twins, don’t forget to add some creepy twins in there because regular twins won’t do.

The beginning started out a little slow for me but by the time Billy and Emily arrive at Eagle Mansion I was elbows deep in this horrifying goodness. Overall, I found the storyline very readable and I kept wanting to go back for more. I am happy with the way things turned out although the final scene seem a bit too rushed compared with the extended build-up. It all seemed a little too easy in the end. I would definitely read more books by Boone, this was my first, and have been told to check out his Hatching series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really enjoyed this and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell: A NovelNot That I Could Tell: A Novel by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I get the sense she views neighbors the way I do–sort of like family. You don’t get to pick them, and you’re stuck sharing space whether you like it or not, so you might as well try to get along.

When neighborhood women gather around a fire pit drinking wine into all hours of the night, you never know what’s going to happen. Unfortunately for this group of ladies in Yellow Springs, Ohio, fun and games turn to fuzzy memories and a lot of questions come Monday morning when Kristin, one of the group, doesn’t show up for work and her twins don’t arrive at school.

The police asking questions of Kristin’s whereabouts quickly devolves into an all-out media circus in this once quiet neighborhood. Suspicions fall at the feet of Kristin’s estranged husband, Dr. Paul, one of the creepiest doctors you’ll ever meet.

The main course of the book follows along with the lives of the women remaining; showing how Kristin’s disappearance has affected them, their lives and their relationships to one another. Izzy, the newest member of the neighborhood gang, and the only single-woman, plays a very special role in the drama as she appears to have befriended Dr. Paul.

This is a very well written book. I think Strawser really excels at writing and examining different types of relationships. Additionally, I feel she does a great job exploring women’s issues: what it is like to be a mother, a stay-at-home mother versus a working mother, a single woman, women in love with other women, women’s relationships to their families, different expectations placed on women at different points in their lives, etc. She writes so fluidly; it all has such a nice feel to it.

I was surprised to find that overall the Goodreads rating for this book is around a 3.50; although that still means it is a ‘good’ book, I would have assumed it would be higher, more like a 4. I think the main problem is the fact that this is classified as a Thriller and I would disagree with that designation. I would classify this as a Domestic Drama or even Women’s Lit. It is my opinion, that her books would be better served if they were marketed in that way as if you go into this looking for ‘Adult Thriller’ you may be disappointed. Of course this is solely my opinion, I do not work in publishing, so really, what the hell do I know?

Overall, I had a really enjoyable time with this book. Strawser’s writing always sucks me in and I will definitely pick up anything else she writes in the future. Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinions.

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Review: Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Love à la ModeLove à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“…part of the magic of food. It didn’t last. It couldn’t. Each bite was only a moment transformed into a memory.”


FOODIES REJOICE!!!

This book stole my heart right out of the gate. A departure gate at O’Hare International Airport to be specific. We meet our main characters, Rosie Radeke and Henry Yi, aboard a plane to Paris. Both teens have been selected to attend the very prestigious Ecole of Chef Laurent. The program is part competition, part culinary school, open to only 20 students per year. Being selected is an honor in itself and both Rosie and Henry are full of excitement and trepidation on their flight.

This book was absolutely adorable ((one of the best ‘Meet Cutes’ I have ever read!!)) and reminded me that sometimes it is okay to just read something that makes your heart happy. There was nothing complicated, no horrible hidden secrets or murders or deceptions, just love, reflection and growth…oh and a heck of a lot of fun, food and friends!

In addition to Henry and Rosie, the story incorporates quite a few of the other students who are from different areas around the world and brought such unique personalities to the story. If you are someone who enjoys stories with a strong friendship group you should definitely pick this one up. I loved the support and camaraderie amongst the main cast. Yumi in particular, loved her so much!! The banter between the characters is great; I was laughing out loud by only 3% into the book.

“There’s no one else I’d rather eat with.”

As a romance-heavy YA Contemporary will do, this book is replete with the angsty sort of romance tropes that you would typically find in a YA but, that being said, they were really well done here. It never felt cheesy to me or overplayed, just nice, steady and sweet. I loved watching the evolution of the relationship between Rosie and Henry, even through the miscommunications that made me want to scream, I just truly felt filled to the brim with warmth from this story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback and I look forward to hearing what other readers think of this one! Well done, Ms. Strohm. Very well done.

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Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a unique novella following the perspective of a young woman, Korede, living in Lagos, Nigeria. Korede is a nurse and seems to lead a fairly normal life; she is on the straight and narrow, if you will. ‘Normal’ until you discover that Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, kills all of her boyfriends and then calls on Korede to help clean up the mess!

“You’re a big sister now, Korede. And big sisters look after little sisters.” Apparently, this is the sentiment that Korede was raised with and now, no matter what her sister does, she feels obligated to PROTECT HER from everything. Protect her?!? The witch is crazy. She shows no remorse or empathy for the things she does. At one point, Korede muses, “I am more haunted by her actions than she is.” Yeah! No kidding!

I did fluctuate throughout the story between feeling bad for Korede for all the bullshit she had to put up with and being angry at her for not standing up to her damn sister. It was like every other chapter, like a seesaw. Ultimately I wish it would have gone a different way. I really was hoping Korede would make more growth as a character and fight back against the treatments and judgments laid on her. This is a novella though, very short, and I just don’t think there was enough time for her character to get there.

Overall, I felt the story was compelling, it definitely kept me interested and was unique. Thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity and I know a lot of people will enjoy this little tale. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Braithwaite. I like her style!

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Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

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