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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

The author of the “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) The Family Upstairs returns with another taut and white-knuckled thriller following a group of people whose lives shockingly intersect when a young woman disappears.

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2020
 by Atria Books
3.5/5 stars

Lisa Jewell has been a go-to author for a number of years. Her books are uniquely themed they are mysterious, suspenseful and keep me guessing.

Invisible Girl released last month in the UK and for us folks in North America it hits bookshelves in a couple of weeks.

I’ll confess that this got off to a slow start for me, I was a little confused with the cast of characters and how they fit together. But really I didn’t need to know the connections right away but just needed to sit back knowing the author would connect the dots.

So there is this family that obviously has secrets. To be honest I found them to be an odd bunch, they just had that vibe. The mom, Cate, is one of the view points. She made me nervous and paranoid.

Then there is the weird guy across the street, Owen Pick he lives with his aunt and yea he is a tad strange also and another POV. There were some things I didn't need to know about,  but alas it was needed for the story (like an online presence called incel - didn't know it was a thing).

Add a 17 year old girl named Saffyre (which is a cool name) and this makes for some interesting dynamics, she is final POV. It was hers that I enjoyed hearing from, as her past comes to light I couldn’t help but have motherly feeling for her. But her actions left me scratching my head at times.

So basically this book is about some odd characters that somehow are connected.
It wasn’t until the last half of the book where I was really invested, that had me doing a marathon read.
I'd call this a darker Lisa Jewell book, I was forewarned back in January when I had the awesome privilege of meeting the author.

While this might not be my favorite Jewell book, that honor goes to Then She Was Gone, though it might change as I continue reading her backlist.

This book was part of my '2020 Reading off my Shelf' Challenge - I was impatient and order via BookDepository.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Audio Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Overwhelmed by tragedy, a woman desperately tries to save her marriage in award-winning author Jennifer Hillier's Little Secrets, a riveting novel of psychological suspense.

All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret...

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They're admired in their community and are a loving family—until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She's lost her son; she's not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.

Permanently.

Audiobook, 9 hours, 40 min
Published April 21st 2020 
by Macmillan Audio 
4/5 stars

Little Secrets is a parents worst nightmare. One second your child’s hand is firmly in yours and the next gone, 480 seconds is all it took. Now 400 plus days later Marin still relives those seconds over and over again.

I’m glad I went with the audio book for this one, Kirsten Potter is the reader who does a great job bringing this book to life.

Little Secrets is a multi layered story told from the POVs of two women. Marin being one, her character shines through with visits to support groups, a PI, work and friends. It’s full of secrets, relationships and deception. I can’t even begin to image what she went through and the author gave a clear picture of her emotional state that was realistic and relatable.

Kenzie is the other POV, the other woman with an agenda that gave this book a clear view of Marin's husband.  What kind of secrets are both these 2 playing at?

I’ve only read one book by Jennifer Hillier, Jars of Hearts (which I really enjoyed). While this one wasn’t as dark it was suspenseful with the twists and turns that kept me guessing and concluded with a satisfying ending.

Definitely a book I recommend to those that love to get lost in an addictive read.



Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review: Alone in the Woods by Rebecca Behrens

From the author of The Disaster Days comes a thrilling survival story about two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in a remote national forest.

Jocelyn and Alex have always been best friends...until they aren't. Jocelyn's not sure what happened, but she hopes the annual joint-family vacation in the isolated north woods will be the perfect spot to rekindle their friendship.

But Alex still isn't herself when they get to the cabin. And Jocelyn reaches a breaking point during a rafting trip that goes horribly wrong. When the girls' tube tears it leaves them stranded and alone. And before they know it, the two are hopelessly lost.

Wearing swimsuits and water shoes and with only the contents of their wet backpack, the girls face threats from the elements. And as they spend days and nights lost in the wilderness, they'll have to overcome their fractured friendship to make it out of the woods alive.

Kindle Edition, 225 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2020
by Sourcebooks Young Readers
3/5 stars


The story of friendship between Jocelyn (Joss) and Alex (Lexie) and how everything changes over a 2 week separation. Told mostly from Joss’s pov it also jumps back to Alex sharing what happened during those 2 weeks and the rest of the summer before 8th grade.

It was a quick read for me and for the most part I enjoyed myself. Towards the end of their time lost in the woods I’ll admit that it kinda dragged on a little. Joss is somewhat of a nature nerd so the info dumping of animal/nature characteristics matched and I did learn some things. Alex is somewhat of a whiny adolescent and honestly I had a hard time feeling any sympathy for her.

The ending wasn’t what I expected but it worked and to be honest it was a more realistic outcome.

This is my first time reading Rebecca Behrens, I’ve added her to my list of MG authors to be on the lookout for.

Alone in the Woods releases Oct 1st and is available for preorder now.

My thanks to Sourcebooks for an advanced copy (via Netgalley) in the exchange for an honest review.



Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: The Simple Wild (The Simple Wild #1) by K.A. Tucker

 
City girl Calla Fletcher attempts to reconnect with her estranged father, and unwittingly finds herself torn between her desire to return to the bustle of Toronto and a budding relationship with a rugged Alaskan pilot in this masterful new romance from acclaimed author K.A. Tucker.

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published August 7th 2018
 by Atria Books
5/5 stars

How did I not know about KA Tucker before now?!  A Canadian author from close to home, a slew of books out and it was only through a couple Zoom meetings (put on by the Kitchener Public Library) that had a number of authors recommending this book that had me (finally) reading The Simple Wild.

So if I say that if I could I’d give this book more than 5 stars, would that convey my feelings? It’s difficult to find fault with this story. The character development is spot on, realistic and relatable. It’s a book that made me laugh out loud on many occasions, rereading scenes for an additional smile. I was also stirred to tears numerous times and that's a challenge to make happen.

What made this book for me was the writings. Everything revolves around the writing from character development to plot and that was spot on.  Calla and the gang were, relatable and unique giving a wonderful look at the way of life in rural Alaska as well as the hustle and bustle of Toronto living. There were nice little touches that just added that extra sparkle. It's a book about relationship, fractured from the past and those off to rocky starts - how to mend/build before it's too late.

I'm not sure I can adequately share my feelings for this book without giving even a little bit of the story away. The author made me care for everyone and I was sad to see the book end - well that is until the sequel Wild at Heart arrived in my mailbox.

Definitely a book I highly recommend to...well...everyone.

My copy obtained from the public library via Overdrive - though I can see myself purchasing this for my personal library.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Review: The Night Portrait: A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy by Laura Morelli

An exciting, dual-timeline historical novel about the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous paintings, Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, and the woman who fought to save it from Nazi destruction during World War II.



Milan, 1492
: When a 16-year old beauty becomes the mistress of the Duke of Milan, she must fight for her place in the palace—and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date.

Munich, World War II: After a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader, she risks her life to recover it, working with an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.

Paperback, 496 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2020
 by William Morrow Paperbacks
4.5/5 stars

This is my second book by Laura Morelli, she has written a number of books taking place in Italy - one of my favorite holiday destinations.  These days armchair travel appears to be the norm and this fit the bill nicely.

Yes there are 4 points of view here, it wasn't hard to keep track of, each was unique and interesting.  One just needed to be patient to see how they would intersect.  

In 1939 Edith is placed in a position that goes against everything she believes and struggles throughout the war with her actions. She was authentic, well written showing the control the Nazis had over its citizens.

In 1944 Dominic, a US soldier, has a passion for sketching but sees and experiences heartache that leaves him disillusioned. The Monument Men play a part here and I loved that angle.

Leonardo da Vinci leaves Florence behind journeying to Milan where he is commissioned to paint a portrait that plays center stage. I enjoyed learning of his ambitions which weren’t limited to sculptures and paintings.

Cecilia in 1492 has her dowry wasted away and takes matters into her own hands to avoid the nunnery. Only 16 years old she is driven beyond her years.

There are many layers that don't revolve around the painting that reflect what was taking place in Germany to its citizens, especially those deemed flawed. I loved the number of real historical figures included and yes I did google after I finished. 

The Night Portrait was a refreshing change of scenery for a WW2 book. It's well written, full of passion and rich in history, which again shows the authors passion for the location and art world.

The Night Portrait releases on Sept 8th and is available for preorder. My thanks to both the publisher and author for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Review: The Ghost in the House by Sara O'Leary

What if a ghost were haunting your house? What if you were the ghost?

Everything in Fay's life is perfect--living in the house she dreamed of as a child, married to a man she loves, and planning her life as an artist. Her life seems full of possibility. Then, late one night, Fay realizes that something has gone wrong.

Things have altered in the house and some-how time, and Fay's husband, Alec, seem to have gone on without her. Fay--who thought her life was on the verge of beginning--finds it has abruptly ended. And she comes to learn that sometimes the life you grieve may be your own.

This glimmering and darkly comedic novel explores both the domestic and the existential, delving into the dark heart of marriage and the meaning of a life.

Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 7th 2020
 by Doubleday Canada
3.5/5 stars

This is a quick little book coming in at 190 pages.

It’s hard to put into words my thoughts on this one. It’s a unique story, funny at times but also sad. Faye seemed a little confused in the beginning, kinda like myself but it didn’t take long to grasp the storyline and feel her wide range of emotions. That being said I think another 50 pages or so would have been great to get a good handle on the situation, even to hear from Alex would have been a welcome addition, though I understand the direction the author was going for - which was to get Faye's perspective.

This is my first time reading Canadian author Sara O’Leary and I’ll be in the lookout for more.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf challenge

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the "Watchman," she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa's search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk's shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot's history, she's also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

Kindle Edition
Bethany House
Expected publication: September 1st 2020
4/5 stars

I have been a big fan of Jaime Jo Wright every since reading her debut The House on Foster Hill. She writes dual time period story’s that don’t just have a great mystery but tackles issues that are relevant and usually affects me on a personal level.

The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus is no exception. I’ll confess that circus books are not my thing but because of who penned this one I dove right in. Between the 1928 story line and present day this is a book about courage, of taking a stand but also having the courage to accept assistance.

There is everything that makes for a great mystery - unsolved murder, an old haunted train depot, secrets disappearances and suspicious characters, including a serial killer. All in Jaime Jo Wright fashion everything clicks into place with a satisfying conclusion.

Anyone who loves a good mystery should give her a try. This is what I call Christian Fiction at it’s finest, meaning it isn’t overly preachy but the message of faith, love and finding acceptance is predominant.
“Remember, what to us seems like God’s biggest errors, to Him they are His largest promises.”

My thanks to Bethany House (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid's disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building's hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Hardcover, 371 pages
Published July 2nd 2019 
by Dutton Books
3/5 stars

I discovered Riley Sager just this past summer. Last Time I Lied is a book I’ve been recommending, it has that nice blend of mystery, suspense and ghosty vibes. Likeable characters and an intricate plot that I loved. Home Before Dark was darker, ghostier (not really a word I know) and creepy but it still worked for me. Going through his back list I cracked open Lock Every Door and I got stuck. Reading just over 100 pages I struggled, my interest waned with the slow pace. I switched over to the audiobook and quickly loved it. A coincidence that the book pickup for? Maybe but I highly recommend the audio.

The Bartholomew is a fictional place, I can certainly envision such a place. A place for high society, mysterious and full of scandals. Jules was an interesting character with a past that she keeps close to the surface.  As weird things happen she becomes entangled in an unimaginable web of betrayal and scariness.

As for the ending...well...I don’t even really know what to say without causing a major spoiler. So suffice to say I have mixed feelings. On one hand it was unique and kinda worked, but also came out of left field. But on the other hand it irked me and if you want to know why follow this link to my spoiler on Goodreads.

Though this might not have been a perfect fit for me it isn’t enough to dis sway me from reading more Riley Sager books.

My copy obtained from the public library

Monday, August 24, 2020

Review: The End of Her by Shari Lapena

The new domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and Someone We Know .

In upstate New York, Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin babies. The girls are a handful, but Stephanie doesn't mind being a stay-at-home mom, taking care of them while Patrick does the 9-5 to pay the bills.

And when a woman from Patrick's past drops in on them unexpectedly, raising questions about his late first wife, Stephanie supports her husband wholeheartedly. She knows the car accident all those many years ago was just that--an accident. But Erica is persistent, and now she's threatening to go to the police.

Patrick is afraid his job--and his reputation--will be at risk if he doesn't put an end to Erica's questioning immediately. And when the police start digging, Stephanie's trust in her husband begins to falter, and Patrick is primed to lose everything. As their marriage crumbles, Stephanie feels herself coming unglued, and soon she isn't sure what--or who--to believe. Now the most important thing is to protect her girls, but at what cost? 

Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 28th 2020
 by Doubleday Canada
4/5 stars

I really enjoyed a couple of Shari Lapena’s books (that I've read so far) and that is the reason that I went into this one blind.  It's fun and can also be dangerous in terms of not knowing what to expect. 

The End of Her has a number of different points of view. On one hand I had to pay attention but on the other hand I was so curious as to what was going on I couldn’t stop reading. With short chapters it was easy to just read one more and then next thing I knew I was done.

Without going into too many details I devoured this over the weekend. So lets see,  there is the happily married couple, Stephanie and Patrick who are sleep deprived new parents to twins. The story pretty much revolved around them when the past comes back it adds more drama and sets in motion a roller coaster ride of lies and red herrings. Erica Voss is the past that invades not just their lives on a number of different levels. She seems to be the connection to all the plots but is she telling the truth?

 I had trouble liking some of the characters let alone trusting them. As for the ending I couldn’t figure it out, so hats off to Shari Lapena for keeping me in suspense for so long. The ending was neat and tidy but still left me scratching my head a little.

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Review: How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

A curmudgeonly but charming old woman, her estranged grandson, and a colony of penguins proves it's never too late to be the person you want to be in this rich, heartwarming story from the acclaimed author of Ellie and the Harpmaker.

Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica's closed heart starts to open.

Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 16th 2020
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

What’s not to love about a feisty older lady with attitude? She is opinionated, has some weird fetishes but ultimately is lonely and while thinking of the future must address the past. Add in an unemployed unknown grandson, Patrick, who smokes pot it’s a great mix of entertainment.

It may sound far fetched, someone hopping on a plane heading to a desolated penguin research facility in the Antarctic- especially when one is 85 years old but sometimes you just need to suspend your disbelief and go with the flow. And it works.

As the story alternates between these two characters Veronica's past comes to light shining light on who she is and how she got there. The penguins are adorable and just add so much to the story.

How the Penguins Saved Veronica is a story of letting go of the past, no matter the pain or ones age and going forward. Of opening your heart and embracing life. It was a fun read, another new author (to me) and has me looking at penguins a little differently now.

This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge, obtained in my June 2020 Callistocrate Box