Monday, April 8, 2024

The Hike by Lucy Clarke


Leaving behind their everyday lives, four friends hike out into the beautiful Norwegian wild – nothing between them and the mountain peak but forest, sea and sharp blue sky.


But there’s a darker side to the wilderness. A woman went missing here one year ago, scarring the mountain with suspicion and unanswered questions.

Now, the friends are hiking into the heart of the mystery. And waiting on the trail is someone who’d do anything to keep their secrets buried – and to stop the group walking away alive . . .

Paperback, 378 pages
Published April 27, 2023
 by HarperCollins
3.5/5 stars

The Hike is the story of four women, friends who embark on an annual retreat. This time it’s the Scandinavian wilderness, to escape their lives and reconnect with each other. As well as enjoy nature as they have never experienced before. What they got was so much more then they bargained for.

Each woman comes with a different story. They are in different situations in life, for some there is invisible pain and hurt, secrets kept from each other and themselves that are slowly revealed during this hike.  But it's also the mystery and danger of the unknown once these women feel the danger of the environment and mankind. Ultimately fearing for their lives, they stumble across a secret hidden for years and those that wish to keep it hidden.

I did a hybrid read (audio and book), which helped me zip through this read.  It was atmospheric, mysterious, a nice blend of women's fiction and suspense.  This is my first Lucy Clarke read, I will be checking out her backlist.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Saturday, April 6, 2024

No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall

The author of What Lies in the Woods returns with a novel about three sisters, two murders, and too many secrets to count.

Emma hasn't told her husband much about her past. He knows her parents are dead and she hasn't spoken to her sisters in years. Then they lose their apartment, her husband gets laid off, and Emma discovers she's pregnant―right as the bank account slips into the red.

That's when Emma confesses that she has one more asset: her parents' house, which she owns jointly with her estranged sisters. They can't sell it, but they can live in it. But returning home means that Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to her husband: that the house is not a run-down farmhouse but a stately mansion, and that her parents died there.

Were murdered.

And that some people say Emma did it.

Emma and her sisters have never spoken about what really happened that night. Now, her return to the house may lure her sisters back, but it will also crack open family and small-town secrets lots of people don’t want revealed. As Emma struggles to reconnect with her old family and hold together her new one, she begins to realize that the things they have left unspoken all these years have put them in danger again.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 23, 2023
by Flatiron Books
2.5/5 stars

This is one of those books that came to my attention through social media buzz. After reading the blurb, about three sisters recently orphaned after the murder of their parents, I was intrigued.

It’s been many years since Emma‘s parents were brutally murdered, and there has been no arrest. In this case she is suspect number one. Due to financial circumstances Emma and her husband move back into the family home that was abandoned since the murders.  It is here that she reconnects with her estranged sisters. While the town believes her to be the murderer, there’s definitely someone who does not want her there.

Told from the point of view of the three sisters both in the present and the past. There were times that I found this book disjointed and the many red herrings were somewhat overwhelming. The past POV‘s would never really indicate whether the past was the day of the murders or something further back, which was jarring.

As for the mystery and what happened that night many years ago, it wasn't till the last third of book that things picked up.  I was genuinely curious as to the outcome but having never really connected with the sisters put a damper on things.  Yes there were twists and a surprise ending which made up for the slow burn.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

Friday, April 5, 2024

Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee

In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—a miracle-worker. The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.

But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems in the end to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

Iscariot is the story of Judas—from his tumultuous childhood and tenuous entry into a career and family life as a devout Jew, to a man known to the world as the betrayer of Jesus. But even more, it is a singular and surprising view into the life of Jesus himself that forces us all to reexamine everything we thought we knew about the most famous—and infamous—religious icons in history.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 7, 2014
by Howard Books
4/5 stars

This was a recent selection from our church book club. The timing was perfect with Easter on the horizon. It is also my first time reading a Tosca Lee book.

Iscariot is the story of what could have been Judas Iscariot's life, the man who betrayed Jesus that ultimately sent him to the cross. With only a handful of verses in the Bible that talk about Judas, it doesn’t give any information into his family background, what drove him to do what he did and finally drove him to take his own life?

Authentic to the times and history of the year it wasn’t hard to get immersed in the setting. My biggest take away from this story is something the author mentioned in her notes at the end.  That is that we don’t know everyone's story, we don't know their inner struggles, their past so maybe have some compassion.  She painted a very plausible and believable story of Juda's life, but truly we will never know.

I listen to the audiobook via hoopla which is approximately 9 hours long

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli

A steamy game of cat and mouse between witch and witch-hunter, played out against a backdrop of opulence, secrets, and bloody history.

On the night Rune’s life changed forever, blood ran in the streets. Now, in the aftermath of a devastating revolution, witches have been diminished from powerful rulers to outcasts ruthlessly hunted due to their waning magic, and Rune must hide what she is.

Spending her days pretending to be nothing more than a vapid young socialite, Rune spends her nights as the Crimson Moth, a witch vigilante who rescues her kind from being purged. When a rescue goes wrong, she decides to throw the witch hunters off her scent and gain the intel she desperately needs by courting the handsome Gideon Sharpe - a notorious and unforgiving witch hunter loyal to the revolution - who she can't help but find herself falling for.

Gideon loathes the decadence and superficiality Rune represents, but when he learns the Crimson Moth has been using Rune’s merchant ships to smuggle renegade witches out of the republic, he inserts himself into her social circles by pretending to court her right back. He soon realizes that beneath her beauty and shallow façade, is someone fiercely intelligent and tender who feels like his perfect match. Except, what if she’s the very villain he’s been hunting?

Kristen Ciccarelli’s Heartless Hunter is the thrilling start to a romantic fantasy duology where the only thing more treacherous than being a falling in love.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published February 20, 2024
by Wednesday Books
5/5 stars

This is my first time reading Canadian author, Kirsten Ciccarelli and to follow an old cliché it will not be my last.

The Heartless Hunter is a story told from two points of view, Rune and Gideon. One a witch and the other witch hunter, both take their roles very seriously, driven by the past.

The beginning of a duology, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I found the characters real and easy to get to know. The world building was easy to follow, yet intricate. Hidden in plain sight Rune works to help witches escape as they are hunted and put to death. There was mystery, suspense and twists - oh yea twists that caught me totally off guard. And of course some romance.  Definitely a book I recommend

Before I finish lets just sit and look at that cover!  It's actually one of the things that drew me to pick this as my BOTM pick (Feb I think). How gorgeous is it!!  Book 2 doesn't come out till Feb 2025, I foresee a reread in the new year.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Celestial Wife by Leslie Howard

A young fundamentalist Mormon girl facing a forced marriage escapes her strict, polygamist community and comes of age in the tumultuous 1960s in this captivating novel inspired by shockingly true events.

Keep sweet no matter what, 
for this is the way to be lifted up
Keep sweet with every breath, 
for it is a matter of life or death

1964. Fifteen-year-old Daisy Shoemaker dreams of life beyond her small, isolated fundamentalist Mormon community of Redemption on the Canada—US border—despite Bishop Thorsen’s warning that the outside world is full of sin. According to the Principle, the only way to enter the celestial kingdom is through plural marriage. While the boys are taught to work in the lucrative sawmill that supports their enclave, Daisy and her best friend, Brighten, are instructed to keep sweet and wait for Placement—the day the bishop will choose a husband for them. But Daisy wants to be more than a sister-wife and a mother. So when she is placed with a man forty years her senior, she makes the daring decision to flee Redemption.

Years later, Daisy has a job and a group of trustworthy friends. Emboldened by the ideas of the feminist and counterculture movements, she is freer than she has ever been…until Brighten reaches out with a cry for help and Daisy’s past comes hurtling back. But to save the women she left behind, Daisy must risk her newfound independence and return to Redemption, where hellfire surely awaits.

For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls and Ami McKay’s The Virgin Cure comes an arresting coming-of-age novel about a fearless young girl’s fight for freedom at a time of great historic change.

Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication  April 9, 2024
by Simon & Schuster
4/5 stars

This is my second time reading a Leslie Howard novel. She is from British Columbia and her stories take place there with a historical setting - at least the 2 that I have read.

Taking place in the 1960s The Celestial Wife is the story of a community of fundamental latter-day saints that is loosely based on a real place. Daisy is 15-years-old and has grown up in the small isolated community near the Canadian/US border. She longs for more out of life, however, the strict rules make that seem an impossibility. What follows is her fleeing the community and beginning life a new, but she is always looking over her shoulder for fear of being captured and sent back.

This was a very interesting read. I was captivated with the story and yes, when I finished I did a fair amount of googling, which just made the story all the more heartbreaking.  It's a slow burn but well worth the read.  Entertaining and so very enlightening to a part of Canada's history but still being practiced.  The book finishes with author notes and places to learn more about this sect.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster CA for a print ARC in exchange for honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Murder Road by Simone St. James

A young couple find themselves haunted by a string of gruesome murders committed along an old deserted road in this terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases .

July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Berkley
4/5 stars

Simone St. James became an auto-read for me after The Broken Girls. I have enjoyed every book I have read since and am slowly making my way through her back list. Murder Road is her latest which was released a few weeks ago

The beginning started out strong, it had the creepy vibe with its dark secluded road, mysterious happenings and a small town buried in secrets. The mystery was compelling and the main characters were shrouded in secrets of the past.

Murder Road has an interesting plot and as a story unravels it takes on some true St. James characteristics that I’ve come to know and expect in her books. There were the twists and turns she is good at. April and Eddie felt a bit flat at times and I would have loved more Rose and the sisters to had some more sass.

Well, this might not be my favorite of her books, it was entertaining and kept me guessing.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge. It was also my March BOTM pic.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s atmospheric new novel.

With the Great War finally behind them, thousands of civilians and business moguls alike flock to South Florida with their sights set on making a fortune. When wealthy industrialist Robert Barnes and his wife, Anna, build Marbrisa, a glamorous estate on Biscayne Bay, they become the toast of the newly burgeoning society. Anna and Robert appear to have it all, but in a town like Miami, appearances can be deceiving, and one scandal can change everything.

Years later following the tragic death of her parents in Havana, Carmen Acosta journeys to Marbrisa, the grand home of her estranged older sister, Carolina, and her husband, Asher Wyatt. On the surface, the gilded estate looks like paradise, but Carmen quickly learns that nothing at Marbrisa is as it seems. The house has a treacherous legacy, and Carmen’s own life is soon in jeopardy . . . unless she can unravel the secrets buried beneath the mansion’s facade and stop history from repeating itself.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication April 9, 2024
by Berkley
4/5 stars

The House in Biscayne Bay is a dual time-period story which begins in 1918.  The construction of Marbrisa was a gift to Anna, a time of healing after the Great War. Jumping to 1940 there is yet again tragedy. Marbrisa is more than a house, but a mansion set to impress the locals.

I have read a number of books by this author that usually have a Cuba setting while there is history in Cuba the setting is Miami Beach with it tropical landscape and lifestyle of the well-to-do.

This was enjoyable read as one time period connects to the other. I was captivated with the mystery and what connected these two places.  The Gothic feel from both era's was felt with the sinister house and its secrets.  While I anticipated the ending it was an entertaining read.

My thanks to Berkley (via NetGalley) for a digital arc exchange for a honest review

Monday, March 25, 2024

Kill for Me, Kill for You by Steve Cavanagh

One dark evening on New York City’s Upper West Side, two strangers meet by chance. Over drinks, Amanda and Wendy realize they have much in common, especially loneliness and an intense desire for revenge against the men who destroyed their families. As they talk into the night, they come up with the perfect if you kill for me, I’ll kill for you.

In another part of the city, Ruth is home alone when the beautiful brownstone she shares with her husband, Scott, is invaded. She’s attacked by a man with piercing blue eyes, who disappears into the night. Will she ever be able to feel safe again while the blue-eyed stranger is out there?

Hardcover, 340 pages
Published March 19, 2024
 by Atria Books
4.5/5 stars

Newly released, this book is loosely based on the book Strangers on a Train, the author has rewritten a suspense thriller that kept me glued to the pages.

As two women meet in a bar, both having been affected by tragic loss, they make a pack to help each other out. There is much I could say about each of these women, but I feel it would give too much of the story away. Suffice to say, they are both hurting by the loss of loved ones without getting closure through police/the justice system and decide to take matters into their own hands. Told mostly from Amanda‘s point of view along with a few others. It is mysterious, suspenseful and one I read in a matter of 24 hours.

This was such a well written book, there were with many red herrings, twist and an ending that got me totally off-guard. It does have a trope that isn't a favorite of mine but it did work very nicely here.

Steve Cavanagh is a new-to-me-author, will definitely be looking up his backlist.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf challenge and my March BOTM pick.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

O Rugged Land of Gold by Martha Martin

My thoughts come before the blurb this time.  Mainly because I can't find a blurb on line, the book is out of print, apparently hard to find.  My copy has been sitting on my shelf for many a year.

I need to stop feeling guilty about giving something a 3-star review. Three stars mean I liked it, even if I didn't love it. I found  O Rugged Land of Gold to be an interesting story, which is probably why I bought it at some point in time.  The book is about a woman stranded in the harsh Alaskan winter, which lasts much longer than what I'm used to and likely brutal in terms of snow, wind and darkness.

Based on a true story this book and written in the 1940’s while taking place in the 1920’s. It's written in journal format, which I enjoyed, but I wish there were added dates included to give a better sense of the passage of time.

This is a story of survival and determination. Martha stayed focused on reuniting with her husband and son, as well as the child she is carrying. That's what keeps her going.

I think adding maps and illustrations would have made the story even more captivation.  It would have been nice to visualize where she was and the conditions she endured.

This book was part of my 2024 reading off my shelf challenge

Hardcover, 225 pages
Published January 1, 1953
 by MacMillan
3/5 stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Stranger At Black Lake by Christina McDonald

Secrets, murder and revenge converge in this gripping prequel to Amazon charts bestselling thriller, These Still Black Waters, about a young Jess Lambert drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game. Because old ghosts often have old scores to settle.

Jess Lambert and her husband, Mac, have just moved to Black Lake, looking for a quieter, more peaceful life. Until one morning Jess befriends a stranger—beautiful and glamorous Annie Parker—who’s also just moved to town.

Only a few hours later, Jess finds Annie wandering naked and in shock along the lake. And at Annie’s house she encounters a gruesome scene that shows a violent attack. But then Annie disappears.

As Jess is pulled deeper into the mystery of what happened to Annie, she learns about the house’s chilling past. And she begins to who was Annie really? Is she a witness, murderer, victim?

But it’s dangerous hunting down old ghosts. And Jess becomes increasingly unsure if she’s the hunter, or the prey. Who is the stranger at Black Lake?

Kindle, 125 pages
Expected publication March 19, 2024
by Intrigue Ink Publishing
4/5 stars

I’ve been eyeing Christina McDonald ever since I grabbed These Still Black Waters which is the first book in this series as a Kindle deal. This, The Stranger at Black Lake is the prequel where Jess Lambert is introduced to Black Lake.

For Jess Lambert this was her fresh start in a new place that is tainted by murder, someone she thought was a new friend and a dark past to this town. Coming in at 125 pages, it was long enough to get the vibes of Black Lake, to connect with Jess, the town and ultimately a new series to start and author to follow.

Told with two distinct points of view rounded this out nicely between the past and present coming together.  There is the mystery, creepiness and tension all nicely put together, along with the desire to see what happens next in Jess's life.

There are two books in this series, though book 2 releases in July (What Lies in Darkness.)

My thanks to Intrigue Ink Publishing (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.