Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

People don’t just disappear without a trace…

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried. 

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Expected publication: May 18th 2021 
by Park Row
5/5 stars

This book started a tad on the emotional side.  It was heart wrenching and I questioned if my heart could handle it.  But I persevered through sheer desire to see the outcome.

This is my 3rd book by Mary Kubica and while I enjoyed The Good Girl and The Other Mrs., Local Woman Missing blew way past those two.

The story is spaced 11 years apart with multiple POVs.  It might sound like a bit much but I liked seeing the different sides to the story.  The transitions were nice and smooth, with characters that were likeable, seemed reliable which made it all the harder to figure the mysteries out. This was a captivating read, I finished in just over a day.  There were many twists and turns that kept me on my toes.  The plot was intricate with attention to detail evident, kinda like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces finally all fit together. I struggled to put this book down.

Local Woman Missing is a finely crafted book that hit all the marks for me in terms of an addictive, mystery/suspense filled thrilled that tugs at the heartstrings with a twist I did not see coming at all.  Thank you Park Row Books for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Audio Review: The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads delivers her next page-turner for the summer with The Newcomer.

In trouble and on the run...

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”

With a trunkful of emotional baggage...

So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling...

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

Audiobook, 14 hours, 30 minutes
Reader: Kathleen McInerney
Published May 4th 2021 
by Macmillan Audio
3.5/5 stars

Mary Kay Andrews is a new author for me and with The Newcomer I went the audio route (thank you MacMillian Audio for the e-audio).  The reader was Kathleen McInerney and as usual she did a great job.

Running from the recent past with her niece in tow Letty makes her way to Florida as she hides, trying to figure out her next move.  This was an interesting story, it has mystery, intrigue and suspense with a dash of romance added to the mix.  The writing was nice and the character development had me understanding the cast. The characters set the tone and environment The Newcomer takes place in. 

I'm glad that I went the audio route, this was a slow moving story and at times found myself wavering  with some unnecessary parts and feel it could have been a little shorter.  I felt a predictability but with some twists and turns I was proven wrong (I love it when that happens).

My thanks to Macmillan Audio for this e-audio in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 5th 2021
 by Viking
4/5 stars

Just excuse me for a moment while I process this book. 

It's one of those books that made big waves when first released, which is why sometimes I like to let the dust settle before diving in.  In the end this was a buddy read with bestie reading buddy Laurie from TheBakingBookworm fame (click to see her review).

I struggled to find the right way to describe this book and came up with enticingly off-putting. I read it in like 2 1/2 days (and that's super fast for me).  This was like a roller coaster ride, the first few pages had me questioning what was going one, then the next few chapters started rolling right along until I got to a point I couldn't stop reading.  Then a lull in the middle and off it went again until I had to finish her off.

Told from Blythe's POV with pieces of her extended past giving light to her history. The characters were messed up as was the story (I mean that in a good way).  Honestly I didn't like the lot of them and that's what made the story what it was.  Unreliable, scary and kinda sad and disturbing really.  The ending was ok but I wanted a little more, even just another chapter or two. But what I really craved was hearing from the men in this story.  They came off as insensitive and spineless, I would have loved to hear their thoughts.

The Push is a story of motherhood, the struggles, bonding and even the desire to be a mother. This book will actually stay with me for awhile due to the emotional impact it had.

For a debut this was solid and given the 2 book deal the author signed I can't wait to see what the author comes up with next.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #32

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Review: In a Book Club Far Away by Tif Marcelo

From the author of Once Upon a Sunset and The Key to Happily Ever After comes a heartwarming and moving novel following three Army wives—estranged friends—who must overcome their differences when one of them is desperate for help.

Regina Castro, Adelaide Wilson-Chang, and Sophie Walden used to be best friends. As Army wives at Fort East, they bonded during their book club and soon became inseparable. But when an unimaginable betrayal happened amongst the group, the friendship abruptly ended, and they haven’t spoken since.

That’s why, eight years later, Regina and Sophie are shocked when they get a call for help from Adelaide. Adelaide’s husband is stationed abroad, and without any friends or family near her new home of Alexandria, Virginia, she has no one to help take care of her young daughter when she has to undergo emergency surgery. For the sake of an innocent child, Regina and Sophie reluctantly put their differences aside to help an old friend.

As the three women reunite, they must overcome past hurts and see if there’s any future for their friendship. Featuring Tif Marcelo’s signature “enchanting prose” (Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) and the books that brought them together in the first place, In a Book Club Far Away honors the immense power of female friendship and how love can defy time, distance, and all old wounds. 

Kindle Edition
Published April 6th 2021
by Gallery Books
3/5 stars

I was attracted to this book because of the book club theme.  In a Book Club Far Away is a story of friendship.  The friendship between 3 army wives, their life when the men folk are deployed for 9 months. Having not read much in that area of military life it was an eye opener, enlightening me to what life was like for those waiting at home.

Flash forward 10 years when the friendship fractured many years ago.  This was a slow paced story for me and contrary to popular opinion I struggled.  I struggled to connect with these women and the story itself left me with unanswered questions.  The book alternates between these women both present day and the past, so one had to pay attention. It didn't have the depth I craved and needed to really feel the warm and fuzzy friendship they claimed.

As for the book club part, it played a minor role but I did like a couple of the adventures they went on.  The book droppings piqued my interest in a couple titles though.

The ending was somewhat underwhelming and predictable.  Definitely what I would call chick-lit and maybe its a genre I should stay away from.

My thanks to Gallery Books for the digitial ARC (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review: Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Two childhood friends discover that love—and family—can be found in unconventional ways in this timely, moving novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “beautifully Southern, evocative Peachtree Bluff series” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife).

Amelia Buxton, a dedicated journalist and a recent divorcĂ©e, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.

Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate.

Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Buxton Beach. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: Family—the one you’re born into and the one you choose—is always closer than you think.

From “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Under the Southern Sky is a fresh and unforgettable exploration of love, friendship, and the unbreakable ties that bind.

Kindle Edition
Published April 20th 2021
by Gallery Books
4.5/5 stars

I've wanted to read this book since the Facebook Group, The Friends & Fiction Book Club started during the first lockdown (we are on #3 at the moment). Five authors who get together to chat books with guest authors.  I was familiar with some of the authors but those I wasn't, I wanted to read.  Which brings me to Kristy Woodson Harvey.

Under the Southern Sky recently released and my big question was was this going to live up to all the hype I've seen on social media.  The answer for me is a resounding yes it did.  I did a combination read and audiobook.  I recommend both.  With 2 major POVs and 2 smaller parts, the audio had a different voice for each one - I love that.  It sets the tone and gives each character a voice that matched their personality.  

The story was unique with characters that were authentic.  It had a nice balance between a lighter tone and then more serious for the emotional parts.  There are some serious topics - grief and fertility, both of which were handled with respect and heart.

Under the Southern Sky is a story of love and loss, family and friends, and self discovery. Definitely one I recommend.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Review: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall--with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 2nd 2021 
by Forever
5/5 stars

I totally went into this book blind.  It was part of a group read I wanted to take part in, plus Accidentally Engaged is written by a Canadian author with a Canadian setting - bonus points there.

I loved the diversity, seeing into different ethic groups with family dynamics different from mine. Suffice to say I loved this book, worth all 5 stars for the character development, for a story that I found unique with its many layers and an interesting cast of characters.  I smiled, laughed and felt sad throughout this read.  Oh and ya the desire to bake bread was at an all time high.

Accidentally Engaged is a wonderful book that I highly recommend by a new to me author - yup I am searching her backlist.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Review: A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

New York Times bestselling author Mary Lawson, acclaimed for digging into the wilderness of the human heart, is back after almost a decade with a fresh and timely novel that is different in subject but just as emotional and atmospheric as her beloved earlier work.

A Town Called Solace--the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade--opens on a family in crisis: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose's younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling's return.

Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door--watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, owns that home. Around the time of Rose's disappearance, Mrs. Orchard was sent for a short stay in hospital, and Clara promised to keep an eye on the house and its remaining occupant, Mrs. Orchard's cat, Moses. As the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what has transpired between Mrs Orchard and the newly arrived stranger.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view--Clara's, Mrs. Orchard's, and Liam Kane's--the novel cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect families, both the ones we're born into and the ones we choose. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers. 

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 16th 2021
 by Knopf Canada
3.5/5 stars

My March SweedReads Box contained this book.  A new author for me along with another Canadian setting - bonus points!

A short and sweet review.  This book is told with 3 distinct voices which covers many generations.  I enjoyed the small town setting, a place where everyone knows everyone.  I liked getting to know each of the characters., Clara as she comes to terms with her missing sister and never gives up hope. The history of Liam and Mrs. Orchard was vivid and an emotional part of the book, but I still struggled for a takeaway. I wanted to love this book and maybe because my expectations were high this ended up being an ok read for me.    I know I am totally going against the flow with my thoughts, so I take that as a 'its me not the book'.

This book is part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Audio Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have? 

Hardcover, 376 pages
Published October 3rd 2017
 by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

Diane Chamberlain had me at The Midwife's Confession and I haven't looked back.  This is my 7th book and I still have a ways to go with her backlist.  Her books are usually 4/5 stars, which is why she is an auto read author.  Somehow I missed The Stolen Marriage and grabbed the audio when it was a deal over at Chirp.

This one has the historical aspect that I love.  The polio epidemic of 1945 was new for me, I found it not just educational but heartbreaking as well.  The treatment and isolation for that time seems so primitive now, thank goodness for the advancements made.

Tess's story was interesting enough serving as a set up for the last half of the book.  It wasn't as captivating as I'd hoped or come to expect in a Chamberlain book.  Whether listening verse reading played a part I am not sure.  I found the story slow moving and while Henry's actions were mysterious some parts were predictable.

While this isn't my favourite Diane Chamberlain book she remains an auto read and author I recommend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Review: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous "Beacon Hill Butcher" was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.

Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him… Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher—two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down. As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt’s terrible secret. 

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published July 15th 2014
 by Gallery Books
3.5/5 stars

This is Canadian author, Jennifer Hillier's 3rd book.  I've read a number of her recent releases and am continuing on my journey to read her backlist.

This was an audio read (via Scribd), coming in at almost 10 hours.  The Butcher is high up there on the creepy factor - even the cover screams creep.  But knowing who the killer is right from the beginning is a new one for me.  At first I wasn't impressed with that knowledge but as the story progressed and knowing that fact just made the story all the more intriguing.  There are a nice variety of characters with unique and personalities that rounded this story out nicely. The various relationships and interconnections added to the suspense.

As for the mystery, what can I say other then it was totally whacked (see blurb above) and I mean that in a good way.  There were twists and turns, some I saw coming and others not so much.  I found excuses to continue listening just to see the outcome.

The Butcher is a book that can be gruesome at times with a mature subject matter.  I don't recommend for the squeamish as it's rather dark and disturbing.  I'm glad that I went the audio route, though I did find the voice of Matt a tad annoying (whiny actually) and I don't think that was the author's intend.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel by Laura Dave

We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated. 

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 4th 2021
by Simon & Schuster CA
4.5/5 stars

This was my first time reading a Laura Drake book, what can I say other than that I will definitely be on the lookout for more.

The Last Thing He Told Me was a quick read  (about a day & a half), quick in the fact I struggled to put it down. The story picked up right away and with nice sized chapters it was easy for just one more chapter (pun intended).

The writing flowed nicely, the characters were real and I loved the dialogue - how it defined the relationships and the characters. There was more to this story then meets the eye, there were layers and mystery, I was reading clues and wondering if it's a clue or not. I liked the ending for lots of reasons (sorry spoiler if I said more).

Definitely a book I highly recommend.  Look for it on bookshelves May 4th.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Ca (via Netgalley) for a digital arc in exchange for an honest review.