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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.