Friday, March 31, 2023

All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore

An incredibly thoughtful, disarmingly funny, and intensely vulnerable glimpse into the life and ministry of a woman familiar to many but known by few.

“It’s a peculiar thing, this having lived long enough to take a good look back. We go from knowing each other better than we know ourselves to barely sure if we know each other at all, to precisely sure that we don’t. All my knotted-up life I’ve longed for the sanity and simplicity of knowing who’s good and who’s bad. I’ve wanted to know this about myself as much as anyone. This was not theological. It was strictly relational. God could do what he wanted with eternity. I was just trying to make it here in the meantime. As benevolent as he has been in a myriad of ways, God has remained aloof on this uncomplicated request .” – Beth Moore

New York Times best-selling author, speaker, visionary, and founder of Living Proof Ministries Beth Moore has devoted her whole life to helping women across the globe come to know the transforming power of Jesus. An established writer of many acclaimed books and Bible studies for women on spiritual growth and personal development, Beth now unveils her own story in a much-anticipated debut memoir.

All My Knotted-Up Life is told with surprising candor about some of the personal heartbreaks and behind-the-scenes challenges that have marked Beth’s life. But beyond that, it’s a beautifully crafted portrait of resilience and survival, a poignant reminder of God’s enduring faithfulness, and proof positive that if we ever truly took the time to hear people’s full stories . . . we’d all walk around slack-jawed.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 21, 2023 
by Tyndale House Publishers

Audiobook, 8 hours, 20 minutes
Narrator: Beth Moore
Published by One Audiobooks
4/5 stars

Although I'm not typically a fan of memoirs, Beth Moore's latest book caught my attention. I opted for a hybrid read (audio and book), she narrated it herself with her charming southern twang, making for an entertaining listen. Also the book is great for the pictures.

As a gifted Bible study leader, Moore shares her story with a perfect blend of humour, tears, and heartache. She bravely opens up about her past, including the hurts she experienced during her early years and the lasting impact they had on her life.  Moore's love for Jesus shines through in her teachings and her way of life. It's heartbreaking to read about the abuse she suffered at the hands of those who claimed to be Christians, but her courage in speaking out about it is admirable.  I appreciated her honesty as she shared about her marriage, struggles with the southern Baptist community, and her need for rest.

While I found the book to be an entertaining read, I was left wanting more. Specifically, I wanted to know more about what drove her spiritual life, including the biblical references that influenced her decisions. For example, when she was 18 years old and attending church, she knew she would dedicate her life to Jesus. I would have loved to know what was preached during that service and why it had such a profound impact on her.  She has gone through difficulty in her life, I know what sustained me through hard times and would have loved to know what scriptures sustained her.

Overall, this book offers an open and honest look at Moore's life. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a compelling memoir.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #22.  The audio was obtained through my local library via Hoopla.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

Paperback, 309 pages
Published September 4, 2018
 by Gallery Books
Audiobook, 7 hours, 16 minutes
by Simon & Schuster Audio
4/5 stars

This was an impulse audio read.  I can't really say that the writing duo named Christina Lauren is a new to me author.  I've read a couple books last year that I loved.  So for 2023 my goal is to read her backlist.

Josh and Haley is the story of reunited friends (with a past from high school days).After Josh's breakup this pair sets out to create blind dates for each other, but these blind dates are also double dates.  What follows was a laugh out loud read - yes I did almost spit wine on my puzzle a couple times.

Would I have enjoyed it as much if I had read the book?  I can't really say. Nevertheless the plot was fun, the characters well developed, personalities authentic making an entertaining story.

That being said there were a few things that niggled at me.  Josh & Hazel haven't seen each other in over a decade and within moments are the best of friends -bester than their teen years. Plus the epilogue felt a bit over the top IMHO.

But other than that this was an entertaining audio read where I followed along with my print copy.

Audiobook was obtained through CloudLibrary with the print copy being a recent thrift shop rescue.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

"Welcome to Wonderland." 

By day, it's a magical place boasting a certain retro charm. Excited children, hands sticky with cotton candy, run frenetically from the Giant Octopus ride to the Spinning Sombrero, while the tinkling carnival music of the giant Wonder Wheel--the oldest Ferris wheel in the Pacific Northwest--fills the air. But before daybreak, an eerie feeling descends. 

Maybe it's the Clown Museum, home to creepy wax replicas of movie stars and a massive collection of antique porcelain dolls. Or maybe it's the terrifyingly real House of Horrors. Or...maybe it's the dead, decaying body left in the midway for all the Wonder Workers to see.

Vanessa Castro's first day as deputy police chief of Seaside, Washington, is off to a bang. The unidentifiable homeless man rotting inside the tiny town's main tourist attraction is strange enough, but now a teenage employee--whose defiant picture at the top of the Wonder Wheel went viral that same morning--is missing. 

As the clues in those seemingly disparate crimes lead her down a mysterious shared path of missing persons that goes back decades, she suspects the seedy rumors surrounding the amusement park's dark history might just be true. She moved to Seaside to escape her own scandalous past, but has she brought her family to the center of an insidious killer's twisted game?

 Acclaimed author Jennifer Hillier's bone-chilling thriller is masterful and fast-paced, hurtling toward a shocking, bloody conclusion.

Paperback, 419 pages
First published October 5, 2015
by Gallery Books

Audiobook, 11 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Eunice Wong
by Macmillian Audio
4.5/5 stars

Do not be intimidated by the cover of this book. Although it gives off Stephen King vibes, it is not a horror story. Instead, it is a captivating thriller that takes place in an amusement park.

Jennifer Hillier's Wonderland was first published in 2015 (it is also her debut), but a new paperback version and audiobook will be released next month. I've had the physical copy on my shelf for some time, but I jumped at the opportunity to listen to the audiobook, narrated by Eunice Wong. The audiobook is just shy of 12 hours, and Wong did an excellent job as the narrator.

The story is told from multiple points of view.  One being Vanessa Castro the new deputy chief of police in the small town of Seaside in Washington State. The book starts off quickly with the discovery of a body in Wonderland, the local amusement park. Vanessa moved to the town for a fresh start, but she quickly finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation that progresses to much more.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the setting.  It was atmospheric with the amusement park and its dark history. The mystery deepens as Vanessa uncovers leads and makes gruesome discoveries. The book features a large cast of characters, ranging from friendly to unreliable. At times, I wished I had kept notes to keep track of who was who.

Wonderland is a story of murder, secrets, and a parent's worst nightmare. It was fast paced and suspenseful. A well-written debut and highly entertaining.

I highly recommend the audiobook, as it allows you to multitask while enjoying the story.

My thanks to McMillan Audio and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

A delight for readers of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.

Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the 1960s and despite the fact that she is a scientist, her peers are very unscientific when it comes to equality. The only good thing to happen to her on the road to professional fulfillment is a run-in with her super-star colleague Calvin Evans (well, she stole his beakers). The only man who ever treated her--and her ideas--as equal, Calvin is already a legend and Nobel nominee. He's also awkward, kind and tenacious. Theirs is true chemistry.

But as events are never as predictable as chemical reactions, three years later Elizabeth Zott is an unwed, single mother (did we mention it's the early 60s?) and the star of America's most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth's singular approach to cooking (take one pint of H2O and add a pinch of sodium chloride) and independent example are proving revolutionary. Because Elizabeth isn't just teaching women how to cook, she's teaching them how to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters (including the best canine character in years), Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Paperback, 390 pages
Audiobook, 11 hours, 55 minutes
Published March 29, 2022
 by Doubleday Canada
4/5 stars

Elizabeth Zott is a single mother in the 1960s, she defies all stereotypes for women of her time. She is intelligent but socially awkward, with a unique personality that is both entertaining and endearing. Her loyal companion, a dog named Six-Thirty, adds to her charm. 

This was a hybrid read, combining both the book and audiobook formats. While I enjoyed the audiobook, I believe that reading the book in its entirety would have resulted in a lower rating.  The three readers did an exceptional job bringing the characters to life with their distinct voices, making the humour more enjoyable.

Lessons is a story about a woman ahead of her time. Despite her lack of social skills, Elizabeth's antics make her a likeable character.  Her daughter, Mad and Six-Thirty are also delightful additions to the story.  The plot was both entertaining while tackling some serious socials issues with a touch of humour.

This is the author's debut, looking forward to what comes up next.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge - #21

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

A defense attorney is prepared to play. But is she a pawn in a master’s deadly match? A twisting novel of suspense by New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.

Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family’s failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family’s reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

Keera’s chance to play in the big leagues comes when she’s retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There’s little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple’s impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: Miller Ambrose, Keera’s former lover, who’s eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defense.

As Keera and her team follow the evidence, they uncover a complicated and deadly game that’s more than Keera bargained for. When shocking information turns the case upside down, Keera must decide between her duty to her client, her family’s legacy, and her own future.

Kindle Edition, 396 pages 
Expected publication March 28, 2023  
by Thomas & Mercer
4.5/5 stars

I was excited to dive into the start of Robert Dugoni's newest series with Her Deadly Game

 The story follows Attorney Keera Duggan as she is hired to defend Victor LaRossa, who stands accused of brutally murdering his disabled wife. To make matters worse, the DA is a former lover of Keera's, adding a complicated layer to this trial. Pitted against each other made this a addicting and mysterious courtroom thriller.  The plot was intricately woven.

What I appreciated here was the authenticity of the legal system portrayed, it wasn't bogged down with endless details but enough to feel real. The story delved into family dynamics, addiction, past secrets, and mayhem, all while keeping the focus on the courtroom drama. It was a well-written and captivating read that kept me flipping through my Kindle pages. 

Her Deadly Game incorporated the chess board into it's pages, which was unique and fitting. 

My thanks to Thomas Mercer for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. Her Deadly Game is set to release on March 28th, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling legal drama.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

I Will Find You by Harlan Coben

An innocent father serving life for the murder of his own son receives evidence that his child may still be alive, and must break out of prison to find out the truth in #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben’s latest breathtaking thriller.

David and Cheryl Burroughs were living the dream life when tragedy struck. Now, five years after that terrible night, Cheryl is remarried. And David is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for the brutal murder of their son.

Then Cheryl’s sister, Rachel, arrives unexpectedly during visiting hours and drops a bombshell. She’s come with a photograph that a friend took on vacation at a theme park with a boy in the background who has a familiar, distinctive birthmark … and even though David and Rachel realize it can’t be, they both just know. It's David’s son, Matthew, and he's still alive.

David plans a harrowing escape from prison, determined to do what seems impossible–save his son, clear his own name, and discover the real story of what happened that devastating night.

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Expected publication: March 14, 2023
 by Grand Central Publishing
4/5 stars

Harlan Coben's highly anticipated new book is set to release next week, and it promised to be a gripping read. The story revolves around a parent's worst nightmare - the loss of a child. David, the father of three-year-old Matthew, is accused and convicted of his son's murder, and is now serving time in prison. Despite his claims of innocence, David accepts his punishment, because the way he sees it, he is at fault because he didn't protect Matthew.

"I Will Find You" is a heart-wrenching tale, especially when David is given a glimmer of hope that his son may still be alive. What follows is a thrilling game of cat and mouse as he evades law enforcement to unravel the mystery of that fateful night. With nice sized chapters it was easy to say, JustOneMoreChapter (pun intended), in fact I read this in a matter of days.  There were parts of the book I needed to see how the author was going to pull it off and he did (as usual). 

 A well written suspenseful story that would be a perfect fit for anyone who loves a good mystery.

My thanks to Grand Central Publishing for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Homecoming by Kate Morton

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital, she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused. It’s even more alarming to hear from Nora's housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident and had fallen on the steps to the attic—the one place Jess was forbidden from playing in when she was small.

At loose ends in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime—a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today.

Paperback, 560 pages
Expected publication April 11, 2023
by Simon & Schuster CA
4.5/5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed diving into Kate Martin's latest book, Homecoming. While I wasn't a huge fan of her previous work, The Clockmaker's Daughter, this highly anticipated release of 2023 did not disappoint. At 560 pages with smaller than normal font, this book is not for the faint of heart, but it is certainly worth the commitment.

Told from multiple points of view and through various time periods, Kate Morton has once again woven a complex story filled with mystery, likeable characters, and a secluded mansion. This was definitely a slow burn read, not just because of its size, but because Morton took the time to develop her characters and create an atmosphere that has me itching to visit Australia.

Homecoming is a story of loss, not just in the present day, but also in 1959 following the deaths of a young family. It is a story of the mystery surrounding not just what took place 60 years ago, but the repercussions that followed through the decades.  It is a multi-generational story that is detail-oriented, with Morton's trademark writing style that kept me captivated along with plenty of red herrings scattered throughout. Morton has a great knack for weaving memories within chapters flawlessly.

The only reason I am giving this book 4 1/2 stars is that it could have been a little bit shorter. However, the gorgeous cover and the print ARC from Simon & Schuster CA made up for it.