Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

SISTERS, SECRETS, LOVE, AND MURDER... Sally Hepworth’s new novel has it all.

For as long as they can remember, Jessica, Norah, and Alicia have been told how lucky they are. As young girls they were rescued from family tragedies and raised by a loving foster mother, Miss Fairchild, on an idyllic farming estate and given an elusive second chance at a happy family life.

But their childhood wasn’t the fairy tale everyone thinks it was. Miss Fairchild had rules. Miss Fairchild could be unpredictable. And Miss Fairchild was never, ever to be crossed. In a moment of desperation, the three broke away from Miss Fairchild and thought they were free. Even though they never saw her again, she was always somewhere in the shadows of their minds. When a body is discovered under the home they grew up in, the foster sisters find themselves thrust into the spotlight as key witnesses. Or are they prime suspects?

A thrilling page-turner of sisterhood, secrets, love, and murder by New York Times bestselling author Sally Hepworth.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Expected publication April 23, 2024
 by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

Reviewing this book is a bit tricky for me. I've been a fan of Sally Hepworth since her first book, but I've had mixed feelings about some of her later works. So, I never really know what to expect. However, I finished this book in just a day and a half, which says a lot about how I felt about it. I was genuinely intrigued by the mystery and couldn't wait to see how it all played out.

I quickly connected with the three young girls, especially enjoying the backstory more than the present-day plot. Norah (with an h) was my favorite along with her three dogs. They added a nice touch of humor, although given the serious subject matter feels somewhat insensitive of me.

The story is told from the perspectives of each in both the past and present, with an additional mysterious narrative from an unknown character. While this added an interesting element, I did find the story to be a bit long-winded at times. As the book wrapped up, I had to suspend my disbelief and rethink some earlier parts, which left me feeling a bit disappointed with the ending.

Overall, this book touches on some sensitive topics that may require trigger warnings for some readers. However, to say what they are would feel like spoilers.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for a digital ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf

The Best Friend. 
The Confidant. 
The Senator. 
The Boyfriend. 
The Executive.

Five contestants have been chosen to compete for ten million dollars on the game show One Lucky Winner. The catch? None of them knows what (or who) to expect, and it will be live streamed all over the world. Completely secluded in an estate in Northern California, with strict instructions not to leave the property and zero contact with the outside world, the competitors start to feel a little too isolated.

When long-kept secrets begin to rise to the surface, the contestants realize this is no longer just a reality show—someone is out for blood. And the game can’t end until the world knows who the contestants really are…

Kindle Edition, 316 pages
Expected publication March 26, 2024
by Park Row
4/5 stars

This is unlike any Heather Gudenkauf book I have ever read and I've read all but one of hers.  Yes she is an auto read for me.

Imagine given the chance to win $10 million in the space of two weeks! The cost is higher than the five contestants ever imagined on this Survivor like reality show. The challenges are unimaginable, dangerous and quite revealing. Five strangers, a host with her own agenda, the creator who is secretive all made this an addictive read.

Told from a number of povs this was intense and easy to keep track of the different characters.  I had to suspend my belief many times but alas I still could not look away or put this book down. I just had to know the what, where, why and how everything was going to fit together. As the secrets are slowly revealed, the connections made it ended in an explosive conclusion that happened rather quickly.

Heather Gudenkauf has yet to disappoint, be sure to check this one out come March 26th or better yet preorder it.

My thanks to Park Row for a e-arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, February 5, 2024

The Manor House by Gilly Macmillan

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny and What She Knew comes the terrifying story of what can happen after all your dreams come true.

 Be careful what you wish for...

Childhood sweethearts Nicole and Tom are a normal, loving couple—until a massive lottery win changes their lives overnight. Soon they’ve moved into a custom-built state-of-the-art Glass Barn on the stunning grounds of Lancaut Manor in Gloucestershire. They have fancy cars, expensive hobbies, and an exclusive lifestyle they never could have imagined. But this dream world quickly turns into a nightmare when Tom is found dead in the swimming pool. Nicole is devastated. Tom was her rock. And their beautiful barn —with all its smart features that never seem to work for her—is beginning to feel very lonely. But she’s not entirely by herself out there in the country. There’s a nice young couple who live in the Manor itself along with their middle-aged housekeeper who has the Coach House. And an old friend of Tom’s from school has turned up to help her get through her grief. But big money can bring big problems and big threats. Was Tom’s death a tragic accident, or was it something worse? And is her life in danger as well? Nicole’s beginning to feel like a little fish in a big glass bowl. Surrounded by piranhas.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 7, 2023
 by William Morrow
4/5 stars

I was fortunate enough to attend an author event with Gilly Macmillan during her Canadian tour following the release of The Manor House

From the first pages I pulled right in as Nicole makes the shocking discovery of her husband Tom floating lifelessly in the pool.  Nicole and Tom, recent lottery winners, seemed destined for a bright future until tragedy struck.

What follows is s story told from many POVs, it wasn't hard to keep straight as each was uniquely flawed though compelling and not really that likeable.  I found myself particularly drawn to Tom's perspective, seeing what actually happened that morning.  This was a story filled with red herrings, twists and revenge.  I was kept on my toes and actually read the last half in one day, the suspense was real folks.  My only reason for stopping with 4 stars is that I found parts of the ending, while satisfying, to be rushed to the point of being unbelievable.

All in all, an addicting read that was hard to put down, it kept me guessing trying to connect the dots.

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

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Grave Robbery by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica and Stoker discover that not all fairy tales have happy endings, and some end in murder, in this latest historical mystery from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Lord Rosemorran has purchased a wax figure of a beautiful reclining woman and asks Stoker to incorporate a clockwork mechanism to give the Rosemorran Collection its own Sleeping Beauty in the style of Madame Tussaud’s. But when Stoker goes to cut the mannequin open to insert the mechanism, he makes a gruesome discovery: this is no wax figure. The mannequin is the beautifully preserved body of a young woman who was once very much alive. But who would do such a dreadful thing, and why?

Sleuthing out the answer to this question sets Veronica and Stoker on their wildest adventure yet. From the underground laboratories of scientists experimenting with electricity to resurrect the dead in the vein of Frankenstein to the traveling show where Stoker once toured as an attraction, the gaslit atmosphere of London in October is the perfect setting for this investigation into the unknown. Through it all, the intrepid pair is always one step behind the latest villain—a man who has killed once and will stop at nothing to recover the body of the woman he loved. Will they unmask him in time to save his next victim? Or will they become the latest figures to be immortalized in his collection of horrors?

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication March 12, 2024
 by Berkley

One of my highly anticipated books of 2024 is this Deanna Raybourn's 9th installment in her Veronica Speedwell series.

Thrust into another murder mystery Veronica and Stoker search for who their Venus is and what happened 15 years ago. Yes that’s a long time in the past. The plot was unique, if a tad far fetched, but entertaining in true Veronica and Stoker fashion. There was the easy banter that is always fun along with some zany escapades and unsavory characters. Yes there is a monkey that has taken up residence also.

It is great getting back together with these two. However while it wasn't favorite, there just seemed to be something missing, but I can’t quite place my finger on what it was, or maybe my belief was suspended too much. But all in all still one of my favorite series, can’t wait to see what this duo is up to next.

My thanks to Berkley for a digital arc in exchange for honest review.

Friday, February 2, 2024

The Griffin's Egg by Cole Poindexter

Lost in a wild West Virginia forest, Phoebe Gray's world is upended when she finds an irritable goblin named Gnish-Gnash. She’s stumbled into Lerch Hollow, a place of magic and mystery where trolls lurk in shadows and mermaids sway with the tide.

The young adventurer soon finds herself caught up in a race against time; the Dark Mistress Lucinda is on the hunt for the last Griffin's egg, for its power will make her unstoppable. It is up to Phoebe to protect the egg while discovering the secrets of her own magical connection to the mysterious wizard Thatcher.

With Gnish at her side and her grandfather’s old cloak on her back, Phoebe must protect this enchanted world from destruction.

Audiobook, 4 hours 52 minutes
January 15, 2024 
by The Wild Rose Press
3.5/5 stars

The Griffin's Egg released last month and I was lucky to have obtained the e-audio from the publisher. Judging by the cover and the content, having the print copy in front of me with some wonderful illustrations would have made this all the more enjoyable.

Following the story of the 10-year-old Phoebe as she loses her way while walking through the woods. Upon meeting a strange creature, she is drawn into a magical world with all kinds of different magical characters leading her on an adventure that ends where she least expects it.

This was a fun read or listen coming in just shy of five hours, I had to pay attention to her journey but the reader did a great job with the story. The Griffin's Egg is a story of family, doing what’s right and adventure. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Cole Poindexter.

My thanks to Wild Rose Press for this audio arc in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Not the Worst Friend in the World by Anne Rellihan

Can Lou Bennett keep a secret? She’ll do just about anything to prove herself to her new friend—and the best friend she betrayed—in this debut novel that is a modern-day Harriet the Spy with high emotional stakes.

It’s the thirty-fourth day of sixth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Missouri, and eleven-year-old Lou wishes she could rewind time.

Lou wants to go back to the ninth day of sixth grade—the day before she fought with her best friend Francie and said the terrible, horrible things she can’t unsay. Or better yet, she would go back to fifth grade when Francie was still the Old Francie.

Then the new girl, Cece Clark-Duncan, passes Lou a mysterious note. It says she was kidnapped. (!) If Lou can help Cece, maybe she can prove she’s not the world’s worst friend.

But as observant Lou uncovers the complicated truth about Cece’s family, she starts to panic. Can she help Cece without hurting her? Or will Lou end up losing another friend instead?

Anchored by an outstanding voice and a page-turning mystery, this remarkable debut novel honors the powerful middle school friendships that can both break and heal a tender eleven-year-old heart. Perfect for fans of Fish in a Tree and My Jasper June.

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Expected publication February 6, 2024
 by Holiday House
3.5/5 stars

I have never read Harriet the Spy, but apparently this is a modern day retelling of it. Eleven year old Lou went a bit too far one day and has become friendless in the sixth grade. Can she go back and write the wrongs or just live with what she did?

This was a fun read about the joys of childhood friendships. Especially when a new girl enters the scene bringing with her mysterious notes, a mysterious past and seeking Lou's help. Can she redeem herself with her new friend? Time will tell.

Since I’ve never read Harriet the Spy, I can’t vouch for the similarities, but suffice to say, this was a fun read with the emotional impact any 11-year-old would feel after being alienated from her best friend and ridiculed by the rest of her class. Yes the mystery of this new girl is slowly uncovered leading to a story that highlights the value of family, friends and community.

Not the Worst Friend in the World is Anne Rellihan's debut novel, I will be on the lookout for more.

Thanks her Holiday House (via Netgalley) digital arc in exchange for a honest review.