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. 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Improbable Meet-Cute Series

Short stories are a recent like for me.  The past 2 months I have read this series which includes works by some of my favorite authors and some new-to-me ones.

They are available on Kindle Unlimited or else for a low cost.  

(4.5/5 stars)  

On February 14, an accidental email to a stranger opens the door to an unexpected relationship in a captivating short story by the New York Times bestselling authors of The Unhoneymooners.

One typo, and a boy and girl connect by chance. Wishing each other a happy Valentine’s Day isn’t the end. In fact, it becomes a friendly annual tradition—with rules: no pics, no real names, nothing too personal. As years pass, the rules for their email “dates” are breaking, and they’re sharing more than they imagined—including the urge to ask…what if we actually met? 
(4.5/5 stars)

They’re falling in love, yet they’ve never met. Maybe fate can intervene in a heartwarming “what-if” short story about new beginnings by the New York Times bestselling author of Yours Truly.

Holly is dealing with the impending death of her grandmother and still reeling from a bad breakup. One bright spot: a Valentine’s Day card on Holly’s windshield—even if it wasn’t meant for her. An amusing mistake soon turns into a lovely exchange of anonymous notes, little acts of kindness, and a growing affection between two strangers. What happens when one of them has to say goodbye?

(4/5 stars)

For a hopeful and hopeless romantic, it’s love at first sight—with a little twist.

Rosie Whittaker and her sister are up for some Galentine’s pampering at a day spa. Getting locked inside a flotation tank is so Rosie. Enter a firefighter hero determined to pry this luckless pearl out of her high-tech shell. All Rosie has to go on is a dreamy voice and a flirty sense of humor. Remain calm, Rosie. This could be what you’ve been waiting for. Is this the man she’s waited for her whole life?

(2/5 stars)

It takes nothing less than a fateful natural disaster to throw two opposites together in a ground-shakingly charming short story by the New York Times bestselling author of Drunk on Love.

This Valentine’s Day, Daisy Murray has her heart set on binge-watching rom-coms. Instead, an earthquake traps her inside a bakery with its impossibly rude and insufferably handsome owner and head baker. They already have a history: she’s always smiled, he’s always scowled. Where better to finally get to know each other than amid the disaster? Then again, they have no choice. Besides, it could have its sweet, undeniable, and unpredictable perks.

(4/5 stars)

Every person she kisses finds their true love, and it’s never her—until now, in this funny and magically romantic short story by the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.

Audrey Love is cursed to be the person before you find your soulmate, the girl you dump for your true love. So when her best friend disappears hours before his Valentine’s Day wedding, Audrey fears that she did the unthinkable and kissed him at last night’s bachelor party. With help from the best man, she retraces her steps to find the missing groom and, with any luck, a true love of her own.

Ashley Poston’s With Any Luck is part of The Improbable Meet-Cute, irresistibly romantic stories about finding love when and where you least expect it. They can be read or listened to in one sitting. Let’s make a date of it.

(3/5 stars)

Valentine’s Day becomes a Roman holiday for a princess in disguise in a dizzyingly romantic short story about making wishes come true by the USA Today bestselling author of The Chemistry of Love.

Princess Ilaria has had it up to her tiara with the paparazzi, her own wild reputation, and the public eye. Trading places with her assistant, Ilaria wants just one blissfully ordinary weekend. Then a handsome photographer with a sexy Scottish burr offers to be her guide. Sparks fly, but how long can they last? Ilaria’s secret has to come out—and it could ruin a perfectly serendipitous romance.

Sariah Wilson’s Royal Valentine is part of The Improbable Meet-Cute, irresistibly romantic stories about finding love when and where you least expect it. They can be read or listened to in one sitting. Let’s make a date of it

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

What if you thought you murdered your best friend? And if everyone else thought so too? And what if the truth doesn't matter?

After Lucy is found wandering the streets, covered in her best friend Savvy’s blood, everyone thinks she is a murderer. Lucy and Savvy were the golden girls of their small Texas town: pretty, smart, and enviable. Lucy married a dream guy with a big ring and an even bigger new home. Savvy was the social butterfly loved by all, and if you believe the rumors, especially popular with the men in town. It’s been years since that horrible night, a night Lucy can’t remember anything about, and she has since moved to LA and started a new life.

But now the phenomenally huge hit true crime podcast "Listen for the Lie," and its too-good looking host Ben Owens, have decided to investigate Savvy’s murder for the show’s second season. Lucy is forced to return to the place she vowed never to set foot in again to solve her friend’s murder, even if she is the one that did it.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 5, 2024 
by Macmillan USA
4.5/5 stars

Listen for the Lie is exactly what I did. Because obviously someone was lying.

This is the author's adult debut and my first time reading her. Recommended on social media, and honestly that FOMO had me doing an impulse purchase. I was not disappointed, I was hooked as soon as I read that first chapter.  Between the author's writing style, the mystery and that touch of humor it was hard to put this read down.

Listen to the Lies listen is a twisty turny story told from Lucy's point of view, which includes her thoughts, memories and what ifs. There were lots of red herrings that had me changing my mind as to what actually happened, and I was taken off guard by the ending. Definitely a captivating story that kept me guessing till the end.

If you haven’t been sucked in by the hype, believe me, it is real.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay

Near the end of the Cold War, a CIA code breaker discovers a symbol she recognizes from her childhood, which launches her across the world to the heart of Berlin just before the wall comes tumbling down. 

November 1989 —After finding a secret cache of letters with intelligence buried in the text, CIA cryptographer Luisa Voekler learns that not only is her father alive but he is languishing in an East German Stasi jail. After piecing together the letters with a series of articles her grandfather saved, Luisa seeks out journalists Bran Bishop and Daniel Rudd. They send her to the CIA, to Andrew Cademan—her boss. Luisa confronts Cademan and learns that nothing is a coincidence, but he will not help her free her father. So she takes matters into her own hands, empties her bank account, and flies to West Berlin. 

As the adrenaline wears off and she recognizes she has no idea how to proceed, Luisa is both relieved and surprised when a friend shows up with contacts and a rudimentary plan to sneak her across the wall. Alternating storylines between Luisa and her father, The Berlin Letters shows the tumultuous early days of the wall, bringing Berlin, the epicenter of the Cold War, to life while also sharing one family’s journey through secrets, lies, and division to love, freedom, and reconciliation.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Harper Muse
5/5 stars

Katherine Reay is a new author for me, after reading this one I have gone on to explore her backlist, and have already polished one off. I guess you could say that is an indication of how I felt about her writing.

The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, I have memories of it being demolished in 1989, but  with no inkling about the Cold War and what that wall really truly stood for. This book was an eye-opener as it takes place the day the wall went up and ends when the wall goes down. It is told with two timelines involving the same family. Not only was it a lesson in History, but showed the political and emotional sides of what transpired. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed reading this book, the characters were real, the situations authentic, the resilience and determination of individuals with showcased.

I read this last month and for some reason posting my review was delayed. I highly recommend this to historical fiction lovers that like something off the beat in track.

My thanks to Harper Muse for a print arc in exchange for a honest review.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Black Crescent by Jane Johnson

A captivating historical novel set in post-war Casablanca about a young man marked by djinns who must decide where his loyalties lie as the fight for Moroccan independence erupts.

Hamou Badi is born in a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains with the markings of the zouhry on his hands. In Morocco, the zouhry is a figure of legend, a child of both humans and djinns, capable of finding treasure, lost objects, and even water in the worst of droughts. But when young Hamou finds the body of a murdered woman, his life is forever changed.

Haunted by this unsolved murder and driven by the desire to do good in the world, Hamou leaves his village for Casablanca to become an officer of the law under the French Protectorate.

But Casablanca is not the shining beacon of modernity he was expecting. The forcible exile of Morocco’s sultan by the French sparks a nationalist uprising led by violent dissident groups, none so fearsome as the Black Crescent. Torn between his heritage and his employers, Hamou will be caught in the crossfire.

The lines between right and wrong, past and future, the old world and the new, are not as clear as the magical lines on his palms. And as the danger grows, Hamou is forced to choose between all he knows and all he loves.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 5, 2024
 by Simon & Schuster
3.5/5 stars

Author notes are a favorite way to end a read, especially when it comes to historical fiction.  Such is the case here.  I did not know the family ties Jane Johnson has to Morocco and her motivation for writing this book. "I love to learn when I write fiction, and I hope readers will enjoy learning alongside me."

The Black Crescent is a descriptive read of Morocco in the 1950s. Beginning as Hamou discovers the body of a murdered woman this story that comes full circle many, many, many years later. The fight for independence is violent, citizens turn against each other and Hamou has decisions to make.

The Black Crescent was an informative read with its vivid images of what Casablanca went through, the lifestyle and loyalty. It is well researched, definitely showing the authors passion for the story.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a print arc in exchange for a honest review. 
It is now available in all formats

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray

She took on titans, battled generals, and changed the world as we know it…

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray returns with a captivating and dramatic new novel about an American heroine Frances Perkins.

Raised on tales of her revolutionary ancestors, Frances Perkins arrives in New York City at the turn of the century, armed with her trusty parasol and an unyielding determination to make a difference.

When she’s not working with children in the crowded tenements in Hell’s Kitchen, Frances throws herself into the social scene in Greenwich Village, befriending an eclectic group of politicians, artists, and activists, including the millionaire socialite Mary Harriman Rumsey, the flirtatious budding author Sinclair Lewis, and the brilliant but troubled reformer Paul Wilson, with whom she falls deeply in love.

But when Frances meets a young lawyer named Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a tea dance, sparks fly in all the wrong directions. She thinks he’s a rich, arrogant dilettante who gets by on a handsome face and a famous name. He thinks she’s a priggish bluestocking and insufferable do-gooder. Neither knows it yet, but over the next twenty years, they will form a historic partnership that will carry them both to the White House.

Frances is destined to rise in a political world dominated by men, facing down the Great Depression as FDR’s most trusted lieutenant—even as she struggles to balance the demands of a public career with marriage and motherhood. And when vicious political attacks mount and personal tragedies threaten to derail her ambitions, she must decide what she’s willing to do—and what she’s willing to sacrifice—to save a nation.

Kindle Edition, 544 pages
Expected publication March 12, 2024 
by Berkley
4.5/5 stars

Stephanie Dray is one author that I have managed to stay current with, from her earlier books about Cleopatra‘s daughter to strong women in US history, she has kept me entertained and educated. Francis Perkins is not someone I am familiar with so I went in somewhat blind and was pleasantly intrigued and captivated with this remarkable woman.

Spanning most of Perkins life she is portrayed as a force to be reckoned with.  Her drive, compassion and determination for change is well written in this epic sized book. Dray's passion and researched is evident in a story about a woman in politics is something unheard of in that time period.

Becoming Madame Secretary is a story of relationships, that between Perkins and FDR, her husband and daughter, her friend Mary and her country. The author notes were detailed, welcomed and finished this book off nicely.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Up from Dust: Martha's Story by Heather Kaufman

No stranger to adversity, Martha of Bethany is a woman of dust, undone and unseen in her hurt and loss. After her mother's untimely death, the responsibility for raising her siblings—Lazarus and Mary—lies heavily on her shoulders. She finds solace in a new friendship and the beginnings of first love, but her father's disapproval and unforeseen hardship leave Martha broken and guarded.

Twelve years later, when her friend's husband contracts a severe disease, they send for the new rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. Martha recognizes the miraculous Healer from a story she heard many years ago, and the life-changing encounter reawakens Martha's hardened heart, even as she faces an unknown future.

With impeccable research and a keen eye for detail, Heather Kaufman delivers a moving narrative of Martha's life in this hopeful story of love, loss, and the promise of redemption.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 23, 2024 
by Bethany House Publishers
4/5 stars

Heather Kaufman is a new to me author, Up From Dust is the first book in the Women of the Way series.

I enjoy reading Christian fiction and am relatively new to biblical fiction, Up From Dust tells the story of Martha, along with her siblings, Mary and Lazarus. It's an interesting tale that focuses on Mary’s experiences of love and loss as well as her relationship with family and friends.  It's an authentic glimpse into the times while remaining faithful to Scripture. 

It was a well-written story that offers a possible scenario for the siblings and their dynamics, while focuses mainly on Mary.  One of my biggest takeaways is that each of us has a story.  We don't know Martha's story before Jesus entered her life.  We don't know her past and what shaped her, just like we don't know the stories of those around us.  Everyone has a unique story.

I'm looking forward to where this series will go next, along with checking out the author's backlist.

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

Friday, March 1, 2024

One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley

A mystery she can't remember. A friend she can't forget.

I kept your secret Lucy. I've kept it for more than sixty years . . .

It is 1951, and at number six Sycamore Street fifteen-year-old Edie Green is lonely. Living alone with her eccentric mother - who conducts seances for the local Ludthorpe community - she is desperate for something to shake her from her dull, isolated life.

When the popular, pretty Lucy Theddle befriends Edie, she thinks all her troubles are over. But Lucy has a secret, one Edie is not certain she should keep . . .

Then Lucy goes missing.

2018. Edie is eighty-four and still living in Ludthorpe. When one day she glimpses Lucy Theddle, still looking the same as she did at fifteen, her family write it off as one of her many mix ups. There's a lot Edie gets confused about these days. A lot she finds difficult to remember. But what she does know is this: she must find out what happened to Lucy, all those years ago . . .

Paperback, 350 pages
Published October 3, 2023
by Sourcebooks
4.5/5 stars

This is not just a story about a missing teen. It’s the story of Edie, her confusion and cloudy brain, it's the memories of what happened to Lucy and it's a slow burn but well worth the read.

Maybe because I’ve experienced dementia in a loved one that this resonated more for me, it felt so real. Yes this was slow paced but given my connection with Edie I was totally captivated.

Weaving the past with the present, the disappearance of Lucy is slowly drawn out. The 1951 timeline was a coming of age story highlighting a friendship and family dysfunctions.

One Puzzling Afternoon was beautifully written, it showed the side of aging for both the elder and their family. It’s a story of friendship and a wonderfully debut. It’s a story that has stayed with me a month after reading. It's one I higher recommend.

This book was part of my 2024 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge which I received through my OnceUponABookClub box.