Monday, March 25, 2019

And love wounds with such simplicity: YOU'D BE MINE.

You'd Be MineYou'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clay Coolidge is a country music superstar. He sings successful songs about girls and drinking and trucks. But he has a bad boy reputation and pattern of behavior to go along with his good looks and soon his record company will only keep him under one condition: if he agrees to do his summer tour with Annie Mathers. Mathers, meanwhile, is the daughter of Cora Rosewood and Robbie Mathers, also known as country music royalty. Annie grew up in country music. As she states, she knew the words to "Coal Miner's Daughter" before she learned her alphabet. But her parents died when she was a teen, and she turned away from music, living with her grandparents on their farm. But snippets of Annie's music with her band, best friend Jason Diaz and her cousin, Kacey Rosewood, have made it on the Internet, and they are wowing everyone. Annie agrees to join Clay's tour, because--no matter how hard she tries--she can't stop loving music. But she doesn't want a relationship with anyone in the music industry. It's what tore her parents apart. Still, the more time she spends with Clay, she can't help but see beyond that bad boy "trucks and girls" persona. And she wants to know more.

"Either you tour with Annie Mathers or you don't tour at all. I'm willing to take the loss on your contract. We have plenty of eager young talent ready to fill your spot."

I was so excited to read this book, because I love country music with all my heart, especially some of the older music that Hahn weaves into this book. I read this on the heels of WHEN IT'S REAL and couldn't help but compare the two. I fell hard for REAL. My reaction for MINE varied, though I still enjoyed it a lot; for sure, the two--while romances--are very dissimilar in many ways.

This book has some really dark tones to it, and both Clay and Annie are struggling with some major demons. Each have dealt with some major sadness in their lives, and Annie's past with her parents is honestly just awful. As a result, this isn't a light, fluffy romance, and it has some surprising emotional depth to it and its characters. Annie, especially, is really easy to like and to root for.

"Everything in me speaks music with a fluent tongue. Surely it's genetic, but my parents certainly haven't done me any favors. If anything, their deaths nearly killed the music in my soul."

As I said, I quite enjoyed the music aspect of the book. Not just the country music part, but the overall fact that the book is centered around a tour. It's really fun to get glimpses into tour life--especially since everyone is so young. Pretty crazy how much responsibility and freedom they all have. There's also a lot of songwriting and emotions displayed through songwriting, which I loved. (Side note: As a child, I always dreamed of being a country singer-songwriter. This was probably due to my intense love of Mary Chapin Carpenter, which lives on to this day. Alas, I cannot carry a tune or read music, so this dream has yet to come to fruition.)

"That's the glorious thing about music. It speaks to the very heart of things in the most absolute and obtrusive way."

The one hard thing for me was that the book got rather repetitive in the middle with both Clay and Annie going on about how they were wrong for each other. It seemed to stall the plot for a while, as I felt like we were waiting for a bit for something to happen. Yes, we realize each was damaged, but it seemed like the book hit on that just a little too much/too often for a while.

Still, this was a really good read. It's very emotional and honestly heartbreaking at times. If you're a music buff, I think you'll enjoy it even more, because of all the musical scenes and songs woven into the book. The characters are very real and go through a lot. There's no insta-romance, and you will root for Annie and Clay, even though you'll want things to move along a bit in the middle. I totally cried at the end, which is a major sign that Hahn did a good job. 3.75 stars, rounded to 4.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 04/02/2019.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

It's like you start another chapter: WHEN IT'S REAL.

When It's RealWhen It's Real by Erin Watt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oakley Ford is a mega-star at eighteen. His pop albums soar up the charts, and girls adore him. But thanks to a long string of bad behavior and his inability to cut a new album, he's about to be a has-been at nineteen. The child of self-absorbed celebrity parents, Oakley needs to grow up, get serious about his music, and focus on his talent--and his image. So his handlers decide a fake girlfriend is the answer. Not one of his usual party girls, but a wholesome, regular girl to whom Oakley's fans can relate. That's where seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett comes onto the scene. Her sister, Paisley, works at Diamond Talent Management with Oakley's agents. Vaughn graduated high school early, but she's still struggling with exactly what she wants to be when she "grows up." And both Paisley and Vaughn are working overtime to provide for their twin brothers since the death of their parents. So when Vaughn is presented with the opportunity to be Oakley's fake girlfriend--which pays pretty darn well--she knows she can't say no. After all, hard can it be? And it's not like they will actually be in love, right?

Sometimes you just need a story with a ridiculous, rather implausible situation to soothe your soul.
This book was tons of fun and really compelling. I couldn't put it down and read it in 24 hours. Both Vaughn and Oakley were really interesting characters with a lot of depth behind their silly situation. As he was probably supposed to, Oakley irritated me in the beginning; yes, we are supposed to feel sorry for him, but he was also really good in his role of being a jerk.

"Am I already the washed-up pop star before I hit my twenties?"

The first person point of view in this one makes it very easy to read. The chapters alternate between Oakley and Vaughn and just slide by. The book is a slow burner (no immediate romance here) and fun and hot. Sure, it's a little predictable and you know nothing will go smoothly at first, but it's really enjoyable seeing how things play out. For me to enjoy a romance, I have to like the characters, and I have to be invested in their story--both of those things were definitely happening here. I fell for Vaughn and her family and then for Oakley, too, as I got to know him. There was some good depth and background to both characters, and I empathized with Vaughn as she struggled to find herself, especially after her family's tragedy.

"I’m good at pretending, but not so great at living."

There's even some fun twists in this one, with things not always happening exactly as you might think. Overall, it's really fun, with two great main characters and a really humorous supporting cast. The story has its serious moments, and it's easy to get invested in Vaughn and Oakley's romance. It's a fast read and a good one. 4 stars.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Madness that surges into my throat: THE STRANGER DIARIES.

The Stranger DiariesThe Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Clare Cassidy is an English teacher at Talgarth High. She's also writing a book on Gothic writer R.M. Holland, known for his famous ghost story, "The Stranger." Clare is horrified when she's told that her close friend in the English department, Ella, has been murdered. Even worse, it seems like Ella's death has linkages to Clare and "The Stranger"--with a line from the story left at the crime scene. Clare turns to her diary, her one safe place. Then one day she finds writing in her diary that isn't hers. Is a murderer writing directly to Clare? And is she next on the list?

Oh I love Elly Griffiths so much, and I was incredibly excited to win this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. It was so good! It's told in various points of view, including Clare's and that of Harbinder, an incredibly awesome Sikh lesbian Detective Constable. I mean... so cool. Harbinder attended Talgarth High in the past, so her former schooling memories are aligned with the current case.

The book gets off to an engaging start from the beginning. It's creepy and interesting from page one and never stops. We get pieces of R.M. Holland's story "The Stranger" interwoven in our story, too, and have to figure out how it aligns to the tale unfolding before our eyes. In fact, the book is very literary, which is really fun, especially if you're a book nerd like me. Lots of little Easter eggs thrown in, almost: bits of Shakespeare and more throughout.

Griffiths is just so darn good at writing her characters. Clare and Harbinder are both so uniquely "them" and different from each other from the get-go. I was completely engrossed in the story and caught up in their lives, even Clare's and honestly, she can be a little self-absorbed at times. It's hard not to appear that way when you're reading excerpts from someone's journals. Clare has a daughter, too, and we also learn about others in the English department who worked with Clare. Truly, the British education system is its own mystery to me, though I'm slowly learning about it through many English novels!

This novel is an excellent mystery and incorporates creepy Gothic undertones. I couldn't help but get a little spooked when Clare was discovering writing that wasn't hers in her journal. Even better, it's just so good and well-written! It kept me guessing the entire time, and putting all the pieces together down the finish line was fun. I literally had no idea who had done it--it was incredibly well-done!

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The characters are great, the plot is befuddling and exciting--it's a wonderful mystery! Highly recommend. 4.5 stars.

A huge thanks to Goodreads and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my copy!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Holding the love I've known in my life: WINTER STREET.

Winter Street (Winter, #1)Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Kelley Quinn, owner of the Nantucket's Winter Street Inn, is looking forward to Christmas--a time full of traditions at his Inn. But then he walks in on his second wife, Mitzi, kissing Santa Claus. Or at least George, the burly man who plays Santa each year at the Inn. Suddenly, Kelley's life is as upended as that of his children's. His three eldest children with his first wife--Patrick, Kevin, and Ava--are each embroiled in turmoil and dramas of their own. And Bart, his spoiled son with Mitzi, deployed to Afghanistan right before Christmas. And now it's Christmas and the entire Quinn clan finds themselves together for Christmas: a dysfunctional, dramatic, and potentially heart-warming Christmas.

I've been on an Elin Hilderbrand kick lately, especially after reading WINTER IN PARADISE, the first book in her new Paradise series. I loved that one immensely. I didn't love this one quite as much, but still found it a really easy, quick, and enjoyable read. I read it in one day--half while I was at the hospital with my daughter and half when I got home that evening. Because it's so enjoyable with such great characters, I found it a great diversion.

The characters are classic Hilderbrand: a messed up family that immediately pulls you in. I love how easy it is to get entangled in her tales. There's Kelley, of course, who is completely befuddled as his second marriage is falling apart. Ava, a music teacher, lives at the inn, and is struggling with her current relationship. Kevin, works at a bar, isn't living up to the family's high standards, and is in love with the housekeeper. Patrick, the eldest, is a very successful hedge fund manager with a secret (or two). Bart comes across as spoiled in the past but is now worrying the entire family as they haven't heard from him since his deployment. And then there's Margaret: the eldest three kids' mother. She's a successful newswoman and tv anchor and Kelley's first wife. I really liked her.

Somehow the book seamlessly weaves these characters together, along with their various love interests, spouses, and, yes, George the Santa. It's funny, heartbreaking, and well, completely intriguing. I love Hilderbrand's series because they suck me in and transport me to another place for a few hours (2 hours and 38 minutes, per my Bookly app).

I nabbed all the books in this series from, and I've been hoarding the next three for when I go on vacation in April -- I'm looking forward to seeing what is next in store for the Quinns. Especially since, in true Hilderbrand fashion, this one ended in a cliffhanger!

Overall, I enjoyed this one. It's a quick, dramatic read with interesting characters. 3.5 stars.

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I received my copy of this book through one of my favorite websites,, where you can swap copies of all your favorite books (hardcover, paperback, and more).

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Monday, March 18, 2019

All unhappy ends will be behind us then: COME FIND ME.

Come Find MeCome Find Me by Megan Miranda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kennedy Jones has survived a horrible family tragedy. She now lives with her 29-year-old uncle, Joe, and monitors her brother Elliott's radio telescope. Elliott was focused on looking for alien life, so when Kennedy finds a pattern on her brother's telescope, she thinks it might be a sign. Meanwhile, nearby, Nolan Chandler's older brother Liam disappeared two years ago--the day after Nolan had a weird premonition about his disappearance. His parents have become obsessed with the case and those of missing kids in general. They have basically forgotten about their child left behind. When Nolan finds an odd signal in his brother's room, he too wonders if it's a sign. The two signals draw together Nolan and Kennedy. They begin to wonder how things are connected. Or, are they being warned off by a strange force instead?

"The brother tells them, with an air of inevitability, that Liam is gone. No, they say, he's with Colby. He's out for a job, He'll be back soon. The premonition tingles like static electricity. The boy and the dog are never seen again."

Megan Miranda is an author where I'll read whatever she writes. The topic of this book is slightly bizarre, but it's a completely compelling and fascinating read. I read it in less than 24 hours, as it's very easy-to-read, and I totally fell for the characters. Kennedy and Nolan are united in grief--two kids who have been through so much for being so young.

This novel is creepy and often inexplicable, but the plot is really great. I was completely hooked. Kennedy and Nolan are tied together in interesting ways, and there's also a mystery-type story that unfolds as well. There are a couple of great twists that fully surprised me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It's compelling and heartfelt, with strong characters and a sort of fun yet creepy undertone. 4 stars.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness: THE AU PAIR.

The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Seraphine Mayes has never felt quite whole. She and her twin brother were born at Summerbourne, her family's estate, and within hours of their birth, their mother died, throwing herself off the cliffs behind their house. The only real witness, Laura, the family's au pair, disappeared, and Seraphine and Danny, her brother, never knew what happened. After the death of her father, twenty-five-year-old Seraphine is going through his things when she finds a photo of her mother holding just one baby and looking oddly serene for a woman who killed herself the day her twins were born. Seraphine begins to further question what happened that day. Who is the baby in her mother's arms and what really happened to her mother? But Seraphine's questions seem to stir up a dangerous force, as if someone doesn't want her to know the truth.

"I flip the photo over, and my father's distinctive scrawl confirms it was taken on the day we were born, just over twenty-five years ago. I already know it could be no later, because on the same day Danny and I were born, our mother jumped from the cliffs behind our house and killed herself."

This was a book that everyone seemed to be talking about on Goodreads, so I picked it up. I'm glad I did. It was an engaging, quick read that kept me interested and guessing. The story alternates between the present-day, told by Seraphine and the past, leading up to the twins birth, as told by Laura, the young au pair. We learn that the Mayes family has a history of sadness and tragedy--especially when it comes to twins. However, Rous is very good as slowly unfurling her plot, letting us carefully uncover exactly what happened not only with Seraphine, Danny, and their older brother Edwin, but with their mother, Ruth, and with Laura.

The book is certainly weird and intriguing early on. It's very readable and certainly creepy at times. I did wonder why Seraphine didn't just take a DNA test from the beginning: at least then she'd know if Edwin and Danny were her brothers! There was a lot of hand-wringing and angst. Which, okay, I can understand if you believe you don't belong in your family, but it was a little much at times. There were a few cliches and predictable moments, but the plot was also really interesting and just dramatic enough to draw me in and keep me flipping the pages. I was fascinated to see how things would all turn out. And while Seraphine could irritate me at times, I overall liked both Laura and Seraphine as narrators and characters.

Overall, this was a good read--fast and twisty. I probably could have used a notepad to draw out the family dynamics by the end: there are some fun twists and turns there. It's a good book to embrace and enjoy the craziness and drama. It can be a little melodramatic, but overall a fun read. 3.5 stars.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

You scare me more than the hard times: THE NIGHT VISITORS.

The Night VisitorsThe Night Visitors by Carol Goodman

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

When Mattie, a social worker, gets the call that a woman and child are arriving on a bus and need her assistance, she's ready. The call came into the hotline at the Sanctuary, and they know Mattie is always available to help out and take those in need--especially domestic violence victims--to a nearby shelter or safe house. But when Mattie sees Alice and ten-year-old Oren get off the bus that snowy night, she somehow can't drop them off at the shelter. Is it because Oren reminds her so much of her own little brother, Caleb, frozen in time forever at the age of ten? Mattie isn't the only one breaking the rules and holding things back, though. Alice and Oren have secrets too. And as the snowstorm around them intensifies, so does the danger.

I just love Carol Goodman's books. She has eerie, creepy, Gothic writing down perfectly, and this book was certainly no exception. I was hooked from the beginning. This novel alternates between Mattie and Alice's perspectives. Mattie is older (fifties), living alone in her decrepit home, damaged by her past.

"When I told Anita that I didn't believe in God she'd pressed the medal into my hand and told me that I should just say a prayer to whatever I did believe in. So I say my prayers to Anita Esteban, who left her drunk, no-good husband, raised three children on her own, went back to school, and earned a law degree. She's what I believe in."

I took to her immediately. You know that there's definitely more to each woman's story than meets the eye, and it's fascinating to watch their stories unfold. Alice shows up with a story about running away from an abusive relationship. Oren, she claims, is all she cares about. Is that true? How much can we trust either of the women? What I loved was that the book had me guessing the entire time. It was incredibly captivating, and both women seemed so real.

As for Oren, he was great, too, and you immediately wanted to protect him. The novel definitely has some creepy and mysterious pieces to it. It's less about suspending disbelief than just engaging with the story--becoming a part of it. I certainly found myself spooked a few times. It's a compelling tale, which will keep you engaged, intrigued by the characters, and culminates is a really great twisty (and twisted) story. This one isn't necessarily for the faint of heart; there are some brutal moments here. But what I really loved is that while this can be a very dark story, it's also weirdly sweet, too. I was very touched in places--a true sign that I'd grown to love these characters.

Overall, another enjoyable book from Goodman. She has a way of sucking you into the landscape of her books--and suddenly you are engrossed by the story and its characters. This one was eerie, captivating, mysterious, and yet oddly heartwarming at times. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 03/26/2019.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

There's trouble where I'm going but I'm gonna go there anyway: THE NEXT TO DIE.

The Next to Die (Spilling CID, #10)The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 3.5+ of 5 stars

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck finds the interaction strange when she receives a little white book at a gig while on tour. But it only becomes truly significant when she realizes, much later, that the little white book is key to a murder investigation. Someone--dubbed Billy Dead Mates by the police--is killing pairs of best friends. Each has received a little white book right before they died. But Kim is still alive. For now. And, as she easily admits, she has no friends. Certainly not a best friend. Why is Billy targeting her? And is someone else going to wind up dead?

OK, I won't lie, this was a really strange book. But, I also found it oddly captivating. I didn't realize until I started it--my mistake--that this was book #10 in a series. I am not a fan of picking up mid-series, though Goodreads tells me I read books #1 and #3 a while back. And I do somewhat remember Simon Waterhouse. Still, I felt like an outsider looking in somewhat, and I bet I would have enjoyed this one more if I knew more of the backstory of Simon, his wife, Charlie, and their investigative team.

However, the mystery here stands alone, and while it's bizarre (I can guarantee the motive in this one will be one of the most strange and enjoyable you'll have seen in quite some time), it's compelling and even funny. The story unfolds from the point of view of Kim, who is telling things via a self-written true crime book that details her involvement in the Billy Dead Mates murder investigation. Then we get Simon and Charlie's view of the Billy investigation. And, finally, the writings of a rather crazed feminist reporter named Sondra Halliday who claims Billy is killing women due to misogynist reasons.

It all culminates in a detailed yet surprisingly suspenseful story--Kim is center stage, but also a suspect in some ways. She's a bitter, funny comedian, and I really liked her character. Hannah captures interactions well, and I enjoyed both Kim and grumpy yet brilliant Simon. The whole book was very different for a thriller, but oddly enjoyable too. There were definitely times when I wished things would hurry along; there's a side plot where Charlie obsesses about her sister, which just seems annoying, and some of Sondra's rants are just a bit too much. Still, it's easy to get caught up in the story, especially Kim's book and Charlie and Simon's investigation. The format is different but engaging.

Overall, while this one was a little strange and slow, I did enjoy it. Hannah is a great writer, and her characters are vivid, flawed, and humorous. The plot is definitely different, but it will draw you in. 3.5+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Friday, March 08, 2019

Saying we're juvenile delinquent wrecks: ON THE COME UP.

On the Come UpOn the Come Up by Angie Thomas

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Bri's greatest dream is to become a rapper. She wants to be a star, sure, but mostly she wants to get out of her neighborhood. Help her struggling mom, who is just trying to keep the lights on and food on the table for Bri and her older brother. Bri's father was a rapper, too, but he died when she was four. Bri's mom turned to drugs for a while, and even though things are good now, Bri always feels like everything could slip away at any moment. When her Aunt "Pooh" gets her a chance to rap in the Garden--where her Daddy rapped before her--this could be Bri's big break. The chance to get out, to take the worries away from her mom. But suddenly it seems like Bri's becoming the role she's rapping about--turning into what everyone thinks she is. That aggressive street kid. The kid who gets thrown to the ground at school. And now, Bri isn't sure if the songs are just for show anymore.

This was an excellent follow-up to THE HATE YOU GIVE. Man, Angie Thomas can just flat out write, and the characters and worlds she creates are second to none. This book occurs in the same neighborhood as THUG, picking up a year after the riots. The neighborhood is still reeling, and nothing is quite the same.

"I'm a hoodlum from a bunch of nothing."

Bri is a wonderful character--a realistic teenager struggling with her love life and school, as well as the systematic issues of poverty, racism, drug dealing, and more facing her neighborhood, peers, and family. She's severely affected by what happened to her parents: the death of her father, who is famous in the Garden, and her mom's past drug use. The book does a great job of showing the pressures on everyone in Bri's family--her older brother went to college, but is back, living at home and working in a pizza shop, trying to help his mom out. Her mom is still paying for her past sins: trying to get a job isn't easy, nor is it easy to keep the faith of your teenage daughter, who calls her mom by her first name. And Bri--well she wants to become a rapper and earn money to get her family out of poverty. As such, she doesn't always make the best choices. And, to her, it almost seems like rapper is the only choice for freedom.

"That's how it goes though. The drug dealers in my neighborhood aren't struggling. Everybody else is."

Don't get me wrong, though. While this book is beautiful and does such a great job at showing so many of the challenges facing Bri and the Garden's community, it's also an engaging and funny read. As I said, Thomas is such an amazing writer. The church scenes in this novel are priceless: I was laughing at loud at some points. And Bri is just so vivid in her characteristics. She's a self-proclaimed "nerd" who loves things like Star Wars and some of her references and jokes in the books are just hilarious.

The supporting cast in this one is great--Bri's brother, her friends (including a gay BFF!), Aunt Pooh, the church biddies, and more. They all jump off the pages just like Bri. Much like THUG, this is a story of family at its core and even if you'll want to shake Bri for some of her bad decisions, it's pretty much impossible not to love her, her family, and her friends.

Overall, I really liked this book. It's well-written, tackles some serious topics in a great way, and yet is funny and poignant as well. I highly recommend it. 4+ stars.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Where to discuss and review books: SMASHBOMB.

Hey, everyone! I often get asked where I talk about books, or where I find books to read, so I thought I'd write a few entries to answer those questions. This entry is the first in that series.

So I'm always looking for places to chat about books or discover new book recommendations. I'm also a fan of discovering new websites. Smashbomb is a newer site that allows me to do all these things. I love joining an up and coming site because you get a lot of interested people who are invested in the site's success. You can provide actual input into how the site is run, laid out, and more. And you get to interact with a bunch of people who are interested in the same things as you. While some sites--think Goodreads--are dedicated to one topic, Smashbomb is a fun place to discuss apps, books, movies, music, tv, games, and more. Of course, since it's me, my favorite part is their book reviews section. You can upload reviews, comment on others' reviews, create book lists, and recommend books to others. What's not to love, right? It's a great way to learn about new books and to share your reviews with a new audience.

One of my favorite things about Smashbombs is, well, the badges. I love to collect badges, I won't lie. At Smashbomb, you can collect "kudos points" for a whole range of things--everything from signing in (hey, I can do that!), posting a review, getting likes for a review, leaving others' kudos, and more. The more kudos points you earn, the more badges you get. Maybe it's just me, but there's just a sweet satisfaction in leveling up and earning a badge. I'm a simple soul. Plus, the Smashbomb folks have set it up so that the more kudos points you have, the more likes (kudos) you can dole out to other reviewers.

Smashbomb Book ReporterSmashbomb Book ReviewerSmashbomb Smashbomb ExpertSmashbomb Smashbomb OracleSmashbomb Smashbomb Reviewer

And... the more kudos points you have, besides badges, the more you are eligible to enter Giveaways. There's a whole host of cool items eligible for giveaways at Smashbomb. Like books? They are giving some away! Like technology? Enter for an Amazon Echo Dot or a Tile Pro. The more kudos points you have, the more contests you can enter. You just have to review what you win (and thereby earn more points - I love it)!

You can also enter groups (called Orbs) on Smashbomb, where you can discuss books (or anything else). You can even create your own Orb, which is really cool. Users can create polls, lists, and more on Smashbomb, thanks to its user-friendly interface. It's one of my favorite things about the site: how much the users are involved and how easy it is to use. You can scroll down your feed to spot recommendations and reviews from your friends--spanning a variety of topics. Depending on who you follow (book lovers, movie lovers, etc.), you'll see items that trend in a particular way. But I've found some great book reviews this way!

So, there you have it. Entry #1 in covering places where I discuss books and find new book recommendations. More to come & happy reading!

If you're interested in checking out Smashbomb, head to Smashbomb here. And if you join, please don't forget to follow me, here.

You'll write the script, I'll read the lines: THE LOST MAN.

The Lost ManThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

It's been a while since Nathan has seen his youngest brother, Bub. They live on large, adjoining properties out in the middle of nowhere in Queensland, Australia, but they are not close. What has joined the two brothers today is the death of their middle brother, Cameron, whose body is found by the grave of a long-dead stockman: an ancient landmark that casts the only bit of shadow for miles. The brothers are baffled by Cameron's death--his perfectly working, well-stocked car is found miles from the grave. What would possess their brother, who knew all too well the dangers of the scorching outback, to wander from his car to a near certain death?

I love Jane Harper and this book was certainly no exception. This is her first standalone novel (no Aaron Falk this time), and it is another beautifully written, captivating book that leaves you guessing until the very end. The characters are as scant as the landscape: the three brothers; their mother; Cameron's wife, Isle; Nathan's teenage son, Xander; a few workers from Cameron's property; and a couple of townsfolk. Yet somehow Harper weaves an excellent story that casts doubt from the beginning on what happened to Cameron. Did he purposely wander into the outback to his death? Or was something more nefarious going on?

While we're trying to figure out what happened, we're learning that something happened with Nathan in this isolated community, leaving him angry and alone. Bub seems bitter himself. Harper inserts tales of the family's past along with the present, giving us more details about our characters. And, at the same time, we start to see how no one's stories really add up. There's no real detective in this one, per se--at least no Aaron Falk, even if there is someone investigating Cameron's death--so things unravel mainly from Nathan's perspective.

And, of course, the unforgiving outback landscape is its own character: vast, stark, and dividing the brothers in more ways than one. Harper describes it so beautifully, just as she has done in her previous works. She so expertly captures the complicated family drama occurring as well as the small town dynamics happening in this often dangerous, isolated environment. The result, especially with these tense, well-drawn characters is a taunt, dramatic story that kept me reading and wondering until the very end.

I will easily read anything Jane Harper writes; her books simply do not disappoint. This one was different, in many ways, than the first two Aaron Falk novels, yet had many similarities, including her beautiful writing, nuanced plot, and wonderful characters. 4+ stars.

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