Tuesday, November 26, 2019

What doesn't kill you makes a fighter: THE GUARDIANS.

The GuardiansThe Guardians by John Grisham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the best John Grisham books I’ve read in quite some time! It’s a strong, captivating story featuring the “good guys” versus “bad guys” dynamic that Grisham does so well.

Cullen Post works for Guardian Ministries, traveling the country fighting wrongful convictions. Guardian takes on clients forgotten by the system. Post, a lawyer and Episcopal minister, finds himself drawn to their latest client, Quincy Miller, who is serving life in prison. Quincy supposedly killed Keith Russo, a lawyer in Seabrook, Florida. He’s been in prison for over twenty years. And now Post is realizing that Quincy’s case is going to ensnare him and Guardian in a dangerous world—powerful people killed Keith Russo, and they do not want Quincy Miller exonerated.

"I have saddled myself with the burdens of innocent people rotting away in prison while rapists and murderers roam free."

This book has the legal and dramatic hallmarks of a strong Grisham novel. I was drawn to Post immediately and quickly caught up in Quincy’s case and Post and Guardian’s world. There are lots of twists and turns and surprises as Post works to free Quincy. I love the details Grisham throws in, plus the peeks into the courtroom, tidbits about examining evidence, and more. It’s a powerful read that gives you plenty to think about. Definitely worth a read! 4 stars.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I wanna start up this flame: THE NIGHT FIRE.

The Night Fire (Renée Ballard, #3)The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Harry Bosch is one of my favorite characters ever, and I wait with much anticipation for the release of every new Michael Connelly novel. The Night Fire is the third book that features both Bosch and Detective Renee Ballard, who works the LAPD night shift. I’m really loving their partnership now and have grown to care for Ballard in her own right. (Bosch will always be my true love, though.)

This is another well-researched book from Connelly, as Bosch and Ballard work a series of intriguing cases—some of which will intersect. The story starts with Bosch receiving an old murder book from the widow of his former mentor. He pulls Ballard in to investigate and off we go! There are some great twists, and the cases are fascinating. I love Bosch to death and how he and Ballard play off each other. Mickey Haller makes an appearance, and Bosch struggles with a rare moment where he’s helping the defense.

The plot, as usual, is great--you can always count on Connelly for gripping cases that are timely and interesting. He manages to do this even as our two heroes are solving a cold case: quite a feat. I'm always astonished at how Connelly can somehow have Bosch and Ballard juggle two, three, four cases at time and somehow it all works. I always think I'll be confused and lost among the plot points, yet it always comes together.

The characters, however, are what keep you coming back. I love that we get to see Bosch interacting more with his half-brother, Haller. And there are some great scenes with Bosch and Maddie, his daughter, including one involving "FOMO" that is just priceless. As Bosch ages, each book seems to have more poignant moments tucked in between mysteries and bad guys. It's Ballard pushing the limits now, and Bosch reminding her to sleep.

Definitely a gripping read even as we have to grapple with the fact that our beloved Bosch is getting older. The ending gave me some hope, though, and I hope Bosch and Ballard are around for quite some time. 4+ stars.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

They keep me thinking that we almost had it all: TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE.

Twenty-one Truths About LoveTwenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dan Mayrock is an obsessive list maker who has quit his job as a teacher and opened a bookstore. But now he's in financial trouble and afraid to tell his wife, Jill. Jill was previously married and Dan feels he can never quite live up to Jill's late husband. And then, Jill gets pregnant. Now Dan feels even more pressure to be the best he can be for Jill.

The shtick of this book is that it's told entirely in list form. No dialogue, no narrative, nothing. Just lists. It did wear a little thin at times, but it was an interesting way to learn about someone's life. You learn about Dan's finances, feelings, and amazingly, a lot about his past.

For me, what really got me about this book is that I just couldn't warm to Dan. I think most people find this book heartwarming and cute, but I found him--and it--annoying and whiny. He doesn't want to tell his wife about his financial problems with the store, so he concocts some ridiculous scheme to "help" the family instead. It was just too much for me. Man up, tell your wife, and take responsibility for your actions. I didn't find it cute, and if I was his wife, I would have kicked him to the curb.

It's a shame, because a lot of the book was filled with really funny and spot-on observations about life. I especially loved Dan's ruminations on teaching and meetings. They were incredibly true to life. There are a lot of humorous and touching moments in this book, but I could never really push past the fact that he was a spineless liar.

"'Let's start off with an icebreaker' are words no human being has ever wanted to hear."

Overall, I enjoyed pieces of this book, but found myself skimming others. I liked the idea of it, but could never warm to Dan and since the whole book was his lists and life, it was hard to enjoy without liking him. I need a book from the POV of his older Bingo buddy, Bill. Now he was a cool dude.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 11/19/2019.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

There's a gold dirt road to a whole lot of nothin': SHATTER THE NIGHT.

Shatter the Night (Detective Gemma Monroe #4)Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Cedar Valley Detective Gemma Monroe takes a break from trick-or-treating on Halloween night with her young daughter Grace and fiance Brody to visit a family friend, former Cedar Valley Judge Caleb Montgomery. Caleb tells Gemma that he's been receiving haunting anonymous threats on his life. As Gemma, Brody, and Grace return to the Halloween festivities, they hear a gigantic explosion. Gemma quickly learns it was Caleb's Mercedes. The well-respected judge is dead. This kicks off a twisted and grueling case for Gemma and her partner, Detective Finn Nowlin, leading them down the dark past of Cedar Valley. There are ties to former serial killer and the more Gemma and Finn dig, the more disturbing things they find. Even worse, it appears as if Caleb's killer might not be finished.

"We had summoned the evil to our town just as surely as if we'd mailed an invitation. We just didn't know it yet, and by the time we did know it, the damage would already be done. People would be killed. Lives would be changed."

This was such a good book, you guys. I've read the first three books in the Gemma Monroe series and really enjoyed them, and this was such an excellent addition to this series. To put it in perspective, I started reading this book about the same time as Michael Connelly's latest. I quickly realized that wouldn't work as they both involved plots with arson, and my small brain was getting addled. Well, I found this book so completely captivating that this was the one I kept with--and I mean, Connelly is my most favorite of authors. I have a cat named Harry Bosch. But there was just something about this one!

Gemma has become one of my favorite detectives. She's so easy to identify with. I love that she's a working mom, and that she can share her perspectives about working and motherhood with the reader. She even admits that she is probably a better mom because she works, but she still struggles being away from young Grace. She's human and fallible. We also see her make some strides in her personal growth in this book. She's awesome and tough, and I really like her.

"Since having my daughter, time seemed to speed up at incredible rates."

The plot in this one is wonderful. It's creepy and builds up suspense. I was completely captivated. I love a book that keeps me guessing, and Shatter The Night definitely did that. There are a lot of suspects, and it was really fun to try to figure out what was going on and who might be our bad "guy(s)." The book weaves in the town's legacy, intertwining the history and its elders, so to speak. So you have a past that features Caleb and his ancestors; the police and their history; even Gemma's family. I don't want to go deeper than that, but Littlejohn weaves it all together flawlessly.

Overall, this was a great read. Interesting story, wonderful characters (the recurring characters are the best--please live forever, Tilly Krinkle), and a strong female lead. What more can you ask for? Maybe it's time to name a cat Gemma Monroe. :) 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Minotaur Books and Netgalley in return for an honest review; this book is available everywhere as of 12/10/2019.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

We'll be raising our hands, shining up to the sky: SUMMERLAND.

SummerlandSummerland by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 3+ of 5 stars

It's high school graduation on Nantucket. But this usual time of celebration turns to tragedy when--on graduation night--a terrible car crashes kills one local student, Penny Alistair, and leaves her twin brother, Hobson, in a coma. Penny's boyfriend, Jake, and her friend, Demeter, are not hurt, at least physically. But the crash shakes the island and leaves everyone wondering exactly what happened. Why was Penny driving Jake's Jeep that night? What caused her to drive so quickly and recklessly?

I enjoy every Elin Hilderbrand book I read, and I liked this one, though it wasn't one of my all-time favorites. I didn't find myself greatly attached to any one character, or really pulled deeply into the plot. Honestly, while many of Hilderbrand's books have a dark or sad side, this one was really depressing at times, even though there was a layer of hope as well. It hit very close to home, as I am a mother of twins, so maybe that was part of it. I was a little heartbroken, and my heart went out to Zoe, the mother of Penny and Alistair.

As with all Hilderbrand books, the story is interesting, and she weaves a detailed and intricate tale of island life. There's more than just an accident, with intersecting webs of characters. I liked the parallels and ties between the high school children and their parents. It was an engaging story, with a lot of serious subjects.

I'm glad I read this one, but if you're just starting out with Hilderbrand, there are other books I'd recommend first. 3+ stars.

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

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Wednesday, November 06, 2019

I'm not ready to back down: THE GIVER OF STARS.

The Giver of StarsThe Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

This was such a great read—I was completely caught up in the story, set in 1930s Kentucky. It tells of a group of women who agree to set up a traveling library—where the books are delivered via horseback—per the direction of Eleanor Roosevelt and the WPA.

What a vivid and mesmerizing tale. We are introduced to Alice, who comes from England to Kentucky after her marriage. But her union isn’t all she imagined, and she finds herself feeling trapped and alone—until she joins the library. They are led by Margery, who refuses to fit the mold of the typical Kentucky woman, much to the ire of some townspeople, including Alice’s father-in-law, who runs the local mine.

The plot is dramatic, riveting, and, honestly, stressful at times (I was so invested). I loved the idea of a tale that mixes the power of books and reading with the power of women and the fear so many had of both. You’d like to think a lot has changed since the ‘30s, but this felt rather timely sometimes... The book also speaks eloquently to the racial divide, classism, and more. I found many parts to be so touching and others very powerful. This is a book that speaks to you on a variety of levels.

Overall, this is a beautiful book, with a strong and moving message. Definitely recommend! 4+ stars.

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Monday, November 04, 2019

But my heart hit rock bottom: WHAT HAPPENS IN PARADISE.

What Happens in ParadiseWhat Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a year since Irene Steele received the news that her husband Russ was killed in a helicopter crash. The most shocking part: it occurred on the island of St. John, where he apparently lived a double life with another family. Now Irene and her two grown sons are back on the island, trying to move on—and learn more about the life Russ led there.

I really am loving this series. I worried for naught this book wouldn’t be as captivating as the first! It was, per usual, a delicious Hilderbrand read. I love these characters, especially stalwart Irene. And Huck, oh Huck, the tough yet sweet fishing captain. She just captures them all so perfectly!

This book is really quite fascinating—almost a mystery. There’s plenty of good relationship drama, too and lots of curiosity about Russ’ business dealings. It’s so easy to get caught up in everyone’s lives.

This is a fun, dramatic, and engaging read. You can read it out of order, but pick up Winter in Paradise first (if you haven’t already) for the full experience!

(Also, this was my first read BOTM. Yay!)

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Friday, November 01, 2019

This is where I belong: RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE.

Red, White & Royal BlueRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book where the President’s son falls for the Prince of Wales? Sign me up!

This book is raunchy and the language is rather explicit, and my goodness, I loved it. This one was one of my rare audiobook listens, and I was driving down the road laughing and crying. Wiping away actual tears at points.

McQuiston combines a sort of coming of age love story against the backdrop of politics. Both storylines are compelling beyond belief. Alex, the President’s son and our main character, is incredibly well-written. Funny, sweet, and so real. And Henry, our Prince, is lovely too. It’s impossible not to root for them.

This book is witty, sweet, a surprising nail biter at times, and offers such a great message—now more than ever. (And the narrator in this one was easily my favorite in my limited audiobook career.) Cannot recommend it enough!

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