Tuesday, December 31, 2019

When I'm hollow, deep as the sea goes: THE GIRL WHO LIVED TWICE.

The Girl Who Lived Twice (Millennium, #6)The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I can't quite let go of the Millennium series and Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, despite the fact that the late author no writes the books. This novel, however, is timely, covering the topic of Russian trolls and their impact on social media and politics. We get short snippets in each chapter told from the point of view of a variety of characters, so the story moves fairly quickly. Lagercrantz lacks Larrson's meticulous detail and his exploration into the character's psyches, as well as the true intense reporter that shined in Larrson; the trade-off: the books do seem to move at a somewhat quicker pace.

Still, Lisbeth and Blomkvist just don't seem the same as they were in Larrson's world, and I miss my old friends. There's also a lot of focus on Everest in this book--it's plot-related, but it gets to be a bit much. More Lisbeth and Mikael, less mountain, please. It makes the story more complicated than it needed to be, perhaps. Still, there's plenty to keep us entertained, including more from Lisbeth and her sister's dark past.

Overall, a fairly engaging read, but lacking that special flavor and special Lisbeth/Mikael zest that Larrson always brought to the series. 3.5 stars.

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Monday, December 30, 2019

She said forever with a smile upon her face: THE WIVES.

The WivesThe Wives by Tarryn Fisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thursday and her husband, Seth, have a slightly different marriage. Seth, you see, has two other wives. Thursday therefore typically only sees Seth one day a week. But she agrees to the arrangement because she loves him, deeply and unconditionally. But then something happens and she starts to see some cracks in their marriage. It causes her to doubt their union--and to seek out his other wives. And once she does, nothing will ever be the same.

"He comes over on Thursday of every week. That's my day, I'm Thursday."

Oh man guys, this is a fun one. If you're able to suspend a little disbelief, you will greatly enjoy this thriller. From the moment I picked up this book, I was pretty much captivated by Thursday's story. There's so much to wonder about. Why on earth would she share her husband with two other women? What on earth is her husband's deal--and, seriously, what is the draw of this guy? What are the two other women like; why would they sign on to this arrangement? And, this is a thriller... is some shoe waiting to drop somewhere?

"Imagining what the future holds proves difficult when factoring in two other women who share your husband."

I can promise that, for the most part, you will not be disappointed. This is a wild ride. It's completely engaging, surprising, and for the most part, totally unpredictable. I wasn't 100% sure about the ending--things came on a little fast and it didn't feel fully resolved--but overall, this was a really enthralling and different read. It's fascinating and bizarre and cringe-worthy and amazingly enjoyable. 4+ stars.

"I shouldn't wonder, but I do. How does a man love so many women? A different woman every other day."

I received a copy of this book from Harlequin/Graydon House Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review. It is available on 12/30/2019.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Everyone calls us the most perfect pair: MY LOVELY WIFE.

My Lovely WifeMy Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

One of the most hyped books in ages--about a murderous married couple--completely fell flat for me. What a disappointment! I slogged through most of this one waiting for it to get good and see what all the fuss was about. I felt nothing for the characters except irritation. This was the ultimate epitome of a slow start. It picked up a bit, but there was nothing to redeem these hateful characters. The entire book was incredibly anticlimactic until a rushed, uncertain ending. Ugh. Still, I can see bits and pieces of why others found it so interesting, and I'll still be intrigued to read Downing's next book. 2.5 stars, though, for me.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

There I stand with the upper hand: THE FRIEND ZONE

The Friend ZoneThe Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Kristen Petersen is a no-nonsense kind of girl. She's loyal to her best friend, Sloan, and worried about finally living with her boyfriend, who has been deployed for most of their relationship. She's also struggled for years with medical issues and is about to have a procedure that will leave her unable to have children. Then she meets Josh, the best friend and best man of Sloan's fiance, Brandon. Thrown together as they plan Sloan and Brandon's wedding, Kristen realizes she has feelings for Josh that she's never felt for anyone else. He's funny, kind, and puts up with all her quirks. But Josh wants a big family in the future. So Kristen distances herself from him. But the more time they spend together, the harder and harder it becomes to keep up the boundaries she's trying so hard to enforce.

The Friend Zone is one of those books that has been everywhere, but I clearly wasn't paying total attention to the plot. This is not your standard rom-com. The last note in my bookly app for this book reads, "fun sad enjoyed," and that really sums it all up. I found this one to be wonderfully written, much sadder than I expected, richly witty, rather dirty, and quite an enjoyable read. It wasn't at all what I went in expecting, but it was really more. Apparently there's a second book coming out soon, delving more into Sloan's story, and I'll certainly be reading that too.

Kristen is a tough character. She drove me crazy at first. I'm not a fan of books where so much could be resolved if someone just told someone else their secret. Sure, they may have their reasons for not wanting to spill, but good grief. Enough already! Luckily, Kristen was also a self-made businesswoman, really funny, a fully-fleshed out character, and easy to get hangry, which I could identify with (perhaps too much). She's a trip.

The friendship between Sloan and Kristen is a great part of the story--it's nice to see two women have a relationship that isn't marred by in-fighting or one that isn't based just on boys. It's real and flawed and, like much of the book, has its funny and sad moments. Josh is also a wonderful character, and, truly, he was a patient guy. The book's coverage of infertility is, mostly, quite well-done.

Overall, this was a strong read: funny and heartbreaking while featuring two characters with strong voices. It covers several serious topics without losing its way, and it's nearly impossible not to root for the main couple, even you want to shake Kristen once in a while. 4 stars.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

And finally be comfortable with me: GOOD GIRLS LIE.

Good Girls LieGood Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Goode School is an elite prep school in Marchburg, Virginia. Each class contains only fifty girls, hand-picked by Dean Westhaven herself. The school has been in the Dean's family for generations. The girls all go on to college--mostly the Ivies--and are the daughters of the rich and elite. Goode is filled with traditions, rumors, haunted tunnels and arboretums, and secret societies. Coming to Goode from England this year is Ash Carr, now Ash Carlisle. Ash's wealthy parents are dead and Goode gives her a chance to start over without the notoriety that follows in her home country. But soon, a student is dead at Goode. She apparently had a secret--and she isn't the only one.

I am a total sucker for a good boarding school mystery. Add in the fact that this one is set basically in my backyard, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, and it's written by one of my favorite authors, J.T. Ellison: I'm all in. GOOD GIRLS LIE didn't disappoint. This was a captivating thriller that kept me frantically flipping the pages of my Kindle. I didn't know who to believe, what to believe, or what on earth was going on. And I loved it.

The book opens up with a death--a body is found hanging on the school's gates. From there, the story backs up, and you are left guessing, wondering if Ash is a reliable narrator or not. For a story that features teenage girls, it's surprisingly adult and dark.

"Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school's gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell."

This is a mystery filled with juicy backstories and gossip. The town of Marchburg has a storied past, and I found myself caught up in all of it. The Dean and her mother--twisted past. An old incident at the school--twisted past. Ash and her family--twisted past. Do you see a pattern emerging? Around every corner, a new dramatic turn emerges. If you like your thrillers with lots of drama and surprises, you'll enjoy this book. It's different, dark and twisty, and quite good. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from Netgalley and Harlequin-MIRA in return for an unbiased review. It is available everywhere as of 12/30/2019.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

It's awful quiet here since love fell asleep: WINTER STROLL

Winter Stroll (Winter #2)Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I read this ages ago, it seems, back in April while on vacation in snowy Vermont. I've been on an Elin Hilderbrand kick all year. Even though this series actually takes place in Nantucket, somehow reading this Christmas-themed novel in snow-covered Vermont seemed appropriate.

In book two (don't keep reading if you don't want spoilers!), Kelley Quinn is still running the Winter Street Inn in Nantucket. He's now single and actually on better terms with his first wife, Margaret, the mother of his first three children. One of them, Kevin, has a new baby, Genevieve, with his girlfriend, Isabelle. More worrisome is the fact that Kelley's youngest son--with his second ex-wife, Mitzi--is still deployed.

This is typical enjoyable fare from Elin Hilderbrand--I love this entire series. In this book, we hear from Mitzi's point of view, as well as Drake, Margaret's boyfriend. Each book is told from various viewpoints (usually just the Quinn family), so it was nice to expand whom we hear from. Ava, Kelley's only daughter, is her usual mess, even though she's dating someone supposedly more stable. And Kelley's son Patrick, is in jail, causing much turmoil for his wife, Jennifer (whom we also get to hear from) and the entire family.

I found this to be an easy read--I read it in a day on vacation and it's really fun. What isn't delightful about the messed up lives of other, fictional people? Even better is that Hilderbrand writes these as a series, so you really get to know the family and their issues. I can get lost in their lives. This was the perfect Vermont vacation read. 3.5 stars.

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