Monday, March 29, 2021

We're all flawed and we're all perfect: THE PROPOSAL.

The ProposalThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, sweet romance

When Nikole Patterson goes to a Dodgers game with her boyfriend and his friends, she's expecting to be slightly bored, not proposed to. But proposed to she is, on the jumbotron, in front of 45,000 fans. And she's booed by all those fans, too, when she turns him down. After all, they've only been dating for five months and barely even liked each other--so she thought. She's rescued at the game by Carlos Ibarra and his sister, Angela, who get her out of the stadium right before a crew shoves a camera in her face. Though Nik still goes viral on ESPN and across social media. She also starts hooking up with Carlos. Neither of them are looking for anything serious, so she figures he's the ideal rebound. Right?

Jasmine Guillory's series is my perfect burnt-out pandemic escape. A bit formulaic, a bit predictable, yet enjoyable and relaxing. I like the reoccurring characters (Carlos is the thread here) and the fact that you can count on romance and delicious food in each book. THE PROPOSAL was one of my favorites so far.

We have vulnerable Nik, scared to love again, between the horrible proposal and some episodes in her past. And then there's commitment-wary Carlos, who is too focused on his family and work for romance. They were a good couple--funny, flawed, and with excellent chemistry. The backstories here seemed more developed than in book #1, and there was more than just, ahem, "romance" to the two of them, including full-fledged careers.

As always, Guillory's books are diverse, and I enjoyed that Nik had a lesbian friend, too (wish she got her own book). Probably my favorite thing about these stories is that they make me smile. I get a goofy grin on my face by the end, and sometimes you just need that when you read. This is a fun and sexy read, with an enjoyable cast of characters. 3.5 stars, rounded up.

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Saturday, March 27, 2021

U, A to Z Challenge: UNDER CURRENTS.

Under CurrentsUnder Currents by Nora Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A tense yet romantic read

This is the twenty-first book in my #atozchallenge! I'm challenging myself to read a book from my shelves that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Let's clear those shelves and delve into that backlist!

To an outsider, the Bigelows look like a perfect family: loving parents, two kids, beautiful home. But elder son Zane knows better, as he suffers verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his father, a surgeon. The family keeps their secrets close until one evening when everything comes out in the open and all changes. Years later, Zane returns to his hometown, determined to put the past behind him. He meets a landscape artist, Darby McCray, who has her own dark past. Together, the two must figure out if they are able to leave their secrets and horrible memories behind and forge a life together.

I'm honestly not sure if I've read a Nora Roberts book before, but picked this off my shelves for my A to Z challenge. It was one of those slightly over-the-top yet engaging books that sucks you in quickly with its story. It begins when Zane and his sister, Britt, are kids and moves on from there. It's a bit long--as it moved from section to section I was surprised there was more to keep going. A lot of that is due to descriptions of the North Carolina town, pontificating about landscaping, etc.

But it's still a book that held my interest. There's a crackling tension in the early piece, when Zane is merciless at the hands of his horrible, abusive father. As he ages, the tension recedes somewhat, but the book is still full of violent episodes. In fact, I would wonder if the town was cursed, based on how much brutality occurs in such a short period of time, but perhaps that's just me. Still, you can't help but be swept up in the various dramas, as well as Zane and Darby's relationship. The supporting cast is excellent as well, especially Zane's aunt, Emily; the local police chief; and some of Zane's friends.

Overall, a heartbreaking yet powerful read. It ended a bit abruptly for my taste, but I liked the characters and intensity of the story. (Please note: trigger warnings for sexual assault, spousal abuse/familial abuse, gay slurs.)

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

T, A to Z Challenges: TIES THAT TETHER.

Ties That TetherTies That Tether by Jane Igharo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet OwnVoices romance

This is the twentieth book in my #atozchallenge! I'm challenging myself to read a book from my shelves that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Let's clear those shelves and delve into that backlist!

Azere has always kept a promise she made, at twelve, to her dying father to only date Nigerian men. She's kept this vow even after the rest of her family emigrated to Canada, and Azere has had to struggle with preserving her Nigerian culture in a new land. Then one evening, yet another date set up by her overbearing mother goes awry. Frustrated, Azere heads to the hotel bar for a drink before heading home. There she meets Rafael Castellano; the two hit it off and share a few drinks--and later, his bed. Azere leaves the next day ashamed that she slept with this handsome white man. But when their one-night stand later evolves into something more, Azere must make a serious choice between pleasing her family or loving a man who isn't Nigerian.

"Culture is important. Preserving it, even more important. It's the reason I've always abided by one simple dating rule. Tonight, I've broken that rule."

This book was exactly what I needed when I picked it up--a simple romance that took my mind off things. It's not the most complicated or deftly written book, but it's cute and fun. Is it a bit predictable at times? Sure, but that does not take away any of the enjoyment. Azere is a lovely character, and the book does an excellent job exploring the dilemma she faces of love versus family and culture. Her mother, honestly, is a hateful character, and I felt terribly for the pressures Azere faced.

Rafael was a excellent character as well, as he came with his own baggage and struggles. It's easy to root for the pair of them. I loved that the book is an ode to romances, with lots of references to other love stories and films that predated it thrown in.

All in all, this is a delightful "culture-clash love story," and I am sure that Igharo's work will only get better with time. 3.5 stars, rounded to 4 here.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The blood in you is the blood in me: THE DROWNING KIND.

The Drowning KindThe Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haunting tale of sisters and familial dysfunction

Sisters Jax and Lexie grew up spending summers at their grandmother's home, Sparrow Crest. But the two have grown apart over the last year, with Jax upset that Lexie inherited Sparrow Crest. When she receives a series of calls from her sister one night, she assumes they are part of Lexie's bipolar illness. But Jax learns the next day that Lexie is dead, having drowned in the pool at Sparrow Crest. Once there, Jax realizes Lexie was researching the property's dark history, much of it tied to the springs that feed Sparrow Crest's pool. She picks up her sister's research, but soon stumbles on a terrible history tied to the water. Meanwhile, back in 1929, Ethel Monroe is newly married and hoping for a baby. She and her husband head to the Brandenburg Springs Hotel and Resort. There, the owner's wife tells Ethel the springs can grant wishes. Ethel makes her wish, never knowing the spring takes for everything it gives.

I really enjoy Jennifer McMahon's books and while this probably wasn't up there with THE INVITED or BURNTOWN for me, it's certainly an eerie and atmospheric read. I can tell you one thing: I would not set a foot anywhere near those creepy, black springs. Wishes or not!

"There are very old stories about the springs. Some say it's a door between worlds."

THE DROWNING KIND alternates between present day, as Jax tries to figure out what happened to Lexie, and the 1920s/1930s, as Ethel and her husband, Will, visit the Brandenburg Springs Hotel and Resort and grapple with the aftermath of their trip. I liked the back and forth, which slowly revealed important plot pieces. This isn't a fast-moving book and not a lot really happens, per se. Setting aside Ethel's portion, it takes place over only a few days. If you're looking for a fast moving thriller, this one probably isn't for you. But it's spooky and tense and honestly chilling at times. The water (springs) becomes its own living, breathing, creepy character.

This one is like a puzzle, moving between the past and present, and a bit of mild horror film, trying to figure out what on earth is going on with the water. (No baths for me while reading this.) It grapples with the decisions we must make as parents--and sisters. The bond between Jax and Lexie is strong, even with Lexie drowned and the sisters estranged.

Overall, this is a very haunting, eerie read, steeped in history and familial tension. It's certainly scary, but it's also packs emotional depth. 3.5 stars, rounded up here. (Trigger warning for self-harm.)

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Gallery/Scout Press in return for an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

I will blow in the wind like a seed: A MILLION REASONS WHY.

A Million Reasons WhyA Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A thought-provoking read about types of family

Caroline does a DNA test on a whim--as do her parents--as part of a Christmas gift. Little does she expect the results she receives: she has a half sister she had no idea about. As for that half-sister, Sela, she does the test looking for family. Now that her mother has passed away, Sela wants to know more--and her friends and husband, from whom she's separated--want her to find a possible donor. Because Sela suffers from chronic kidney disease, and she's going through the stages, fast. The test results overwhelm Caroline's once perfect family, angering and estranging her parents, and putting distance between her and her husband, Walt. But she reaches out to Sela nonetheless, finding surprising comfort in her newfound sister. Sela's life revolves around her two-year-old son, but she could see herself making room for Caroline. And Caroline suddenly finds herself with a new definition of family. What does it all mean--and will Sela live long enough for the two to get to know one another?

"This simply could not be true. It would mean Dad had somehow fathered another woman's child while he was a newlywed."

This was a really interesting, dramatic book that made me think-- a lot. I found it stressful at times, as I was worried for Sela and her health, worried about the burden Caroline was taking on, and more. I suppose it's the sign of a good read if the book creates tension and makes you feel for the characters.

"Caroline couldn't deflect the feeling that a stray cat had been let out of a bag that may or may not have been delivered by mistake."

This was a little slow at times--it rehashes things a bit much, with Caroline waffling over whether she wants to get to know Sela and Sela waffling over whether she wants Caroline her life. We go over and over about Caroline and Walt's relationship and more. There's a lot of drama. The theatrics between the sisters made sense (and honestly, they were the most likeable characters in the book), but the parents were insane at times. I won't go into it too much due to spoilers, but Caroline's parents were very hard to like, making ridiculous demands, and even her husband, who was attempting to be "protective," was a bit much.

Still, this book made me ponder a lot about "found" family and organ donation. It's emotional and sad. Some parts were a little over the top, but I found it intriguing and thoughtful. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, March 22, 2021

BLOG TOUR: HER DARK LIES by J.T. Ellison, out March 9th!

So excited to be a part of the Blog Tour for this twisty thriller! HER DARK LIES is out now--don't miss it!

Her Dark LiesHer Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark and atmospheric thriller

It's the wedding of the year. Artist Claire Hunter is set to wed William "Jack" Jackson Compton at his wealthy and famous family's villa in Italy. But before they even leave for the Italian coast, things seem off when an intruder breaks into their apartment. On the island, Claire learns a set of bones have just been unearthed: not the start she'd hoped for her romantic wedding. Then her wedding dress is ruined. The family's cyber network is threatened. A storm looms. It's quickly looking like someone doesn't want Jack and Claire to marry--and they'll go to any lengths to stop them.

"How romantic, how very gothic and creepy, and how very Compton to choose an island in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sea monsters and exhausted birds to call their own."

I love Ellison's books, as she excels at writing a twisted and dark tale that sucks you in from the start. This wasn't my all-time favorite, but it was still an excellent escape, filled with messed up characters and a rich family with so many secrets. Oh the secrets, oh the lies. Told from both Jack and Claire's point of view, along with a mysterious third perspective, you never quite know whom to trust, whom to believe, and what exactly is about to go down.

The Italian villa where Claire and Jack are to marry--where his famous filmmaker grandfather lives--is another character in this thriller. The gothic villa, the foreboding Italian seaside: it's all so atmospheric you feel as if you're there, wandering the dark passageways of the villa or traipsing along in the pouring rain with our terrified/manic/evil characters. Ellison does an excellent job of setting the scene.

I was never sure where this one was going. Claire seems innocent and along for the ride, Jack protective of his lovely, young bride, and the house ominous yet gorgeous. Is everything at face value? Jack's family is wealthy and intimidating and Claire only has a few relatives along for her wedding day. Do they really love each other? Is his wealthy family happy with the marriage? There are plenty of dark moments (not always for the faint of heart), lots of unearthed secrets, and tons of rain. Oh the gloomy Italian rain! A recipe for disaster, I'd say, for Claire and Jack, but a thrilling read for the rest of us.

I received a copy of this book from Harlequin/MIRA and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review. Look for this one on March 9th!

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Friday, March 19, 2021

S, A to Z Challenge: SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE.

Since You've Been GoneSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, summery YA read

This is the nineteenth book in my #atozchallenge! I'm challenging myself to read a book from my shelves that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Let's clear those shelves and delve into that backlist!

When Emily's best friend Sloane disappears, right on the cusp of the epic summer they have planned, she feels adrift. Sloane is outgoing while Emily is shy, and she doesn't know what to do without her friend. But then a letter arrives from Sloane, with a list of things Emily should do over the summer, such as "kiss a stranger," "dance until dawn," "hug a Jamie," and more. Very little on the list are things Emily feels comfortable with--they are more Sloane-esque--but she embarks on them anyway, hoping they will bring her friend back. Soon she has the unexpected help of Frank Porter, an upstanding fellow classmate and not normally a friend of hers, and her summer is off to an interesting start.

This is a fun and fluffy book, with a small but lovable cast of characters. I really liked Emily and adored Frank. I especially identified with Emily due to her shyness and her intense dislike of horses. Somehow the crossing items off a list concept was fresh and intriguing here. It's a very summery book, filled with all those fun summery things: ice cream, road trips, pizza parlors, falling in love, and more.

It is a little concerning that no one seems to worry that Sloane and her family has been kidnapped, when she just disappears, but maybe kidnapped people don't have access to stamps?

Overall, this is a sweet book focused on teen friendship. It's cute and romantic and will make you long for warm summer nights and falling in love for the first time.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

K, A to Z Challenge: KATERINA.

KaterinaKaterina by James Frey
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

A muddled faux memoir posing as fiction

This is the eleventh book in my #atozchallenge! I'm challenging myself to read a book from my shelves that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Let's clear those shelves and delve into that backlist!

Jay leaves college, determined to become a writer, and heads to Paris. There he meets a young model, Katerina, and falls in love. Twenty-five years later, Jay is a writer--famous and rich--but he's lost his way. Then he receives a message from a lost love. The message draws him back to memories of his old life and his old loves.

Years ago, James Frey dazzled me with A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. I loved those books so much, and while I was aware of some of the controversy surrounding Pieces, I don't think I fully grasped it. Katerina is a strange book--a memoir type story hidden as a novel that loosely covers Frey's life, including the time he wrote a novel that was sort of a memoir. Following? Confused? Me too.

I thought Katerina was a book, fiction, but it's really Frey's retelling of his life, trying to cast himself as a sympathetic character (I think? Jay doesn't exactly come across as all that likeable.). It did intrigue me enough to read up more on the past controversies of his life and truly, the end result was that I didn't care for Katerina all that much, and I felt disillusioned about Pieces, a book I really enjoyed. Sigh.

Katerina uses the same stream of consciousness writing style from Pieces, and if you don't want your writing filled with profanity and sex, I wouldn't go near Katerina with a ten-foot pole. There's drinking--so much drinking here--that it physically pained me at times. It's an emotional read--Frey excels at that--and there are some twists. I won't lie, I found it interesting at times, and narcissistic and boring at others. Jay is hard to like in the past and present (the book splits it time between the two), but I do not think Frey cares, and it covers Frey's scandals lightly disguised as Jay's.

It's a beautiful love letter to Paris; the descriptions of the city are wonderful. There's no real characterization of Jay's beloved Katerina (the person), though, and many descriptions are just repetitive. The ending comes up quickly, as well.

Overall, while I found pieces of this novel engaging, I was disappointed overall. Honestly, I'll probably never be able to capture the magic I found in Frey's early works. 2.5 stars.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

R, A to Z Challenge: RAVEN BLACK.

Raven Black (Shetland Island, #1)Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An atmospheric and intriguing mystery

This is the eighteenth book in my #atozchallenge! I'm challenging myself to read a book from my shelves that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Let's clear those shelves and delve into that backlist!

Magnus Tait, a longtime resident of Shetland, was suspected a while ago in the disappearance of an eleven-year-old girl. Magnus lives alone now and is seen as "different." When his neighbor Fran Hunter stumbles across the body of another girl, teenager Catherine Ross, Magnus is the immediate suspect again. But DI Jimmy Perez isn't so sure. Working with a team from "the outside," he must try to solve Catherine's killing in this tiny and sheltered place.

I read Cleeves' book The Long Call a bit ago and really enjoyed it, so figured reading Raven Black was a great idea for my "R" book. I'm glad I did. This seems like the start of a great series, and I've already nabbed the next book. Raven features an intriguing story that kept me guessing the entire time--something that's rare and always appreciated. The setting is atmospheric, making you feel as if you're part of the Shetland countryside. I quite liked Jimmy Perez and the cast of Shetland folks.

Overall, I can see this shaping up to be a series I'll quite enjoy. I'm a sucker for an interesting mysteries with a strong lead. 4 stars.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

When you're high on emotion: THE WEDDING DATE.

The Wedding Date (The Wedding Date, #1)The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute romance with lots of banter

Alexa Monroe would not usually go on a date with a man she was trapped with in an elevator. But she cannot deny the chemistry she feels with Drew Nichols when they get stuck during a power outage. Drew is about to head to the wedding of his ex, and he asks Alexa to be his date. At the wedding, the pair have a lot of fun, but Drew has to fly back to his job as a pediatric surgeon in LA and Alexa must return to Berkley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. But they cannot stop thinking about each other, so they start long distance dating. Still, they must overcome Drew's commitment issues and Alexa's own insecurities.

I inadvertently read the fifth book in this series first, so I went back to start at the beginning. I found this one to be very similar to the fifth book, which I liked better, but it was still enjoyable. Book #5 features Alexa's sister, so I knew a lot of the plot of this one, but oh well. I did not care for Drew as much--he was a little irritating with his commitment and anger issues, but he grew on me. The book featured what seems to be Guillory's trademark fun banter and focus on delicious, fun snacks. And she tackles serious issues, such as racism, along with the romance.

Overall, this was a cute read. I liked Alexa a lot and enjoyed escaping into a good romance. This is probably a 3.5-star read, but rounded up because it made me smile.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Even walls fall down: THE IMPOSTER.

The ImposterThe Imposter by Marin Montgomery
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A confusing mess of a thriller

Attorney Sibley Sawyer's life goes down in flames when her drinking finally catches up with her. Forced to take a leave of absence from her firm, Sibley seeks the perceived source of her problems: her mother, Deborah. The two have been estranged since Sibley fled home in her late teens. But when Sibley returns to the Midwestern farm where she grew up, she realizes her mother is acting odd. Perhaps it's due to her recent attack, when an intruder brutally beat her. Either way, as Sidney tries to make peace with Deborah, she starts to recall why she left in the first place--and uncovers even more shocking secrets about long ago happenings on the farm.

Well, the synopsis for this one sounded interesting, but this was a hot mess for me. I did not like much of this book at all, but kept reading because I needed to find out what happened. I think I was as confused as these hapless and unlikable characters, honestly. Deborah is clearly disoriented and bewildered throughout the book--alone and terrified on the farm--and it's nearly impossible to muddle through what's going on in her brain. Sidney is drinking heavily, and while I have complete sympathy for the disease of alcoholism, having lost a beloved relative to it, I'm tired of authors using the trope to give us an unreliable narrator with no real effort for a backstory or anything else.

Neither character comes across as particularly sympathetic, and I got rather tired of reading a book with my brow perpetually furrowed. It was not exciting, just confusing. The plot is truly bizarre, with some weird twists, but I felt I was reading to work out a bad puzzle. Maybe all this befuddlement would have been worth it if the probable "bad guy" had not been telegraphed from a mile away, but I had the outline of this figured out from the start.

Overall, as much as I regret it, this thriller did not work for me at all. It's confusing--but not in an exciting, psychological way, predictable, and filled with narrative threads that never seem to link back together. Others seemed to enjoy it more, so I hope that's the case for you if you pick it up.

I received a copy from Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, March 08, 2021

I don't wanna go down any other road now: PERFECT ON PAPER.

Perfect on PaperPerfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute teen love story

Darcy Phillips is excellent at doling out relationship advice. So good, in fact, that she secretly runs locker 89 at her high school where her fellow classmates drop off letters asking for help and Darcy answers them (for a $10 fee). But her secret identity is challenged when Alexander Brougham catches her at the locker after school. So Darcy reluctantly agrees to help him get back together with his ex-girlfriend, Winona. At a hourly cost, because Alexander is loaded and Darcy's a rare scholarship student. And after all, if everyone finds out she runs locker 89, not only will her secret be out, her best friend/crush, Brooke, will realize she's done some questionable meddling in Brooke's life via the locker. All she needs to do is help a rich, entitled guy win his former girlfriend back? How hard can it be?

"Why was it so much harder to answer my own relationship questions than everyone else's?"

This is a really cute and fun read. It totally stressed me out in places. I'm not good with lying, and here we have Darcy not only fibbing about "being" locker 89, but then she's using the locker to meddle with her friends' relationships? Ahh! Cue my blood pressure going up.

But I couldn't help but feel fondly for this girl who so meticulously researched her letters, who so desperately wanted to help others, but was afraid to take risks in her own world. She's starry-eyed in love with Brooke, but too scared to say anything. Who hasn't been there?

Gonzales gives us a huge handful of diverse representation--such an excellent set of queer characters. Darcy is part of the Queer and Questioning Club at her school. There's an episode at the club covering bi-phobia that made me cheer out loud and honestly is worth the read alone. I love the trend of all these YA books with such strong, positive queer messages. I could have used this as a teen, for sure. Now if we could normalize bisexuality in literary and contemporary fiction!

There's some melodrama in this one and Darcy's self-centeredness and angst got to me, at times--perhaps this book could have been just a bit shorter. But, it was probably a fair representation of the turmoil teens experience.

Overall, this is an easy read covering both serious and fun (romance! Disneyland!) topics. It offers an excellent cast, lots of cute moments, and some strong insight into bisexuality and other LGBTQIA issues facing teens today.

I received a copy of this book from Wednesday Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Saturday, March 06, 2021

Better than anything else that I've tried: PIP BARTLETT'S GUIDE TO UNICORN TRAINING.

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Unicorn Training (Pip Bartlett, #2)Pip Bartlett's Guide to Unicorn Training by Jackson Pearce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the amazing Pip Bartlett series. This time, Pip and her best friend, Tomas, find themselves at a magical creature show, which includes an unicorn exhibition. And things are personal, as one of the unicorns being shown is their beloved Regent Maximus, who is, of course, terrified of performing.

I've been reading these stories to my daughters, eight-year-old twins, and they are some of our all-time favorites. They love spunky Pip, who can talk to magical creatures; Tomas, who is allergic to all magical creatures; Pip's aunt and cousin; and all the adventures they go on. Every book has illustrations from Jeffrey Higgleston's Guide to Magical Creatures--Pip's bible, so to speak, which she adds to every time she encounters a new creature. They love the pictures and all the amazing imaginary creatures--even creating their own entries. I enjoy how the book brings out their creativity and that it's one that holds all of our attention. The stories are sweet and funny, focusing on family and friendship, but with lots of fascinating creatures and escapades too. What's not to love?

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Thursday, March 04, 2021

You sold me on the fantasy: THE WRONG FAMILY.

The Wrong FamilyThe Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A wild and wacky thriller

Juno, a former therapist, moves in with Winnie and Nigel Crouch because she thinks the family is nearly perfect. They appear a loving couple who adore their teenage son, Sam. But once she's living in their picture perfect house, Juno realizes all isn't as it seems. And when she overhears a conversation between the couple that she cannot forget, she gets involved... setting in motion a string of events that she cannot undo.

"Humans had a way of uprooting happiness. They found flaws in it, picked at it until the whole system unraveled."

Well, this was an interesting read, to say the least. It had the odd distinction of being both predictable in many ways yet really weird and crazy. It's a fast read and while there's nothing really amazing here, it was certainly good for a crazy (!) twist or two. I didn't care for any of the characters--Winnie, Juno, or Nigel--and most of my sympathies stayed with poor Sam, who had to deal with all these wacky adults in his life. There's a lot of drama and truly, the plot is bizarre and wild. Which is definitely fun at times and a bit too much at others.

Overall, this is a dark read with an insane plot and characters that aren't exactly endearing. It's a quick read that stressed me out and probably won't stick with me long, but was enjoyable enough for a few days. 3 stars.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Cause you came to my world on time: THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS.

The Postscript Murders (Harbinder Kaur #2)The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Witty mystery with lots of bookish references

When the elderly Peggy Smith passes away, her carer, Natalka, is convinced the death was suspicious. While helping clean out Peggy's flat, she finds a variety of books--all crime novels--dedicated to Peggy. Then a gunman breaks into Peggy's flat to steal only a book. DS Harbinder Kaur is not convinced at first about Peggy's death, but she cannot deny everything that begins to happen after Peggy's death. After another death occurs, DS Kaur is convinced writers are being targeted.

This is such a fun book. Not only is it an engaging mystery, it's truly a wonderfully bookish book for people who love reading, especially mysteries. This is Griffiths' second book featuring Harbinder Kaur, the Best Gay Sikh Detective in West Sussex--the "first out of a field of one," as she puts it. It's wonderful to have a crime series with a lesbian lead, especially one as intelligent and witty as Harbinder. She notices everything and offers some humorous insights into her life living with her parents and working with her rodent-like partner, Neil.

POSTSCRIPT is written in truly Elly Griffiths fashion. It's incredibly easy to read and everyone just embodies their characters so effortlessly. The supporting cast here is excellent: a former monk; Peggy's elderly neighbor; Natalka; and a host of folks spread across the writing community. The wonderful inside jokes and asides about writing, publishing, and books are so much fun.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. The mystery of what happened to Peggy and the subsequent sequence of events is interesting while the story and characters are witty and diverse. Elly Griffiths remains my go-to author. I highly recommend you read both Harbinder books, but this one does stand-alone.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in return for an unbiased review. The U.S. version releases 03/02/2021.

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Monday, March 01, 2021

Same old stories, girls and glory: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Too Good to Be TrueToo Good to Be True by Carola Lovering
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A compelling and twisty thriller

Skye Starling is beautiful, wealthy, and smart. She has a good job and a group of close friends. But she's never found lasting love thanks to her horrible OCD, which she's suffered from since her mother's death when she was young. But when Skye meets Burke Michaels, that all changes. Yes, he's older, but Skye can't help falling for this handsome man who wants her. However, Burke has a secret of his own: he's married, and he's using Skye for her family's money.

"All I'm saying is that if he seems too good to be true, he probably is."

This is one of those fun, twisty thrillers that keeps you reading and guessing. It's filled with wild characters and if you're willing to slightly suspend disbelief while reading, it's a great ride. Skye is a sympathetic yet enjoyable protagonist, and Burke is complex in his own way. The book is told from Skye's point of view and interspersed with letters from Burke to his therapist. We also get the perspective of Heather, a young woman, speaking from her past, who knew Burke when they were kids.

The result is quite compelling, and I blew through this one in a couple of days. The first half is probably a bit stronger than the second, though the last half certainly unveils some crazy surprises. Some you can work out; others caught me off guard.

Overall, I went into this one looking for a fun thriller, and it delivered. It also has a bit of romance thrown in, too. It's crazy and twisty and an excellent distraction. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in return for an unbiased review. It releases on March 2nd.

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