Sunday, August 28, 2022

You will find me gone, to carry on the lonely fight: THE FAMILY REMAINS.

The Family Remains (The Family Upstairs, #2)The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

THE FAMILY REMAINS picks up where THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS left off, but you need not have read the first book to understand the second (though I think it would help). A pile of bones are found by the side of Thames, leading Detective Samuel Owusu to chase down leads connected to a thirty-year-old cold case. Meanwhile, Henry Lamb is determined to track down Phin, a person from his past, and heads to Chicago to do just that.

This book was fine, but it certainly was not a sequel I needed. Remembering all the family dynamics of the Lamb family and their connections is difficult. None of the characters are particularly likeable, except maybe Samuel, but the poor guy always seems a step behind in his investigation. There's a side plot with a woman named Rachel that is unnecessary, especially since a lot of that ground was covered in the first book.

Still, the book picks up a bit with Henry in Chicago, enough to keep me reading and interested. To me, this was more a character-based novel than a true mystery, but there were some interesting twists and turns. 3 stars.

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Thursday, August 25, 2022

Yours was the kiss that counted: BOOK LOVERS.

Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Nora Stephens is a cutthroat literary agent who reluctantly agrees to spend the summer in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina at the request of her adored little sister, Libby. Libby has this dream that Nora will have some sort of rom-com small town transformation in Sunshine Falls, but the main male Nora keeps running into is Charlie Lastra. Unfortunately she already knows Charlie from New York and they've met, repeatedly. None of those meetings have been cute or romantic. But as the two keep running into each other over and over, they start wondering if maybe they don't hate each other after all.

I needed this book after reading a few disappointing books by some favorite authors. This was just what I craved: witty banter and a romance I could believe in. A really simple way of saying it: this book is really good. It plays on writing and literary tropes so well. With both Charlie and Nora being in the publishing business, this is truly a book for book lovers. (Imagine that?) It's filled with hilarious banter that made me laugh constantly - the sexiness between Charlie and Nora is amazing.

But this is also a sweet book in a lovely small town setting. There are so many good side characters and quirky small town folks. Nora's desire to take care of her sister was almost too much for me at times (she's a grown woman!), but I understand why she was so protective of her.

Overall, this is a gorgeous, sexy, sweet romance! 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

There's a fire that's just waiting for fuel: PLEASE JOIN US.

Please Join UsPlease Join Us by Catherine McKenzie
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Nicole is an overworked and exhausted lawyer who is intrigued when she received an invitation to an exclusive organization for women called Panthera Leo. It couldn't come at a better time as things are falling apart for Nicole at work, where she's in danger of losing her coveted partnership. She and her husband, Dan, are also at risk of being kicked out of their New York apartment. She goes on a Panthera Leo retreat and meets the other women in her Pride, which include successful businesswomen, an actress, and a congresswomen. Once home, the Pride helps Nicole find a new place and regain her footing at work. But soon she realizes everything comes at a price--and Panthera Leo has a dark side.

Well, this was an interesting read for sure. At times, it was uneven and dragged. But when it was exciting, it was a total page-turner and very eventful!! PLEASE JOIN US is filled with twists and surprises; just when you think you have things figured out, it takes a turn and goes off another way. The "then" and "now" timeline makes for a frenetic and dramatic format. While fun and perhaps slightly unbelievable, PLEASE JOIN US is an intriguing (albeit slightly stressful) read. It really touches on how angry and tired women can feel in a society that favors men, especially in the workplace (a few things hit home for sure). If you're ready to suspend a little disbelief and get lost in a wild story, this one is for you. 3.5 stars.

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

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Friday, August 19, 2022

But you fell asleep and your dreaming brought the nightmares: STAY AWAKE.

Stay AwakeStay Awake by Megan Goldin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Liv wakes up in a taxi, she has no idea where she is or how she got there. As she arrives at her apartment, she realizes strangers are living there. She finds a bloody knife in her pocket and writing scribbled all over her hands with phrases like, "STAY AWAKE." Confused and afraid in New York City, she sees reports of a murder on the news with the same phrase, "STAY AWAKE" written at the scene. Liv starts to fear that she was somehow involved, but how can she figure out what happened when she forgets everything when she falls asleep?

"The last thing I remember before opening my eyes was working at my sun-drenched desk by the office window until I was startled by the sudden ring of my desk phone... Everything after that is a blank, until now."

This is a really exciting read that moves at a fairly breakneck pace so that you feel as if you too are not sleeping and racing around in New York high on multiple caffeine drinks. Liz forgets the last two years of her life every time she falls asleep. The forgotten memory piece can get a little old (as Liz wakes up yet again and makes the same discovery over and over) and Liz can drive you a bit wild with her poor decisions. But this is a really fast-paced and thrilling book filled with fun twists. It's necessary to keep with the then and now timeline, which can get a bit confusing from time to time.

I loved the police in STAY AWAKE--Halliday and detective Lavelle. I think Halliday was probably my favorite character, a cop trying to get a place on the detective squad with Lavelle. I would truly love to see those two in another book. Halliday's portions gave the book a police procedural sort of feel, which is always a plus for me.

There's a ton of false lines and red herrings in AWAKE and it will certainly keep you flipping the pages. It covers timely topics such as female stalking being ignored by the police, which was a nice serious aspect to a slightly bizarre plot. 4 stars.

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

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Cold city like the eyes in the subway station: LONG GONE.

Long Gone (Detective Annalisa Vega, #2)Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Detective Annalisa Vega's life is in tatters after making a decision that tore her family apart. Without their support and with most of her fellow officers turned against her, Anna is basically on her own. So when a fellow cop, Leo Hammond, turns up murdered, Anna figures she has little to lose in investigating his murder. She quickly learns Leo had a recent altercation with wealthy Moe Bocks, whom he had long suspected in the murder of a young woman in a cold case. When Anna learns Moe is dating her (kinda, former) sister-in-law, she hones in on him in the way only Anna can, putting both her life and career in jeopardy.

Well, this was just as dark, excellent, and thought-provoking as all of Schaffhausen's books. I love her writing so much, and I'm now really loving the Annalisa Vega series (this is book #2), even if she frustrates me sometimes with her impulsive behavior. She also makes a lot of decisions that stress me out and, because I'm attached to her, make me worry about her! That's good writing, as I care about the character.

I highly recommend reading the first book in the series, because it's good, though this book does stand-alone. I won't go into much detail about what Anna did in book one, other than to say that her personal life with her once close-knit Chicago family is pretty much in shambles. She's partnered with her ex-husband Nick, a man who cheated on her while they were wed, but has her back now. When they find Leo Hammond dead, his new and much younger wife claims she saw a "frogman" in a wet-suit before he was killed. Is Kayla telling the truth or did she kill her husband for the insurance money? Why would anyone be running around the cold streets of Chicago in a diving suit?

"She'd blown up her whole life last year and Nick was the only one left standing in the ashes."

What follows is an excellent mystery coupled with a strong character-driven story. Anna becomes intensely fixated on the cold case related to Moe Bocks, who is suspected of strangling a young woman many years ago. All of this ties together with Leo and three fellow cops, Tom, Paulie, and Frankie. As Anna delves into Leo's death, she realizes these four cops may not be on the up-and-up, which certainly isn't going to get her any more love from the police department.

Schaffhausen offers us complicated and realistic characters, as always, starting with Anna, then Nick, and even our quartet of cops. She embraces the Chicago setting (there's a line about the Bulls and Michael Jordan going to the Wizards that is so Windy city and on point...) and brings it to life perfectly (this from someone with both parents from these Chicago suburbs).

If you love a strong and dark mystery populated with excellent characters, you'll love LONG GONE. 4.5 stars.

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

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Thursday, August 04, 2022

To ride the wind and dance in a hurricane: MEANT TO BE

Meant to BeMeant to Be by Emily Giffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe Kingsley III is the eldest son of the beloved Kingsley family, adored for their politics and military heroics. But he struggles holding up the honor of the Kingsley name. Meanwhile Cate grew up poor in a single-parent home. Modeling was her way out. When Joe and Cate meet, they feel a connection instantly. But can their relationship survive the intense spotlight that comes with it?

This was a surprisingly captivating read! It wasn't always the best written, perhaps, but I found myself always wanting to pick it up and find out what was going on with Joe and Cate. They were both intriguing characters.

MEANT TO BE uses the "what if" of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy as its foundation. You can see parallels as you read, but the characters do stand on their own. Joe is struggling with the burdens that come with being from a famous family, while Cate is a model from the wrong side of the tracks. The tale moves quickly as chapters alternate between Joe and Cate's point of view. Their love story is actually quite sweet at times and it's truly fascinating in a sort of soap opera, dramatic way. The book also touches on important topics such as domestic violence.

Overall, this is a touching, emotional romantic story that draws you in immediately. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2022

All my heart my soul my wishes: THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

Thank You for ListeningThank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sewanee Chester is a well-known, award-winning audiobook narrator. But in "another life," Sewanee was an actress. An accident changed things and while she's content enough with her new life, she often feels something is missing. Even more, her best friend, Adaku has the life Sewanee has always wanted and is on her way to stardom. Sewanee is also concerned about her beloved grandmother, Blah, whom she's losing to dementia. Sewanee no longer narrates romance books--she doesn't believe in the happily ever after story, after all--but when she's offered the chance to do a web series with renowned romance narrator Brock McNight, she agrees. As Sewanee and Brock begin to work together, they grow close over text. Can Sewanee let down her walls and let Brock in?

Oh goodness, this was really delightful! LISTENING is such a fun and charming book. Brock and Sewanee are both damaged but lovable characters, and Sewanee is dealing with how her accident affected not only her acting career but also her trust levels. Watching her figure out her life and grapple with not only what she wants but what she feels she deserves is a truly worthwhile and enjoyable journey.

Whelan brings so much knowledge about romance and audiobooks (of course). What I loved is the amazing witty and sexy banter in the book, often in email and texts between our characters. It lovingly embraces its tropes and is such a lovely and engaging romance. It's impossible not to root for our pair. There's also some fun and interesting side characters, including Sewanee's grandmother, her mother and her mom's boyfriend (Stu-such a cutie!). There were pieces of this book that made me laugh out loud.

Overall, this is such a fun and romantic read. It was just a tiny bit too long for me, but otherwise, it was a wonderful romance. 4+ stars.

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