Review: More Than Words by Jill Santopolo

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Putnam

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter, a good girlfriend. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, after her mother’s death, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And her boyfriend Tim, thoughtful, kind, and honest, not to mention her best friend since childhood, feels the same. But after Nina’s father passes away, she learns he may not have practiced what he preached. 

As her world falls apart, Nina begins to question everything she thought she knew and to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her handsome and attentive boss, Rafael–in a new light. Soon Nina finds herself caught between the world she knows and loves, and a passion that could upend everything.

More than Words is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live. 

Review:

I’ve been holding off on posting my review until today simply because I can’t think of a more fitting book to discuss on Valentine’s Day than this one! It was a great love story, but it also had plenty of depth and was about so much more than two people falling in love, it explored several other relatable topics and issues as well.

I love a book that follows a character at a defining point in their lives, it’s so interesting to me to see what choices they make and what actions take place after some sort of event shakes up their life. Nina losing her father is her defining moment, she begins to question everything she’s been sure of her entire life and she really starts to come into her own. I really enjoyed watching her grow, mature and just start to feel comfortable in her own skin, on her own terms.

Love triangles are nothing new, but this one is done well. So many times I’m clearly rooting hard for one person to “get the girl” in these types of stories, but here I genuinely liked both men in Nina’s life which made me feel for her (and them) as she struggled to chose one of them. There was quite a bit of drama here as Nina navigates life after her fathers death, which was also fun as it broke up the romancey parts.

This was my first Santopolo book and I was impressed by her writing, it’s lyrical and fluid with a bit a magic to it as well, really perfect for a romance. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about The Light We Lost and am really excited to read that one too after this gem.

More Than Words in three words: Touching, Sweet and Lyrical.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Secretary by Renee Knight

Goodreads

Release date: February 12, 2019

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

From her first day as Personal Assistant to the celebrated Mina Appleton, Christine Butcher understands what is expected of her. Absolute loyalty. Absolute discretion. For twenty years, Christine has been a most devoted servant, a silent witness to everything in Mina’s life. So quiet, you would hardly know she is there.

Day after day, year after year, Christine has been there, invisible—watching, listening, absorbing all the secrets floating around her. Keeping them safe.

Christine is trusted. But those years of loyalty and discretion come with a high price. And eventually Christina will pay.

Yet, it would be a mistake to underestimate such a steadfast woman. Because as everyone is about to discover, there’s a dangerous line between obedience and obsession. 

Review:

I’m completely torn about my feelings on this one, on one hand it was a quick, addictive read that I flew through quickly. But on the other hand, it was just so damn weird that I’m not even sure I can explain it to you, but I’ll try!

This is told entirely from the POV of the secretary, Christine and focuses solely on her relationship with her boss, Mina. There is very little dialogue, it’s more of one long stream of Christine’s inner monologue with occasional conversations. It was just an odd setup, but I didn’t hate it and I kept reading so the author did something right. Parts of it also felt a bit tedious too, there was a lot of mundane recalls of memories as Christine tells the story of how she began working for Mina eighteen years ago, but somehow I knew that this would all lead up to something big.

In the end, as much as I knew something was going to happen, otherwise why all of history, right? But I had zero idea as to what that would be. Let me tell you, it wasn’t anything I would’ve ever come up with on my own. It was a little off the rails and out there, extreme to the max. I still don’t know if it worked for me or not?! It’s memorable for sure though. I know this is an extremely wishy washy and probably entirely unhelpful review, but this was just a peculiar read for me. I can’t say I loved or hated it, so I can’t fully recommend it either.

Overall rating: 3/5 (I debated doing a 2.5, but I did cruise through it and she is a good writer so…)

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Say You’re Sorry by Karen Rose

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Release date: February 12, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Blurb:

Introducing the first book in the new pulse-pounding Sacramento series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose. 

FBI Special Agent Gideon Reynolds did not have a conventional upbringing. Raised in a cult in Northern California, his mother smuggled him out when he was thirteen, and he never saw her again. It is not a bit of history he is keen on sharing, but being guarded has not gotten him any closer to what he really wants: a family.

Daisy Dawson lived a sheltered childhood. Her father, a former military man, believed that the woman he loved and her daughter were being hunted, so he took extreme measures to keep his family safe. But despite his best efforts, Daisy is done being scared. New to Sacramento, she is ready to jump headfirst into life–until she is attacked one night.

Gideon is caught unawares by Daisy, who is unlike any victim he has ever met. But the attacker is far from finished, and tracking him will threaten to pull Gideon back to the world he fought so hard to leave… 

Review:

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t read a ton of romantic suspense, which is sorta weird because I like both suspense and romance separately, but not often together. I often find that there’s usually too much romance and not enough tension, I never really find the right balance for my personal taste. And then I was browsing Netgalley and saw the cover/blurb for this and I just couldn’t ignore it and I am thrilled that I gave it a try, it was excellent.

I have to warn you guys that this is a long book, over 600 pages, so this is not a book to binge read at all. It’s one where character development is key and Rose is fantastic at peeling back the layers of the main characters. It’s also the first in a new series where any good author will spend some time diving into their leads, so while understandable, it’s a dense one. I knew this going in and was prepared, so I settled in and savored the read, I want to make sure you also know this before thinking this is a one sitting read or one that you’ll fly through.

While it is long and the characters are incredibly well drawn, it is still incredibly tense and there is plenty of excitement. Daisy is in danger almost from page one and there was a fantastic sense of dread that steadily increased as the story progressed. Between the action there was a relationship burgeoning Daisy and Gideon and their chemistry was HOT, so basically there was always something exciting going on!

If you’re already a fan of romantic suspense then definitely check this out, and if you’re a little wary like me, this is an excellent place to start. Trust me, it’s still very dark with a creepy serial killer on the loose and even he was interesting and well drawn! There’s also a religious cult, which fascinates me, something for everyone here.

Say You’re Sorry in three words: Tense, Compelling and Dark.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Hiding Place by C. J. Tudor @cjtudor

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Crown

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

Review:

The Chalk Man was one of my favorite reads from last year so I was highly anticipating Tudor’s next book, but was also a little apprehensive because you never know if they can keep the momentum going and deliver another hit. I’m so happy to say that it’s an absolute yes from me, I liked this one just as much as TCM and believe Tudor is a serious force to be reckoned with!

This one was creepy with a capital C you guys, it blends a classic thriller with a supernatural twist and was a truly chilling read. Joe’s hometown used to be a mining town that’s long since been disused and the atmosphere of this was desolate, stark and incredibly scary. There was just a really strong sinister vibe that, coupled with some creepy characters made this one to read during the day!

This was one of those books that gives off an uneasy feeling the whole time, the sense that something isn’t quite right. It flips back and forth from present day and 1992 when Joe’s sister Annie goes missing and then suddenly returns, but something is off. These chapters gave me the chills and when everything came together not only was I stunned, I was also scared to death! Highly recommended, especially if you liked TCM but also if you just like mystery/thrillers.

The Hiding Place in three words: Sinister, Scary and Atmospheric.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Dead Ex by Jane Corry

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Viking

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Vicki works as an aromatherapist, healing her clients out of her home studio with her special blends of essential oils. She’s just finishing a session when the police arrive on her doorstep–her ex-husband David has gone missing. Vicki insists she last saw him years ago when they divorced, but the police clearly don’t believe her. And her memory’s hardly reliable–what if she did have something to do with it?

Meanwhile, Scarlet and her mother Zelda are down on their luck, and at eight years old, Scarlet’s not old enough to know that the “game” her mother forces her to play is really just a twisted name for dealing drugs. Soon, Zelda is caught, and Scarlet is forced into years of foster care–an experience that will shape the rest of her life . . .

David’s new wife, Tanya, is the one who reported him missing, but what really happened on the night of David’s disappearance? And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself? The answer lies in the connection among these four women–and the one person they can’t escape.

Review:

I know many people are kinda over the whole unreliable narrator thing in psychological thrillers but for me, when they’re done well I’m all about it. This one was done incredibly well and the unreliability kept me constantly guessing and then second guessing myself, I just love that!

This is told from a few perspectives, first you have Vicki who suffers from epilepsy and between the seizures she has and the medications she has to take her memory and recollection is hazy at best. Then you have Scarlet, a little girl who is sent to foster care after her mother is sent to jail. It flips back and forth between the two and it also alternates timelines and I really wasn’t sure how they could possibly be connected. When things finally did start to come together it was nothing that I saw coming ahead of time, it was really clever and well executed.

Characterization is Corry’s strong suit, even though Vicki was hard to read in terms of dependability she was very well drawn and extremely interesting. Poor Scarlet broke my heart, she was so little when her mom was locked up and had some rough times. Between the great characters, the strong writing and the twisty storyline I was totally engrossed and eager to see how it would work out in the end, and the conclusion was really strong, the author threw in one more sucker punch of a twist that was utterly satisfying. Highly recommended for fans of psychological thrillers, especially those who like to be left guessing.

The Dead Ex in three words: Addictive, Unpredictable and Engrossing.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Once A Liar by A. F. Brady

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Park Row

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Did he kill Charlie Doyle? And if he didn’t…who did?

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, worked ruthlessly to become the best at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. He fights without remorse to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists.

When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA—and Peter’s former lover—is murdered, Peter’s world is quickly sent into a tailspin. He becomes the prime suspect as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter’s, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter’s death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder.

In the challenge of his career and his life, Peter races against the clock to prove his innocence. As the evidence mounts against him, he’s forced to begin unraveling his own dark web of lies and confront the sins of his past. But the truth of who killed Charlie Doyle is more twisted and sinister than anyone could have imagined…

Review:

This flips back and forth between Then and Now, then follows Peter as he begins his career and adult life and now is after Charlie is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect. Sometimes I get annoyed when a book alternates timelines but this time I enjoyed it. Almost every chapter ended with some sort of revelation or small twist and this tactic only served to propel me forward faster to get back to what I had just left behind. Both timelines were equally engrossing and I really didn’t prefer one over the other, I was invested in both.

If you enjoy reading books with characters that you love to hate you have got to check this one out! There is something so fun about reading about a ruthlessly unapologetic person and Peter was absolutely despicable but SO entertaining. He reminded me a lot of Paul from Best Day Ever, there was a hint of that same dark humor which is a huge plus for me as well, so if you liked that book definitely add this one.

I did see one part of the big reveal coming slightly ahead of time but then there was another little twist that I hadn’t anticipated and that really made this one a solid read for me. The ending itself was satisfying as well, overall a very well executed mystery.

Once A Liar in three words: Duplicitous, Unexpected and Skillful.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

1944: Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war, and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.

Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines.

Chosen for their inner strength and outer charm, the trio isn’t prepared for the daunting challenges of war. But through it all come new friendships and romances, unforeseen dangers, and unexpected dreams. As the three friends begin to understand the real reasons they all came to the front, their courage and camaraderie will see them through some of the best and worst times of their lives.

Review:

I’ve read my fair share of World War Two HF and I’m always eager to see a new spin on things, so when I read the description of this and realized I had never even heard of the Red Cross Clubmobile Girls I was excited! The idea of these young women volunteering to help out during such a scary and unsure time was fascinating to me and their bravery was so inspiring.

Historical accuracy is so important to me, even when reading fiction and Healey did an amazing job at staying very close to true events. Her dates were pretty spot on and her attention to detail was impeccable, and yet she still managed to make this an engaging and fun read despite maintaining historical accuracy. Sometimes when I read a HF I can get bogged down with the details but there was none of that here. I was wholly invested in Fiona, Viv and Dottie’s lives and this is due to the authors ability to create such vivid and vivacious characters that leapt from the pages.

This was an emotional read, Healey didn’t shy away from the horrors of war and the girls were right in the thick of the action so there were some somber scenes. Overall though, this was an ultimately uplifting read and one full of hope, but I did experience a wide variety of emotions while reading. Recommended for fans of HF and especially those who can’t get enough of WW2, also the whole concept behind the Clubmobile Girls was so interesting, their sole purpose was to bring some joy and happiness to soldiers far from home, so cool!

The Beantown Girls in three words: Heartwarming, Precise and Impassioned.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: When You Read This by Mary Adkins

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

For fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell, a comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts.

Iris Massey is gone. 
But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss. 

Review:

I’ve always been a huge fan of epistolary novels, there’s such an intimate feeling when you’re reading someone’s emails or text messages that satisfies my nosy side. Most of the ones I’ve read in the past have been on the lighter side, but this has some heavy moments, (it does take place after Iris’ death after all) that really gave this one unexpected depth for me.

The stars of the show are Jade and Smith, but there’s a supporting cast of quirky characters that brought some much needed life and light to a oftentimes sad tale. Jade and Smith begin communicating after Iris dies and begin to find comfort in each other that they both desperately need. Just when things would get a little depressing Carl, Smith’s intern would appear with some off the wall idea or big gaffe that would crack me up.

If you’re a fan of epistolary definitely check this out, a really fast and surprisingly fun read that charmed me.

When You Read This in three words: Fresh, Poignant and Touching.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding @mk_golding @crookedlanebks #LittleDarlingsBook

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Release date: April 30, 2019

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Blurb:

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe. 

Review:

I’m usually not big on fairy tale retellings or books with a supernatural twist but the premise of this one just sounded too good to pass up and I’m so glad I gave it a chance! This was a dark read with a super creepy tone and a spooky atmosphere that gave me the shivers.

Lauren is the ultimate unreliable narrator, I was never quite sure if she was just a new mom suffering from some sort of post partum psychosis or if she was truly living some kind of bizarre, scary fairytale. Even she questions her own thoughts and feelings so it was difficult to pinpoint what was actually going on and it was also very entertaining. Add in mounting suspense that just got more intense as the story progressed and I was hooked. Harper, the police officer working the case also offers a POV and I liked the police procedural vibe this aspect brought as well.

This was a truly unique read, a real page turner that got under my skin and scared the daylights out of me at times. Recommended if you want something different and don’t mind a hint of the supernatural.

Little Darlings in three words: Unsettling, Menacing and Dark.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When a video call between friends captures a shocking incident no one was supposed to see, the secrets it exposes threaten to change their lives forever.

Molly and Liza have always been enviably close. Even after Molly married Daniel, the couple considered Liza an honorary family member. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit—in the friendship and the marriage.

When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat after the kids are in bed. But then Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child.

What Liza sees next will change everything.

Only one thing is certain: Molly needs her. Liza drives all night to be at Molly’s side—but when she arrives, the reception is icy, leaving Liza baffled and hurt. She knows there’s no denying what she saw.

Or is there?

In disbelief that their friendship could really be over, Liza is unaware she’s about to have a near miss of her own.

And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.

But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.

Review:

Before I share my thoughts on this one I want to address the fact that this one shows up on Goodreads as a mystery/thriller and it’s really not. This is women’s fiction with a suspenseful edge and if you know that before you start, I think you’ll be better prepared. Thankfully I was aware thanks to my friend Jamie so I did end up liking this more than I would’ve had I been expecting a fast paced and exciting thriller.

The blurb for this talks about a video chat and a shocking incident and makes you think the whole book will be about said incident but if you look at the event as a catalyst, your expectations will be more in line with the reality of the story. This is a domestic drama about the relationship between two long time friends and then also about a marriage on the brink.

Two things make JS a standout author for me, first she creates authentic and relatable characters that just feel real and secondly she is a really fantastic writer. Liza and Molly’s friendship was genuine, as riddled with strife as it was, and Molly and Daniel’s marriage was also incredibly authentic. Seeing how one event can set off a chain of other events and reactions was interesting and was depicted very well by the author, she really knows how to write about relationships in general and adds enough secrecy and suspense to keep a nice momentum.

Full disclosure, I listened to the bulk of this one via audio and the narrator is just amazing so that may have impacted my enjoyment in the end. I’m not quite sure I would’ve liked it as much as I did had I just read it because the narrator was so fantastic. Recommended for book clubs, there is much to dissect and discuss.

Forget You Know Me in three words: Genuine, Fluid and Secretive.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.