Review: How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise

Lauren has the perfect life…if she ignores the fact it’s a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.

Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it’s… Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she’s determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.

Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?

Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challege, the rewards could be infinite…

Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan’s brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women.

Review:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far it’s that when tragedy strikes family is everything and that’s the basis for How to Keep a Secret. Who can you turn to when your world comes crashing down around you? Your family of course, and even though Lauren and Jenna are as close as two sister can be their relationship with their mom Nancy is strained. Mack is Lauren’s teenaged daughter and like any mother and daughter their relationship is also rocky. Family dynamics are usually complex, but family dynamics between women take complex to a whole new level and the Stewart women have plenty of secrets they’ve been keeping from each other as well making for one juicy read.

Every single woman of the family has a point of view and it’s always nice to hear all the various perspectives, but Mack was my favorite of them all. Poor kid has been through a lot and while she does have her typical, moody teenage moments she also has a fierce and sassy side that I admired. All of the characters were great though and all were very well drawn, there was much more depth her than in Morgan’s rom coms and I do have to admit I missed some of her trademark humor here. This wasn’t a funny story though, humor wouldn’t have been appropriate so this really isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

While some of the secrets seemed fairly obvious to me others did surprise and please me and while there wasn’t comedy here there was still some light romance, but the book really centers on the family bond of the Stewart women and that’s always something that interests me. This would be yet another perfect book to add to your summer TBR when you want a lighter read with heart and depth written by a gifted author who always brings out a wide variety of emotions within me.

How to Keep a Secret in three words: Bittersweet, Complicated and Heartfelt.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to Anna at Aro Publicity for my review copy.

Review: The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

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Release date: August 21, 2018

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Emily thinks Adam’s perfect; the man she thought she’d never meet.

But lurking in the shadows is a rival; a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.

Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

The Other Woman is an addictive, fast-paced psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between Emily, her boyfriend Adam, and his manipulative mother Pammie.

Review:

This book has been getting so much hype and as is always the case with buzzed about books I’m a little hesitant to see if they’ll live up to the hype for me. I can definitely see what all the fuss is about with this one, it’s highly compulsive, a little disturbing and an all around really fun and engaging read.

The idea of a nightmare mother in law is nothing new but Jones manages to insert a fresh new twist on the premise, what if the other woman is your future mother in law? I don’t want to say much more than that, because half of the fun of this one was not knowing what to expect. This one really messes with your mind, I had several theories that changed from chapter to chapter which always keeps me super engaged. I did figure out one of the main twists but I think that’s solely because I read thrillers so often. I wasn’t even upset by it, I was having way to much fun just losing myself in Pammie’s crazy world that I didn’t care!

Go in as blind as possible to this one and pack it on vacation, it would be the perfect read for a long flight because once you start you absolutely will not want to put it down until you finish.

The Other Woman in three words: Addictive, Wicked and Entertaining.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte’s dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend—the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose—does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.

Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job—and her future.

The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition.

Review:

This book totally enchanted me, I was swept away to NYC, both past and present, and to me, that’s the hallmark of well written historical fiction. Since I’m fairly new to the genre I’ve been dabbling and trying to see what I like the most and I think I can firmly say that anything with a dual, alternating timeline seems to engross me the most and Orman Schnall charmed me the whole way through.

Charlotte is the protagonist in the 1940’s section and Olivia is for the 2018 sections and I equally enjoyed both of these woman for their tenacity and strength alone, but they both had several other wonderful qualities as well. Charlotte was a sweet young lady trying to start her career in an extremely sexist era, but man was her determination inspiring. Olivia clearly had many more opportunities than Charlotte, but she was also an inspiring woman, firm in her convictions and fun to boot. Their storylines merged in mostly surprising ways even though I did piece a few things together, nothing big and definitely nothing that detracted from my enjoyment whatsoever.

The historical piece of the Miss Subways contest was fascinating to me, I’ve never heard of this before and found it to be so interesting. It seems like a concept that was ahead of the times in some ways and so sexist in others. I can definitely understand why it was so popular and also why so many young New York women competed for the opportunity to be a Miss Subways girl, especially as any opportunities for young women were few and far between during that time period. This is one of those carefree, easy reads that make for a perfect summer choice, you can’t go wrong grabbing this if you want a light, fun and engaging read.

The Subway Girls in three words: Charming, Sweet and Inspiring.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Hangman by Daniel Cole

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Release date: July 24, 2018

Publisher: Ecco

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Detective Emily Baxter is still reeling from the Ragdoll case, and from the disappearance of her friend William “Wolf” Fawkes. Despite her reluctance to jump into another gruesome case, she’s summoned to a meeting of a new FBI/CIA/UK law enforcement task force in New York. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up from the Brooklyn Bridge, the word “BAIT” carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder, again with a victim inscribed with a word—“PUPPET.”

The murders continue to grow in spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, and the team helplessly plays catch-up. Baxter must shake off the grief and fear that have paralyzed her for the last year so she can stop another terrible killer before it’s too late.

Review:

I guess this is the summer of highly anticipated series for me, I feel like I’ve read several second installments lately and they’ve all lived up to their predecessors, which is always so fantastic! Ragdoll was the first book and it absolutely blew me away, from it’s gripping prologue to it’s massive cliffhanger ending, I loved every single page. So if you haven’t read the first book, I highly recommended it and then you won’t have long to wait to read this one.

This book had a slightly different feel to it than the last one and I think it’s mostly due to the fact that things are not told via Wolf’s point of view at all. This is Emily’s story to tell and as much as I love Wolf, I have room in my heart for a character as complex as Emily Baxter. It’s set internationally as she finds herself in New York City when a case in London has ties there. This was one complicated investigation that has her working alongside both the FBI and the CIA and introduced some fantastic new characters that added more depth to an already deep story.

While there were some exciting differences the same sarcastic sense of humor was present as was a very dark, gritty plot and writing style. Cole is a really intelligent writer and he creates these insanely intricate and harrowing storylines that shock and awe in equal measure. The ending blew my mind and now I’m desperate for the next book, as much as I love cliffhanger endings it’s SO hard to wait!

Hangman in three words: Clever, Dark and Sardonic.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Giveaway! #TheGreatAlone by Kristin Hannah

I’m thrilled to be partnering with St. Martin’s Press for a giveaway today, I have one copy of The Great Alone to share with one of you lucky people.

I absolutely loved The Great Alone, it’s definitely one of my favorite reads from this year and if you still haven’t read one of the most talked about books of the year, now is your chance!! Here’s my three word sum up: Captivating, Thought provoking and Evocative.

To enter the giveaway head here. US only, sorry international friends. Good luck!!

Review: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

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Release date: August 1, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

A double life with a single purpose: revenge.

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

Review:

God you guys, this was such a refreshing read, especially for a psychological thriller. There’s not an unreliable narrator in sight, there are not multiple perspectives and there are zero time jumps. If a book labeled as a psychological thriller doesn’t have all three of those is it even really a psychological thriller? Hahaha, I’m kidding, this definitely is and it consumed me, I freaking loved it.

Jane is unapologetically who she is, and she’s a sociopath on a mission. She wants revenge and Steven is her target and she won’t let anything get in her way. She had one of the best voices I’ve encountered in ages, highly unique, she’s funny in a super dry way, she’s cold, manipulative, calculating and cunning and I loved her. I couldn’t help it, I think it goes back to what I said earlier, she doesn’t apologize for who she is, she’s confident and smart and insightfully self aware. She knows she’s not normal, but she doesn’t care, she’s not trying to change and she only pretends to be someone she really isn’t if it serves a greater purpose.

I totally binge read this, I could not wait to see how things played out and if Jane would be successful in all of her plotting and planning. I had so much fun with this and was rooting for Jane so hard, who knew an emotionless sociopath could be so likable? The ending was also great, very strong, a little surprising and super satisfying.

Jane Doe in three words: Crafty, Interesting and Vengeful.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: HQN

Blurb:

Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old.

Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can’t figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love.

But love isn’t Malcolm’s strong suit… until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.

Review:

I love the idea behind this story, I can’t imagine finding out I had not one, but two half siblings as an adult. How hard would it be to form a familial bond later in life? Difficult I’m quite sure, especially when every one of the siblings comes from a completely different background. Malcolm is the oldest and moved to his grandfathers home as a teenager, Keira was discovered when she was twelve and Callie as a woman in her twenties. Each age would present a new set of challenges and many are explored throughout this book.

The handful of Susan Mallery books that I’ve read in the past have leaned to the contemporary romance genre but this one definitely fits better under women’s fiction. There are bits and pieces of developing romances, even some spicy, sexy scenes, but the exploration of complex family dynamics is really the heart of this novel. Not only are the Carlesso family’s relationships with each other complex, their own individual personalities are also extremely complicated. I was invested in each of them right away and enjoyed watching them grow and blossom throughout the book.

This had the perfect blend of lightness and depth, plenty of heart and humor but also intrigue and even a light mystery too. It’s full of relatable and well drawn characters and written in an easy, fluid way. If you’re already a fan of Mallery you’ll love this and if you haven’t read her before this is the perfect place to start.

When We Found Home in three words: Heartwarming, Engaging and Relatable.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Fifth to Die by J. D. Barker @jdbarker

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Review:

You may remember me raving about the first book in this series, The Fourth Monkey last summer, it was one of my favorite reads of the year, so I mentioned it several times. If you didn’t take my solid advice and snatch a copy for yourself last year then go grab one now and then come back to this review when you’re done!

This picks up shortly after the first book ends and while the bulk of the story is told from Porter’s perspective, there are also several other important points of view as well that provided a birds eye view that really enriched my reading experience. The pacing of this is once again fast and furious and never let up for a second. It’s one of those books that grabs ahold of you tightly from page one and just pulls you in tighter as the story progresses. Gripping is the first word that comes to mind but I’m not even sure that’s enough of an explanation as to just how very compelling Barker’s books are.

The style of this is daring, there’s an unflinching quality where Barker is not afraid to get nitty gritty, he holds absolutely nothing back and keeps you on the very edge of your seat wondering what in the hell will happen next. While many questions that were left unanswered in the first book are addressed, this did end on a pretty big cliffhanger, when can I get my hands on book three Mr. Barker?! I’m dying over here, SO AMAZING! Recommended for fans of serial killer thrillers written by an incredibly talented author who writes one hell of a messed up and thrilling story.

The Fifth to Die in three words: Bold, Dark and Engrossing.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman #BlogTour

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Release date: July 3, 2018

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

I’m so excited to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Safe Houses today!

Review:

As much as I love thrillers the sub genre of espionage thrillers is not one that I read very often, but the premise of Safe Houses captured my attention immediately. I’m a sucker for old mysteries colliding with current happenings and the two timelines here ended up coming together in a powerful and intense way.

This begins in 1979 in Berlin and follows Helen, a woman who organizes safe houses. What I found most interesting about this portion was the portrayal of powerful men during this era and the manner in which they can choose to abuse said power, it read as very accurate and authentic and was an interesting piece of history that engaged me. Helen was a strong woman in her own right, the kind of character that I respected and admired, and a bit daring for her time. The 2014 timeline begins after Helen and her husband are murdered as her daughter strives to find answers never realizing how long ago decisions impacted Helen’s life thirty five years later.

I won’t dive any further into the details of the story as there were several great turns, but I was very impressed by the execution of the plot twists as well as the writing of Fesperman, it was of a high caliber and very polished. Recommended for those who want a different type of thriller and love a strong female lead, lots of action and intensity and a plot that held my attention throughout.

Safe Houses in three words: Gripping, Tense and Smart.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Everything We Give by Kerry Lonsdale

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Release date: July 3, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Award-winning photographer Ian Collins made only one mistake in life, but it cost his mother her freedom and destroyed their family, leaving Ian to practically raise himself. For years he’s been estranged from his father, and his mother has lived off the grid. For just as long, he has searched for her.

Now, Ian seemingly has it all—national recognition for his photographs; his loving wife, Aimee; and their adoring daughter, Caty. Only two things elude him: a feature in National Geographic and finding his mother. When the prized magazine offers him his dream project on the same day that Aimee’s ex-fiancé, James, returns bearing a message for Ian but putting a strain on his marriage, Ian must make a choice: chase after a coveted assignment or reconnect with a mysterious woman who might hold the key to putting his past to rest. But the stakes are high, because Ian could lose the one thing he holds most dear: his family.

Review:

Before I get into my thoughts I want to warn you guys that if you’re planning on reading this series and haven’t yet, don’t read any further because there will definitely be things that spoil the first two books. Everything We Keep is the first book and Everything We Left Behind is the second, Everything We Give is the third and final installment and I can highly recommend this series, it is such a blend of genres that it will appeal to a variety of readers. There’s a mystery, some romance and plenty of family drama all woven together in a seamless way.

This book is Ian’s story and I couldn’t be happier that we finally get to see his point of view. Of course you hear a little from Aimee which is always a treat, I’ve adored her since the first book, but this is truly Ian’s side of the story and it’s engrossing to say the least. Getting to hear about his past, especially his early childhood was fascinating and utterly heartbreaking, and it becomes clear that the devastating things he experienced as a young boy shaped him into the man he is now. As always, Lonsdale has crafted another complex character that I can root for and I was behind Ian one hundred percent, he had so many endearing qualities, I can’t say enough about how much I love his character.

This was a bittersweet ending to an amazing series, I’m so sad to say goodbye to these characters that I’ve grown to love over the past two years. I’m really satisfied with how things wrapped up though and I feel like things ended in the best possible way. A very solid end to one of my favorite women’s fiction series from an author I adore, I absolutely love Lonsdale’s writing style, she makes reading effortless and she’s so talented.

Everything We Give in three words: Emotional, Bittersweet and Surprising.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.