Review: Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

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Release date: February 19, 2019

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D. D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman—Evie Carter—from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim—a hostage—and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have? 

Review:

For me February isn’t about Valentine’s Day, it means a new LG book which is way better than any chocolates or flowers anyway. When that LG book also happens to be a new D. D. Warren book AND features one of my new favorite additions, Flora Dane, then I’m excited beyond belief. Gardner is one of those writers that truly gets better with each book, her style gets more honed, her plot lines get more intricate and her subject matter gets darker and more bold, she’s truly one of the best crime writers around.

If you’ve been following this series then you already know that D. D. and Flora don’t agree 99 percent of the time and their contentious relationship is part of what makes reading about them so much fun for me. They have so much in common, yet at the same time they really don’t, and watching them square off is always entertaining, especially in the midst of some pretty disturbing crime scenes. You also see a little more of D. D.’s inner sweet side again, which is an aspect of her character that I’ve grown to love. She’s still a hard assed, take no prisoners woman most of the time, but motherhood has softened her a bit and made her relatable.

Besides D. D. and Flora you have a third perspective here, Evie who is found holding a literal smoking gun over her husband’s dead body. There’s always more than meets the eye in a LG book and this was no exception, this isn’t an open and shut case by any means and the race to the finish line was fast, exciting and oh so satisfying. Also, for Evie only being introduced in this book, she was shockingly well drawn, LG never skimps on character development and it always makes me even more invested in her books.

This entire series comes highly recommended by me, and it’s tough to stand firmly behind a series as long as this one. Most times there’s at least a few duds, but each of these books is downright amazing. If you’re already a fan then you’ll be happy, and if you’re new then at the very least I would highly suggest going back three books and beginning with the ones that introduce Flora. Total must reads for crime fiction fans!

Never Tell in three words: Rapid, Intricate and Unputdownable.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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 Dead Ex by Jane Corry

Goodreads|Amazon

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: The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

Goodreads|Amazon

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

Goodreads|Amazon

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: Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Goodreads|Amazon

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.

January Wrap Up

First wrap up of the new year and in a way I can’t believe it, but January is also the longest month ever! I read a total of 27 books but only 18 books linked here. Why? Well because I’ve gotten a bit lazy and if it’s not an ARC I’ve only been reviewing on Goodreads because sometimes I just don’t want to write a full review. If we’re not already friends there you can find me here!

How was your month?!

Freefall: Entertaining, Dynamic and Fast

Her One Mistake: Compulsive, Secretive and Twisty.

Deadly Recall: Dark, Multilayered and Gripping

The Best of Us: Touching, Satisfying and Warm.

The Au Pair: no three words I had mixed feelings.

As Long As We Both Shall Live: Wicked, Addictive and Unpredictable.

The Liar’s Girl: Complex, Steady and Engrossing.

Wartime Sisters: Fluid, Insightful and Alluring.

The Woman Inside: Slick, Dramatic and Deceptive.

One Fatal Mistake: Relentless, Exhilarating and Fast.

Perfect Match: Charming, Sparkly and Fresh

Love Heart Lane: Cozy, Charming and Delightful.

The Girls in the Picture: Enthralling, Empowering and Smart.

Changeling: Menacing, Frightening and Original.

The Temp I really struggled with this one.

I Owe You One: Sweet, Uncomplicated and Engaging.

Deep Dirty Truth: Electrifying, Fierce and Compelling.

The Lost Man: Atmospheric, Mesmerizing and Cunning.

Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature. 

Review:

I’m officially a Jane Harper fangirl at this point, I loved both of her previous books and was super excited about this one and also curious because it’s not a part of the Aaron Falk series, it’s a stand-alone. Series or stand-alone I’ll read anything she writes, there is something about her style that mesmerizes me and also gets under my skin at the same time.

I have to admit that it did take some time for me to really get into this one, it’s definitely slow to start but when I did get wholly invested I was all in. There was quite a bit of character development and background to start, but it was really well done and pertinent to the plot. The cast of characters is fairly small so you get a strong sense of who they are and what drives them each which only added to my investment in the story as a whole.

To me, what makes Harper stand out from the crowd is her ability to create such a vivid, strong sense of place. All three of her books have such intense, rich atmospheres they become a character all on their own. This takes place in the outback where the weather is brutally unforgiving and the small town where The Bright family lives is completely isolated. I swear she’s so good at bringing a scene to life that I found myself thirsty and parched just reading about this desolate place.

You may have noticed I really didn’t touch on the plot at all and that’s deliberate because you should just read it for yourself. Trust me, whatever I can tell you won’t hold a candle to Harper’s writing. Recommended for fans of character driven family based dramas set in a fantastic place.

The Lost Man in three words: Atmospheric, Mesmerizing and Cunning.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.