Sunday, November 29, 2020

Distress Signals

 Distress Signals 


Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Narrators: Alan Smyth, Bronson Pinchot, and Suzanne Toren

Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Year: 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️


There’s three different storylines running through this book. The main storyline is Adam’s search for his missing girlfriend Sarah. Sarah tells Adam that she’s going to France for a work conference and then she disappears. Adam tracks her to a cruise ship and discovers Sarah is not the only woman who has mysteriously disappeared from the ship recently. 


The second storyline involves Corinne an older French woman who’s working on the ship as cabin staff. She’s on the ship searching for her son among the thousands of people working and vacationing onboard. 


The third storyline is a flashback to the past. Romi is a French boy who tries to be good but things always go very wrong. His mother can’t stand him. When Romi tries to soothe his baby brother, Romi ends up almost killing the baby. When Romi tries to  stop a bully from picking on his other brother, Romi kills the bully and is incarcerated. He is released on his 18th birthday and pronounced cured by the psychiatrist who worked with him. 


All three storylines eventually tie together but it felt like a stretch at times. Adam’s search for Sarah dragged for me at times and I thought Romi’s story was more interesting. Narrators Alan Smyth, Bronson Pinchot, and Suzanne Toren all do excellent work narrating the three different storylines. This was a meh book for me but the narrators made it an enjoyable listen. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dear Justyce

 Dear Justyce 


Author: Nic Stone

Publisher: Crown

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Dear Justyce is author Nic Stone’s follow up to her best seller Dear Martin. 


Dear Justyce tells the story of Quan Banks. He’s a smart kid, great with numbers. He’s trying to make the right decisions and be a good kid, but there just seems to be so many obstacles in his life. Quan’s mom is in an abusive relationship. His dad is a drug dealer who gets arrested one night. Quan is there when the police arrest is dad and is traumatized by it. Quan still tries to do everything right, but his support system erodes. He feels like nobody has his back. He starts stealing. At first it’s to feed his younger siblings, but he continues because he thinks that’s what’s expected of him. Quan gets arrested for stealing and labeled a delinquent and a career criminal. Quan eventually finds acceptance and support with a criminal crew. A confrontation with the police turns deadly and Quan is arrested for murder. 


While in lock up, Quan starts writing to his old friend Justyce who is now a freshman at Yale. Quan eventually admits to Justyce that he didn’t commit the crime he’s accused of. Justyce decides to help his friend try to get out of jail and start a new life. 


This book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to how society sees expects from kids of color. The author crafts Quan as a whole person- a kid who loves his younger siblings, doesn’t understand how his mom can stay in an abusive relationship, has feelings and emotions he can’t always understand or express. I just wanted to take Quan to the bookstore and buy him all the Lemony Snicket books he wants and then take him home to give him a bowl of hot soup and listen as he tells me about the math test he studied so hard for. 


This is a book that will stay with you. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Talented Miss Farwell

 The Talented Miss Farwell


Author: Emily Gray Tedrowe

Narrator: Allyson Ryan

Publisher: Harper Audio

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️


Becky Farwell had always been a go-getter and good with numbers. She helped her father revamp his business while she was in high school. She started working in her small town’s city hall instead of going to college. As she learned the ins and outs of the town’s accounting and banking systems, she realized she could take advantage of her position to start skimming money from the town to fuel her passion for art collection. She spends the next 20 years leading a double life. In one life she’s a high flying art collector and dealer draped in designer clothes. In her other life, she’s a small town city employee in sensible shoes who robs her town blind. 


I really didn’t know what to expect from this book before I started it. Becky seems like the all American small town girl with a head for numbers. But she really just wants artwork and luxury items. In some books the main character is an antihero but you like them anyway and cheer them on even when they do terrible things. I didn’t really like Becky. She was truly an awful person. She could have stopped stealing. She could have sold her art collection to pay the town back. She could have just used the proceeds from her art deals to buy more art. But she continued stealing for twenty years as her town cut services, stopped upgrades, and inched closer to bankruptcy. 


I like thrillers that have action and this one doesn’t. Becky moves money around and skims some off. She buys fabulous art works. She reads art magazines and goes to parties with people in the art world. She tries to do something good for her town. She skims more money. Rinse and repeat. 


The book is well written. The author does a wonderful job contrasting the atmosphere of life in a small rural town and the monied art world as Becky tries to keep her lives secret separate from one another. Allyson Ryan’s narration of the audiobook is great. I’m not sure if I would have gotten through the print version of the book. Ryan’s narration kept me going. This wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you’re an art lover or enjoy thrillers without violence and gore, give this a try. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

11/22/63

 11/22/63


Author: Stephen King

Narrator: Craig Wasson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Year: 2011

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I had forgotten just how great a storyteller Stephen King is! 


Way back in the day I read  a lot of Stephen King- all his classics including Pet Cemetery, The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, and Carrie. I think Misery was the last of his books that I read and that was decades ago. Can’t remember if I lost interest in his books or in the horror genre. 


I was recently scrolling through the available audiobooks on my public library’s Libby app and saw 11/22/63 was available. I downloaded it on a whim and I’m glad I did. It was so good! I knew the general gist of the story before starting- something about stopping the Kennedy assassination. I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was an engrossing story of time travel, history, and love. 


The basic plot is simple. There’s a portal to 1958 in the storeroom of a restaurant in Maine. Al, the restaurant’s owner, has been using the portal to make visits to the past. His ultimate plan was to stop Oswald from shooting JFK believing it would change the course of American history for the better. Ill health prevents Al from completing his mission, so he convinces his friend Jake to go through the portal and stop Oswald. 


The story is detailed with pop culture and history of the late 1950s and ‘60s. King crafts nuanced characters who Jake meets along the way to the fateful day in 1963. King keeps the story moving and I never found myself wanting to skim ahead. Craig Wasson provides an excellent narration of the audiobook bringing the myriad of characters to life. This is King at his finest giving us a riveting story we can’t put down. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Long Way Down: the graphic novel

 Long Way Down: the graphic novel 


Author: Jason Reynolds

Illustrator: Danica Novgorodoff

Publisher: Atheneum

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I didn’t think I could love Jason Reynolds’ book Long Way more.  Then I read the graphic novel version. 

Will is distraught when his older brother Shawn is shot and killed. But Will remembers The Rules Shawn taught him. 1. No crying. 2. No snitching. 3. Get revenge. 

Will knows who killed his brother or thinks he knows. He’ll follow The Rules. When he steps in the elevator with a gun in his waistband, he meets other passengers -loved ones who were victims of the cycle of gun violence. Will a short elevator ride be enough for Will to break The Rules? 

Reynolds’ masterpiece is an emotional punch and the graphic novel version provides a knockout. Artist Danic Novgorodoff’s watercolor illustrations are hauntingly beautiful. They perfectly match Reynolds’ spare and staccato sentences. Reynolds is at the forefront of young adult literature. He’s willing to tackle tough issues that many shy away from, but he does it with such heart and compassion. 

In interviews, Reynolds has noted that he didn’t read a book until he was 17 years old. He learned to love poetry through the lyrics of Queen Latifah. Now he writes for kids like himself, so they can see themselves in books and know the power of their own stories.  I love his attitude and commitment to kids and making stories accessible to them. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Midnight Library

 The Midnight Library 


Author: Matt Haig

Publisher: Viking

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Nora Seed’s life hasn’t turned out the way she’d planned. She feels like she disappointed her father years ago by giving up a promising swimming career that could have led to Olympic glory. She’s estranged from her brother because she quit their band just as it was beginning to take off. She never fulfilled her teenage dream of becoming a glaciologist. She just lost her job at a music store and her cat died. She decides to end it all and wakes up at the Midnight Library. Mrs. Elm, Nora’s old high school librarian, explains that It is no ordinary library. Every book in it is a possible life Nora could have. Nora is hanging in the balance between life and death. She can choose a new life or none at all. Nora begins to try different versions of her life is she had made different decisions. She becomes the international rock star, the glaciologist, the Olympic champion, and much more trying to find a life that gives her happiness and success. 


This is a charming, but somewhat predictable, story of self discovery, letting go of regrets, finding true happiness, and new perspectives, and infinite possibilities. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Once We Were Brothers

 Once We Were Brothers


Author: Roland H. Balson 

Publisher: St, Martin’s

Year: 2013

⭐️⭐️⭐️


Synopsis: Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?


I liked the basic plot of this story, but there were some things that just bothered me. Elliot and Ben lived in the same city for decades after the war. Elliot is a big wig with his picture regularly in the newspapers and on television, yet Ben had never heard of him or seen him in all the intervening years? It takes over two weeks for Ben to tell Catherine his story. I know Ben is an old man and it’s an emotional story, but that seemed like the author was just stretching it out to fill the plot. It only took Elliot’s wife three hours to tell her story of what happened during the war and emigration to the US. And at times, the author gave a history lecture instead of letting the historical facts smoothly integrate with the story. 


Overall, the story is good with likable and interesting characters. I just thought the execution of it could have been better. 


Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Girl in the Mirror

 The Girl in the Mirror


Author: Rose Carlyle

Publisher: William Morrow Books

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


This is next level sibling rivalry!


Summer and Iris are identical twins. Iris has always been jealous of Summer’s friendliness, inner beauty, and easy going personality. Summer is seemingly perfect with a charmed life that includes Adam, her handsome husband, and her stepson. 


When Summer calls Iris to Thailand to help sail her family’s yacht to the Seychelles, Iris agrees to help. After all, she is a much better sailor than Summer. Iris wakes up one night alone on the yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 


What happened to Summer and Iris’s decisions afterward make for a twisted tale of family secretes, lies, and greed. 


I can definitely see this being made into a movie. This was a well plotted and intriguing thriller. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Mycroft Holmes

 Mycroft Holmes 


Authors: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Narrator: Damian Lynch 

Publisher: Audible Studios

Year: 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️


Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother, has his life planned out. He’s rising in the ranks of his civil service job and engaged to the beautiful Georgiana. But his life plan goes awry when his best friend Cyrus Douglas receives troubling news from his family in Trinidad. Mysterious disappearances have been taking place and children have been murdered. Georgiana, also from Trinidad, announces she’s going to back to Trinidad at once. Mycroft and Douglas head off to the island too and become embroiled in a sinister plot. 


Author and NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gives Mycroft the star treatment here instead of younger brother Sherlock. Mycroft is just as complex a character as Sherlock. But the more interesting character is Cyrus Douglas, a Black man who is ten years older than Mycroft. Douglas has the maturity and life experience that young Mycroft lacks. Their friendship is a wonderful dynamic. 


Narrator Damian Lynch does a superb job bringing Mycroft and Douglas to life. The story itself is good and very well written, but it dragged a little too much for for me. While I loved the characters, the story didn’t always keep my full attention. However, my husband loved it and the loved the sequel. This is a welcome edition to the Sherlock canon. 

Admission

 Admission 


Author: Julie Buxbaum

Publisher: Delacorte

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


This is a "ripped from the headlines" fictional account of a family caught up in a college admission scandal. Chloe is a mediocre student from a privileged  upper class white family. Her mom is a popular actress and her dad runs a venture capital firm. They live in Beverly Hills and seem to be the perfect family who has it all. She's just not interested in school and doesn't put in any hard work to make good grades. Of course, her parents want  the best for her and have the means to pay. They hire a college admissions coach to help her get into her dream school. Cheating, bribes, and lies lead to her mom getting arrested by the FBI.


It was interesting to see Chloe change over the course of the story. She’s smart but doesn’t think she is. Her family is rich but most of the time she takes that for granted. She’s a lazy student and it takes her awhile to realize that. But she has a good heart. She forms a real bond with a little boy she tutors after school and that helps her see how privileged her life is. As the scandal engulfs her family, she questions her decisions and her complicity. She realizes that she must choose her own path to her future and do what’s right for her, even if it differs from her parents’ expectations. 


I loved Julie Buxbaum’s debt novel Tell Me Three things so I was very excited to read this. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s, and Julie Buxbaum for the review copy.  Admission publishes on December 1, 2020. 

The Alice Network

 The Alice Network


Author: Kate Quinn 

Narrator: Saskia Maarlveld

Publisher: Harper Audio

Year: 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 


Synopsis: 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.


I loved this audiobook! It is a multi-genre story that alternates between World War I and a few years after World War II. The two main characters are memorable and complex. Charlie is a young American woman with her own heartache and a “little problem.” She is desperately searching for her beloved cousin Rose after WWII. Eve agrees to help Charlie look for Rose. But Eve has her own agenda and the story of her bravery and life during WWI unfolds as they search for Rose. Eve is a character who will stay with you for a long time. 


Beautifully written and well paced with the alternating timelines, this is engrossing story of friendship, courage, love and forgiveness. Narrator Saskia Maarleveld’s performance is excellent. This is definitely one of my top ten favorites of the year! 

Safe

 Safe


Author: S.K. Barnett

Publisher: Dutton

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Synopsis: Jenny Kristal was six years old when she was snatched off the sidewalk from her quiet suburban neighborhood. Twelve years later, she's miraculously returned home after escaping her kidnappers—but as her parents and older brother welcome her back, the questions begin to mount. Where has she been all these years? Why is she back now? And is home really the safest place for her . . . or for any of them? 


This is a twisted spin on a missing child story. Jenny reruns home after being missing for 12 years, but her homecoming  raises more questions than answers. 


The characters aren’t complex, but in this case they don’t have to be. This isn’t a character driven novel. Jenny is smart, tough and resilient. Her mom and dad are thrilled that she’s back. Her older brother is a stoner and seems skeptical of the whole situation. Jenny’s story unfold between past and present and the pace of the book moves along at a fast clip and never gets bogged down. My only complaint is the characterization of a public librarian as being a doddering old crank lording over a dusty library. Get out of here with that tired old cliche! I suggest the author spends some time in some libraries. Other than that, this was a great mystery. (TW: child sexual abuse). 

The Sentinel

 The Sentinel 


Author: Lee Child and Andrew Child

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Sentinel is the 25th book in the long running Jack Reacher series. This is the transition book because series creator Lee Child co-wrote it with his brother Andrew who will take over the writing going forward. 


Has anything changed with a new author? My short answer: nope. Reacher is still hitchhiking or taking a bus around the country. He’s still finding trouble. He still loves coffee. He’s still adverse to technology. He still likes a good fight. And yet, I thought there were subtle changes. He seemed more talkative in this book. I also thought there was a bit more humor in the book. Maybe not laugh out loud humor but somethings made me smirk. 


How does it compare? The last few Reacher books were just okay for me. Not great, but I read them because I’m a long time fan. This one was good- better than the last few. I’m optimistic about a new author taking over. 


The story itself is timely, although it did seem to take awhile for the villains’ caper to unfold. But there were some twists and turns and a lot of fistfights and coffee along the way. It was a fun and fast read for me and I think Reacher fans will enjoy it. 


What book are you reading to kick off November? 




The Sun Down Motel

 


Author: Simone St. James

Publisher: Berkley

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Happy Halloween! 


After seeing so many rave reviews here on bookstagram, I decided to give this one a try. It did not disappoint! This was the perfect read for Halloween week.


I don’t read much horror, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this when I started it. But its combination of horror and mystery is perfect! It combines a creepy motel, several dead girls, and a 35 year old mystery. 


If you haven’t read this yet, don’t wait until next Halloween! Curl up and get cozy with this book on any dark night. And if you hear a door slam while you’re reading, maybe don’t go investigate it! ๐Ÿ˜€ 

Necessary Lies

 Necessary Lies


Author: Diane Chamberlain 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Year: 2013

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Synopsis: After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother's aging, her sister's mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County's newest social worker, she doesn't realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong. 

Set in rural Grace County, NC in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it's wrong?


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is not my usual genre, but it was my book club’s October read and I enjoyed it. Ivy and Jane are interesting and compelling characters. The book dealt with poverty, racism and eugenics. Who decides what is best for under educated people living in poverty? And what happens when those decisions clash with someone’s hopes and dreams? This was was a powerful and thought provoking read! 

Shogun



Author: James Clavell

Narrator: Ralph Lister

Publisher: Blckstone Audio

Year: 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️


This is a sweeping historical fiction saga set in ancient Japan. Blackthorne, a bold & daring Englishman, pilots a Dutch ship that washes up in Japan after a storm. Blacktorne is an incredibly obnoxious main character. He’s a great sailor, smart & speaks several languages. But all he does is rant and rave. He eventually learns to appreciate the culture and falls in love with a Japanese woman. 


I listened to the audiobook which has a listening time of 53 hours & 33 minutes. I did speed up the narration to get through it faster. Props to Ralph Lister for his narration. He must have really had his work cut out for him voicing this tale. 


I liked the basic bones of the story, but it just took too darn long to unfold and there were too many characters to keep track of. I also thought the author spent way too much time explaining some historical details when the Cliff Notes version would do. We are also promised a big battle that never materializes. Kind of a let down. 


So why did I read this? For some reason this epic is on Amazon’s list of 100 mysteries and thrillers to read in a lifetime. I don’t understand why they considered this a mystery or thriller. There’s no crime to solve. No clues or red herrings. There’s some political intrigue as Torunaga plots to consolidate his power to try to become shogun. But I definitely don’t see this as a thriller. 

Sometimes I Lie



Author: Alice Feeney

Publisher: Flatiron

Year: 2018

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I don’t usually read the same author back to back. But the library ebook hold gods blessed me with two Alice Feeney books in a row. I thought His & Hers was okay and kind of entertaining. Didn’t love but didn’t hate it. I recently finished Sometimes I Lie. Talk about bonkers! And I mean that in a good way. It’s a wild story of two sisters Amber and Claire. Amber is in the hospital in a coma. She can hear what’s going on around her but she can’t communicate. She’s trying to piece together how she ended up in the coma. The story alternates between her thoughts while she’s in the coma, her life just before the accident that put her in the hospital and a series of childhood diary entries. 


There are so many twists and turns

In this book that it really kept me guessing! 

His & Hers



Author: Alice Feeney

Publisher: Flatiron 

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️


Alice Feeney is a new to me author. After seeing posts all over bookstagram about this one, I had to see what I was missing. 


There’s A LOT going on in this book. Old high school friends, affairs, small town angst, a mother-daughter relationship, a divorced couple seeing each other again, and multiple murders. 


The story is told from the opposing viewpoints of divorced couple Ann and Jack. Anna is a recently demoted news anchor sent to cover a murder investigation in her sleepy hometown. Jack is the lead detective of the murder investigation. Jack was having an affair with the victim who also happened to be Anna’s high school bestie. And that’s just the start of this twisty tale! 


This was an entertaining read, but was just a little too outlandish for me. 

The Devil’s Share



Author: Wallace Stroby

Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Year: 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I don’t know about you, but I get so tired of psychological & domestic thrillers. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read some great ones that I’ve loved. Sometimes I just need a break from this genre du jour. I like action. Give me a good heist! 


Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone series has been my remedy for psychological thriller fatigue. Crissa’s a professional thief with a sense of fairness and justice. Any heist she plans, she tries to make sure nobody gets killed or hurt. She just wants to get in and get out with the loot as fast and as clean as possible. But something always goes wrong and she’s left with a mess to clean up. 


Crissa’s hired by an art dealer. He’s acquired several antiquities from a troubled country under shady circumstances. He’s made a deal with the government to return the items to their country of origin in exchange for not being prosecuted. After making the deal, he finds a buyer for the artifacts. He wants Crissa to steal the items from him so he can sell them and collect the insurance money. It should be an easy job- robbing a man who wants to be robbed. But then things go horribly wrong and Crissa finds herself in more danger than she bargained for. 


This is the fourth book in the series. Crissa is an interesting character. Stroby writes her so minimally, but I still fell like I know her and that is a neat trick. We get some of her backstory, but he never goes into great detail about her personal life. He doesn’t dwell on her looks and appearance like some male authors who write female characters do. She’s intelligent, tough when she has to be, organized, loyal, and has a code of ethics. She could have been successful in any profession she chose. But she chose a life of crime and she understands the danger and consequences of that decision. 


All four books in the series are relatively short and packed with action, never getting bogged down. The books can be read out of order without missing too much from an earlier book. Coleen Marlo narrated all four audiobooks. She does a fantastic job! I’ve really enjoyed this series and I hope there’s more to come in the future. 


The Scholar

 


Author: Dervla McTiernan 

Publisher: Sphere

Year: 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Scholar is the second book in Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series. DS Reilly hasn’t had many active casing since transferring to Galway. One night, his girlfriend calls him in a panic. She has discovered the victim of a hit and run accident. He rushes to the scene and realizes it was no accident. It was murder. The case is complicated because Reilly’s girlfriend found the body, it involves the granddaughter of a rich and powerful head of a big pharmaceutical company some academic chicanery. 


The who done it part wasn’t hard to figure out, but it’s still an enjoyable police procedural. Even though this is the second in the series, there’s enough backstory to fill in the blanks if you haven’t read the first book. 


The Black Kids



Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Synopsis: Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family faรงade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?


Ashley is a likable and complex character. She’s carrying the weight of her parents’ expectations, wrestling with the meaning of friendship and figuring out her own identity. 


This is a beautifully written story of family, friendship, love and identity. 

Don’t Look for Me




Author: Wendy Walker

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Narrator: Therese Plummer

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hi there! I’m back after a week and a half of being sick. I caught a nasty head/chest cold that really walloped me. I had most of the same symptoms as covid except for the breathing difficulties. But before I could even get an appointment to see my doc, I had to get a covid test. Happy it was negative and I just had regular old germs.  But being sick really knocked me off my game. I had no energy to write reviews or take pics. I couldn’t even focus enough to read. Although I could listen to audiobooks. Weird, right? 


I’m on the mend and feeling better. I finished the audio of Don’t Look for Me and I really enjoyed it. It was a twisty thriller about a woman who suddenly disappears. Did she walk away from from an unimaginable family tragedy or was it something more sinister? 


Therese Plummer does an excellent job with the audio narration. Her voice for the character of Alice, a little girl, is super creepy! A very satisfying thriller! 

They Wish They Were Us



Author: Jessica Goodman

Publisher: Razorbill

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️


At an elite private high school, The Players are a not-so-secret cabal of students who seem to have everything handed to them. Jill and her friends in The Players are ready for their senior year. They are the most popular, smartest and have the most fun. They’re ready to take the reins of The Players and have an epic senior year. But the death of Jill’s best friend three years earlier is still impacting the group. Jill gets a text about the boy who had confessed to the murder. He’s recanting his confession and claiming he’s innocent. Will Jill help him prove it? 


This was an okay and quick young adult thriller. There’s some twists and a few red herrings. Not all the characters are spoiled rich kids, but most of the characters are cliches with very little character development. I found myself skimming some pages because it didn’t always my attention. But I’m sure there are many teen readers who will find lots to like about this mystery and enjoy it. 



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

October Reading Wrap Up



October was a fun reading month. I finally finished listening to James Clavell’s Shogun. It’s just over 53 hours of listening time. Whew! That’s a long book! A little too long if you ask me. I only read it because it’s on Amazon’s list of 100 mysteries and thrillers to read in a lifetime. After reading it, I wouldn’t put it in the mystery or thriller category. I wouldn’t have put it on the list but Amazon didn’t ask my opinion. ๐Ÿ˜€ 

Harlan Coben’s Tell No One is also on Amazon’s list. The book was good but I don’t think it’s stellar. Another book on the list that I don’t think deserves to be there. 

Everybody’s favorite vigilante drifter Jack Reacher is back in The Sentinel. Series creator Lee Child is handing the writing duties over to his brother Andrew Child. I enjoyed The Sentinel and look forward to see what direction Andrew will take the series. 

My two five star books for the month were The Alice Network and The Sundown Motel. The Alice Network is an engrossing espionage story that bounces back and forth between World War I and just after World War II. 

The Sundown Motel was the perfect book to read during the spooky season. A young woman investigates the disappearance of her aunt 30 years ago. Her aunt went missing while working the night shift at a creepy motel. A great mystery with just a touch of horror. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

In Five Years



Author: Rebecca Serle

Publisher: Altria Books

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Dannie is a woman with a plan. She has her whole life mapped out. She’ll get her dream job, when she and her boyfriend will get engaged, when they will get married, where they will live. On the night Mark pops the question, Dannie falls asleep and wakes up five years in the future. She’s in a strange apartment with a strange man. It is a very real and visceral experience. She falls back to sleep and she’s back in her apartment with Mark. But she’s shaken by her strange dream or premonition. She doesn’t want to deviate from her comfortable life. The next four and a half years go as planned except Dannie and Mark never set a date for their wedding. They are busy with their careers. Life gets in the way. Dannie’s best friend Bella introduces her to the new man in her life. He is the man from Dannie’s dream. What is going on? 


This is a beautiful story about friendship, love and relationships. It made me cry. I blame an Instagram friend for that. She posted a review of this book a few days ago. I thought it sounded good. I went to the library the next day and this was the first book I saw in the new book section. Karma! I had to grab it and I’m glad I did. 


What was the last book that made you cry? 


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Tell No One



Author: Harlan Coben 

Publisher: Dell

Year: 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️


Complex isn’t the right word for this book. I think convoluted is more accurate. Sure, there’s lots of twists and turns but they are so outlandish they are can’t be taken seriously. 


Dr. Stephen Beck’s wife was murdered eight years ago and he’s still grieving. They were soulmates, together since the tender age of 13. He can’t get over her. Then he gets a cryptic email from an anonymous sender and his life is turned upside down. 


A few years ago Amazon came out with a list of 100 mysteries and thrillers to read in a lifetime. (I’ll put a link to the list in the comments.) Well, I saw the list as a personal challenge and started my way through it. I had already read many books on the list, so now I reading the books that are new to me. The list is interesting with classic older books and modern books. 


Tell No One is on the list and that’s why I read it. And now I’m wondering why it’s on the their list. It’s good, but not great. It’s entertaining but the characters and the story isn’t going to stick with me. I’m sure many other readers liked it more than I did. But I just don’t see it as a “must read” thriller.


Here’s Amazon’s list: 


 https://www.amazon.com/b/ref=nodl_?ie=UTF8&node=8994558011


What book would you designate as a must read mystery or thriller?



And Now She’s Gone



Author: Rachel Howzell Hall

Publisher: Forge Books

Year: 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


This is a well plotted mystery with lots of twists and turns. But with Grayson Sykes, Author Rachel Howzell Hall has created a very real and endearing character and that is a triumph. 


We’re used to preternaturally smart or observant detectives in crime fiction. Think Sherlock or Poirot. They can look at some clues and put the pieces of the puzzle all together. But Gray Sykes solves her first case through dogged determination. She is such a very real character. Her pen runs out of ink while interviewing her client. She forgets to record a witness statement. She gets chocolate icing on her clothes. She doesn’t think to wear an outfit that helps her blend in on surveillance. She’s a rookie P.I. on her first case making rookie mistakes. And yet she persists. She’s determined to find Isabel Lincoln and a dog named Kenny G. 


Gray’s backstory also makes her an interesting character. She spent years in the foster care system until she was adopted by loving parents. She escapes an abusive marriage but is still haunted and hunted by her abuser. All that makes Gray a very complex, strong, smart, and very real character. 


The mystery itself has enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages. It’s well plotted and keeps moving along with only a few slow spots. I’m a sucker for mysteries set in L.A. and I’m a fan of the author’s Detective Lou Norton series. (Check out that series if you haven’t yet.) So I was really looking forward to this book and I was not disappointed. I hope we see more of Gray Sykes in the future! 

Under Your Spell

  Author: Laura Wood Narrator: Ellie Heydon Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Year: 2024 ๐ŸŽง๐—”๐˜‚๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ธ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐˜„๐ŸŽง Many thanks...