Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or galley copy of the book. I have no material connection to the publisher, agent, or author whose book/s I am reviewing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Release Date - March 5, 2019

I'd heard so many people say that the ending to Beautiful Bad was truly shocking. I saw it coming, so that ended up being a bit of a letdown.

The story focuses heavily on three people. Maddie and Jo were best friends, joined into a friendship during their years in the Balkan Peninsula. The dangers they faced there drew them together. It's also there that Maddie was introduced to a British security officer, Ian. Their relationship grew fast but rocky.

In Kansas, Maddie and Ian are happily married with a young son Charlie. There's been a horrific crime and the police need to unravel what happened.

Beautiful Bad takes place in past, recent past, and present. You get to know Maddie's story when she lived in Bosnia and frequently went to Macedonia to see Jo, as well as her life in New York City and Kansas. Ian's story is told as he is in Iraq. There is also the police officer who responds to the 911 call and hears young Charlie's cries asking why someone hurt him.

The real-time account from the officer drew me into the story. As the story started flipping around from past to present, I started finding myself wishing for more of the current investigation. After a few chapters, I felt that the frequent flips back and forth were slowing the part of the plot that intrigued me. I started to grow tired of Jo and Maddie's story. When I started having to force myself to keep reading, I knew I was in trouble.

There is plenty of suspense in Beautiful Bad, and it started off so strong. I'm sad that it reached a point where it became exactly what I was expecting. I had the ending pegged too soon for this to be a keeper.

Friday, March 15, 2019

House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler

Release Date - March 12, 2019

Imagine if Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch had driven Jan Brady and caused a crash that led to Jan's death. That's the premise behind Bonnie Kistler's House on Fire.

Leigh is a divorce lawyer, so she knows the statistics on how many marriages don't last. She's been through it. When she met builder Pete Conely, she was stunned by how well her twin sons and daughter got along with Pete's son and daughter. Their fifth year anniversary has arrived, so they decide to leave 14-year-old Chrissy at home with her 17-year-old step-brother.

Neither expects the call that will change their lives. Kip's been arrested for DUI with Chrissy in the truck when it goes off the road. Within 12 hours, a traumatic brain injury ends Chrissy's life and Kip is now facing manslaughter charges.

Leigh and Pete are now pitted against each other. Kip swears he didn't do it and that Chrissy was driving because he was drunk. Leigh cannot believe her daughter would ever do such a thing and not tell her. Kip swears there is a witness, though no one has been able to find him. One thing is certain, these events threaten to tear two families apart and end their marriage.

Here's a book that had me hooked from the start. Could I see both Pete and Leigh's desperation and points of view? Sure. Could I side with either? I have to say both made errors that annoyed me at times. I certainly had issues with Leigh's twin boys, though I get them too. Despite these niggles, House on Fire is a book I couldn't put down. I was up early to read on and stayed up far later than normal trying to fit both this book and my nightly binge of an Agatha Raisin show.

I'd been in a bit of a rut since last week. House on Fire cured it. I'm so glad I picked it up.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Convergence by Ginny Yttrup

Release Date - March 1, 2019

Years ago, a stalker tore Denilyn Rossi's life apart. Though he's in jail, recent events convince her that she's being stalked again and all signs point to her original stalker. As a psychology professor and former victim, she has the experience and knowledge to handle what's thrown her way, but when it's you, it's personal and hard to manage.

Adelia Sanchez is a fan of Rossi's work. She has a life to live and things to prove to herself. When she and Deni cross paths, it will lead to unimaginable consequences.

It's been a few years since I've picked up one of Yttrup's novels, but Convergence really intrigued me. It sounded like it was going to be an incredibly creepy ride. 

Sadly, even though chapters were clearly represented as to who was speaking and when it was, I couldn't get past the jumps from one character to the next and past to present. I felt incredibly bogged down by these changes. I was having to really work to keep track and pay attention to the top line of every chapter, and that was a turn off for me. Reading for pleasure shouldn't feel like work. The choppy flow due to the switches made it hard to stay focused and while I wanted to get what was going on, I could never get past that feeling that it felt like I was working to keep up.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Me For You by Lolly Winston

Release Date - March 12, 2019

You know, I'd heard so many things about Lolly Winston's prior novels that I was dying to see what the buzz is about. I've heard Good Grief is an exceptional book. Maybe I need to try that one. Me For You fell really flat for me and I struggled to finish it.

He's 54 and madly in love with his wife of many years. Rudy wakes up with big plans for a day together. He never suspects that his still sleeping wife is actually dead. Ten months later, he's still uncertain how to move on.

His job playing piano for the shoppers at Nordstrom's helps. It also helps that he's slightly smitten with Sasha, a Hungarian woman who suffers her own secret loss. As she and Rudy get to know each other, they form a friendship that may be what they both need to get through their grief.

Rudy's world explodes when the police come with shocking news. His wife may not have died of natural causes after all. She may have been poisoned. The investigation threatens to turn Rudy's world upside down.

I had a really hard time with this book. I loved Rudy's character. His grief seemed authentic when it came to the effect it has on mental health. I thought Sasha's story ended up being stronger to me. I liked reading about her situation more. Despite the strength of their characters, I always felt like I was muddling through a book that had too much going on and not enough real depth to inspire me to keep reading.

Friday, March 1, 2019

I Am Yours by Reema Zaman

Release Date - February 5, 2019

I Am Yours is haunting, maddening, sad, and heartwarming in one. Really, the memoir begins before Reema Zaman is even born. Her mother is in college when she enters an arranged marriage. Reema is her firstborn. As she grows up, she questions the role of women in this world. She sees her mother trapped in an unhappy marriage. Her own dabbles in relationships lead to a range of outcomes. It ends up being a powerful look at relationships between men and women, families, and humans in general. It's not always pretty, but it's painfully honest.

I've seen some of the meanness that exists. I housed a Muslim college student for a month. The comments made when people thought we couldn't hear - maybe they just didn't care - stunned me. I watched a mother tell her young daughter that "men with brown skin" are dangerous. I watched three older men follow us around the store while saying he must be up to no good. This was essentially how a grown Muslim man was treated.

I cannot begin to imagine what it's like when you're actually the one in those shoes. The things Reema experiences run from being a strong player in the #metoo movement to emotional and verbal abuse from a family member. It's sad that people judge, bully, and harass and think it's okay. As I read each chapter, I became eager to read to the end.

Is I Am Yours an easy read? Not a chance. I had to adjust to her writing style to start with. Once I did, I was heartbroken at times and it made for tough reading. It's so worthwhile though. If you like memoirs, it's a must.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Promise by Teresa Driscoll

Release Date - February 7, 2019

Teresa Driscoll's latest, The Promise, focuses on three women. As young teens, they were thrown together in a boarding school dorm. It wasn't long before they'd become best friends. When something happens, they vow to keep it secret.

Fast forward several years. The last time they gathered was for Carol's 30th birthday. A decade has passed, and it's clear Carol wants nothing to do with them. When they get a letter that their old school will soon be demolished, it becomes urgent that they find her. Beth and Sally have tried to put the past behind them and move on with their lives, but this news brings up old memories that they can't ignore. Beth decides to hire a private investigator to find Carol.

He isn't sure why the women are so desperate to locate her. After all, she's made it a point to disappear from their lives. He realizes there must be more to the story than he's being told. But, he's being paid to find this woman, so he'll do it. When threats start pouring in, he starts to wonder what are these women hiding?

The Promise bounces around a bit. You have Beth and Sally, you have the P.I., and you have Beth. They're all telling their stories as best they can. The story also bounces from past to present. While it's easy to tell who is speaking and what time frame you're in, the changes back and forth grew tiring to me. As the big secret was revealed, I really wasn't that surprised, and I really didn't care. That's never a good sign.

I was on the edge of my seat for I Am Watching You. This book never grabbed me with the same intensity. It was okay, but nothing I felt passionately about.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Missing Person Novels From Karen Ellis

Release Date for A Map of the Dark - January 2, 2018
Release Date for Last Night - February 26, 2019

This review is going to be a little different. I received two books in a newer series. The Searchers takes you to New York City where Detective Lex Cole investigates missing persons cases. He receives a helping hand from FBI agent Elsa Myers.

Elsa's has a lot on her plate right now. Her father is dying. Demons from her childhood won't leave her alone. When she's asked to help Detective Lex Cole investigate a case involving a missing teen girl, she has a hard time saying no. It's the last thing she needs to be doing, but there is a teen missing, and she can't turn her back on a missing girl.

It's not long before several wrong turns lead Lex and Elsa onto a chilling discovery. Elsa becomes more determined than ever to find this girl. Doing so will bring up childhood memories that may be best left buried.

A teen boy with a promising future vanishes and his mom turns to Detective Lex Cole to find him. Titus "Crisp" Crespo has grown up with his Russian mother. His black father has never been part of his life. Shortly after being arrested and subsequently released for trumped-up charges that seem to be solely made because of his skin color, Crisp disappears with a rich girl named Glynnie.

The two decide to visit Glynnie's dealer. As it's in his dad's old neighborhood, Crisp is a little intrigued. Yet, once there, events spiral out of control leading these to the Crisp's disappearance.

I will say that A Map of the Dark had me hooked from the first page. I read this book in one sitting. The pacing, depth of the characters, and tension of the suspense made it impossible to put down. I felt compelled to keep reading until I knew the truth and had learned more about Elsa's background.

Based on the first novel in The Searchers series, I needed to begin Last Night immediately. Here's where a bit of a sophomore slump hit. I didn't connect with the characters. Elsa is a far stronger lead than Lex. I never felt a bond with Crisp. I really didn't care where he was after a several chapters. I hoped it would change after a while, but while I wanted to see what happened, it seemed to drag and I never truly felt a connection that made me want to read it in one sitting.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

If You Go Down to the Woods: A Novel by Seth C. Adams

Release Date - March 5, 2019 (Paperback)

Since hearing about this book, I can't stop Teddy Bear's Picnic from playing in my head. My mom sang that to me a lot when I was little.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today is the debut novel by Seth C. Adams. I think describing it as a creepy take on Stephen King's novella The Body is pretty apt.

"If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise." That's how the children's song goes and it fits this book perfectly.

Joey is 13 and thrust into a brand new town when his family moves to Payne, Arizona, for his dad's new job. His first introductions to people in the town bring a mix of reactions. The local bullies are not pleased that Joey interrupted their bullying session. Bobby, aka Fat Bobby, is delighted to have someone stand up for him. Soon, Joey, Fat Bobby, and two others form the Outsider's Club.

The four of them are about to stumble across something in the woods that they never should have found - a car, bundles and bundles of cash, and a body. And, there's the "Collector" out there who knows what they found and is about to become a sinister and potentially deadly force to be reckoned with.

I caught and loved a few things straight off. First, the narrative is first-person and usually not to my liking, but Joey does such a great job at drawing the reader into his world. Second, there is very little dialogue starting out. I found I loved not having all the talk and that the author let the descriptions build a lot of suspense.

There were characters I hated. There were characters I loved. The mystery is kind of apparent, but the action keeps you on your toes. I was hooked from the start.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Favorite Cowboy by Donna Grant

Release Date - February 26, 2019

My Favorite Cowboy is the third book in the Heart of Texas series. I read the first book, so I was well versed in Abby and Clayton's lives. This time, it's Caleb's turn.

Audrey Martinez keeps busy working for two big ranches and helping out time a horse is in need of a charitable veterinarian. When four horses at the auction house become ill, Audrey is desperate to find out what is happening. It isn't long before she realizes the horses are being poisoned.

Caleb and his brothers are called in to help set up cameras at the auction house. Very little time passes between their arrival and an attack on the horses. They realize this criminal activity is personal and it's all pointed at Audrey. Caleb's falling for her, so they team up to do everything in their power to keep her safe and figure out what's going on.

I liked My Favorite Cowboy, but I never loved the story. I thought the mystery was a little easy to figure out. As characters are introduced, it was clear to me who was harming the horses and why it was happening. That was disappointing.

I liked the chemistry between Audrey and Caleb, but I never really felt they had what it would take to last. I never loved Audrey for Caleb. That was also disappointing.

In the end, this is a book I enjoyed but know it won't stick with me. It was a good way to spend a few hours, but I can't say it's a keeper.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros

Release Date - February 26, 2019

Can I describe how I feel about The Last Letter in just a few words? Piece of cake. It broke my heart.

At 18, Ella found herself married and expecting twins. The same impetuous man she married isn't ready for fatherhood and abandons her. Skip forward several years, she's now a single mom and owner of her grandmother's resort. In her downtime, which is minimal, she writes to a military team member at the request of her brother, Ryan.

When Ryan is killed in action, his final letter is to his pal Beckett. He wants Beckett to get out and do everything possible to be there for Ella and her twins. Ryan's death isn't the only bad news Ella gets and she needs support now more than ever. Beckett will do anything for the woman he's gotten to know via regular letters and the children he's come to love through those same letters. He also will do anything for the friend he's lost.

The Last Letter is heartbreaking, touching, and endearing all at once. I'd just finished one military man asked to be there for his family member book and couldn't imagine it would get better. Rebecca Yarros' book broke my heart but also uplifted me at the same time. Not sure how she pulled that off.

Here's the thing. You can't read this book and have dry eyes. It's just not going to happen. This book is going to drag your emotions all over the place. You're going to laugh, cry, want to hit something, and start all over again. Having finished it, I feel drained. At the same time, I know it's a book I'll read again and again, it's just that damn good.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Military Wife by Laura Trentham

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Harper Lee Wilcox has done a great job raising her son alone after her husband, Noah, dies overseas. She's with her best friend, Allison, trying to help Allison deal with the stress of having a military husband and shaky marriage when she learns the cash reward she got after Noah's death is for an award that doesn't exist. That money is important though. It could be a way for Harper to give military women the chance to have jobs and something to invest their time in while their husbands serve overseas.

To get the answers she needs about Noah's death and this cash sum, she has to turn to one of the more reclusive former SEAL members Bennett Caldwell. Harper's been grieving for five years, but after just a little time with Bennett, she realizes she may have a second chance at love.

The Military Wife was such a touching story. There were a few things I absolutely loved. Top of that list is that there was never the cliched conflict so many romances have. This book is all about learning to let go of the past, learn from it, and move on towards a new future.

I loved the characters. Young Ben is a bit precocious and helps push his mom into realizing he's okay if a new man enters her life. There's Allison and her family who have their own struggles. Harper's mom is a hoot. I loved reading about her adventures in nude painting. They made me feel at ease as I sat back to read Bennett and Harper's romance. It was exactly what I needed.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Amish Bachelor's Baby by Jo Ann Brown

Release Date - March 1, 2019

Annie Wagler wants nothing more than to see her twin sister happy. Caleb Hartz falls into that plan. she's convinced the two were meant to be together. When Caleb approaches Annie asking if she'd work with him in the bakery he is about to open, she can't help but say yes. She still thinks her twin would be a better match, but Annie is full of ideas and loves to bake.

When the two find a teen and baby in the closed bakery, they immediately help her. The teen is Caleb's cousin. She's run away and needs a home and help raising a child. Caleb and Annie plan to help and get the bakery open on time, but working closely together may also help form a spark that neither of them can ignore.

The Amish Bachelor's Baby takes place in Vermont, which always intrigues me. Having Amish families living in Southern Vermont seemed odd. I've heard of Amish and Mennonite families in the Northeast Kingdom, but I hadn't heard they also lived in the southern part of the state. I'm wrong. I don't live in either area, so it's not surprising that I have only encountered the Amish a couple of times. In this book, an Amish man and woman open a bakery together, and that's definitely something I haven't heard of. I did a little checking and there is a bakery stand run by an Amish family in the Northeast Kingdom.

It's a gentle romance that moves at a steady pace. I liked the couple, but I did have issues with Annie being more than a little blind. It was clear from the start that Caleb was perfect for her, yet she kept pushing him into situations hoping to get her sister a new beau. That aspect grew tiresome. I still enjoyed the book, but I started to grow impatient with Annie's lack of insight into her own heart's demands.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

Release Date - February 9, 2019

After a short vacation, Kimber Hannon returns to her house, but her keys don't work. None of her keys on any doors work. Her older neighbor comes out and is surprised to see her. She informs Kimber that a man moved in days ago, and he has the signed lease to prove it. While police look over the paperwork, he whispers: "I saw what you did."

Whoever this stranger is, he's out to make Kimber's life a living hell. She senses he is familiar, but she can't figure out why. Not only that, but she's not sure what he saw.

The Stranger Inside starts off at a fast pace. It's clear Kimber has made some really bad choices in her life. Which of them the stranger supposedly saw is the question. It comes down to the secrets everyone keeps.

Kimber isn't always likable, but you have to keep reading. I wasn't shocked at the end, but it did paint a better picture of Kimber and the struggles she faced because of this stranger. I simply cannot imagine being in her shoes.

Laura Benedict's latest checked off a lot of what makes a story so suspenseful. I got emotional, mainly I was angry that people would do things like this to each other. It kept me turning the pages. It took plenty of twists, even if I knew some of them were obvious. It still had me hooked.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Her happy marriage is not enough to keep Anna Roux from letting her obsessions with food take over her life. The former dancer followed her new husband from Paris to Minnesota. She's left alone to let her thoughts of turn to the things she just wasn't good enough to achieve, the loneliness she feels in this new community, and her frustration with her weight.

Soon, Anna is under 90 pounds and still hoping to take off more weight. Her diet is no more than an apple and maybe a handful of plain, air-popped popcorn, and nothing more. Desperate to save his wife, Anna's husband convinces her to go to 17 Swann Street. There, experts work with the girls residing within the charming home to overcome their eating disorders that threaten to end their lives.

As Anna joins the others, she struggles to get used to the daily routines that include counseling sessions, six meals a day, and the power of friendship.

The Girls of 17 Swann Street is beautifully written. My heart broke for Anna, but despite the sad situation, the power each of the women in 17 Swann is so clearly portrayed. It's a sad topic, yet it wasn't made to be depressing. It's uplifting and I hope it really helps someone.

It took me back to high school when we had a guest speaker. She was the mother of a girl who had anorexia. The stories that woman told haunt me. I saw a lot of her daughter in Anna. It made me feel hopeful that somewhere that girl found her own 17 Swann.

Read this book. You won't be disappointed by Anna's journey.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Molly and Liza have been close for as long as they can remember. Molly eventually marries and has kids. Liza has not settled down because she's still searching for Mr. Right.

On one of those nights where they set aside time to video chat, Molly hears a child cry out. Excusing herself for a few minutes, she leaves her laptop open. Liza watches as a masked intruder comes in the backdoor and closes the computer when Liza calls out a warning.

Calling police isn't enough to ease her fears. She calls the police. It's not enough for her, however. She drives to Cincinnati and back to make sure Molly really is okay. When Molly dismisses her without even letting her in the house, she's stunned. She's definitely not prepared for what she finds when she returns to her own home in the city

I expected a suspense novel, but Forget You Know Me was more women's fiction with suspenseful moments. It definitely had creepy moments, but it was more about each woman coming to terms with changes in lifestyles, relationships, and events going back to that evening of the call.

When the story changes to focus more on romantic relationships than the events of that night, I found myself less intrigued. The pace seemed to slow. The mystery of the intruder seemed to become secondary to evolving relationships. I ended up finding it easier to put the book down. It lost the compelling edge that drew me into the story originally. It's still a good read, but I'd say it leans more towards women's fiction than suspense.

Monday, February 4, 2019

I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter

Release Date (Paperback) - April 2019

The Kindle and hardcover formats for I Stop Somewhere are already out. If you missed this book in 2018, it's one you should pick up.

Ellie Frias lives in a town where foreclosures are rampant. Many empty homes are wasting away. Her dad struggles to keep a roof over their head in their quiet New York community, but he does as best he can.

When Ellie must move from the private school she'd been attending on a scholarship and join the public high school, she simply wants to be able to get through the experience with a new look and hopes of at least staying out of the typical cruelness of high school. When one of the town's poster boys turns an eye to her, Ellie realizes she may have a chance at being the center of attention. Sometimes, however, it's better to be invisible than not existing at all.

Here's the bottom line. If you cannot tolerate a story about today's rape culture, don't read this book. If you're ready to hear a very brutal, emotionally painful story that seems a little too real at times, I Stop Somewhere is an amazing read.

I'm going to delve a bit into the dealings many actresses and even actors are facing. They speak up about being raped and are, for lack of a kinder word, "slut shamed." Look at so many of them telling their stories and being called liars, told they were willing participants by people who were never even there, etc. That's really what happens in this book, but Ellie's perspective is a little more jarring for one reason that I won't divulge.

My heart broke reading this story. It took me bad to a girl just like Ellie who was invisible in a way. I knew her from quick "hellos" each morning as she passed me to get to her locker. She ended up just like Ellie, and I still wish I'd taken the time to say more than hello. As a mom now, I cannot imagine what Paulette and her entire family went through. People are the worst kind of horrible, and this vividly captures just how horrible some can be.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Second Chance With the Single Dad by Kandy Shepherd

Release Date - February 1, 2019

Kandy Shepherd's Second Chance With the Single Dad is a light, quick, very satisfying contemporary romance. It's set in Australia and is the perfect read on another very cold, icy morning. It didn't take me long at all to devour each page of this romance.

Georgia Lang hasn't seen her former best friend in years. Wil is just as charming and handsome as ever, but he needs her help. He's just learned his ex-wife died in a car crash. He's also a father. He has to go pick up his seven-month-old daughter and bring her home, but babies are new to him. As Georgia's a school teacher, he hopes she can help him with the transition. To help Wil, Georgia has to reconcile the past hurts and see what the future has in store.

Wil is the Prince Charming type that women long for. He's done well for himself, despite his fragile past, but his wealth hasn't made him obnoxious. Georgia is clearly going to tread carefully, but she's not the type to hold grudges, which was refreshing. It allows the story to move along at a rapid, enjoyable pace.

Second Chance With the Single Dad is short, but it's worthwhile. If you're looking for a pick-me-up, this one is a winner.

Friday, February 1, 2019

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Release Date - February 5, 2019

Fixie Farr can't let something go without trying to fix it. It's why her family calls her Fixie. The problem is, she seems so intent on fixing everyone else that she never stops to think about herself. It made me dislike her.

Things begin on the day Fixie's mom is having a party. Fixie stops at a coffee shop where a stranger asks her to watch his computer for a second. She ends up saving that computer when a section of the store's roof collapses. With that, the stranger named Seb says he owes her one and hands her his business card.

When Fixie's mom decides it's time to take a break, she joins her sister up on a somewhat lengthy trip to Spain. This leaves her children - Fixie, Nicole, and Jake - in charge of the family-owned kitchen shop. Her siblings have grandiose plans on how to make the already successful store even better. Fixie is great at fixing things, but she sucks at putting her foot down.

The other thing creating issues for Fixie is her brother's long-time friend. Ryan's back in town and Fixie always falls for his charms. When he announces his job in Hollywood is over and he can't find a job, she goes to the stranger in the coffee shop and cashes in the IOU. When Seb fires Ryan unexpectedly, Fixie decides she must fix it. What she learns may be what she needs to decide what she really wants from life.

I adore other Sophie Kinsella books. This time, I have mixed feelings. I liked some of the staff at the kitchen shop. I despised Nicole and Jake. Ryan reminded me a lot of a guy I knew growing up. If fact, if he was based on Dave, I wouldn't be surprised. Dave was also good at using people. It's hard to find anything appealing about Ryan. The key character, though, was the biggest disappointment. Fixie was weak, very weak, which made it hard to feel pity for her. When she finally develops a backbone, I no longer cared.

Did I finish I Owe You One? Yes. I needed to see if Fixie would ever do anything to make me cheer. She does, but it came so late. I wish there had been more focus on her kicking others' behinds and less on how annoying the others could be.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

Release Date: February 5, 2019

The gorgeous cover is one reason I took a closer look at The Night Olivia Fell. It didn't take long before I'd read one page and was completely hooked.

It's every parent's worst nightmare. Abi Knight gets an early morning call that her daughter is in the hospital after falling from a bridge. She arrives to learn Olivia is brain dead. She's also pregnant and laws require the hospital to keep Olivia hooked up to machines long enough for the fetus to stand a chance.

It's a lot of information at once. What Abi can't get past are the bruises around Olivia's wrists. Police may be deeming this an accidental fall, but Abi believes her daughter was murdered. She also has her suspicions as to who did it. To prove it, Abi will need to push people harder than she's ever pushed them before.

I had tears streaming down my face by the end of The Night Olivia Fell. This book is very emotional. It's told from Abi's point of view and from Olivia's every now and then. It's clear mother and daughter were hiding things from each other. You'll learn more as you finish each chapter.

I can't say I found the outcome shocking. I did, however, love that the author didn't finish things there. You get a snippet into Abi's world after everything is resolved. I really appreciated that. If you're looking for a suspense/mystery that also has the emotional pull of women's fiction, don't miss this book.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Release Date - January 22, 2019

Alex is saddened when her best friend backs out of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Thailand. The 18-year-old doesn't want to travel alone. When another girl from her class offers to go in Mags' place, Alex goes against advice and accepts the offer.

When Alex and Rosie vanish, their parents fear something has happened. Police aren't as certain. They feel the teens are simply so caught up in traveling that they forgot to update their parents. Kate Waters, a British journalist, looks into the disappearance and realizes that there's far more to the case than anyone expects.

I wasn't taken by surprise. As you get to the know the characters through their emails and Kate's investigation, I could see what was coming. Despite that, I couldn't put The Suspect down. It was a truly gripping mystery.

This isn't the first book I've read by Fiona Barton. I've met Kate in a prior novel. The Child is equally addicting if you never read it. That said, while Kate appears in another book, The Suspect stands alone and is well worth reading.

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Slice of Magic by A.G. Mayes

Release Date - January 25, 2019

The first book in the Magic Pie Shop series is being marketed as a romance, I don't agree. It has romantic aspects, but it's a fun cozy mystery.

A Slice of Magic introduces Susanna Daniels. The young woman gets a mysterious message from her cherished Aunt Erma, a woman she hasn't seen in two decades. Erma disappeared without notice when Susanna was just a child. She's missed her and always wondered why Erma abruptly left. The message is simple. Erma needs Susanna to come run her pie shop in Hocus Hills while Erma's away for a few days.

There are two problems with this. Susanna has no experience running a shop. She spends her time fixing issues for homeowners. Home repairs are her forte. The other issue is that Susanna cannot cook. If she tries to help out, she's more likely to burn the kitchen down.

Susanna goes because she wants answers. She wants to know why Erma vanished so many years ago. When she arrives, Erma is missing again and days pass without her return. Susanna's running Erma's pie shop into the ground, and it's clear that forces within the town want her to fail. Something is up and Susanna wants to get to the bottom of it.

This is a cozy mystery with a touch of the paranormal. It's a quick, charming story to read with a touch of romance, but the mystery behind the unusual happenings in the town is the real story. Susanna will learn as she goes, and through that, the reader is kept guessing.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Wildflower Heart by Grace Greene

Release Date - January 22, 2019

This is the first book in the Wildflower House series by Grace Greene. While there are romantic aspects, this introduction to Wildflower House is not a romance. I was a little fooled by that as it seemed to be setting itself up to be a romance.

Kara Hart has experienced plenty of loss in her lifetime. Her mother walked away from the family when she was just 14. Two years later, she learned her mother died and there will not be a funeral for her to have closure. It's just Kara and her dad, a business owner who does his best to keep his business running while also being there for his daughter.

Years pass and Kara marries a college sweetheart. On a night out together, she's prepared to tell him she's pregnant. However, he shocks her to the core during a heated discussion and they're in a crash that takes his life.

Kara goes back to her dad during her recovery. A year passes and she learns he's selling his business and wants to renovate a huge Victorian estate in rural Virginia. She cannot imagine starting over in a rural community, but she wants to see her dad live out his dream. She accompanies him on this change. There, she finds herself enchanted by the natural setting and by her very handsome neighbor Seth.

In the Wildflower Heart's description, the blurb goes into Kara dealing with another surprise. I don't know that I like bringing that aspect up as it happens in the last part of the book. Most of the story is about Kara learning to find her footing again after becoming a widow and moving to an unfamiliar area outside the cities and suburbs she's used to.

Wildflower Heart is a very gentle, emotional story. It's written in the first person, which I find sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. It took a while for me to adjust to the story being solely from Kara's point of view. Half of the reason for the struggle is that I never loved her character. She came off as condescending to her father with the "Sigh, this furniture/art/wallpaper/decor doesn't fit the house and looks ridiculous, but it's your house so do what you want" attitude. He did her no favors by spoiling her.

I love Lake Union books, but this one was just okay. I was never so into the story that I feel like I must seek out the other books in the series.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Liar's Room by Simon Lelic

Release Date - January 15, 2019

Simon Lelic's The Liar's Room is going to be a tough book for me to review. The tagline describes it pretty well: "Two Liars. One Room. No Way Out." That said, I never truly bought that there was no way out.

I loved Simon Lelic's The New Neighbors. I loved the premise to his latest novel. That said, I'm torn. Susanna Fenton left everything behind 14 years ago. She took her daughter, changed their names, and started life anew. She works as a counselor and believes they've put the past behind them.

One afternoon, Susanna gets a new client. This young man has a secret. Adam seems to know things from Susanna's past. Worse, he threatens the one thing that sparked Susanna's abandonment of her former life. He claims he has her daughter and will kill her if Susanna doesn't play along with whatever he has planned.

I struggled with the first chapters of this book. I really struggled. I didn't see how she was so trapped that she couldn't leave the room. Adult vs. a demented teen when there were others outside of the office who could have called police had she just cued them to her discomfort. I struggled with that, yet I also couldn't stop reading. I had to see if the twist I suspected was coming would be as big a twist as happened in The New Neighbors. I wasn't disappointed.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Lying Beneath the Oaks by Kristin Wright

Release Date - January 15, 2019

Lying Beneath the Oaks was the change of pace I needed. It's a little suspenseful, though I can't say the mystery was that hard to solve. The romantic tension between Molly and Cooper is what makes this a solid romance.

Molly Todd and Cooper Middleton find themselves in a bit of a scandal. While in Vegas, the pair drinks too much and end up getting married. They'd never even met until they were a few drinks into the evening. They need some time to figure things out, but Cooper needs to get back to South Carolina. Molly opts to go with him and look into an annulment there.

In South Carolina, Molly finds herself falling for Cooper. He's equally smitten and wonders if she could be the woman to help him start anew. His last wife walked away from him without ever looking back, and he's risking his heart falling for another woman.

Molly has her own secret. As she learns more about the Middleton family, she realizes that not even Cooper knows about some of his family's past. With her own secrets and knowing some of his, she could break his heart in more ways than one.

This is mostly a romance, but the intrigue into the past for both Cooper and Molly adds a suspenseful element. Lying Beneath the Oaks is set in the Lowcountry and often had me craving a little of the atmosphere Molly was learning to embrace. The food descriptions were just part of it. I ended up reading it in one sitting and was teary-eyed by the end. I loved it.