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.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

Release Date - January 8, 2019

May I first say the cover is half the reason I took a closer look at Her One Mistake? Some covers are clear misses. This one captured the atmosphere and chilling suspense perfectly.

Charlotte knows her best friend Harriet never lets young Alice out of her sight. In fact, Harriet has never hired a babysitter. It's part of the reason Charlotte is so ecstatic when her friend finally decides to leave Alice with Charlotte for the day. There's a school fair that all of the kids will love, and they plan a full day of fun while Harriet takes a bookkeeping class.

All is going great. As the kids head into a bouncy house, Charlotte takes a few seconds to check messages. Her kids come out, but Alice has vanished. A search of the school fields comes up empty. Charlotte has to tell her friend that Alice is missing.

Losing your own child would be a horror you just can't imagine, but to lose a friend's child seems to be the worst of all. As she tries not to fall under the weight of the tremendous strain of losing another person's child, Harriet tries to hold it all together. One of the women knows more than is being told, and the detectives must discover what and why.

What a book to kick off 2019 with! I'd read a little bit before the New Year's, but Her One Mistake was the first book I actually picked up after the 1st. It was a fantastic choice. I won't say all of it kept me guessing, but the tension was there and had me reading into the wee hours. When I couldn't shut my mind off of other dealings at 4 a.m., I was almost happy to get up and read more.

I am very fond of the psychological suspense novels that are so popular. This one was one of the best.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Just Once by Lori Handeland

Release Date - December 20, 2018

Just Once is both thought-provoking and emotional. It seemed especially true to me given the experiences I've had over the past (almost) two years. I've watched my mom decline no thanks to Alzheimer's. I watched my dad's health decline due to the exact same health issue Charley has in this story.

It's been more than 20 years since Frankie divorced her husband. Charley was the love of her life, but his affair with a much younger woman destroyed their marriage. Why he's back at her doorstep two decades later is beyond her. Worse, he has no recollection of his second wife and he doesn't realize 20 years. In his mind, he's still happily married to Frankie.

Hannah has loved Charley for so long. It breaks her heart to learn that he has no recollection of her at all. He sees her as a delusional woman. She's definitely not his wife, no matter what she keeps saying. Hannah has always been that "other woman" in Frankie's eyes, so the resentment is clear only this time it's on both sides.

When tests reveal Charley has a terminal health issue, one woman must face being there for a man who abandoned her decades ago. Another woman must face the truth that her husband truly, deeply loves another.

I was the medical power of attorney for my dad given my mom's own health issues. As a result, I really related to Frankie. Not the marriage aspect, but those choices she faced are heartbreaking. I truly understood that pain. I love that rather than let it consume her, she found a way to find strength and comfort with the woman she's despised for so many years. Watching them form a tentative alliance was a nice change of pace in a world that spews so much hatred on a daily basis.

The story is told from several viewpoints. You have Hannah in the past and in the present. There's Frankie in the past and in the present. There's also a good look at Charley's experiences in Vietnam and after he and Frankie marry. Just Once was never an easy story to read. I'm glad I did, however.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Release Date - January 9, 2019

Emma Rous' The Au Pair is touted to be a mix of V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton. I'm not familiar with Kate Morton, but I read many V.C. Andrews stories as a teen. I would agree with that thought.

After her father's death, Seraphine Mayes is reeling. She comes across a photo in the family estate and wonders why only one of the infants is in the photo with the mom she never knew. She and her twin Danny were left behind when their mother jumped off a cliff shortly after their birth.

After the suicide, the family's beloved au pair left for good. Seraphine's older brother never understood why. He lost his mother and his nanny in one day. Their father was the last link they had to the past.

Seraphine decides to investigate and learn the truth about her mother's suicide and why only one baby is in the photo. Soon, she is receiving threatening messages. Someone doesn't want her to uncover the truth.

There's a mix of good and bad to be found within The Au Pair. The story is told from Seraphine's point of view in the present day and the au pair's point of view in the past. I found the narrative moved swiftly and kept the story progressing.

The bad is that I pegged the outcome and the real events that day far too early. Despite the townspeople believing the family was cursed, I had it pegged. I think that's why I found it so reminiscent of V.C. Andrews.

This story had me hooked. It is predictable, but I became so involved in the lives of both past and present characters that I couldn't stop reading.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...