Friday, September 27, 2019

What She Gave Away by Catherine Riggs

Release Date - September 4, 2018

What She Gave Away is the first of two novels in a series per Amazon's page. I can't see how the second book fits in as a part of a series as this first book was complete and didn't leave anything open for a sequel. I tried to read it last year and just couldn't get into it, but I really wanted to try again and stuck with it this time.

The story is told from two viewpoints. You have Crystal Love, a plus-sized loan analyst who manages to get the job she desires despite not fitting into Santa Barbara's mold. It's clear that she has ulterior motives regarding her new job.

Kathi Wright has spent a long time as one of Santa Barbara's elite. She's the wife of the bank president, the same bank where Crystal gets a job. When Kathi's husband dies, she learns he's not only left her penniless, but he was also embroiled in a fraudulent scheme and Kathi's suspected of knowing all about it.

As Kathi struggles to save the lifestyle she's accustomed to, Crystal is also working hard at something. But what?

Connecting with Kathi was impossible. The minute she pawns a watch to have some cash to get through and immediately uses it on things like wine, a manicure, etc., I gave up even trying to like her. It's clear nothing, not even the threat of poverty, was going to change her.

Crystal was not likable either. It's clear she's been wronged over the years, but she's willing to use anyone to reach her ultimate goal and I didn't like her for that. When she meets Mimi about halfway into the book, I found I disliked Mimi, too. I had no one to root for and that made it hard to care about what happened in the end.

That said, I still felt compelled to keep reading. I wanted to see how it all came together. I was never disappointed with those revelations or the trip to get there. The plot and pacing were fine, I simply couldn't connect with any of the characters. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger

Release Date - September 24, 2019

I don't like seeing or hearing about people who feel it's necessary to hide mental illness. I get it, but I wish those people would have the courage to speak up. So many people from all walks of life deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, Bipolar, and so many other forms of mental illness.

For that reason, I appreciated the story in Six Goodbyes We Never Said. Naima Rodriquez struggles with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder. Her military father's death has only made that harder. While she used to become anxious when he deployed, now she's experiencing the worst in that she'll never see him again. That said, she doesn't want you to talk about it. Hence a lot of the agitation between her and her step-mom.

Andrew, Dew for short, is also suffering. The sudden death of both parents has left him alone. Anxiety attacks have become the daily norm for him. Social anxiety has become his biggest challenge. Naima's appearance in his town has the power to change everything.

When my daughter was almost two, I suffered an attack at night right as I fell asleep. I had no idea what it was. I knew my heart was pounding, I couldn't breathe, my chest hurt, my hands and feet were numb, and it felt like someone smeared BenGay on my skin. Doctors at the ER found nothing wrong with me and sent me home with heart medications to slow my heart rate down.

I've been there. I connected with Dew more than Naima, but both characters' experiences rang true. I was happy to see their stories told in an honest manner. There was no sugar coating what they experienced. Their grief was real.

The story didn't always keep me hooked. There were times I felt it was plodding along. That said, I definitely remember feeling like I was also plodding along just trying to get through a day. That ended up adding to the realism.

If you want an honest, sad, eye-opening look at mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and OCD, read this book. You might learn a few things and understand how to best help someone who is dealing with a mental illness.

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Release Date - September 17, 2019

Reporter Rain has a tragic past. She and two friends were attacked by a stranger in the woods as children. She ran away and managed to avoid capture, but her two friends were kidnapped. One didn't survive.

Though years have passed, she cannot forget and it's a bond she will always have with Hank, the childhood friend who survived. She's a stay-at-home mom now, but there's a strong itch to return to journalism. There's the perfect story too. There's a vigilante out there committing executions of murderers. One of those executions was Rain and Hank's attacker. Is it justice finally being served? Rain and her friend, a fellow reporter, think it would make for an explosive podcast and reason for Rain to return to work. Doing so may lead Rain down a path she isn't ready to face.

The Stranger Inside was gripping. I get a strong feeling this is the first in a series, and I can't wait. While I didn't always get all of Rain's actions, I still was rooting for her. I wanted to see her figure out the case while balancing her new mom duties and marriage.

I also liked Hank's changes during the novel. He's just as, if not more, scarred as Rain. Despite his job as a therapist to children. he is very wounded and made my heart break for him. The two together had me hooked and I had to read the story in one sitting. This is a must-read!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

29 Seconds: A Novel by T. M. Logan

Release Date - September 10, 2019

Wow how 29 Seconds ticked me off, brought me to the edge of rage and back. It had me snickering and wanting to cry. It's a book that is maddening, addicting, and oh so satisfying at times. T. M. Logan took me on quite the ride.

Since Sarah's husband, an actor, walked off to be with some other woman, she's done all she can to balance her time with her kids with her job as a professor. Her boss, a positively lecherous creep, doesn't make it easy. The more she refuses his advances, the harder he makes her life. It's a clear-cut case of sexual harassment, one he's used on other young professors, but his connections to so many higher-ups make it impossible to get anyone to take a complaint seriously.

On the way to get her children, Sarah witnesses an attempted kidnapping. The father of that child reaches out to her and makes her an offer she struggling to refuse. To thank her for saving his daughter, all she has to do is call a burner phone with the name of someone she would like to make disappear forever. No questions asked. No way to trace the disappearance back to her. This offer has the chance to get rid of her boss forever.

By the time the proposal is made, I was practically screaming at Sarah to take the offer. T. M. Logan excelled at making Alan Hawthorne a completely creepy, cunning, manipulative, jackass. I was ready to crawl into the book myself and give him the castration he so clearly deserved. I've never hated a character more than I hated him.

Whether she takes the offer or not is up to the reader to find out. I will say this. Read this book. It's a ride you won't soon forget or even want to forget. It was shocking, stunning, and utterly enjoyable.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

As the Light Fades by Catherine West

Release Date - September 10, 2019

The right cover art can lure me to read a book. That's what happened with As the Light Fades. The tranquility of the sand and surf caught my eye. The story ended up being a touching romance.

Liz Carlisle is back in Nantucket after suffering tremendous abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. The lawyer isn't sure what she wants to do next. Her family's beachfront estate is under renovations, so she needs to find a job and a place to live while she starts the next chapter of her life.

While she's out walking the family dogs, she sees an erratic driver take out a neighbor's fence, prized rose garden, and tree. The rebellious teen girl that gets out of the vehicle raises Liz's anger. Little does she know that that girl will end up changing her life.

Matthew Stone is dealing as best he can with his niece. She's miserable on Nantucket and money's tight. When Liz calls him about a carriage house he has for rent, he thinks he may finally have some help with both money and his niece. He'll lower his rent in exchange for Liz being there to help his niece while he works nights.

The last thing Liz wants is to deal with an impossible teen, but she needs to be able to afford rent, and Matt's offer fits the bill. The more she spends with the girl, the more she realizes that they both have secrets that bond them.

I was unaware that this book is a sequel of sorts. I never would have known that. As the Light Fades doesn't require you to have read the prior novel The Things We Knew. I don't feel that I missed anything.

Aspects of As the Light Fades broke my heart. It was a little too real. Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. Liz's father's chapters are told very well. He sounded very much like my mom at times. Going home but not knowing where home is, struggling to find the right words, and not remembering his children all sounded like things I've heard my mom repeat.

I loved the interactions between Liz, Matt, and his niece. They were touching. Sometimes they felt a little rushed, but they were cautious with each other and that had a realism given what each had been through.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber

Release Date - September 3, 2019

Rosie's family was never the same after her sister vanished at Astroland, a theme park in the U.S. While 15 years have passed, the family hasn't given up all hope. The anniversary also brings a lot of media attention to the girl's disappearance during a vacation in the U.S. The problem is that after 15 years, the fund keeping the search going is about to be shut down for good. It's tearing Rosie's family apart.

Anna has grown up under the care of a domineering, highly protective mom. The older she gets, the more she thinks there are things her mom keeps from her. On her 18th birthday, a mysterious letter arrives calling her by another name, and that has her questioning everything about her past.

So begins a suspense novel that really isn't that shocking, but it does offer insight into both Anna's and Rosie's struggles to figure out what happened and how to move on in a world full of uncertainty.

Chapters fluidly shift from Rosie to Anna and back. It never feels jarring and the plot moves swiftly. There's a creepiness as certain characters are introduced, and it definitely has that "ripped from the headlines" feel to it. Overall, this is an excellent debut from Lizzy Barber. I'm eager to see what she comes up with next.

Thanks to MIRA for allowing me to be part of MIRA's blog tour for Lizzy Barber's A Girl Named Anna. It's not a book packed with surprises, but it certainly does its part keeping you hooked on Anna's situation.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rival's Break by Carla Neggers

Release Date - August 27, 2019

I've been a fan of Carla Neggers for so many years. I haven't been following the Sharpe & Donovan series. Picking up Rival's Break and trying to jump in now was a mistake. I didn't feel a strong connection to the characters and struggled with the "who's who" aspect.

Emma Sharpe hasn't seen her husband Colin Donovan in a while as he's been off doing his thing. Both are FBI agents with busy lives and caseloads. Colin's brother is getting married, so they're at their home in Maine to reconnect and for the wedding.

Things go awry when passengers aboard a private yacht are poisoned. Georgina, the chef, is devastated that she may be responsible for poisoning so many people including her father. Colin opts to help the marine patrol officer look into the poisonings.

When it's found a painting by a friend of both Colin and Emma's disappeared from the yacht, the investigation takes a personal turn. Lives are at stake and Colin and Emma must act fast.

I admit that I was lost for a lot of the book. There's the personal aspect of their lives as well as the mystery. There were so many characters and, being new to the series, I had very little background to go on to help me out.

Carla Neggers has a way of bringing a location to life. I felt that Maine ocean breeze and smelled the salt in the air. I wished I was there.

If you're new to the Sharpe & Donovan series, don't read this one without catching up first. I wish I had.

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...