Monday, December 28, 2020

The Choice by Alex Lake

 Release Date - December 29, 2020

New in paperback, Alex Lake's The Choice poses an impossible choice. What would you do to get your children back?

It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out shopping trip and return home. Matt Westbrook trusted his oldest son enough while he ran into the corner store. His car was right outside the door. He had his eyes on his car for almost the entire time. He only needed a couple of items, so it made more sense to do it that way than take them all out of the car.

Matt only looked away for a fraction of a second while paying. In that briefest of moments, his car and children disappeared. Worse, he gets a text message that he cannot call the police. If he does, his children are dead.

Back at home, Matt and his wife are desperate. They want their children back, but they're at the mercy of the kidnapper. When the message comes in, it's clear that there's only one way they can get them back. Matt must exchange his wife for his children. It's a choice he doesn't want to make, but there seems to be no other option. Matt's wife is willing to put her safety at risk if the kids are safe. Matt's not as sure he can live without her.

Each chapter is told by either Matt or the kidnapper. It flips between the past and the present. It's clear where you are in the story and who is speaking. Even if you were struggling, the kidnapper's font is different, so it's clear when it's the kidnapper's voice.

From the first page, the tension in this suspense is clear. I cannot imagine making the choice they have to make. I waited eagerly to see what they'd decide and how it would play out. As the story progresses, I did find myself disappointed when the big reveal is made. I'd figured it out at that point.

That's where I started having issues with Matt's character. Because I knew who the kidnapper was, some of Matt's choices frustrated me. Read it, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Why I Held Your Hand by Augusta Reilly

 Release Date - October 23, 2020

Why I Held Your Hand isn't the typical romance. There is a love triangle in this story is unlike any I've experience often when reading romance novels as the heroine really didn't seem to know who she loved more either. This one leaves you guessing as to who Laura will choose. 

Laura Delaney wakes up in her car uncertain where she is or why she's there. Worse, her bra is missing and has somehow become part of a young boy's apparel. When a hot guy knocks on her window, she's embarrassed. Worse, this is one of the marketing experts she's due to meet with in a matter of minutes. Talk about mortifying!

Laura's job is to save her beloved town from ruin. While it's a quaint country town lined with shops and old Victorian houses, tourists flock to the bigger cities and overlook North Powell. The town is failing and Laura needs to save it. Landing help from the biggest marketing firm in the area is important, only the town has very little budget. Miracles do happen and the trio of owners at the marketing firm agrees to help out.

Now, Laura is working very closely with two of the firm's bigwigs. David (the hottie from the car situation) is enamored with Laura and soon the pair are spending every free minute together. Her Mondays, however, are spent showing around Spence, another of the firm's owners. While she believes she's falling in love with David, the more she sees of Spence, the more conflicted she becomes. Each men is appealing but in very different ways and she must choose one.

The humor in Augusta Reilly's book is clear, and it's balanced well by the romance which is steamy. Those parts I did like. I struggled with Laura though. For someone as liberated as she is, I just can't buy her needing to pick one man over the other. She definitely didn't seem like she was in any frame of mind to settle down with just one guy, and that impacted how believable I felt the outcome was unfortunately.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan

 Release Date - December 29, 2020

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Everly Dean hasn't had a happy birthday for as long as she can remember. There's the year she needed a tonsillectomy. There's the year her parents decided to separate, only to get back together, and repeat the process regularly ever since. This year, her 30th, is worst of all. She goes to surprise her boyfriend and finds him in bed with another woman.

She gives up on birthdays and goes to her job as a radio show producer ready to forget she's turning 30. As a surprise, her best friend serenades her with the Birthday Song, only Everly goes off on a tirade. She had no idea she's on air.

Her tirade does something surprising. Listeners begin calling in and sending messages of support. To boost ratings, an idea is born. Her hunky boss, Chris, poses it and agrees to all of her conditions.

Everly will go on several blind dates with guys who apply through the radio station and meet Everly's qualifications. She'll narrow them down to an eventual two and decide who the winning bachelor is. There's suddenly one problem. Despite her bravado with her new list of Rules for Faking It, she's going to have a hard time faking that she's falling hard for Chris.

If you need light, funny, and uplifting, Ten Rules for Faking It is the perfect choice. I snickered several times, enjoyed the romantic back and forth between several characters, and it left me feeling uplifted. In a world where the virus drags on and on, news is packed with things I no longer care to listen to, etc. I was ready for a quick dose of utter happiness. That's exactly what Sophie Sullivan's latest novel delivered.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Take it Back by Kia Abdullah

 Release Date - December 8, 2020

I can't admit to having too much of a clue as to what it's like being Muslim in a country like England or the U.S. I've only seen snippets of other people's behavior while taking a Muslim college student around my state. A handful of Vermonters showed their racist attitudes. That little peek saddened me, and I only saw little pieces here and there. That helped shape my opinions in Take It Back.

Zara Kaleel is one of the best lawyers in London, but she left her high-income career to do something of value. She now helps women at a sexual assault center. When a disfigured white teen comes into the center claiming to have been raped by four Muslim teens, Zara jumps in to help this teen get justice. It also means turning her back on her own culture, something that doesn't set well with the local Muslim community.

Jodie Wolfe is 16 and used to gossip and cruel treatment due to her medical condition. She has neurofibromatosis (Elephant Man's Disease) and her misshapen facial features draw negative attention. Few, including Jodie's best friend, believe Jodie's telling the truth. Add in the racial aspect that pits a white girl against four Muslim boys from upstanding families and it's going to be a trial of the century. 

From the beginning, I found Take It Back to be so heartbreaking from so many perspectives. You have the boys who claim they're innocent and come off as very believable. You have Jodie who may or may not be lying with every word she mutters. You have Zara who is torn knowing the cultural impact this trial will have, but she also has to do her job.

I found myself hooked from the start and didn't finish until I'd completed the final page. It's not an easy read. It can be pretty graphic. It's also one of the best books I've read in 2020. Kia Abdullah makes it to the top of my must-read list with this legal suspense.

Scones and Scofflaws by Jane Gorman

 Release Date - December 20, 2020


The first book in the new Cape May Cozy Mystery series started off what could be an intriguing cozy series. Anna's inherited her great aunt's house and is in the final stages of renovating it to be a B&B. With the rooms that are ready, she's opening up to a handful of guests. Things take a turn when her very first guest ends up dead next to the almond scone she'd made. 

Police are quick to tape up her house and ask her to move her other guests out. In the middle of all that, her young cousin Eoin also shows up to spend the summer with her, months before she expected him. Anna now has no income, a child she's never met before looking at her to be his temporary guardian, and the possibility that her scone killed her guest.

The only way to clear her name is by jumping in to solve the murder. Police may not want her to, but she's not about to sit by and let the damage to her reputation continue.

That's the premise. The back cover blurb focuses on a man dressed as Bridgette Bardot asking her out. That's a minor part of the plot. He's one of three potential suitors for Anna, so I don't feel it's important to go into him. The story sets up main characters who will be appearing in the series on a regular basis I'm sure. There's Sammy, Anna's best friend and local bakery owner; Luke, the handyman helping Anna with the renovations; and Evan, the police officer helping with the investigation. 

For me, the story was a bit slow to start. As Eoin arrived, I started to enjoy the character interactions more, but I cannot imagine what kind of parent sends a child overseas to stay with someone he's never met before. I really struggled with that aspect. I also found that the repeated "that's not how my name is pronounced" was a bit overdone. 

As the mystery progressed, I never found the revelation to be shocking. I'd figured it out long ago. What I did love was how Anna started to grow into her community. The relationships were the star in this book. It was that that makes me eager to read the next book in this series when it's ready.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush

 Release Date - December 8, 2020

A latte art competition is coming up, but coffee shop manager/former journalist Lana Lewis thinks she and her barista, Fabrizio Bellucci, have a chance. When Fab abruptly quits, Lana's shocked and angry. She confronts him at a competing coffeehouse only to have him turn up dead a short time later. Police say it's suicide, but her reporter senses have her thinking otherwise.

Grounds for Murder is a charming cozy mystery that had me craving coffee from the first page. As soon as Lana and Fab started whipping up lattes, I found myself craving one.

The mystery has plenty of possible suspects. Don't be surprised if the outcome isn't easy to guess. The chemistry between Lana and Noah Garcia, the island's police chief, was magical. I also enjoyed the new barista, Erica, who brings a good dose of sass and wit to the island town. 

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that was hard to put down. I eagerly await the next book in this series.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

We Hear Voices by Evie Green

 Release Date - December 1, 2020

In We Hear Voices Rachel will do anything for her young son. When the flu almost kills him, she's shocked to have him survive within moments of what she's certain will be his death. As he gets better, his reliance on his new imaginary friend starts to worry Rachel. Delfy is making him do unusual things like collect a box full of spiders to gift to Rachel. Eventually, the things he does become more alarming and have all of their family worried. 

Rachel just got her son back from the grips of death. She doesn't want to lose him again. Yet, the longer he's with them, the more dangerous it becomes. She begins to fear that Delfy isn't simply an imaginary friend. Delfy may be far more evil.

The creep factor in We Hear Voices is all there. Everyone, especially Rachel's mom, have theories, and I had to say that I wondered from the start if her mom might be correct. As the story continues, and sometimes it dragged a big too much, it all started to make sense.

There will be moments when the flu in Rachel's time experience will remind you a big of the current COVID pandemic. There may be similarities between her government of sorts and ours. I never found that bothered me as much as I first thought it would. Instead, it had me thinking "what if..." It's definitely a book that will make you stop and think and wonder.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...