Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah

 Release Date - February 2, 2021

What a timely book to have hitting the market! I've loved Kristin Hannah over the years as her novels always have characters I want to get to know. I get drawn into the town or neighborhood and want to be a part of that setting. The Four Winds does that, only I will say this time I preferred being the outsider looking in.

It's 1921. Elsa Wolcott is part of a prominent family, but she's not as pretty as others feel she should be. For that reason, she's on her way to being a spinster with no hopes of finding a husband. She longs to be more. She wants to explore the world, go to college, and reinvent what her parents believe is her future.

When she meets a handsome boy from Italian immigrants, one moment changes her path in ways she never would have imagined. Her reputation is in tatters. Her parents want nothing to do with her, and she's forced to marry a man she barely knows. She's taken in by Rafe's family and finds herself finally appreciated for all she has to offer.

Just over 10 years later, Texas and several other states are in the deadly grip of the Dust Bowl. Farm land has dried up and dust storms torment those who do not flee to the promise California holds. Elsa's faced with the choice to pack up her children and head to California to start anew or stay and fight for the farm that's so dear to her heart. 

The Four Winds broke my heart. When the pandemic began, Vermont remained a leader in keeping the numbers down. Mask mandates, a move to online school, and orders for workers not considered essential to stay home became the norm. As numbers remained low, people from across the nation started flocking to the state.

That's where I found The Four Winds to be a little too real. I have head so many townspeople, neighbors, and others within the state make horrible comments to out-of-staters posting questions in Reddit or on Facebook asking about moving to Vermont. There's a clear "we don't want you here" message posted and repeated by many people. People post about not wanting jobs lost to out-of-staters or out-of-staters bringing in the virus from other areas. "Flatlanders" has become the modern version of "Okies." People have learned nothing from the past.

I hated history class in school, so I've learned plenty over the years. The Dust Bowl was a new lesson to me. I know there's been hardship, but I delved into some of the stories from that time and was saddened at how migrants were treated. 

As you get to know the people Elsa meets after her husband moves on seeking a better life, it's hard not to feel for them. Elsa is a brave, tough woman, but she still had her weaknesses. The blend of courage and doubt came through clearly, and you can't fault her for it. You can imagine how hard the decisions she's forced to make would be. I can't imagine being in her shoes, and honestly I'm glad I'm not in them.

This book is a gripping read, but it's not always easy. It's my first 5-star read this year, and while I can't agree with characters' decisions at every moment, I certainly couldn't argue with their viewpoints. If this becomes a movie, which is my hope, I'll be the first in line to see it.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Throwback Thursday Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Dowling

 Release Date - March 2019

Starting this week, I want to go back to a book that you may have overlooked. RTR's Throwback Thursday Review takes a look at a psychological suspense released almost three years ago. Samantha Downing's My Lovely Wife looks at the serial killings of a murderous couple from their point of view. 

From the day he met Millicent, he was head over heels in love. They've gone on to have children together, create a wonderful life in a tight-knit community, and keep a pretty serious secret. Killing women brings them closer as a couple. It's what keeps their marriage alive and keeping it secret from those closest to them is about to become challenging.

My Lovely Wife is a gripping novel, but it's also kind of disturbing to find yourself rooting for a serial killer. I never found the shocking revelation that comes to be all that surprising. Yet, even though I saw the twist coming in two places, I still couldn't stop reading. I had to see how things would play out for the nameless male narrator. You never do know his name, but your attachment to him grows with every page.

Monday, January 25, 2021

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

 Release Date - January 26, 2021

As a fan of crime podcasts, Sera can't help but notice when her favorite podcast host vanishes. Sera relates to Rachel and cannot stand the thought of letting Rachel's disappearance go unnoticed. She heads to Rachel's remote town, lands a job working at Rachel's parents' ranch, and starts digging into what happened.

The more Sera digs, the more she realizes that someone is genuinely wrong at that ranch. She finds a list of women that Rachel created. Many of them have also disappeared. Sera must find out what happened to these women and see how it ties into Rachel's disappearance.

The remote ranch in Northern California is certainly a creepy setting for this suspense novel. I couldn't imagine Sera's obsession with what happened to Rachel overpowering the need to escape that dreadful place. Not only is the ranch desolate and spooky, but Rachel's parents evoke the same chills that the characters in The Stepford Wives did. You're not sure why people act as they do, but it definitely leaves you feeling unsettled.

That's the part I loved. What I didn't love has me treading carefully. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's the ending that left me feeling disappointed. I got it, I think, but then that "I think" aspect has me wondering what I missed. Nothing felt finalized and that leaves me disliking how it played out. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Her Mountain Side Haven by Jo McNally

 Release Date - January 26, 2021

Jillian Coleman likes her life on the mountains in New York. She's close to many within the town, but she also has plenty of privacy. As she suffers from intense panic attacks, her ability to escape and isolate herself is important to her.

Enter Matt Danzer. The developer buys the vacant, run-down ski resort that neighbors her property. He's planning to renovate it and sell it. That's the last thing Jillian needs, and she's determined to do everything she can to keep him and his crew off the access road that goes onto her land. 

What Jillian doesn't expect is to start falling for Matt. It's not going to be easy changing her life and letting someone else in, but he might be too good to let go.

Having grown up near ski resorts, I found it very easy to picture Jillian's home and land. I'm also more familiar with panic attacks than a person should be. They were created using a lot of realism. The tunnel vision sensation. The difficulty breathing. It's all very, very real.

This is a tender romance that doesn't take long. It is warm and uplifting and exactly what I needed. Curl up with a coffee and a slice of chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, just as Jillian enjoys within the book, and enjoy getting lost for a while.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

An Accusation by Wendy James

 Release Date - January 1, 2021

Ellie Canning is lucky to have survived being held captive in the basement of a remote farmhouse. She manages to escape and only remembers small details. The woman who kidnapped her has dark hair and lived with an elderly mother in a farmhouse. It was a woman she didn't know, but the nation is focused on Ellie's tale of survival and is turning this teen into an overnight celebrity.

Soon, Ellie identifies an area school teacher as her abductor. Suzannah Wells doesn't seem to have any motive. She's an esteemed former actress who now teaches drama. Suzannah assures those closest to her that she's innocent and has been wrongly named, but those on her side are few and far between. 

Neither Ellie or Suzannah have any reason or motive for lying, but clearly one of them must be.

An Accusation is based on the true story of Elizabeth Canning, an 18th century maid who disappeared and later reappeared in poor health. She claimed to have been kidnapped by two local woman.

This is an interesting suspense mystery as it's really kind of hard to like Ellie. Her use of her kidnapping and imprisonment to become an online sensation made her unlikable. Suzannah, however, is caregiver to a mom with what seemed like a classic case of early-onset Alzheimer's, which made me relate to her.

For most readers, you'll probably find it easier to support Suzannah and root for her. This kept me hooked in the story. I ended up reading it in one sitting. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

 Release Date - January 12, 2021

Fourteen-year-old Beth's life changes when her parents and brother are killed in a car crash. Her aunt seems to have no time for her, so she's given the chance to live with a girl close to her age at the lakeside estate Raven Hall. At Raven Hall, Beth is treated as one of the family. That is until her foster parents ask her to play a harmless game where she poses as their real daughter every time their father arrives from the U.S. That changes everything.

Fast forward almost 30 years to 2019. Struggling actress Sadie Langton is offered a part pretending to be a guest at a murder mystery weekend being held at Raven Hall. As the evening begins, Sadie realizes there is something more going on. This game she's been hired to be part of is far more sinister than she could have imagined.

The Perfect Guests switches back and forth from 1988 to 2019. As the people in each time period are different, it's easy to keep up with the different characters. I figured out who Sadie was early on, but the other characters in the two periods were more of a mystery. As the mystery unravels, it was a gripping read.

Monday, January 11, 2021

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

 Release Date - January 21, 2021

Abby is tired of her parents' relentless need for her to be the best. She's tired of constant tutoring sessions, essays, and pressure to get her grades up. It's her friends, Leo and Connie, that allow her a break from the craziness that is her life. When Leo decides to take a DNA test to uncover his family history, he asks Connie and Abby to join him. Abby is stunned when the results show that she has a sister. This sister isn't just a half-sister either. Her sister's birth parents are 100% Abby's parents.

That's just the start of a crazy summer to follow. Abby and her new sister plot to attend camp together to figure out the real reason Savannah was given up by her birth parents. Savannah's been told her birth parents were too young, but Abby was born within two years of Savannah's birth, so it doesn't make sense.

Abby arrives at camp to find Leo is there. He's been attending this camp for years. The kiss they've been trying to pretend didn't happen is going to be harder to ignore when they're going to be spending every day together.

While it's all so weird, this summer could be one of the best Abby has ever had. It could be the start of growing up and finding exactly who she is and who she wants to become.

The cover art caught my eye. I liked the colors and simplicity. The story held my attention from start to finish. As you learn the truth behind the mystery of why Savannah is adopted while Abby's parents had her shortly after kept the story moving. It balanced nicely with the potential romance between Abby and Leo.

This is a feel-good story that keeps you hooked. If you need a break from the news and want something lighthearted and happy, read You Have a Match.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Book Bargain! Christina McDonald's Behind Every Lie Is $10 Off

 Do you love finding bargains? I know I do and the offer on Christina McDonald's second novel is too good to pass up!

For a limited time, save $10 on Behind Every Lie. This mystery/suspense tells the tragic story of a young woman who is found unconscious in the street. She's been hit by lightning and remembers very little. She especially doesn't remember killing her mother, though authorities believe that's exactly what she did. Eva has no choice but to clear her name and unravel the truth. 

I loved The Night Olivia Fell.  It was a rare gem that had me on the edge of my seat with tears in my eyes at the same time. The author does a great job with emotional appeal tied into a chilling mystery. I have this second novel on my radar and will be reading it soon. Join me! 

@christinamac79  @GalleryBooks

Friday, January 1, 2021

Siri, Who Am I?: A Novel by Sam Tschida

Release Date - January 12, 2021

A woman wakes up in the hospital. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. All her doctors and nurses know is that she was attacked and left with a head injury. Her only clue is her iPhone. Siri informs her her name is Mia, but the numbers in her contact list are proving to be useless.

Mia's Prada dress and stylish haircut seem to suggest she's wealthy, but she doesn't remember a thing. Tracking down her identity is going to take a lot of investigative work and the help of a man who is house sitting at the home she finds shown in several of her online posts. As she learns more about her past, she starts to realize this may be the chance to start anew.

Siri, Who Am I? takes an amnesia plot to a new level. In this case, there are no apparent friends or family members to help Mia figure out who she is and why she was attacked. The mystery is just as much fun as the romance that slowly blooms between her and her supposed home's house sitter. I snickered several times, loved the sparks, and felt the same level of disbelief Mia did as she started to uncover the truth. This one is definitely enjoyable.

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...