Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: July 2018

As of this writing, I am currently moderating a read-along with BOTM's Mystery/Thriller Discussion Group, which is the reason I downloaded a copy of The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager from my local library

The book centers around Emma Davis who, as a 13-year old, got the opportunity to spend the summer at the prestigious Camp Nightingale. While there, her three bunkmates go missing never to be seen again. Fast forward a decade and a half later, and Emma has been asked by the Camp's director, Franny, to return to the scene of the disappearance as one of the Camp's activity instructors. The goal is for the Camp to re-open with a new and fresh start. Emma agrees in hopes assuming the role of amateur detective and finding out what really happened to her bunkmates all those years ago. To her surprise, history seems to repeat itself, and Emma finds herself in the middle of another unexplainable disappearance of three young girls. 

Like most mysteries, this one included a large cast of characters that created an element of confusion and offered many theories of who could have done it. The story also see-sawed between present day and 15 years in the past, providing just enough details to keep the reader hooked. I was a little troubled by the extreme violence against women by this male author. Overall, I found this novel to be a formulaic modern-day mystery and fairly predictable; however, I did appreciate the little twist ending.  

Recommendation: While I enjoy reading mystery thrillers, this was my first read by this pseudonymous author. While I did finish this book so that I could fulfill my duties as moderator, the book neither struck me as exceptionally bad or outrageously entertaining. However, it did keep me engaged over an exceptionally cold winter weekend in north Texas. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet




Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 343 pages
Published: June 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett has won all kinds of awards including Book of the Month's Book of the Year Award for 2020, proving that a few good things came out of that horrible year. Because I am a BFF member, I was fortunate enough to snag my copy for free this January. A story delayed is not a story denied. I can certainly see why Bennett has become a fast favorite author in the world of literary and historical fiction. She is, indeed, a talented writer. 

So, the book is about the identical twin Vignes sisters who are extremely fair in complexion. As young adults, the two women take two very different paths in life - one sister ending up on the east coast with an abusive husband, who happens to have lots of melanin, and she has to take the walk of shame back home to their small town of fair-skinned residents with her dark-skinned child. While the other sister ends up on the west coast married to a white man who has no idea she is Black. The novel turns into somewhat of a coming of age novel that spans the twin's lives and those of their daughters (one very White and one very Black) who, by happenstance, meet each other as young adults. 

I truly enjoy the writing in this book. Bennett does a great job creating imagery, evoking emotions, and telling truths about her characters. In this particular novel, which is her sophomoric piece (The Mothers, her debut), she takes on the heavy topics of colorism, identity, and self-acceptance in a very careful, thought-out way. Specifically, she shares the fictional account, that is very much based in reality, of a Black woman "passing" for White. This practice was often used as a path to opportunities and surely an easier life in segregated America. 

I was heavily invested in this story from page one. I often kept reading past my bedtime to learn more. There has been some buzz about the ending. It seems to me that the expectation was that there be some type of bang-up, action-filled ending. Instead the book, just ended. I don't think every story (whether it be in book or film form) has to have some satisfying conclusion. Like life, sometimes, the story just ... simply ... ends. (As a side note, I think a lot of people felt this way about the movie "The Photograph.") 

Recommendation: This book wasn't about the ending. It was about the journey. Every story does not need a resolved conflict or a happy ending. Sometimes it's just nice to peek into the lives of fictional characters for 300-500 pages and enjoy the literature. And that's exactly what I did. I highly recommend this book for mature teens and young adults (~16-19) as well as older adults looking to lose oneself in a beautifully-crafted story. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: September 2020

The Survivors by Jane Harper is a dark, mysterious novel set in the small town of Evelyn Bay, Australia and on a beautiful beach. Kieran Elliott has come back home to help his mother prepare to move his father, who is suffering from dementia, to a palliative care facility. While there, a young out-of-town college student, there to further her art studies, is murdered. This current-day event brings a tragic event that caused the death of Kieran's brother and the disappearance of a young girl nearly 12 years ago to the surface. The moderately-paced story interweaves the present-day crime with the horrific events of the past to a complete conclusion. 

I enjoyed this book. While it was slow to get started for me, I found the writing to be solid and descriptive. The author had me longing to go for a swim, which is just not feasible in January (even in Texas). There were a lot of characters, as well as red herrings, introduced, that provided elements of confusion and intrigue in determining whodunit. I had pinned the murder on just about everyone, except for the right person, before I reach the conclusion. 

Having said that, the ending did fall a little flat for me. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was a little underwhelmed when I found out who the murderer was and what happened to the missing girl from 12 years prior. The story moved a bit slow for me, but it wasn't too slow. I am trying to take more time to read and digest books this year rather than racing to some arbitrary finish line of total books read by the year's end. 

Recommendation: I appreciated the imagery Harper provided in this novel. It was a suspenseful and engaging without being too graphic. I would recommended it to older teens and adults for a long weekend read. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Monday, January 11, 2021

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 288 pages
Published: September 2020

I know I am in the minority, but I didn't love The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This book was highly anticipated, and books about books, libraries, and the like are usually my jams, but this one didn't do it for me. The premise is that purgatory is a library and a person between the realms of life and death can choose another chance at life. It is here we meet the main character, Nora, who has had some defeats in life. At The Midnight Library she meets her old school librarian who helps her decide what her ultimate fate will be. 

The idea seems interesting, and I really did want to like this book. However, I found the writing to be a bit non-committal and more stream of consciousness. For some reason, I felt obligated to push through and finish, maybe because it was relatively short. I don't normally do this with books. I try not to treat them like a stern parent insisting their child finish their meal. 

The overall tone of this book was sad and depressing, which wasn't a particularly good choice to read at the beginning of a fresh, new year. Each alternative life that Nora tried on made for a series of incomplete, unsatisfying stories. There were, however, some beautifully-constructed passages. 

Recommendation: I wouldn't recommend this book one way or another. A lot of readers I respect have enjoyed it, so it is possible that this one just didn't suit me. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Wednesday, January 6, 2021

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith






Rating: 5+ of 5 stars
Pages: 320 pages
Published: February 2021

I'll say it again: Welcome to 2021! Now, this is how to start the year reading. This Close to Okay is my first read by author Leesa Cross-Smith, and I think I am in love. In this deeply-moving novel, she shares a story about two strangers who meet at a pivotal time in both their lives. Both Tallie and Emmett are struggling with some demons and attempting to deal with them mentally and physically. A chance meeting leads to them spending a three-day weekend together and learning about each other and more about themselves. 

This is one of those books that you have to enjoy the journey. At only 320 pages, the book may seem short, but there's so much to unpack, it is best to consume it slowly and let it sit with you a while. I found Cross-Smith's writing to be thoughtful, thorough and descriptive. Some passages were so vivid I could truly picture the scenes and the characters as she proffered them. To me, this is a wonderful talent. And I must say she wrote in such a descriptive way, not to sell movie rights (although I'd love to see it on screen), but rather to truly ignite a reader's imagination. 

Recommendation: This book was wonderful. You want to learn how it all ends, but the prose is too beautiful to rush. I savored this book like a rich piece of cheesecake. Its purchase pushed me into BFF status with BOTM, and it was a good buy. I highly recommend it - so much so that I plan to re-visit it, something I rarely do with books but often with cheesecake! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Friday, January 1, 2021

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson






Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 289 pages
Published: February 2014

Welcome to 2021. I started this book in 2020, but it is my first one completed on the first day of the year, and I hope this does not portend my reading year. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson had great promise and an interesting premise but was an extremely frustrating read. This mystery's main character is George Foss, who reconnects with his first college love some decades later, when she asks him for a pretty serious favor. Seemingly caught up in the nostalgia of the relationship they once had George agrees and finds himself caught up in a dangerous whirlwind. 

The book is fast-moving, and the author's writing is intriguing. However, the story fell flat for me in the end because the ending really wasn't an ending at all. George was so infuriating, I'm not even sure we can call him a protagonist because he was his own antagonist. His love interest was equally difficult to follow and highly unlikeable. It just didn't seem like George made good choices throughout the book, and the author took the easy way out in the end - leaving this reader quite unfulfilled. 

Recommendation: I read this book with the Fort Worth Library's awesome Stay at Home Book Club. It's an awesome group of people all over the interwebs that reads and discusses together, and the consensus was Mr. Swanson left much too be desired with this read. But, hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, December 27, 2020

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: June 2020

All the Things We Never Knew is Liara Tamani's second novel and my last read of 2020. The pandemic year did not offer me a lot of extra time to read. I was blessed to maintain my job, and my workload was different but full. Additionally, my free time at home was sometimes overtaken by the mental fatigue of everything that was going on in the world. So, I ended the year reading this young adult fiction novel as my 34th selection. Furthermore, my first read of the year was also young adult fiction. And I make no apologies for it. 

This relatively short novel is very cute. It is categorized as young adult fiction but has substance. It is about two teenagers who are basketball stars on their respective teams and fall in love at first sight. The begin a fast-building relationship but, as in most love stories, some secrets get in the way - causing conflict between the two. If I had to summarize this book in one sentence, I'd say it's Love & Basketball in book form. Additionally, the book is set in my residential state of Texas, so that connection made it an interesting read.  

Tamani is a gifted writer. I've had her first novel, also set in Texas, Calling My Name on my audiobook TBR for some time now. My hope is to get to that soon. If this one is any indication, I do not think I will be disappointed. 

Recommendation: All the Things We Never Knew (not to be confused with Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng) is a good book for tweens and up. It was a light-hearted read with a powerful lesson. I've passed the book along to my 14-year old niece for her reading pleasure. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy





Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 293 pages
Published: October 2020

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy was a BOTM selection that I did not purchase, but rather borrowed, from my local library. The story is about newlyweds Sam and Annie who move from New York City to a more suburban area of New York to start their new life together. Sam is an attractive, well-known therapist who sees clients in his downstairs office. Unfortunately, his sessions can be heard via an upstairs vent. Sam also, like many married couples, has some secrets of his own. These all collide and Sam goes missing. 

Oh my word, this was an excellent, twisty read! Tangled with plot lines from Stephen King's Misery, the story is fast-moving and reaches a pretty tidy ending. The thing I liked most about this book is it challenged the reader to question his/her/them preconceived ideas about gender dialect and behavior. 

I don't want to share anymore so that I don't give away any of the juicy plot twists and turns. 

Recommendation: Just go snag a copy for yourself. It's a fun way to spend a few days losing yourself in a story.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Monday, November 30, 2020

Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon





Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pages: 384 pages
Published: May 2020

I borrowed a copy of Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon from a work colleague. It's an odd little story about Eleanor who on the same night she learns her father is not who she thought he was, he dies. As a result, she learns the name of her biological father and seeks to learn more about him. By interjecting herself into his life she becomes friends with his daughter, her half sister, Victoria. Victoria is everything Eleanor is not, and she wants everything Victoria has. Over the course of the novel, we see how her attempt to attain what Victoria has plays out, ultimately to her detriment. 

This was a quick little read for me over a weekend, but I think the story had several plot holes and situations that were just not realistic. One of them being the relationship between Eleanor and her mother and younger sister. I just didn't understand all of the acrimony in the relationship, and it wasn't really explained well. Also, Eleanor's biological father was very unlikeable and unrealistic, I just couldn't see a person being that cold to flesh and blood. However, I don't know how the other half lives; perhaps people do go to these limits to hide major secrets. 

Other than these character development issues, the story was interesting. It kept me engaged over the couple of days I read it. I liken it to one of those family mysteries you'd catch on the Lifetime Movie Network. I wouldn't say the book was time well spent, but it wasn't time wasted either. 

Recommendation: This is a twisty work of fiction that anyone could find themselves lost in over the course of a couple of days. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, November 22, 2020

337 by M. Jonathan Lee





Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 337 pages
Published: November 2020

Hideway Fall publishers contacted me a few months ago with an email teaser about M. Jonathan Lee's intriguing sixth new novel, 337. I get a lot of these requests through my blog contact form. After learning a bit about this book, I allowed the publisher to send me a ARC for review. And I am glad I did. 337 pulls the reader in before even opening the book. I noticed the title was displayed on the cover in a font that mimicked the author's last name (if you flipped it over). The book's page count is 337. Beyond those two elements, I'm not sure how the title relates to the story. The book is about and narrated by a young man, Sam, whose mother (Sandra) disappeared when he was just 12 years old a day after the family's annual family picnic. Her disappearance leaves Sam and his 7-year old brother with their neglectful and abusive father, Ray. The book is a double-ended and upside down, for reasons I am still trying to discern. I started reading from the side of the blue cover. After learning about the disappearance of Sandra, the book fast-forwards 25 years and Ray, Sam's father, calls and asks him to go check on Sam's dying grandmother. Then, the book instructs the reader to flip and turn the book to page 16 and continue reading normally.  

From the outset, it seems as though the story is about a man trying to come to terms with the unresolved disappearance of his mother, and it is about that to a certain degree. However, the bigger story is about Sam's reconciliation and reconnecting with his family and, in a sense, himself. The overall tone of the books is somber. The story, told from Sam's point-of-view, is very descriptive. Honestly, there's very little action, which makes the short chapters seem a little longer than they are. However, the writing style and Sandra's disappearance create enough intrigue to keep the reader hooked. 

There's a little plot twist at the end that I can't say I saw coming, but it didn't really surprise me either. I am wondering if it was even necessary. The mystery portion of the novel left me with more questions than anything. I think this novel is about personal growth and overcoming tragic circumstances and the ending just felt a little expendable to me. Having said all of that, Lee is definitely a gifted writer. The PR packet I received with this book makes me want to read some of his others. 

Recommendation: This is not an action-packed mystery. It is a beautifully written story about grief and healing. I devoured this book in a short weekend, and I would definitely recommend it with the caveat that one shouldn't put too much stock in the synopsis for guiding you through the story. In fact, I'd say, just skip the author-provided synopsis and dive right in. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Please note: The double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Book Tour Sponsored by:
Hideaway Fall publishers








Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane





Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 416 pages
Published: December 2020

Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane (who also writes romance as HelenKay Dimon) was a fast-paced mystery thriller about a young wife who plans the perfect murder of her morally-questionable husband only to find that his supposedly-dead body has gone missing and thrown her plans into complete disarray. 

The story centers around Lila and her husband, Aaron. He commits some pretty horrible acts that triggers his pretty little wife's past and causes her to take dire actions in an attempt to stop him. The only problem is the set-up for her husband's death does not go as planned, and she, of course, becomes the prime suspect target in the lead detective's (Ginny's) eyes. 

I enjoyed the book. It had all the elements of a suspenseful plot. The chapters were really short, some only a page or two long, which for some reason gives books a faster-tone for me. I have noticed this a lot with mystery novels. I think it's intentional to create tension as you turn (or click in ebooks) the pages faster. There was definitely some red herrings in the novel to throw the reader off, but I found it to be somewhat predictable about two-thirds of the way in. The ending introduced at least one character quite randomly, and I'm not sure if that was added after the original manuscript was written. I don't know. It just didn't seem fully thought out to me. Additionally, the ending was wrapped up nicely and quickly, which I found to be a bit of a flaw in such a complex plot. 

Truly, the best parts of the book are when we, as the readers, learn about Lila's backstory as well as the backstory of some of the secondary characters. It gave them depth and made the story more compelling. I do have to say, the strong character of Ginny resonated with me most. This is another excellent selection from Book of the Month, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have read it upon its release. 

Recommendation: A fun, fast-paced mystery thriller for adult readers, I give this one four stars and offer it as recommended reading for you or your book club discussion. Trigger warnings: violence, sexual abuse

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle






Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 304 pages
Published: October 2020

I signed up for the Book of the Month subscription nearly a year ago because the company touts their panel's ability to choose great reads, and for the most part they have not disappointed me. When I added The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle to my box, I figured it would be good. 

As a read along about these identical twin sisters who separated at the last possible moment in the womb and, as a result, were mirror images of each other (include their internal organs), I found the story to have the makings of a run-of-the mill mystery. As older teens, the sisters' father died and, in a most dysfunctional way, he leaves he entire fortune to the first child (and there are more than just the twins) who marries and produces his first biological grandchild. The "winning" heir cannot share the monies with any of his or her siblings. As the identical twins enter adulthood, they are the oldest and most likely to bear an heir. Summer who has the perfect life with her husband seems in prime position since her twin's, Iris, marriage has recently fallen apart. As luck would have it, Summer calls Iris out to help sail the family yacht back home due to a family emergency and on the way back, Iris finds herself without her twin in the middle of the Indian Ocean. When she makes landfall, she uses the unfortunate opportunity to seize her sister's perfect life and grab the inheritance while she's at it. 

The story is well written. It creates enough mystery to keep the reader invested to the finish, but the thing that makes this book great is the plot twist that literally doesn't come till the last page of the book. It has left many readers, myself included, jaw dropped. You might think throwing in a plot twist at the very end of the book would cheapen its effect, but it does just the opposite. It leaves the reader reeling and trying to figure out how it all happened for days. 

Recommendation: This was definitely a fast-paced, twisty sister novel. If you can get past the technical sailing terms included in  the novel, it's an easy and fun read over a lazy weekend. I highly recommend it. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Sunday, October 25, 2020

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell






Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 368 pages
Published: October 2020

My last October read for this year was Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell. Although a prolific author, this was my first Jewell read, and it did not disappoint. The story is told from three perspectives - Owen, a bit of a socially awkward teacher, his neighbor, Cate, a stay-at-home mom who might be letting her imagination get the best of her and Saffyre, a young girl who mysteriously disappears. 

The bulk of the book takes us back and forth in time with each of these main characters giving us a glimpse into their world to solve the mystery of the missing teenager. The book flowed at a good pace and provided enough clues along the way to keep the reader intrigued and guessing. There was good character development. I think Saffyre was probably my favorite character. There was some darkness to her that made me, as the reader, sad but there was also an element of hope. The book also broached some difficult topics like molestation and violence against women. I would be mindful of those triggers should you choose to pick up this book. 

Overall, this was a thrilling read with a satisfying ending. I did rather enjoy the little twist at the end that left me thinking for days after. I would definitely read another book by this author. 

Recommendation: If you're looking for a twisty mystery thriller, you might consider putting Invisible Girl on your to-be-read list! Thank you to the Fort Worth Library for this digital loan

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.








Sunday, October 18, 2020

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam




Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Pages: 256 pages
Published: October 2020

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is one of of those books where you love it or you hate it. I hated it. It seemed much longer than its 256 pages and ended with no real conclusion of any kind. The book is basically about a white family of 4 who rent an Airbnb for a vacation away from the city. Upon the first few days of their vacation, the Black owners of the home show up unannounced with news that something very strange is going on in the world that has hindered communication with people in New York and news media to electronic devices. From there, many random things happen that, I suppose, are to illustrate the uncertainty of the situation and how people react in a dire situation. The book goes on like this till the end that isn’t really an end. I seriously thought maybe I was missing some pages. 

This was a Book of the Month add-on selection for me. On one-hand I’m disappointed I spent my money on it, but on the other hand, it was only $9.99. So, membership does have its privileges. 

The over-attention to detail - the droning on and on of grocery list items and non-essential sexual activities just didn’t do it for me. The only reason, and I am so serious when I say this, the only reason I continued to the end is for the upcoming Netflix movie that will star my two favorite actors -  Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts. I have a feeling this will be one of the rare cases where the movie will be better than the book - it has to be! 

Recommendation: Save your time and your coins - just wait for the movie. So little time; so many books. Choose something else.  

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.





Monday, October 12, 2020

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi




Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 264 pages
Published: September 2020

I have had a difficult time pulling together a review for Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom I absolutely loved Homegoing. I read it twice, which is something I rarely do. (There are simply too many books to read.) Gyasi is a talented writer, a gifted storyteller. However, despite warnings by the publisher, critics and the author herself, I wanted Transcendent Kingdom to be like Homegoing. It was not. The story was told in a stream of consciousness format from Gifty, the main character’s viewpoint of she and her mom healing from a husband and father who deserted them and a son and brother who died of an opioid addiction. As a result of these traumatic events, Gifty has dedicated her education to studying addiction and trying to find a cure to help people overcome it. This is where we find her in the opening of the book - in the midst of her PhD research on the subject. In addition to healing from the loss of her brother, Gifty is also trying to come to terms with her father’s return to Ghana from the United States many years earlier. And she is trying to reconcile her dedication to science while being the daughter of a devout Christian mother.

Even though the page count is a little over 250, the book had so many layers. I found it to be very complex and reflective but also very sad. The book does have some elements of hope but overall it basically focuses on the psychological struggle of a young woman attempting to synthesize the very heavy life experiences she’s faced. 

Recommendation: This is not a book that ties up neatly in the end. It’s one that you have to consider the journey more so than focusing on the ending. While I loved Homegoing much more, Transcendent Kingdom is good in its own right. It is different, but the writing is solid and I would recommend picking it up when you’re in the mood for an in-depth read. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Sunday, September 27, 2020

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman




Rating: 5+ of 5 stars
Pages: 352 pages
Published: September 2020

I love, love Fredrik Backman. I've read all of his novels (just search his name on this blog), and I think he is one of the most gifted writers in modern literature. He is able to compose sentences in a way that evoke a myriad of emotions. So, it was no surprise that as I read, I found myself pondering then laughing and then tearing up throughout Anxious People. So, what is this book about? If you read it (and please do read it), you will see that even the narrator even has a hard time pinpointing the exact subject matter. But I think overall it's about life and how we deal with it. It's written in a unique way, and in my opinion, it almost reads like a stage play. The best part of the book are the little nuggets of truth Backman hides within this dramedy. Here are some of my favorites - 


Our hearts are bars of soap that we keep losing hold of; the moment we relax, they drift off and fall in love and get broken, all in the wink of an eye. 

Because that was a parent's job: to provide shoulders. Shoulders for your children to sit on when they're little so they can see the world, then to stand on when they get older so they can reach the clouds, and sometimes lean against whenever they stumble and feel unsure. 

She told herself that was why you should always be nice to other people, even idiots, because you never know how heavy their burden is. 

I think you can understand someone without necessarily agreeing with them. 

Have you ever held a three-year-old by the hand on the way home from preschool? You're never more important than you are then. 

Because the people we argue with hardest of all are not the ones who are completely different from us, but the ones who are almost no different at all. 

He was my echo. Everything I do is quieter now. 

If you can do something for someone in such a way that they think they managed it all on their own, then you've done a good job. 

Loneliness is like starvation, you don't realize how hungry you are until you begin to eat. 

That's the power of literature, you know, it can act lie little love letters between people who can only explain their feelings by pointing at other people's. 

It's such an odd thing, the way you can know someone so perfectly through what they read. 

You can't carry the guilt and the shame and the unbearable silence on your own, and you shouldn't have to.

You see what I mean? He just finds the most beautiful ways to say the most basic things. So, back to the book. It's a story about a person at a desperate point in their life who does something they normally wouldn't and the resulting events affect a group of people who happen to be viewing an apartment for sale. Backman provides a bit of back story to each character while taking us through one day they all shared together. It sounds complicated, but the result of this novel is an uplifting work of art. Just go snag a copy! 

Recommendation: This book was definitely written for my generation, but I really think anyone can appreciate the beauty in it. If you have ever considered suicide suffer from anxiety or depression, please consider this book carefully. But note that it contains much hope! And in times like these, we could all use a little of that. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.






Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Killer Deadline by Lauren Carr


Category: Adult fiction (18+) / Mystery / Cozy
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 232 pages
Published: April 2020 


Folks in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, claim that where Nikki Bryant goes, trouble is not far behind. Her refusal to back down from a challenge has made Nikki Bryant a top investigative journalist.

When an online friend nudges her to join him in a pact to reconnect with their first loves, Nikki and her boxer dog Elmo leave the bright lights of Las Vegas for the charming town of Pine Grove. There, she must face the biggest challenges in her career and life—the first love she had left behind and her father’s unsolved murder.

But before she has time to unpack her car, Nikki stumbles upon the dead body of local news anchor, Ashleigh Addison, her childhood rival. Could Ashleigh’s death be connected to an explosive news story that she had teased about airing live? Did that explosive story have anything to do with the murder of Nikki’s father?

With the clues in her father’s cold case hot again, Nikki intends to chase down the story of her life until she catches his killer—no matter what it takes.

Killer Deadline by Lauren Carr is a fictional cozy mystery novel that centers around Nikki Bryant and her return to her small hometown of Pine Grove to take over management of the family's TV news station. When Nikki was a child, her father was murdered in his office at the news station. This event played a part in her career as an investigative journalist. When she returns home to take over the business from her mother, one of her employees is mysteriously killed. In trying to follow the clues of the present-day murder mystery, Nikki begins to uncover what might have happened to her father all those years ago. 

The book includes a cast of some eccentric characters living in the charming town of Pine Grove. Carr creates a vivid community that brings all the characters to life, not just the primary ones. While it may seem difficult to keep up with who's who, the author provides a nice list and description at the start of the novel. I'd have to say my favorite character was Nikki's sidekick, her Boxer dog, Elmo. 

At just over 200 pages, this book an engaging and quick read. Carr's writing style definitely keeps the reader turning the pages to learn the ultimate conclusion of the mystery. This book can easily be read over a long weekend or perhaps a quick road trip. It has just the right balance of elements: humor, romance, suspense and a tidy resolution. 

Recommendation If you are a fan of cozies, enjoy good, clean reading, and a strong female lead, this is just the book for you. Pick up a copy and escape reality for a few hours. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.









Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren's first venture into mystery's purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist.


Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with Lauren: 


Prizes: $50 Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Lauren Carr, author of Candidate for Murder
(ends Oct. 16, 2020)





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