Posted in Month in Review, Reading List

Month in Review: March 2019 Wrap Up

Bookish friends, we’ve crossed another month off our calendar!  A couple of days into April, I feel like spring may actually be here to stay!

At the end of February, I posted my first Month in Review, as a month end wrap up of all the books I’d read.  Time to build on that tradition with my March wrap up!  March was not a prolific reading month for me, but I did squeeze in a few good titles.  Let’s see what was on my list!

 


 

 

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The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Starting with my last completed read of the month, The Winter Sister is a great domestic suspense novel.  We follow Sylvie, who lost her sister Persephone years ago when they were teens.  When Sylvie comes back home to care for her ailing mother, she deals with old feelings and people from her past… and then starts asking questions, leading to answers she never saw coming.

Four and a half stars to this debut, which I reviewed in full here:  Book Notes: Review of “The Winter Sister” by Megan Collins

 

 

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The Sherlock Files: The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett

I read this book as part of #MiddleGradeMarch, which was a fun challenge on Instagram.  Intended for upper elementary or middle school age kids, The 100-Year-Old-Secret was a fun read with adventure, mystery, and a couple of kid sleuths who happen to be descendants of one of the greatest detectives of all time!  This is the first book in a series.

No rating for this title, as I just read this for fun, but recommended for kids who like their action with a hint of who-dun-it!

 

 

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The Food Blogger Mysteries by Debra Sennefelder (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

The Uninvited Corpse and The Hidden Corpse are the first two books in a new-to-me series by a new-to-me author!  In this series we follow Hope, a food blogger who’s just gone through some major life changes, including moving back to her hometown of Jefferson.  Unfortunately, her welcome home includes murders that Hope is determined to solve!

This is the first series I’ve seen focused on a blogger, so it was fun to read about that part of Hope’s life.  I give each of these titles four stars… a solid start to the series with interesting characters and plenty of misdirection!

 

 

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The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

This was probably my favorite read of the month.  The Perfect Girlfriend was twisty, entertaining, and outrageous!  Juliette, the main character, was… well, really special in a very dark way.  If you haven’t read it, you need to!

Four and a half stars to this debut… here’s my full review:  Book Notes: Review of “The Perfect Girlfriend” by Karen Hamilton

 


 

So that’s what my March looked like… as I said, not a lot of books read, but I enjoyed the titles above.  I’ve got a long list of possibilities for my April reads, and I can’t wait to share them with you throughout the month.  In the meantime… happy reading!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for a complimentary digital review copy of some of the books mentioned here.  All opinions are my own.

 

Posted in Book Notes

Book Notes: Review of “The Winter Sister” by Megan Collins

Hi, bookish friends!  As I mentioned in my recent Friday Favorites post, I’ve been reading more mysteries, suspense, and thrillers.  I love a good “who-dun-it” story, and I enjoy the insights it brings us into the characters.  So today I wanted to share a new Book Notes on my latest read!

 

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I recently finished The Winter Sister by Megan Collins.  This debut novel centers on the sudden death of a teen girl, and the fallout that lingers for her family and loved ones years later.  Here’s a description:

 

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we know the people we love most?

 

This book is chock full of family drama, secrets, and regrets.  It begins with the fateful night during the sisters’ teen years when Persephone goes missing.  A few days later, her body is discovered.

Through this storyline we are introduced to an older sister who flaunted the rules; her boyfriend who had acted suspiciously; a neglectful and distant, but grieving, mother; and Sylvie, the younger sister who had a big secret of her own.

We then move forward to Sylvie as an adult, when her aunt (who had stepped in and cared for her after the tragedy) calls Sylvie home to help care for her cancer-stricken mother.  When Sylvie returns to her hometown and her childhood house, it brings back all the pain and turmoil of Persephone’s tragedy.  As she encounters figures from her past (including Ben, her sister’s former boyfriend who was suspected but never charged in her death), she starts asking questions and seeing other sides of the story… leading to answers she never saw coming.

Sylvie is not an unreliable narrator… we’re made privy to her thoughts and secrets early on in the story.  The happenings are revealed to us as she learns them.  There are many things, we discover, that she didn’t know as a teenager and that were not as they seemed.

 

I found this to be an incredible debut novel.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m just getting back into suspense and thrillers, and I really enjoyed this one that I discovered through #Bookstagram and the Book of the Month club.  Collins weaves a tale that keeps you wanting to find answers, and features characters that are complex and flawed.

I always enjoy reading other reviews of the titles that I feature… it’s interesting to see all the different opinions.  Most of the reviews of this were really positive, and for good reason.  Among just a few readers who rated the book lower, it seemed to be for two reasons.

First, it seems there have been a lot of domestic suspense novels coming out recently, and some reviewers felt that sub-genre and the “adult comes home to reckon with her past and discovers secrets” storyline had been overdone.  I can’t speak to that because I haven’t read a lot of them, but even so… it’s a good storyline, and Collins has written it very well.

The other thing some reviewers have expressed is that the mother is very unlikable.  I do agree with that assessment.  However, for me it worked within the storyline.  It’s a subplot of its own to learn why the mother is so detached, why her girls were treated so differently, and what caused her dark days.  That doesn’t mean I related to the mother at all… in fact, I was incredulous at some of her thoughts, feelings, and actions.

This family was dark and dysfunctional.  The novel is a compelling portrait of how family secrets cause unseen ripple effects through generations.

I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a reveal at the heart of the plot that shifts the narrative.  Early in the novel, I wondered about this particular piece of information, but then thought, no, that’s probably not where it’s going.  Readers, that’s where it went!  Once that piece fell into place, the rest of the story clicked for me.  I’ve deliberately not spoken of most of the characters in the novel… I will say that, as in any good thriller, the people at the heart of the story are often not as they first appear.

This novel gets four and a half stars from me, and I will definitely add Megan Collins’ future releases to my list.  I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good domestic suspense, or appreciates a study in complex family (especially mother-daughter) relationships.

 

Find “The Winter Sister” at:

Barnes & Noble      Amazon

What do you think, friends?  Do you love a good suspense or thriller?  Will you be adding this one to your list?  If you’ve already read this, come let me know what you thought.  Enjoy your week… happy reading!!

 

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.

 

 

 

Posted in Reading List, WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday (3/20/2019)

Hello, readers!  And, I’m so excited to be able to say this… HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

I’ve been on a little hiatus the last week or so, keeping a busy family schedule and trying to catch up on my reading a bit.  So let’s jump back in with a look at what books have kept me occupied.  That’s right… time for WWW Wednesday!

 

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WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words!  This is always a good mid-week status check of my reading list.  (You can see my last WWW Wednesday post here.)

It’s a fun way to keep up with what everyone is reading.  To join me, read my answers, then answer the same questions about your reading in the comments below, and if you like, in the comments on Sam’s WWW Wednesday post!  Simply use these three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you plan to read next?

And now… onward to WWW Wednesday!


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What are you currently reading?

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins:  I discovered this debut novel through my friends on #Bookstagram, and ordered it in my first Book of the Month shipment.  Collins spins a tale of suspense, secrets and family bonds.  I’m just starting this book and anxious to come back and tell you more once I’ve finished it!  Here’s a summary:

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we know the people we love most?

I’ve been reading quite a bit in the suspense/domestic thriller genre this year, and wondering why I didn’t read more of these sooner!  This title is available now.

 

Find The Winter Sister at:

Barnes & Noble      Amazon

 


 

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What did you recently finish reading?

The Hidden Corpse by Debra Sennefelder:  This is a cozy mystery series from a new-to-me author.  The Food Blogger Mystery Series follows Hope, a food blogger who has recently returned to her hometown.  I received this second book through Net Galley, and naturally, I had to go back and also read the first book, The Uninvited Corpse… but I think it would work fine to read it as a standalone.

In The Hidden Corpse, Hope’s elderly neighbor is lost in a suspicious fire, but when the body of a missing local woman is also found in the ruins of the home, Hope is determined to find out what really happened.

I was intrigued at the idea of a series that featured a blogger as the main character, and it’s interesting to see many blogging tasks and challenges woven into Hope’s daily life. The story has a lot going on and many questions to be answered, like: What’s with this secret day spa in the next town? How is the ambitious new reporter in town getting her info and scooping Hope’s friend Drew? Does the murder tie back to town politics? And last but not least…. *is* Hope’s dinner invitation a date??  (Hint: Maybe!)

This second book in the series releases March 26th… while you’re waiting, give the first book a try!

 

Find The Hidden Corpse at:

Barnes & Noble      Amazon

 


 

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What do you plan to read next?

The Farm by Joanne Ramos:  Calling it now… this will be one of the most talked-about books of the spring.  Another find through #Bookstagram, this wildly intriguing title is set around a baby farm.  Yep, you read that right.  Here’s a preview:

Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.

Gripping, provocative, heartbreaking, The Farm pushes to the extremes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

Both unbelievable and not as far-fetched as we’d like to think, this novel seems slightly dystopian and incredibly thought provoking.  It releases May 7th and you can pre-order your copy now!

 

Find The Farm at:

Barnes & Noble      Amazon

 


 

That sums up my reading this week.  How about you… any intriguing reads on your list right now?  Let me know in the comments.  Enjoy your (hopefully spring-like) week… and happy reading!

 

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.

My thanks to Net Galley, along with Kensington (The Hidden Corpse) and Random House (The Farm), for providing complimentary digital review copies of some titles.  All opinions are my own.

Posted in Book Notes

Book Notes: Review of “The Perfect Girlfriend” by Karen Hamilton

 

I just finished a book that gave me equal parts horror and delight. It was entertaining, twisted and more than a little outrageous.

It felt like an absolute train wreck you couldn’t stop, and I savored every bit of it. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.  While I ponder that… keep reading to hear more about the book!

 

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The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is a suspense novel centered around Juliette.  At least, that’s her name right now.  She’s changed it, you see, because she has a plan.  A big one, that will make life just perfect again.  Here’s the situation:

Juliette loves Nate.

She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

Juliette is totally the focus of this book and narrates the events.  We are inside her head to hear her feelings, justifications, and train of thought for all of her stalking and obsession.  And she’s one amazing character.  I felt like she was really well written.  Nuttier than a fruitcake?  Sure… but also deep and complex.

The reader is taken on a rather wild ride through Juliette’s strategy to win back Nate and finally have the perfect life.  As things are tied together and we see the depths of her planning and scheming, we get glimpses of her past and how it influences her present actions.

I’ve seen a few negative reviews of this one that say the character and her actions are too unbelievable. Well… sure.  Juliette has gone WAAAAY beyond extreme.  That’s kind of the point, though, and that’s what makes it so outrageously delicious!

Honestly?  Although I was horrified at many of the things she did, I felt some admiration for Juliette.  She was DEDICATED, and her level of commitment to her goal was quite impressive.

Really, there were only two things I didn’t just love about the book. First, I lost track of all the flights and trips to various locales. I understand that was part of the story but it seemed like there were so many described that I lost track.  The second was actually the ending. Not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that… it seemed a little abrupt and anticlimactic… I felt like it was missing something.  But we can all use our imagination to decide what happens next, and the rest of the story and the incredible main character more than made up for it.

 

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Via Instagram: @the.biblio.blonde

 

My friend Rae over at Thrifty Biblio read this at the same time, so we compared notes.  We were of one mind at being strangely in awe of Juliette’s dedication!  Here’s a quote from her review:

“This book was crazy in the very best of ways! The whole book was a trip, and I loved following Juliette’s life as she masterminds her way into Nate’s life. At times Juliette’s actions were cringeworthy, but mostly, I was impressed by her complete and total commitment to her plan.”

 

This is Karen Hamilton’s first novel and I will definitely pick up her future books.  I found The Perfect Girlfriend to be compelling, entertaining, and just wild!  Four and a half stars to this debut… if you’re looking for a suspense novel with an incredibly twisted love story, give this one a try!  Happy reading!

 

Find “The Perfect Girlfriend” at:

Barnes & Noble     Amazon

 

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.

My thanks to BookSparks and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this title.  All opinions are my own.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info

 

Posted in Month in Review, Reading List

Month in Review: February 2019 Wrap Up

 

Hello, readers… and happy March!  I’m going to try something new, and start doing a monthly wrap-up post of everything I’ve read.  Here are the books I read this February!

 


 

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Murder & Metaphors by Amanda Flower (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​)

This is the third installment of the delightful Magical Bookshop series from Amanda Flower. Violet and her grandmother get more than they bargained for when an event at the Morton winery & vineyard results in the death of the honored guest, a renowned wine expert and author.

I did a full review for this title and a Q&A with the author… check it out!!

 


 

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Hashtag Authentic: Finding creativity and building a community on Instagram and beyond by Sara Tasker  (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​)

Hashtag Authentic is a book all about Instagram. Sounds simple, right? But it’s really more than that.

Sara Tasker is an Instagram coach and influencer, and this book draws on some of the lessons she’s learned, and provides tips and strategies to authentically engage and grow your own following.

Social media is a huge part of our modern lives. And striking a balance of beauty, creativity, and authenticity on an account can be difficult. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this title, but the book was charming and practical. It covers topics such as photography tips, how much/little to share, finding your online tone and voice, and much more.

The digital ARC was difficult to read because of the formatting…not sure whether that’s been corrected in the final version.  Personally, I’m considering buying a physical copy of the book for the beautiful photos, and to slowly savor the advice offered.

 


 

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The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald  (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​)

If you haven’t been hearing about this book, have you even used the internet in the past month or two?!?  This has gotten tons of hype and it’s well deserved… a great debut novel that earned 4 1/2 stars from me.  Read my full review here!


 

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Academic Curveball (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​) and Broken Heart Attack (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​) by James J. Cudney

These are the first two titles in the Braxton Campus Mysteries.  A few weeks ago, I revealed the cover for the third title coming out in late March.  See the preview and find out more about this series here!

 


 

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Animal Farm by George Orwell (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​)

“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

I can’t believe I waited so long to read this book. I’m a big fan of Orwell and liked 1984, but this one was an incredibly short and fast read, and somehow more accessible. A timeless allegorical classic. While this is a commentary on Stalinist Russia and a cautionary tale about power, propaganda, and freedom…. its nearly chilling how one can still see these themes mirrored in modern times. If you haven’t read this, add it to your list.

 


 

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Criminally Cocoa by Amanda Flower (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​)

Criminally Cocoa is a short novella in the Amish Candy Shop series. Bailey and Charlotte hit NYC for filming of Bailey’s new show, but when things start going wrong on set, Charlotte sets out to investigate.

This is an extremely quick read and has a bit of an Easter theme. It’s told from Charlotte’s point of view, which adds a new perspective. Fun story that makes a nice addition to the series.

(I previously reviewed another book in this series… find it here!)

 


 

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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (⭐️​⭐️​⭐️​⭐️)

This was a light read about creativity and its role in everyone’s life. There wasn’t anything earth shattering, more of a pep talk and inspiration. Fun, somewhat irreverent book that reminds us to embrace the artist in each of us.

 


 

And there we have it… my list of reads from February!  I did manage to get in a classic this month, as well as not just one but TWO non-fiction reads!  The month was still half cozy mysteries… I doubt I’ll cut too far back on those.  But I have been enjoying branching out a bit in my reading, and March will continue and expand that trend.

Let me know what great books have caught your attention lately… happy reading!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for a complimentary digital review copy of some of the books mentioned here.  All opinions are my own.