Friday, September 29, 2017

review: best day ever by kaira rouda

On a Friday at 9am, Paul and Mia are on the road to their vacation home. Mia hasn't been feeling well lately (upset stomach and losing weight), so Paul has told her he plans to make it the best day ever. From the opening sentences though, one gets the impression that Paul is not a good person to say the least. As Best Day Ever unfolds over the course of the day (each chapter marks a different time of day), it becomes clear that Paul and Mia have very different ideas about what will make this particular Friday the "best day ever."

Best Day Ever is filled with much of the mundane conversations a married couple would have, but that mundaneness set against Paul's beastly narration increases the tension as the plot builds to its crescendo. The unfolding of the day's events is an amazing journey that takes a brilliant turn right when it matters most. Best Day Ever is a chilling tale that is one of the best psychological thrillers out there.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Graydon House.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

review: the daughters of ireland by santa montefiore

Picking up shortly after The Girl in the Castle left off, The Daughters of Ireland also reveals the reason Maggie O’Leary cursed all of the Deverill men back in 1662; and that curse continues with a vengeance. Although Kitty is now married to her former tutor, she still rendezvouses with Jack whenever she has a chance. Their happiness, however, is not to be. Kitty’s former maid also suffers much heartache as she discovers Kitty is raising her son and the child believes his mother to be dead. Bridie is so devastated that she leaves Ireland to live again in America, where she remarries and soon finds a way to get back at the Deverills. Although Kitty’s cousin had only a small role in the first book of the trilogy, Celia becomes a main character when she and her husband restore Castle Deverill in all its glory (but now with indoor plumbing and electricity!). The curse hangs over them all though and more tragedy will strike before the conclusion of The Daughters of Ireland.

With The Daughters of Ireland starting in 1925, the build to the stock market crash is slow, but suspenseful with a number of characters mentioning how well their investments are doing. When the crash finally does happen, it packs a wallop. As with the first in this trilogy, Santa Montefiore does an excellent job of incorporating real events into the lives of her fictional characters. The evolution of Celia’s character is also excellent with her becoming a strong woman in the face of great tragedy. Montefiore also wisely ends The Daughters of Ireland as she did The Girl in the Castle—a big development regarding Bridie’s twins.
5/5
Review copies provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

review: corliss [and] donna by v.c. andrews

Corliss and Donna are both the titles of two V.C. Andrews novellas and the names of the teenage girls each respectively focuses on. The novellas serve as companions to the full-length novel Bittersweet Dreams as well as two forthcoming novellas. These novellas explain how Corliss and Donna each came to be students at Spindrift, a school for the extremely intelligent.

Corliss is a brilliant student who has trouble fitting in at her public high school. Some of the girls at her school have made her the target of their bullying. When Corliss refuses their offer of drugs during a school dance, the girls spike her drink and try to frame her as being the dealer. It’s clearly a bad situation, so her counselor presents the option of attending Spindrift.

Donna is also brilliant, but tries hard to fit in with her classmates even going with a group of them to a party at the beach. Unfortunately, a fight breaks out during the beach outing which puts one boy in the hospital. That’s when Spindrift is presented as a good school for Donna.

The plots of the two novellas are interesting, but neither felt like a whole story—these truly are just prequels to set up additional works. The backstory for both girls likely could be incorporated into a full-length novel without the need for these prequels.
2/5
Review copies provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

Monday, September 25, 2017

review: it looks like this by rafi mittlefehldt

Mike makes a few friends after his family moves to Virginia from Wisconsin, but he also acquires a bully. Tragically, that bully sets out to destroy when he uses his phone to shoot a video of Mike's intimate encounter with Sean. The bully also tips off Sean's dad, so that the pair is interrupted in a gut-wrenching, rage-inducing moment of a parent at his worst. What had been a relatively sweet high school story quickly turns into a heart-breaking tale involving a gay conversion camp and the loss of first love. Rafi Mittlefehldt's writing brings many tears as Mike struggles. It Looks Like This does not end in sorrow, but it's a rough journey there.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

review: the girl in the castle by santa montefiore

The first book in a trilogy, the first few chapters of The Girl in the Castle are the slow establishment of the characters’ personalities and relationships with each other. As the younger characters (primarily the wealthy Kitty, her friend/maid, Bridie, and the son of the local veterinarian, Jack) grow up, the tumultuous times leading up to and during the Black and Tan War in Ireland greatly affect their lives, especially since Kitty is Anglo Irish. The Girl in the Castle, which is beautifully written, is filled with romance, betrayal, and strife as the characters’ lives entangle and the curse on the Deverill clan seems to come to fruition. The final pages reveal some surprises to compel the reader to pick up the second book, The Daughters of Ireland.
4/5
I purchased this book.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

top ten tuesday: loved during the first year

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday the site has a new top ten list with this week's being Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog. All the links below are to my reviews and interviews with the authors.

1. Belle in the Big Apple by Brooke Parkhurst
2. Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder
3. Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler
4. How Perfect Is That by Sarah Bird
5. The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
6. The Charlie McNally series (Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time) by Hank Phillippi Ryan
(This reminds me that I still need to read the fourth book, Drive Time.)
7. How it Ends by Laura Wiess
8. The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate
9. The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz
10. Tall, Dark & Fangsome by Michelle Rowan

Monday, September 11, 2017

review: exposed by laura griffin

Shortly after finishing up shooting photos of an engaged couple, Maddie Callahan, an employee at The Delphi Center, is mugged. She's primarily concerned about the loss of her camera and memory card, but realizes something much bigger than her mugging has occurred when the FBI becomes involved. The agents think she may have captured the images of some men involved in the abductions and murders of young women. Those men could now be after Maddie and one of the agents takes particular interest in keeping her safe.

Although the first three books of the Tracers series felt like a trilogy, the rest of the series read more like standalone novels (which is good since I somehow skipped over this one while moving halfway across the country) with an interconnecting thread of The Delphi Center, an independent crime lab. The suspense part of Exposed was great with the various components of the mystery unfolding with nice pacing and not being easily guessed. The romantic elements didn't work as well though. Brian came across as overly possessive (especially considering he'd only just met Maddie) and Maddie seemed to be forcing herself into the relationship due to feelings of needing to move on after the death of her daughter, subsequent divorce, and her ex-husband's announcement of expecting a son with his new wife.
4/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

review: the decorator who knew too much by diane vallere

With the fourth book in the Madison Night series, Diane Vallere changes things up by shifting the setting from Dallas to Palm Springs and providing some of Tex's perspective. Madison and Hudson (who are now a couple) travel with their pets to Palm Springs to help Hudson's brother-in-law with a construction job. But right away things get off to an iffy start as Madison and Hudson are run off the road by an erratic driver. Then Madison spots a body in the river! Unfortunately, the Palm Springs police aren't as willing to believe her story as Tex would be. Tensions rise and Madison learns that even though she's no longer in Dallas, she can't seem to escape being tangentially involved in crimes.

As with the previous books in the series, The Decorator Who Knew Too Much incorporates comedy into the mystery, but this one has more romantic overtones now that Madison and Hudson are together. And even though Madison is dating Hudson now, don't count Tex out! The chapters from his perspective allow for the possibility of something developing on that front too. As for the mystery, it's fantastic with plenty of twists and red herrings to keep the reader guessing while Madison tries to piece things together (since the police are initially quite uninterested in her information). One thing felt a bit off though--Madison's mention of her married former lover. My impression from the second book of the series was that he had lied about being married.

About the audiobook: The Decorator Who Knew Too Much is read by Susie Berneis, who continues to be the perfect voice for Madison. She does well with the other characters too, including Heather (Hudson's young niece); some narrators have a tendency to make children sound shrill, but Berneis doesn't fall into that trap. The audio version was published by Dreamscape Media April 2017 and runs 7 hours.
4/5
Review copy from Audiobook Jukebox.