Thursday, June 25, 2020

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: March 17, 2020

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

A really good story! Not a perfect ending but quite good just the same. 

Little Fires Everywhere follows two very different women. One living in the cookie-cutter world of Shaker-Heights. Following all rules and regulations. Another one, seeming to be living a carefree life. She's a nomad going from city to city, getting inspiration and augmenting her artistic talent as she travels. 

Mrs. Richardson is a wife, a mother of four, and a writer for the local newspaper. She is well-known and well-liked. Her marriage is solid and her relationship with her kids is a good one except for the one with her youngest daughter, Izzy. 

Mia Warren is an artist. She and her daughter Pearl (who's 15) move around quite often. They have lived in many cities and states. Recently, Pearl has asked Mia to settle down for a bit. To let her enjoy high school and make new friends. Mia agrees to try.  

Mia and Helena's world collide capriciously. Mrs. Richardson is intrigued and resentful at the same time of a woman like Mia. Despite her reservations, she rents her a rental property and offers her a job at her house as a housekeeper. 

Mia was working for a restaurant but she feels like she can't say no to such an offer. She will still be able to create art in her free time. It would also give her the chance to keep an eye on Pearl who develops a fast friendship with Helena's son, Moody, then Lexie (the other daughter) and a crush on the oldest son, Trip.

Little Fires Everywhere had a cast of captivating topics and characters. Entertaining and thought-provoking.  Celeste Ng has a true talent with words. 

Now, I want to watch the TV series. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan

Title: Temptation Bay
Series: Windfall Island #1
Author: by Anna Sullivan
Publisher: Forever

Temptation Never Tasted So Sweet...
Maggie Solomon has always been one of Windfall Island's favorite daughters. A beautiful, passionate charter pilot who loves this remote Maine island, Maggie has never cared much for outsiders—until her latest passenger arouses the curiosity of the town . . . and something hot and irresistible in Maggie. With his long, lean looks and razor-sharp wit, the man is temptation itself.

Cop-turned-PI Dexter Keegan is on a covert mission to solve the case that will make his career: uncovering the identity of the Stanhope heir, kidnapped nearly a century ago. No one on this fiercely protective island can know what he's doing, not even the spirited, blue-eyed beauty who infuriates—and excites—Dex. As the desire between them ignites, Maggie becomes the key to the case . . . and the target of an unknown enemy. Now Dex will do anything to protect the woman he's come to love—even risk his own life.

I had this story on my NetGalley for a while. I decided it was time to read it. 

I thought the beginning of the story had an interesting setting. The prologue opens during the time of prohibition almost a century ago. A dark night, men transporting alcohol illegally, a ship, and a baby.

In the present, we meet the heroine of the story. Maggie Solomon. She is a charter pilot who's picking up her next client. She is flying him to Windfall Island, Maine. Maggie is great at her job and everyone knows it. She has loyal friends. She is treated like she was born on the island. She is part of the "team" and will keep as many secrets as she can.

Dexter Keegan is a PI. He used to be a cop but he decided to change his line of work. Recently, he has been offered a cold case that can make his career. Dex has been paid to discover the real events surrounding the kidnapping of one of the heirs of the Stanhope family. What he was not expecting was to be stonewall by the islanders. Everyone is tightlipped about it. 

Sparks fly between Maggie and Dex from the moment they meet. However, they have their own reasons to try to keep the attraction in check without putting their lives at risk. Dex believes someone might not be too happy if he is successful in finding the descendants of the heir living on the island.

I liked the story but didn't love it. Maggie was hard to like. She gave Dex such a hard time. Then, she gave me whiplash when she did a 180- degree change in regards to her feelings. On the other hand, Dex was easy to like although he behaved out of character in a certain situation. 

What I like the most about Temptation Bay was the mystery of the child's disappearance and who could be the actual descendant. I might read the next one. 

3/5 Fangs

Cliffhanger: No

A complimentary copy was provided by Forever via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John

Title: he Lion's Den
Author: Katherine St. John
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 30, 2020

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend's yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she's aboard the luxurious Lion's Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle's dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host-and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Belle realizes she's going to have to keep her wits about her -- and her own big secret closely hidden -- if she wants to make it off the yacht alive.

The Lion's Den was a great way to evade reality. It has a combo of good things:

Perfect summer reading: ✅
Mediterranean Yacht cruise ✅
Mystery aboard ✅

Our heroine is Belle. She is an actress but not famous yet. She has been invited by her best friend Summer to spend a week on her rich boyfriend's yacht cruising the Mediterranean. Summer has also invited her mother, her sister Brittani, her friend Wendy, Claire and unbeknownst to Summer, Brittani has decided to invite her friend Amythest, an exotic and interesting young woman. 

As soon as the traveling begins, they realized things are not as they seem. Nothing gets done without the permission of Summer's boyfriend, John. They are told to sign an NDA, have no access to wifi, someone locks their room at night and John's goons are always hanging around. 

Belle is the sole voice of the narration. It's she who tells us what is going on in the yacht and also the one who takes us back into the past. In the flashbacks, we learn how she met Summer, how they became friends and how their friendship evolved over time. 

The Lion's Den kept my interest. I enjoyed Belle. She was a good character. She wasn't naive or too perfect, which made her relatable and likable. I also enjoyed the twists although I thought the ending was too cookie-cutter for me. 

Cliffhanger: No 

4/5 Fangs

**A complimentary copy was provided by Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review.**

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Title: Big Summer
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: May 5, 2020

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

I found Big Summer to be a mixture of drama, mystery and women's fiction all blended together. 

Daphne Berg has had a problem with body image and her weight for most of her life. Her insecurities and struggles have been obvious but recently, she has learned to love her body or try to. Six years ago, she had the worst night of her life and there was a video to prove it. Instead of hiding and commiserating about the event, she decides to take charge of her life and in a way to write her own story. By doing so, she becomes an internet sensation and an Instagram influencer. 

Everything seems to be looking better for Daphne until Drue Cavanaugh comes back into her life. Drue is blonde, beautiful, smart and rich. She used to be Daphne's friend until Daphne realized what a terrible person she really was. Yet, for the life of her, she can't understand why Drue after not seeing each other for six years, wants Daphne to be her maid of honor or why she decides to accept the offer.

As you can imagine, things are about to become quite interesting in Cape Cod. Interesting and with a twist landing squarely into the mystery category (Didn't see that one coming). 

With Big Summer, there are so many good points Jennifer Weiner brings to the board including body image issues and the constant fight within ourselves, the pursuit and desperation to be accepted by a parent, the idea that online our lives are better and brighter, how some people appear to have a perfect life when they don't.

**I want to thank Atria for giving me a  complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.**

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

American Demon by Kim Harrison

Title: American Demon
Series: Return to the Hollows #1
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: June 16, 2020

A thrilling return to the #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series, continuing Rachel Morgan's story.


What happens after you've saved the world? Well, if you're Rachel Mariana Morgan, witch-born demon, you quickly discover that something might have gone just a little bit wrong. That the very same acts you and your friends took to forge new powers may have released something bound by the old. With a rash of zombies, some strange new murders, and an exceedingly mysterious new demon in town, it will take everything Rachel has to counter this new threat to the world--and it may demand the sacrifice of what she holds most dear.

It was fantastic to be reading about "itchy witch" again. Going back to this world after six years made me savor it more.

When the book begins Rachel is on the phone planning a park date with Trent, the girls and surprisingly, Ellasbeth too. Rachel is back at her old home/church. She is meeting Jenks and Ivy. They're trying to decide what their future looks like. Can they still work together or is time for one of them to move on? Should they reconstruct their home or find a new place? It looks like Ivy is ready to move on and live with Nina. Rachel understands but can't leave Jenks alone. This reunion is broken up by the appearance of a zombie. 

The appearance of the zombie is the first clue that something is not right. New cases are popping up where couples are attacking their love ones for past grievances. Someone seems to have manipulated their minds while sleeping. When Al is attacked, Rachel knows this is too close to home. 

Rachel knows she has her hands full. She is dealing with her relationship with Trent and his ex, the politics between Demons and Elves, a new vampire moving into town affecting Ivy's life and she can sense she is running out of time in stopping the new threat. 

So many things I loved about American Demon! 

I love Trent Kalamack. He has grown so much as a character. He likes himself better and it's all due to Rachel. He has made his own sacrifices and lost some of his position of importance as an Elf but he knows it's worth it. 

Rachel acted so much more mature in American Demon. She lets people help her and she is pausing to think before reacting. 

Al was adorable all the way around. I wish he was more prominent in this book. He makes me smile every time he shows up.

David, Ivy, Jenks and Bis are also so important to the series. It wouldn't be the same without them.

I still feel a tug on my heart every time Kisten is mentioned. I will always miss him.

So glad Kim Harrison is writing more books in this world. I've only one question, when is the next one out?

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Ace via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Title: The Happy Ever After Playlist
Series: The Friend Zone #2
Author: Abby Jimenez 
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 14, 2020

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zone comes an adorable and fresh romantic comedy about one trouble-making dog who brings together two perfect strangers.

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can't seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a "take me home" look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker's owner reaches out. He's a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan's not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can't deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There's no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

It's not a secret that The Friend Zone was one of my favorite books of 2019.  It was such a good story that I thought how can Abby Jimenez top that? This was the main reason why I had reservations about reading The Happy Ever After Playlist. I was so worried it was not going to meet or surpass my expectations.

It turns out, I didn't need to worry. I ended up loving it. The ending is now on the list of my favorite endings of all time. While I was reading it, I was a mess. I cried, I laughed. I might even have applauded (a little bit).

The Happy Ever After Playlist begins with Sloan, Kristen's friend from The Friend Zone, finding a  lost dog by the name of Tucker. During the next few days, Sloan tries to find his owner. She leaves voicemail after voicemail until she gives up and decides to keep the dog. Then, Jason, Tucker's owner who has been in Australia, returns her calls and begs her to give him his dog back. At first, Sloan is not too sure he can be trusted but Jason explains he's a singer and has been away for a while and he left his dog with someone he thought he could count on. This conversation leads to more phone calls and texts between these characters for the next few days which leads to AMAZING banter!

Between Tucker and Jason's presence, Sloan begins to awaken from her two-year grief. A grief so deep she had become a shell of the woman she used to be. As Sloan starts feeling better and maybe thinking a relationship with Jason could work, his fame explodes and in order to stay together, hard choices have to be taken or even harder ones to stay apart.

I love so much the banter Sloan and Jason had. They had chemistry out the wazoo. Both characters were likable and I was rooting for their happy ever after (playlist). Yes, there was a part I wasn't too happy about but I understand why it happened. It did lead to the resolution of the conflict which was a pure MAGICAL moment (this is probably where I started clapping).

In regards to Sloan's interaction with Kristen, it was absolutely refreshing. Two best friends who lift each other up (and not down for a change). Their antics had me in stitches. Also, getting a glimpse of Kristen and Josh's happiness was a fantastic treat for this reader.

I hope Abby Jimenez brings a third book as amazing as this one soon.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Sudden Prey by John Sandford

Title: Sudden Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

It begins with a death and ends with one. For months, Lucas Davenport's men have been tracking a vicious woman bank robber named Candy, and when they finally catch up with her, she does not go quietly. In the ensuing shoot-out, she dies – and Davenport's nightmare starts. For her associates are even worse than she was, particularly her husband, a deeply violent man who swears an appropriate revenge: first he will find the names of those responsible; then he will kill those nearest and dearest to them, just the way they did Candy.

So it begins. The husband of one officer is shot and killed. The wife of another is ambushed at work. When a third attack is thwarted, the pattern becomes clear to Davenport, and with an urgency born of rage and terror, he presses the hunt, desperately trying to track down the killers before they can strike again, before they can reach out for Davenport's own loved ones. But in this effort, he may already be too late.

Sudden Prey was not as exciting to me as its predecessor. This one was missing the sense of desperation and urgency. I did like it but didn't love it.

At the beginning of the book, Lucas and his team are ready to apprehend two women, Candy and Georgie, who are bank robbers. Lucas knows which bank they are hitting next and he's more than ready to get them. What he wasn't counting on, was on them not surrendering and rather dying by an onslaught of bullets instead. 

In prison, Dick La Chaise, who was Candy's husband and Georgie's brother makes a promise to seek justice for them. An eye for an eye. After a well-planned escape, La Chaise with the help of two of his buddies, Butters and Martin, will find the cops who participated in the shootout and they will murder their loved ones as payback for Dick's loss.

I've become accustomed to Lucas's way of seeing things and doing what he thinks needs to be done. To be honest, I don't believe the shootout was his fault. He has done some very questionable things before but I didn't think this one was one of them.

I did roll my eyes in a scene between Weather and Dick. Quite unbelievable. I can go further and say that to me, she acted quite differently than in the prior books. I mean, be serious, you know people are after you, they want to kill you and you want to go to work because you think they can't get to you?

I've come to care for Lucas, Del, Sloan, Jennifer, Weather. I know I'm going to keep going until I can catch up with his latest book.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs