Thursday, December 31, 2020

Top Books of 2020


No year have I needed more escapism than 2020. It's a year impossible to forget despite wanting to.

I haven't read as much as I desired but that unfortunately is nothing new. Wish the day had more hours for reading. Sigh.

I thank all those authors who transported me to another time, another place, another world.

These books are the ones who got my highest ratings in no particular order:

Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson #12) by Patricia Briggs

A Bad Day for Sunshine (Sunshine Vicram #1) by Darynda Jones

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Happy Ever After Playlist (The Friend Zone #2) by Abby Jimenez

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Hidden (The Texas Murder Files #1) by Laura Griffin 

Beach Read by Emily Henry 

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Switch by Beth O'Leary

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Unfaithful by Natalie Barelli 

Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle 

Battle Ground (The Dresden Files #17) by Jim Butcher

My hope for 2021 is that it brings so many more books to enjoy and to travel to.

The Minders by John Marrs


Title: The Minders
Author: John Marrs
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: February 16th 2021

Everyone has secrets. They know yours...

In the 21st century information is king. But computers can be hacked, files can be broken into. So a unique government initiative has been borne. Five ordinary people have been selected to become the latest weapon in thwarting cyber terrorism. A revolutionary medical procedure has turned them into the ultimate secret keepers - the country's most secretive information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every Government lie, conspiracy theory and cover-up. Only somebody has discovered who the secret keepers are. And one by one, they are being hunted down...

I like how The Minders is written in the same word as The Passengers and The One. 

I believe it makes sense to read the first two books to get an idea of the world John Marrs has created.

This time, the Hacking Collective is ready to blackmailed countries into paying them what they want or having all their secrets revealed.

Many countries have fallen to this blackmail but the UK has not fallen yet. In order to prevent this, a new approach has been taken by the government with the help of the best scientists. With the use of a puzzle, certain humans who have synaesthesia have been selected to get the information implanted in their heads. If after five years nothing happens, they can be returned to a normal. In the meantime, they have to walk away from everything they know, they love or hurts them.

Then, one of them is murdered. And the other ones have to try to stay alive before all the secrets die with them.

At first, it was hard to follow Charlie Nicholls, Flick Kennedy, Sinéad Kelly, Bruno Yorke, and Emilia but soon I was able to keep them all straight and started rooting for one of them to survive it all. 

The Minders by John Marrs is entertainment in the best possible way. Complex characters and a sense of dread and running out of time kept me reading until the end. 

The idea of getting something implanted is not too crazy anymore. Same with cars that can drive themselves. The DNA match is harder for me to accept. 

I wonder if we will see this world again. I hope we do. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Easy Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #11

Title: Easy Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #11
Author: John Sandford

A Lucas Davenport thriller by internationally bestselling novelist John Sandford

In life, she was a high-profile model. In death, she is the focus of a media firestorm that's demanding action from Lucas Davenport. Especially as one of his own men is a suspect in her murder.

But when a series of bizarre, seemingly unrelated slayings rock the city, Davenport suspects a connection that runs deeper than anyone has imagined - one that leads to an ingenious killer more ruthless than anyone had feared...

Lucas Davenport is called to deal with a new case, the murder of Alie'e Maison, one of the most famous models. She has been choked to death at a party after ingesting drugs and having sex with two other women. 

Lucas arrives at the scene of the crime and his mind is starting to create a suspect list when a second body is discovered stuffed in a closet. The second body is of another woman. The murder of the young model makes no sense and Lucas's radar starts working non-stop to find the killer of these two women. 

In the midst of the investigation, Lucas's romantic life is being pulled from three different angles. 

Catrin is his ex-girlfriend from college who is going through a midlife crisis. She is not sure she can continue to stay in her marriage and Lucas might be a nice distraction.

Weather, his recent ex, and the woman he fell in love with. Losing her sent him into almost another depressive episode and a chance at having her back in his life, for good this time, is not something he won't consider.

Lastly, there is a new kid on the block. Jael an ex-model who is part of the current investigation. Someone who intrigues him. Who's a little dangerous herself.

As a whole, this book is not my favorite. I like the last two much more. The action, the bad guys, the resolution were more intriguing than what Easy Prey gave me. What I do love is the camaraderie between the team, the jokes, the little things I have come to appreciate from all the different characters. That's not to say I wasn't worried about a character in particular and I was going to be so upset if the author went the wrong way with it. Glad he didn't ruin it for me.

In regards to Lucas's love life, it is still a mess. He is a mess. I don't think he can be faithful. His mind is always pulling him towards disaster.

Onto the next installment...

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The Tattooist of Auschwitz #1


Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz #1
Author: Heather Morris
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 4th 2018

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

What a powerful novel! More so since it's based on a true story, the life of Lale Sokolov while a prisoner in Auschwitz/Birkenau.

I never want to forget about the Holocaust and fiction books based on it are always found on the top of my TBR. I've read many non-fiction books about it over the years and I'm always affected by the lack of humanity by the nazis and the perseverance of the imprisoned.

Lale Sokolov was taken in April 1942 when he was a young man. He was living with his parents in Krompachy, Slovakia when his sister brings a poster her boss had given her to place in the shop window. The announcement said that each Jewish family had to give up a son aged eighteen or older to work for the Germans. Lale surrenders himself instead of his older brother Max and he's taken to Auschwitz/Birkenau. 

After arriving, Lale makes a promise that he will survive whatever the concentration camp sends his way. With his knowledge of different languages, he's soon placed to become the Tatowierer. It takes pieces of his soul to mark other human beings but he is just doing what all prisoners were trying to do: to survive. 

As the Tatowierer, he has more food rations and he can move more freely. He becomes involved in exchanging jewels and money (found on dead prisoners) for food and medications and he starts helping whoever he can.

Lale also falls in love with Gita. The first time he sees her is when he has to tattoo her arm with the number 34902. 

What follows is a tale of horror, sacrifice, and hope. 

I wonder how many people were able to live one more day with the help of Lale. He took a huge risk over and over again to help others. He was forced to do the job he hated. He had no other choice but he found a silver lining in hell. 

The Tattoist of Auschwitz is a story of perseverance and determination in a moment in history where giving up was the expected path.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Blood and Ash #2


Title: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire 
Series: Blood and Ash #2
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Release Date: September 1st 2020

A Betrayal…

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

A Choice...

Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.

A Secret…

But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.

As soon as I finished the first book, I had to open book two. 

Poppy is taken against her will by Castiel. She has been deceived and now she’s in the arms of the Dark One. The one she was never to meet. 

Poppy wants her freedom, she wants to find her brother and find out what happened to him. Has he ascended? Will he still care for Poppy? Or instead, a cold and flat stare is all that awaits her? Nonetheless, she is forced to go with Castiel away from the only family she has left. 

Traveling to Atlantia is not easy. Many things happened on the way. Many are not happy to see the Maiden in their territory and trying to dispose of her and what she represents is always lurking in the shadows.

Castiel has promised to protect her from everyone but can he go against his family and subjects?

The second installment was a little more predictable. I still love Poppy and Castiel together. I also love Kurien so much. I do worry about the joining and I hope it’s a tasteful one. 

As much as I liked it, I didn't enjoy how repetitive it becomes in certain aspects. Example: Poppy trying to stab Castiel all the time. It got quite old. Her behavior was immature and she was acting without thinking first. 

I didn’t care when they made fun of Poppy for asking questions. She was entitled to knowledge. Otherwise, there were none better than the Duke and Duchess.

Lastly, some parts were not exactly boring but less exciting. It made me feel like nothing was happening. 

The ending is another cliffhanger but It’s an amazing one. 

I want the third book in my hands now. I’m desperate to read it and see where it leads.

I’m going to predict that Allistar is evil. Who’s with me ??

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

From Blood and Ash
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Blood and Ash #1

Title: From Blood and Ash
Series: Blood and Ash #1
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Release Date: March 30th, 2020

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor-bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Well, can I say that expected to love this book? 

Of course, it’s written by JLA. One of my favorite authors. I probably own all her books in kindle and paperback. 

The main characters were well developed and intriguing enough. 

The romance dance was superb! 

The intrigue everything I need it to be.

The ending, although I knew where it was going, didn’t make me love it any less.

So what’s the book's premise?

We are introduced to Penelope (“Poppy" to her friends), the Maiden. The one chosen by the gods. She’s the one who will be responsible for the ascension of so many when she turns nineteen. 

However, in the meantime, no one can talk to her. No one is allowed to see her face. No one can touch her. Yet, Poppy craves independence. She craves freedom. She’s not thankful to be the Chosen One. She wishes she could instead be fighting side by side with her guards. 

When she was little the cravens took her parents from her. They were murdered and her face and body were scarred for life. As an adult, the last thing she wants is to be defenseless. Covertly, her guard (and the only father figure she has known) Víctor, has trained her in all possible ways to fight and to win.

Hawke, her new Royal guard with the golden eyes is something she was not expecting. He understands her. He also drives her mad and she had some violent tendencies toward him. He sees too many things she wants to hide from him and all others.

From Blood and Ash is a great beginning to a new series. There was plenty of action and romance. The world-building was done well and the take on supernaturals was a pretty cool one too. Of course, the best part was the ending. 

Was it a cliffhanger? 


5/5 Fangs

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

Title: Our Italian Summer
Author: Jennifer Probst
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst comes a new women's fiction novel featuring three generations of Ferrari women who need to heal the broken pieces of their lives...and one trip of a lifetime through Italy.

Workaholic, career-obsessed Francesca is fiercely independent and successful in all areas of life except one: family. She struggles to make time for her relationship with her teenage daughter, Allegra, and the two have become practically strangers to each other. When Allegra hangs out with a new crowd and is arrested for drug possession, Francesca gives in to her mother's wish that they take one epic summer vacation to trace their family roots in Italy. What she never expected was to be faced with the choice of a lifetime. . . .

Allegra wants to make her grandmother happy, but she hates the idea of forced time with her mother and vows to fight every step of the ridiculous tour, until a young man on the verge of priesthood begins to show her the power of acceptance, healing, and the heartbreaking complications of love.

Sophia knows her girls are in trouble. A summer filled with the possibility for change is what they all desperately need. Among the ruins of ancient Rome, the small churches of Assisi, and the rolling hills of Tuscany, Sophia hopes to show her girls that the bonds of family are everything, and to remind them that they can always lean on one another, before it's too late.

I have always liked Jennifer Probst's romance novels but this one feels more like a women's fiction. Yes, there is romance but the most important part is the relationship between the 3 women.

Three generations of women decided to take a trip to Italy for the summer for different reasons. 

Francesca has a successful business. She is a workaholic and puts her job first. She has missed so many events her daughter has participated in and her daughter is starting to resent her for it. She also doesn't have a great relationship with her mother, Sophia since her mother only wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and her father who passed away was just like Francesca. Taking a trip to Europe is the last thing she wants to do but maybe she might not have a choice.

Allegra is eighteen. She has one more year of high school and then she wants to do anything but what her mother wants her to do. She is tired of her mother making excuses for never being present. She's tired of feeling like she's second-best. On the other hand, she loves her grandmother. Sophia has always been there for her and they shared their love for cooking. After Allegra gets in trouble with the law, she doesn't have a choice in taking the trio.

Sophia can see how Francesca and Allegra are becoming strangers. She knows Allegra is unhappy with her mother and how much hurt she carries with her. She knows Francesca needs to put Allegra first and she thinks the trip to Italy can bring them all together. She's also keeping a secret from both and she wants to see the place where her parents were born. She has always dreamed of this trip and she finally has a chance to do it.

The story is told from Francesca, Allegra, and Sophia's points of view.  Is a great way to get to know them better and in my case to like all three of them.

Our Italian Summer was the best escape I needed. I love traveling to Italy through their eyes. I've been to Italy a few times and I was lucky to recognize almost all the places they visit. Although, my favorite place remains the south of Italy. I'd go back to Positano in a second. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Title: Finlay Donovan Is Killing
Author: Elle Cosimano
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT . . . except, she’s really not. The new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head.

When Finlay’s overheard discussing the plot of her new novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . and she soon discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart.

What a delightful and innovative storyline! Nothing like an assassin who doesn't want to be one.

Finlay Donovan is going through a rough time. Her ex-husband cheated, got engaged to their realtor and now it’s trying to take custody of their two kids. Finlay's financial situation is dire. She can’t pay her bills!

Finlay is a writer but since her divorce, she has not been able to write a word. She already used the advance she was given. If she doesn't deliver a new book, her suspense writing dream is over and she will lose her kids for sure. 

Then while meeting her literary agent at Panera, the woman next to them (Patricia Mickler) started eavesdropping on their conversation and she misinterprets what Finlay and her agent were discussing. Next thing you know, Mrs. Mickler leaves a message with a phone number. When Finlay calls, Patricia is offering fifty thousand dollars in exchange for Finlay disposing of her husband. 

This book was unputabledown. It was refreshing. I was entertained throughout!

I was also anxious about Finlay getting over her head. The one saving grace was Vero. I want a Vero in my life. She was the perfect babysitter and friend anyone should have.

I love Finlay too. She was stuck in a hard place and did what she thought needed to be done. Of course, her decisions were mostly wrong and led to even more trouble for her and Vero.

The best part was the ending. I loved it. 

Grab this gem when you need a distraction, it will make laugh and hopefully root for her as I did.

I can't wait for the next one.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs