Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Christmas Village by Annie Rains
Somerset Lake #2


Title: The Christmas Village 
Series: Somerset Lake #2
Author: Annie Rains 
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: October 12, 2021

xxxUSA Today bestselling author Annie Rains delivers a tender trade paperback romance that will appeal to readers with its warmth and bestselling themes!

Lucy Hannigan has inherited her mother's bulldog, Bella, and her childhood home, the only pink house on Gingerbread Lane. With the holidays coming up, the pressure is on to decorate the house for the annual lights competition and maintain her parent's winning streak. But Lucy already has her hands full as a midwife and a new landlord-to her ex-fiance.

When Miles Bruno is suddenly asked to move out of his rental home, he's grateful to Lucy for taking him on as a tenant. But their broken-off engagement doesn't make it easy to live next door. Sparks still fly between them, and he'd give anything to get back in Lucy's good graces. But to do that will take much more than just tree trimming and house decorating and contest winning. Will one wildly grand romantic gesture on Christmas Eve finally soften her heart?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Just as good as a Hallmark movie!

I love Christmas time. It’s my favorite season. There is nothing better than reading a romance novel set during this time of the year.

Anne Rains writes a second chance love story set in a small town. I didn’t read the first book but I don’t think you need to in order to enjoy it.

Our protagonists are Lucy and Miles. They were in love when they were teenagers but Miles broke her heart. Lucy moved away but now Lucy has come back to live at her parents' home after her mother's passing. She loved the pink house and all the memories but discovering her mom had many debts was unexpected. Lucy will need to get a tenant to start paying the bills. Her job as a midwife doesn't give her a great income to cover all the expenses.

Miles is a town cop. He loves his job and he is good at it. He is saving money to buy a home. When Miles finds himself needing a new place to live and Lucy needs money to pay her mother’s bills, Miles becomes her tenant. Having to see each other regularly will bring back all those feelings they had for each other. 

Can Lucy forgive Miles for what happened so many years ago? Can they move forward?

The Christmas Village was heartwarming, sweet, and just what I needed for the beginning of the season!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard


Title: 56 Days
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date:  August 17, 2021

No one knew they'd moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who - and what - he really is.

Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

56 Days is set in Ireland the week COVID-19 hit the island.

56 days ago
Ciara meets Oliver in the supermarket. Oliver is tall and handsome and Ciara wants nothing more than continue talking to him. 

Oliver for his part can't believe that Ciara is who she says she is. Oliver lives in fear of people finding out about his past. What he did and every time he brings his walls down, something happens that makes his new life disappear right in front of his eyes. This time, this is a new beginning for him, one he doesn't want to lose. 

35 days ago
Then the world goes into lockdown due to a pandemic. What better way to find out more about Ciara than to spend time together in the apartment his work is providing. No one will see much of them and they can explore what they are feeling for each other.

A body has been found in Oliver's apartment. Who's the body??


I was hooked! Despite the different timelines from past and present and the voices from Ciara, Oliver, and the detective Leah Riordan, it all made perfect sense and my attention never wavered. 

56 Days had the right kind of suspense. Do I wish the ending was a little different? Sure but the way it went also works. 

The Nothing Man is still in my TBR. I know I have to read it after enjoying 56 Days so much.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

I Don't Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson

Title: I Don't Forgive You 
Author: Aggie Blum Thompson
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: June 8, 2021

An accomplished photographer and the devoted mom of an adorable little boy, Allie Ross has just moved to an upscale DC suburb, the kind of place where parenting feels like a competitive sport. Allie's desperate to make a good first impression. When she's framed for murder.

It all starts at a neighborhood party when a local dad corners Allie and calls her by an old, forgotten nickname from her dark past. The next day, he is found dead.

Soon, the police are knocking at her door, grilling her about a supposed Tinder relationship with the man, and pulling up texts between them. She learns quickly that she's been hacked and someone is impersonating her online. Her reputation--socially and professionally--is at stake; even her husband starts to doubt her. As the killer closes in, Allie must reach back into a past she vowed to forget to learn the shocking truth of who is destroying her life.

I liked this one!

The whodunit was always in the back of my mind. Who was torturing Allie? I knew why, but I wasn't sure who. 

Allie Ross was living a suburban life. Her husband Mark, an attorney, has started a new job and they have moved to DC. Her six-year-old son is in a good school and Allie is moving in the right direction as a photographer with the hope of starting her own studio in the near future. 

Allie and her husband are invited to a neighborhood party where Allie flirts a little with a man until he calls her by a nickname (Lexie) that she hasn't heard in many years. Then the same man follows her up into a bathroom and tries to have sex with her. She is shocked and is able to escape him but not without her husband noticing something was not right. After taking a shower, Allie only wants to forget the weird encounter. 

The next morning, the neighborhood is uproar. A man has been found dead. The man is none other than the same man that accosted Allie in the bathroom. Then, detectives come on knocking and they want to know more about her Tinder app. An app she never downloaded herself despite showing up on her phone.

The more confusing and damaging her life becomes, the more Allie questions who is behind this vendetta and why?

Quite entertaining from beginning to end. I couldn't stop reading it!

Allie was likable and I could feel how desperate she was becoming. I wasn't really happy with the way her husband Mark took things and his lack of support when she needed it but I guess it worked in isolating her even further. 

I Don't Forgive You had me guessing to the end which is my favorite type of book.

I know that when Aggie Blum Thompson writes another novel, I won't hesitate to read it. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Phantom Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #18


Title: Phantom Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #18
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: May 6, 2008

A widow comes home to her large house in a wealthy, exclusive suburb to find blood on the walls, nobody — and her college-age daughter missing. She's always known that her daughter ran with a bad bunch. What did she call them — Goths? Freaks are more like it, running around with all that makeup and black clothing, listening to that awful music, so attracted to death. And now this.

But the police can't find the girl, alive or dead, and the widow truly panics. There's someone she knows, a surgeon named Weather Davenport, whose husband is a big deal with the police, and she implores Weather to get her husband directly involved. Lucas gets in only reluctantly — but then when a second Goth is slashed to death in Minneapolis, he starts working it hard. The clues don't seem to add up, though. And then there's the young Goth who keeps appearing and disappearing: Who is she? Where does she come from and, more importantly, where does she vanish to? And why does Lucas keep getting the sneaking suspicion that there is something else going on here... something very, very bad indeed?

As an invested reader of the Lucas Davenport series, I couldn't stop myself from listening to the next book. I can't believe we're up to #18 and getting closer to #33! Maybe in one more year, I'll be caught up?

Anyway, what's new for Lucas in Phantom Prey?

Weather, Lucas's wife, has asked him to help investigate the disappearance of Alyssa Austin's daughter, Frances. Alyssa is an acquaintance of Weather and she wants Lucas to help find her.

Frances Austin had it all. She had the money and the freedom to do whatever she wanted with it. Then, she went missing. Alyssa knows something bad has happened to her. When Lucas offered to look around, she welcomes Lucas's help. 

Lucas for his part is also in the middle of another investigation. As the head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Lucas is always trying to put out some fires. This time a coke dealer, Siggy, who escaped capture might be coming back for his wife Heather and Lucas and his team have spent weeks surveilling her to catch him when he comes back to see her.

Although busy with this, Lucas becomes interested in Frances's disappearance. He knows he is getting too close when someone tries to eliminate him.

I do love Lucas, Dell, and company. I do miss the older crowd too. They made a great team. There was always a lot of humor mixed with the suspense which was missing a little bit in this one. 

I don't think Phantom Prey was as captivating as some others in this series, partly because the killer was not a very interesting one. The other part that bothered me is the constant idea of the killer thinking: why don't I kill the head of the investigation, meaning Lucas. It just seems overplayed.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune


Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: T.J. Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: September 21, 2021

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop's owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn't ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo's help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days

Is not a secret that I absolutely loved The House in the Cerulean Sea. It made me a fan of T.J. Klune. So of course I was going to read his next book. 

Under the Whispering Door had me at Apollo. Who doesn't like a ghost dog that is always happy to see you and lick you to death? (no pun intended)

Ok, maybe it had me at more. Quirky characters, a tea shop, a love story, and learning the lesson to be a better person and to enjoy life while you can. These are all things I took away from the story. 

Wallace Price is a ruthless lawyer. When the book begins he is firing an employee who is already in an economic bind. For Wallace, the only thing that matters is his job. He spends enough hours to know this is what gives him satisfaction. His marriage failed because his priority was his job. So when Wallace suffers a heart attack and dies, no one is more shocked than him. Shocked and angry that is.

Wallace meets his reaper first, Mei at his own funeral. She is there to take him to the Ferryman who would help Wallace understand what is happening to him and then guided him to the next step. When they arrived at Charon's Crossing Tea and Treats, Wallace meets Hugo, the Ferryman, the ghost of Hugo's grandfather, Nelson, and Hugo's ghost dog, Apollo. 

As the days progress, Wallace goes through similar stages of grief and he begins to understand and assimilate that he is dead. Then, the Manager shows up and gives him 7 more days before crossing and Wallace sets himself to right some wrongs before it's too late.

I listened to the audio which was fantastic. The narrator Kirt Graves does an amazing job at separating all the characters and making them fun to listen to. It made it so smooth and clear. Never doubting which "voice" was talking.

As I said earlier, Under the Whispering Door was charming and quirky in the most endearing way!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides


Title: The Maidens
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Celadon Books
Release Date: June 15, 2021

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

After reading the wonderful debut novel, The Silent Patient, I knew I would want to read the next book by Alex Michaelides.

The Maidens is set in the University of Cambridge and the disappearance of a young woman whose body is found later.

Mariana Andros is a psychotherapist. She is a widow and she's still grieving the loss of her husband, Sebastian. A man she adored and who brought her the love she was missing under her father's care. She is successful at her job as a group therapist. She leaves her job when her niece, Zoe calls her from Cambridge University where she is a student. Her friend Tara has disappeared and before she disappeared, she told Zoe she was afraid of Professor Edward Fosca. He was going to kill her!

Fosca is the professor everyone wants to attend class and listen to and his classes always end with resounding applause. Fosca has a group of students he meets regularly with. They are all young women who go by the name of The Maidens. Tara was part of this group. Despite Zoe's claims and Mariana's growing suspicions, he has an alibi, The Maidens. They say he was with them. But are they covering up for him?

Mariana was a student at Cambridge herself. She met Sebastian there too. For her, coming back is painful but she knows she can't let Zoe be alone. Investigating the murder and trying to catch a killer before some else gets hurts becomes paramount.

I felt The Maidens had a slow start but it had a partial great twist at the end. One I did not see it coming. I enjoyed the crossover with Mariana interacting with Theo from the Silent Patient too. Some of the greek mythology felt redundant but maybe it's because I knew about Persephone from my teenage years.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

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

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

Title: Just One Look
Author: Lindsay Cameron
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: July 27, 2021

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.
Eyes aren't the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

Talk about crazy!

Cassie Woodson had it all. She was an attorney at the top of her game until something happened that made her lose it all. She was disgraced publically with the videos that went viral to prove it.

This made Cassie stay in bed for months barely making it. She knows she can't continue this way and she applies for a temp job which is all she can get with her prior history.

The job entails hours of sorting through emails to see the relevance involving a fraud case. However, by mistake, a partner's personal emails are also in Cassie's review inbox.

Cassie becomes obsessed with Forrest Watts's emails to his wife, Annabelle. They are full of love and they depict a beautiful life together. Things that are all missing in Cassie's life. Her obsession makes her stalk them on social media, following their Instagram posts and saving every detail from their emails in a binder. 

Despite not having much of an income, Cassie starts buying the same wine they drink and the perfume and make-up Annabelle wears. Then, Cassie realizes the couple has become estranged and this would be the perfect time for her to fill the void Forrest must be having. Creating a chance encounter to meet him is easy when she has all the details of his life embedded in her brain.

Stalkers scare me for sure but I couldn't stop myself from rooting for Cassie to be able to achieve some type of happiness. The more I discovered the reasons Cassie was the way she was, the more I felt sorry for her. She was smart but at the same time she was so fragile and one step from getting admitted to a psych unit.

Just One Look had me turning the pages in a fast motion. I couldn't get enough of the story and despite seeing the twist from the very beginning, I wanted to see how it would all play out in the end.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

One Year Gone by Avery Bishop


Title: One Year Gone
Author: Avery Bishop
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: August 10, 2021

A mother will risk everything to find her missing daughter in this twisty thriller from the author of Girl Gone Mad.

“Sometimes teenagers run away… Give her a few days. She’ll be back.”

That’s what the police tell Jessica Moore when her seventeen-year-old daughter, Wyn, vanishes. All signs point to this being true. But days become weeks. Weeks become months. And Jessica begins to fear the terrible truth—that she may never see her daughter again.

Then, one year later, when all hope seems lost, Jessica gets a flurry of text messages from Wyn that freezes her blood: mom. please help. i think he’s going to kill me. But Wyn’s terrified plea comes with a warning not to call the police. Her kidnapper wears a badge.

As Jessica’s fears are raised again, so are the stakes. Delving into the months leading up to Wyn’s disappearance, Jessica stumbles upon information that could put her own life in danger. With each revelation, the nightmare deepens. Now she must decide just how far she will go to bring her daughter home.

Well, I hate to say it but this one felt flat.

One Year Gone's main character is Jessica Moore. She is an alcoholic who owns a bar!!! She had been happy in the little town of Bowden where everyone knows each other. She moved there with Joe, the father of her child Bronwyn (Wyn). They never married and now Joe is married with children of his own.

Jessica's life changes when her seventeen-year-old daughter goes missing after the pep rally at the high school. For a year Jessica has had no clues about the whereabouts of her daughter. The police believed her to be a runaway like so many other teenagers. Then Jessica gets a text from her daughter. She has been a hostage all this time and her capturer wears a badge.

Through the different timelines, we learned from Wyn and her secrets. Things she knows and things she hides. We are confronted with her bullies and we learned of what truly happened during the pep rally. From Jessica, we learned about the sense of loss and the desperate need to have her daughter back home. 

However, all these were not enough to grab my attention or keep my enthusiasm. Worse, the ending was too unbelievable to be satisfying.

Cliffhanger: No

2/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda


Title: Such a Quiet Place
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 13, 2021

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

I wouldn't want to live in Hollow’s Edge. A place where everyone has a camera and policing the other neighbors' comings and goings are the usual.

No one should hate it more than Ruby Fletcher. While living in Hollow's Edge, the couple next door, Brandon and Fiona Truett are found murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning and the fingers were all pointed at Ruby.

During this time Ruby was living with Harper Nash who is the one who discovers the bodies. Ruby goes to prison but 14 months later, she is out on a technicality and what does Ruby do? She comes back to the scene of the crime and to the house, she shared with Harper.

The big question is why is Ruby back? Is she looking for revenge or absolution?

The story is told from Harper's point of view. She is older than Ruby and she liked her while living together before the murders. In the present, she is not sure what to think of Ruby. At times, is like time never passed and the friendship is there, at others she fears her.

This I will consider a slow burn. Starts slowly but picks up in the second half. I liked the mystery surrounding the deaths and also the real reason for Ruby's return. There is a good twist that propels the story forward and brings so many more questions to the table. 

I liked Megan Miranda's work and I enjoyed Such a Quiet Place with its suspense and delivery.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Simon & Schuster via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves


Title: Heard It in a Love Song
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: November 2, 2021

Love doesn’t always wait until you’re ready.

Layla Hilding is thirty-five and recently divorced. Struggling to break free from the past—her glory days as the lead singer in a band and a ten-year marriage to a man who never put her first—Layla’s newly found independence feels a lot like loneliness.

Then there’s Josh, the single dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where Layla teaches music. Recently separated, he’s still processing the end of his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. He chats with Layla every morning at school and finds himself thinking about her more and more.

Equally cautious and confused about dating in a world that favors apps over meeting organically, Layla and Josh decide to be friends with the potential for something more. Sounds sensible and way too simple—but when two people are on the rebound, is it heartbreak or happiness that’s a love song away?

As a huge fan of On the Island, I jumped at the opportunity of reading Heard It in a Love Song.

Layla is a thirty-five-old woman recently divorced. She is still healing, her divorce took a toll on her. Her ex-husband never supported her dream of becoming a professional singer so for all the years they were married, she had to give it up. Now, she has decided to sing for herself. She changes her basement and makes it her studio. A place where she can play her guitar and sing her music without a disapproving glance or an explanation needed.

Josh is an electrician. He recently separated from his high school sweetheart. He is in his 40s and has a daughter who is going to kindergarten. Josh shares custody and loves the time he spends with her. Yet, his free time is another matter. He would like to have someone he can share things with.

Layla works at the school. She is the music teacher. She's also at the receiving end of drop-off time at school. Here is where she starts interacting with Josh when he drops his daughter every morning. Soon thereafter, a friendship with potential ensues. 

I liked the story. It's more about realizing what your dreams are and resuming them. It's also about moving forward after a failed relationship and rediscovering who you are on your own. Learning to enjoy the time alone.

I wouldn't call this a romance per se since I felt the romance was secondary at times. Both Layla and Josh were cautious despite their attraction. They knew they wanted to avoid making a mistake in their new relationship. I liked their growth from strangers to friends to something more.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.