Sunday, February 21, 2021

Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs
Alpha & Omega


Title: Wild Sign
Series: Alpha & Omega #6
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace Books
Release Date: March 16, 2021

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham must discover what could make an entire community disappear — before it's too late — in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Alpha and Omega series.

In the wilds of the Northern California mountains, all the inhabitants of a small town have gone missing. It's as if the people picked up and left everything they owned behind. Fearing something supernatural might be going on, the FBI taps a source they've consulted in the past: the werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham. But Charles and Anna soon find a deserted town is the least of the mysteries they face.

Death sings in the forest, and when it calls, Charles and Anna must answer. Something has awakened in the heart of the California mountains, something old and dangerous — and it has met werewolves before.

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Back to the Mercyverse!! One of my favorite fantasy worlds ever!

As an Alpha and Omega novel, we know Charles and Anna are frontpage. Ana, the Omega that has stabilized Bran's pack of unstable powerful werewolves and Charles, Bran's son, the enforcer. If Charles shows up, you know someone has misbehaved and death is close. Charles is only different around Ana. She sees parts of him that no one else does. 

So what's Wild Sign about?

A new threat. 

The FBI comes knocking (literally) on Charles and Ana's door. They're asking for help. A whole community that was living in the northern mountains of California has disappeared. No one has heard from them and the daughter of one of them has sounded the alarm. Her father used to communicate with her regularly and now there has been no communication whatsoever. So why ask Ana and Charles for help? Well, the community was staying on Leah's property!

Bran can't leave the pack so he sends Anna, Charles, and Tag to investigate instead. As soon as they get there, Carles can feel the magic. Witches have been there but someone older is lurking. All types of questions are coming up: What happened to the community? Are they still alive? What's the connection with Leah's past? 

Well, I was not expecting this one. Leah and her past. Leah and her losses. Leah and the choices that were taken away from her and the ones she had to live with. It made my dislike for her simmer down a little bit. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not a fan and will never be. I've got a long memory and her behavior towards Mercy is still unforgivable. 

Wild Sign has some scary parts. I didn't want Anna to lose what she had gained over the years. But, I shouldn't have worried. Ana is a survivor and a fighter and Charles is deadly to their enemies. I love them as a couple and Patricia Briggs proves that there is no need for a love triangle for it to work.

I love Tag in this one. He brought humor to the story. We all know he is lethal but Anna pacifies him in all the right ways. I was laughing when he introduced himself as the henchman.

I wonder if Patrica Briggs was checking to see if we were awake enough with the last part and that epilogue! It brought in a huge development and so many repercussions to come to so many: Bran, Sherwood, Samuel, Coyote, Mercy. You name it.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

The Push by Ashley Audrain


Title: The Push  by Ashley Audrain 
Author: The Push  by Ashley Audrain 
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: January 5, 2021

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.
Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.


Raw: The feelings The Push brought out in me. The feelings Ashley Audrain masterful made me have about Blythe. The raw pain Blythe narrates as she is drowning in pain. 

This novel is disturbing in the right kind of way. No one says motherhood is easy. We all know it is not. But giving birth to a child who doesn't love you and might be evil is not something that is spoken about or thought about. After all, babies are cute and sweet. Or are they? Some might say they are very hard work with the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the teething, the terrible twos but how about the complete emotional disconnection with one parent. Is it possible?

The main character is Blythe. She came from a line of women who failed at being mothers. Either from depression or just a lack of maternal instinct or a mixture of both. She tells us a story of how she met the man she fell in love and after marrying him, he started pushing her to get pregnant. Blythe is not sure she wants to be a mother but she knows she wants to make her husband happy. 

Once the baby comes, nothing goes the right way. Little by little, Blythe starts to believe that Violet, her daughter, has something wrong with her. She's calculating, manipulative and cold. Violet only has eyes for her father. While he is home, she's a perfect angel but when she is alone with Blythe there is never peace. Is Violet evil or is Blythe suffering from post-partum psychosis?

Chilling with its frankness, The Push is a novel that I will never forget. 

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn


Title: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Author: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Publisher: HarperAudio
Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld
Release Date: March 9, 2021

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

This is one of the times I didn’t want to let go of the characters. My attachment to them was tangible.

After spending days listening to these three women, I just didn't want to leave and never hear from them again.

Meet the women:

Osla, A Canadian-born debutant, the smart and pretty socialite who wants more in life. In 1939, her friend introduces her to a young Navy officer, Phillip of Greece and she becomes his girlfriend.

Mab, "Queen Mab", who has fought for an education and wants to find a man who can provide for her and her sister Lucy.

Then there is Beth. She's already considered a spinster. Her mother treats her poorly and she uses the Bible as a physical punishment. Her self-esteem is non-existent. 

All three will work at Bletchley Park, the mansion used as the center of the allied code-breaking during the Second World War. Osla will find a place as a linguist. Mab working with fixing the machines used for code-breaking and Beth as a cryptanalyst. 

Sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act of 1939, these three women will become fast friends until there is a betrayal. A betrayal that will leave Beth at Clockwell's sanitarium. 

Then in 1947, the year that Phillip marries a Queen, a coded message will be delivered to Osla and Mab asking for help. It is a message that neither woman can dismiss before a third one loses her mind for good.

Kate Quinn does a fantastic job at describing these women, their timelines, and their stories. I was wholeheartedly invested in them. I felt their happiness, their sorrows, and their pain. 

The secondary characters were excellent too. Mr. Grey, Harry, Boots, all a great addition to the story.

As I get near the end of my review, I can forget to mention the amazing job that Saskia Maarleveld did as a narrator. She was fantastic. I think this book was perfect as an audiobook. 5 stars to her.

One last thing, and just for those curious minds. Osla Benning was a real person. She was fluent in German and she did work at BP.

How many years until I can see the movie?

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

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

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publisher: Park Row
Release Date: March 2, 2021

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Two timelines. Two different centuries. Women impacted by deceit. 

In 1791, we meet Nella. She is a woman in her forties. She owns an apothecary just like her mother did before her. The difference is that while her mother used it for healing purposes, Nella after a terrible event in her life has decided to use it for murder. Nella supplies poisons to women who want to eliminate a man in their lives. It can be a brother, a father, a husband. Nella's only rules are not to harm women and to keep a log with the names of the women who requested her help. 

Eliza Fanning is a twelve-year-old who has been sent to work as an employee for her mistress, Mrs. Amwell. Just like so many other women, Mrs. Amwell is in need on Nella's help and this serves as a conduit for Eliza to meet Nella. Eliza is immediately taken with Nella and her shop. She wants to learn more about the poison and wants to help her around the store. 

In the present, we meet Caroline Parcewell who is in London celebrating her ten-year marriage anniversary alone. Just before her planned trip with her husband, she learns about his infidelity. She needs time to process what she has learned and to take some decisions about where she wants her life to go. 

A finding during a mudlarking event will make Caroline go digging with the help of Gaynor, a librarian at the British Library,  about the apothecary and the murders which occurred in the 18th century.

An original debut by Sarah Penner. It was a slow burn that had good characterization and ambiance. 

I had some issues with the part of the story that involved Caroline. At some point, she is in trouble but the resolution felt rushed and simplified.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by HARLEQUIN/ Park Row via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mortal Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #13


Title: Mortal Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #13
Author: John Sandford

Years ago, Lucas Davenport almost died at the hands of Clara Rinker, a pleasant, soft-spoken, low-key Southerner, and the best hitwoman in the business. Now retired and living in Mexico, she nearly dies herself when a sniper kills her boyfriend, the son of a local druglord, and while the boy's father vows vengeance, Rinker knows something he doesn't: The boy wasn't the target-she was-and now she is going to have to disappear to find the killer herself. The FBI and DEA draft Davenport to help track her down, and with his fiancie deep in wedding preparations, he's really just as happy to go-but he has no idea what he's getting into. For Rinker is as unpredictable as ever, and between her, her old bosses in the St. Louis mob, the Mexican druglord, and the combined, sometimes warring, forces of U.S. law enforcement, this is one case that will get more dangerous as it goes along. And when the crossfire comes, anyone standing in the middle won't stand a chance....Filled with the rich characterization and exceptional drama that are his hallmarks, Mortal Prey proves that John Sandford just keeps getting better.

This is one of the times when I wish Lucas wasn't so lucky. 

Who doesn't remember Clara Rinker? She was the one that got away. A killer for hire that was created and used by the St. Louis mob. She was the best at what she did, then she met Lucas, even danced with him, and she was almost able to beat him. She disappeared without a trace and the FBI had nowhere to go.  

Years later, Clara is back on the FBI watch. Clara has been hiding in Mexico, she was in love and was pregnant when someone shot and killed her boyfriend, the son of a drug lord. They shoot her too and she loses her baby. The FBI will ask Lucas for help in tracking her. They believe she is coming back to the USA to seek revenge and they know he can help capture her and put her away for good. Lucas who is in the middle of a house renovation and wedding planning jumps at the opportunity to have another go at Clara. 

This one was so well done! We know some of the FBI characters and Lucas meets a few more ex-cops that help with the investigation. The pace is fast and the twists are good ones. 

Clara's character made me sad. She has lost everything and she has been used and manipulated for years. She was turned into a killer after years of abuse by men. She never had a chance. 

Darn Iowa Kid.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

The Shadow Man by Helen Fields


Title: The Shadow Man
Author: Helen Fields
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Release Date: February 4th, 2021

The brand new crime thriller from the bestselling author of the Perfect series – Helen Fields is back with her first stand-alone novel!

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.

Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.

Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.

And he’s watching.

Helen Fields is back with a heart-pounding new book, perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and Stuart MacBride.

He's the shadow of a man and yet, he's strong enough to capture his victims. 

How does he do it?

Helen Fields has given us a quite dark and disturbing tale. One that for the most part kept me entertained. 

A woman, Elspeth, has been abducted, and to find her Connie Woolwine, an American forensic psychologist, and detective Brodie Baarda have teamed up. Connie is making a profile of the psychopath and soon she learns that the body of a woman named Angela has a connection with Elspeth's abduction. Connie knows there has to be a reason for these women to be selected. She and Baarda know time is running out. Will they find her in time?

The Shadow Man had some quite gruesome scenes that made my stomach queazy. My imagination ran wild with all the things The Shadow Man did. Same with some of the discoveries that were described. The last showdown was terrifying. 

Connie was a great character! Someone smart, unflappable, and resourceful. 

I will like to see her back with Baarda for another investigation. 

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

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

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


Title: The Wife Upstairs
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

Eddie is safe. Thornfield Estates is safe. You’re safe now.

You know when you have a character that is not a nice one but regardless of the way she thinks about people and how she uses them, you are still (grudgingly) rooting for her? Well, that was Jane for me.

The setting: a southern town in Alabama, Thornfield Estates. A place that is full of mansions, with perfectly manicured lawns and where the women are in shape, wearing too much jewelry and scheduling their next Neighborhood Beautification Committee meeting while alcohol runs freely.

The heroine: Jane, a young woman without means. Currently working as a dog-walker for all the rich neighborhood couples. She is smart, conniving, and deceitful. 

The Hero: Eddie Rochester, a recent widower who's handsome and sexy. Someone who makes the heroine feel safe and wanted. 

The dead wife, Bea: no one can forget the perfect wife who everyone adored now that she is dead. She died in a boating accident with her best friend Blanche.

The Twist: The one thing that prompts me to keep on reading it.

As a huge fan of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, this one was just up my alley. I loved Rachel Hawkins's twisted version of the story.  Many years ago, I read her YA fantasy series and I remember enjoying it but The Wife Upstairs demonstrates that she can venture into the domestic thriller setting any time she wants to.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Layla by Colleen Hoover


Title: Layla by Colleen Hoover 
Author: Layla by Colleen Hoover 
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: December 8, 2020

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Well, I'm going to be an outlier with this one. I didn't like Layla. Not because of Layla but because of Leeds.

Do I like Paranormal stories? Yes.

Do I like Romances? Yes, I do.

Do I like douchy boyfriends? A resounding NO!

Pinpoint my major problem with Layla? LEEDS.

He was condescending. He was making decisions without consulting his girlfriend (who doesn't ask his girlfriend before deciding to buy a home?). He abused his girlfriend's trust in him. He let Willow do whatever she wanted without taking into account anything Layla needed.

Without major spoilers, I had to say that this is COHO's weakest male character for me. I know, I know, some are going to love him but I'm not a fan AT ALL. There's is a scene with wine that completely severed any good emotion I had left for him. Douchbag is the least of what I can say about him.

I know I like happy endings with a good HEA but this one left a sour taste in my mouth. I was unhappy with what happened to Sabel.

Another thing that bothered me was the reason for bringing in an "expert". He didn't stay to help when he was needed the most.

Truly disappointing!

Cliffhanger: No

2/5 Fangs

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Title: The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 26, 2021

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can't imagine working anywhere else. But lately it's been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who's fresh off a journalism master's program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it's this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it's not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

So what happens when you're forced to work with your nemesis and then find out, he's not as bad as you thought he was? 

The perfect recipe for a great work romance novel!

Shay Goldstein has spent the last decade as the producer of a radio show. She is content to work behind the scenes since she doesn't believe she has the voice to be on the radio. Her dad and Shay spent many days playing at having their own talk show and despite the years he has been gone, she still misses him dearly. When he died, working at the radio was the one thing that helped her get out of bed every day. 

In regards to her personal life, she's currently unattached. Her mom is about to get married and her best friend is thinking of moving away. She's stressed with these changes. Then, she learns that the station might have to let people go. They need a new show to bring in listeners. 

Shay pitches an idea at the next work meeting. How about exes working together and talking about relationship issues? Her boss loves the idea and when he sees her bickering with Dominic Yun, who has a master's in journalism, he decides to pair them as the hostesses of the new show.

It all begins with a lie, but soon Shay and Dominic realize they have chemistry and a shared attraction but can things work out for them?

The Ex-Talk by Rachel Lynn was a sweet story with the perfect balance of romance and drama. Engaging characters and a perfect blend of diversity and inclusion. 

And I have to agree with Shay, forearms can be sexy. 

Cliffhanger: No

4.5/5 Fangs

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

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier


Title: If I Disappear
Author: Eliza Jane Brazier
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 26, 2021

When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession.

Sera loves true crime podcasts. They make her feel empowered in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She's sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it's time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.

Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel's small hometown to begin her search. She's convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won't be the last...

Rachel did try to warn her.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

I’m sorry but this didn’t work for me.

What a frustrating story and character!

After a divorce, grieving the loss of her baby, and a series of bad romantic relationships, Sera doesn't have the desire to pick herself up and find a new job. Her sole obsession is to listen to a podcast by a woman named Rachel. Her podcasts are all about women who have disappeared. 

Sera has learned everything about Rachel from her social media and from the episodes of her podcast. So when Rachel disappears, no new podcasts are coming out and her social media goes silent, Sera decides to go looking for her. 

When Sera arrives at Rachel's parents' ranch in California, she immediately asks about Rachel. Rachel's mother tells her she thinks Rachel is dead. The townspeople think she has finally left the ranch but Sera is sure she can help find her. She has a list of suspects and she wants to follow the few leads she has. 

I couldn’t get into this one. Sera sounded unstable. Her incessant obsession with the podcast and Rachel was borderline psychotic. The ending was so out there that I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

I’m in the minority, most other reviewers seem to love it so take my input as what it is, a personal preference. 

Cliffhanger: No

2/5 Fangs

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