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.

Invisible Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #17


Title: Invisible Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #17
Author: John Sandford

In the richest neighbourhood of Minneapolis, two elderly women lie murdered in their home, killed with a pipe, the rooms ransacked, only small items stolen. It's clearly a random break-in by someone looking for money to buy drugs. But as he looks more closely, Davenport begins to wonder if the items are actually so small or the victims so random, if there might not be some invisible agenda at work here. Gradually, a pattern begins to emerge — and it will lead Davenport to somewhere he never expected. Which is too bad, because the killers — and yes, there is more than one of them — the killers are expecting him.

Invisible Prey is another enjoyable book in the Lucas Davenport series.

The novel starts with two cases. 

One is of an underage young woman who might have had a sexual relationship with a politician and Lucas is called to find out the truth and deal with the repercussions.

The second investigation is about an elderly woman and her maid found at home murdered in a gruesome way. At first, it looks like a simple burglary but soon it looks more like it's an antique robbery with the possibility that other murders might be connected to this case.

Lucas's hands are full. Time is ticking and he needs to solve the mystery before someone else dies. 

I have learned to love Lucas and to root for him to catch the bad guys with the exception of Clara Rinker.

It's always great to be able to "see" Lucas working through the investigation, connecting leads, and understanding what makes the killers tick.

Invisible Prey has also a bonus in the form of John Sandford introducing the readers to his other series main character, Virgil Flowers. 

I got to say that I'm intrigued about "F**cking Flowers" already.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary


Title: The Road Trip
Author: Beth O'Leary 
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 1st 2021

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

Is this the same author that gave us The Flatshare and The Switch?

It didn't feel that way to me.

Dylan and Marcus are driving towards their friend Cherry's wedding in Scotland when they hit the car in front. Of course, the car in front is driven by Dylan's ex-girlfriend, Addie. 

Addie is also going to the wedding. Her sister, Beth is in the passenger seat and Rodney, a guy from the Facebook wedding group is in the back. 

When Dylan's car ceases to work, Addie can't leave Dylan stranded. So both Dylan and Marcus join them in Addie's car. What follows is an uncomfortable trip for most of them.

I had 3 issues with The Road Trip.

First one: Connecting with the characters. I didn't like Dylan and hated his best friend, Marcus. Addie was not so bad but If I have to pick a favorite character, it would be Beth, Addie's sister. Beth was there for Addie every time she needed her. She also gave good advice and inserted humor into the story.

The second problem: Addie's reactions. It felt like Addie was in love with Dylan just a few hours after meeting Dylan. Then, in the present, just a few hours into the drive she was forgetting and sweeping under the rug all the bad times Dylan and Marcus have caused her. 

Third, I didn't understand the necessity to include Rodneys's drama into the storyline. It felt it came out of nowhere and it didn't contribute to anything.

I felt disappointed that I didn't like it when I have loved her other books.

Sigh, Hopefully, I can connect with the next book.

Cliffhanger: No

2/5 Fangs

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

A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones
Sunshine Vicram #2

Title: A Good Day for Chardonnay
Series: Sunshine Vicram #2
Author: Darynda Jones
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 27th, 2021

Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff--and even fuller-time coffee guzzler--Sunshine Vicram, didn't get that memo.

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that's about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny's got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he's not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She's seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn't know when to quit, Sunny's life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

It's fun going back to this crazy town of Del Sol and Its Sherriff, Sunshine Vicram.

However, in order to enjoy this ride, you must read A Bad Day for Sunshine or you'll be very confused.

So where does Chardonnay go?

Many places all at once.

*Sunshine is called in when strangers to the town attacked and stabbed a local man and hurt Levi in the process. 

*She also gets a call from prison in regards to her own past abduction.

*Her daughter Ari is investigating a cold case.

*Cruz is hiding something.

*Levi has many secrets that Sunshine wants to know.

What I love about Darynda's style is that her characters are full of snark, quick comebacks, sassiness, and brooding men. Yes, sometimes it can be too much and you think the characters are on speed or something like it but when you mostly read dark thrillers, it's refreshing. 

A Good Day for Chardonnay has all those ingredients and the best part is that we do get some answers to some of the questions A Bad Day for Sunshine left us with. However, it does end in a cliffhanger.

Will I read the third book? 

Absolutely, I need more of Sunshine, Levy, Ari, and Cruz.

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

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