Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center


Title: The Bodyguard 
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 19, 2022

She’s got his back. Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindgerten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka "bodyguard"), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center confirms that romance novels still do it for me.

Hannah Brooks is not having a good week. The next day of her mother's funeral, her boyfriend dumps her and he cites 3 reasons. The last one is like a knife to the chest. 

"You’re a bad kisser".

For Hannah, the only way to deal with all of it is to immerse herself in her work. She is an Executive Protection Agent, a bodyguard. She begs her boss for a new assignment but the boss tells her she has to grieve and grounds her. 

After a month, she is finally about to go back to work. She’s excited to leave Texas behind and go anywhere else. The joke is on her when her boss Glenn tells her, she is staying and she is going to be the lead bodyguard for Jack Stapleton, a famous actor.

Jack and Hannah's first encounter is not a perfect one. He confused her with the cleaning lady and by the end of the interview, she has left him on the floor after he told her to prove to him she could take him. Things get more complicated when Jake doesn't want his mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer, to know his life might be in danger and he wants Hannah to fake being his girlfriend. Hannah doesn't want to do it but she is competing for a new position and she will do it to keep her job and win the post.

After days of spending time together, Hannah realizes she has developed feelings for Jack and Jack seem to be reciprocating them.  But is it for real or is Jake acting instead?

I loved both characters. They were both dealing with things from their past and carrying the guilt with them. It was nice to see how they complemented each other and helped the other one heal. Their banter was outstanding and the way their relationship develops felt real and believable. Best was the amazing epilogue which answers everything I wanted to know.

The Bodyguard proves once again why I love Katherine Center's writing so much.

Cliffhanger: No

4.5/5 Fangs

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

The Night Shift by Alex Finlay


Title: The Night Shift 
Author: Alex Finlay
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: March 1st 2022

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey, four teenage girls working the night shift are attacked. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, in the same town, four teenage employees working late at an ice cream store are attacked, and again only one makes it out alive.

Both surviving victims recall the killer speaking only a few final words... “Goodnight, pretty girl.”

In the aftermath, three lives intersect: the survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive her tragedy; the brother of the original suspect, who’s convinced the police have it wrong; and the FBI agent, who’s determined to solve both cases. On a collision course toward the truth, all three lives will forever be changed, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Twisty, poignant, and redemptive, The Night Shift is a story about the legacy of trauma and how the broken can come out on the other side, and it solidifies Alex Finlay as one of the new leading voices in the world of thrillers.

After reading Every Last Fear last year and not being able to forget the Pines, I requested this book in a nanosecond when it was available.

The Night Shift has 4 main characters:

Ella is the sole survivor of the Blookbluster attack. Ella was a teenager working at Blockbuster on 1999's New Year's Eve. Everyone else was worried about Y2K but the teenagers working with her were just putting the videos away (Be Kind and Rewind, anyone?) and ready to go home when at closing time, someone enters the store and murders them. The only thing Ella recalls is a shadow leaning forward and whispering "Goodnight, pretty girl". Ella is now a therapist but with demons of her own. She uses little blue pills and sleeps around despite having a fiancee.

Chris Whitaker is a public defender. He is the brother of the assumed Blockbuster killer. He knows his brother is innocent and would like to prove it but he is not sure where his brother is. He disappeared after the murders.

Fifteen years later, after the Blockbuster attack, Jessica Duvall, a high school teenager, is the sole survivor of the Ice Cream murders. Ella is called to the hospital to help her after the traumatic experience. Ella's blood freezes when Jessica tells her that the only thing she remembers is the perp saying "Goodnight, pretty girl". 

And my favorite character, FBI Agent Keller. She was part of the first book and in this one, she is pregnant with twins ready for delivery when she is asked to check if there is a relationship between both murders. She is assigned a temporary partner, Atticus Singh. Together, they would go back and question everyone who was involved during the 1999 attack. They would retrace the steps and try to find a link. 

Alex Finlay is a master at getting these characters to interconnect. We get to get surprised by certain events and twists that were not jaw-dropping but that were interesting nonetheless making the story more believable. 

Although, I would say the killer is not a mystery. You can tell who he/she is from the get-go which only made me worried for the innocent ones. 

With this sophomore book, Alex Finlay solidifies my conviction that he is a must-read for me. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Josh and Gemma Make a Baby by Sarah Ready


Title: Josh and Gemma Make a Baby
Author: Sarah Ready
Narrator: Erin Mallon
Publisher: Swift & Lewis Publishing
Release Date: December 16, 2021

Audiobook: 9 hours, 29 minutes

New Year’s Resolution: Have a baby. Preferably with Josh Lewenthal.

Meet Gemma Jacobs. She’s driven, energetic, and a positive thinker. She has a great career working for famed self-help guru Ian Fortune, she lives in a cute studio apartment in Manhattan, and her family is supportive and loving (albeit a little kooky). Her life is perfect. Absolutely wonderful.

Except for one tiny little thing.

After a decade of disastrous relationships and an infertility diagnosis, Gemma doesn’t want a Mr. Right (or even a Mr. Right Now); she just wants a baby.

And all she needs is an egg, some sperm, and IVF.

So Gemma makes a New Year’s resolution: Have a baby.

Josh Lewenthal is a laid-back, relaxed, find-the-humor-in-life kind of guy. The polar opposite of Gemma. He’s also her brother’s best friend. For the past 20 years, Josh has attended every Jacobs’ family birthday, holiday, and event - he’s always around.

5+ stars for Josh and Gemma Make a Baby's Audiobook. 

If you are looking for a romance, don't look any further. I adored this book! It was sweet and charming.

Gemma is ready for the next step in her life. She wants to have a baby. She has stage 4 endometriosis and she is done waiting for the right guy. Her marriage to Jeremy was a big disappointment and left her with a sour taste for romance. Adding salt on the wound, Jeremy has remarried and is on his third child.

Gemma needs an IVF partner and she asks her brother's best friend, Josh to be the donor. At first, Josh says no but then he changes his mind. Josh has been in Gemma's life since they were teenagers. Josh was her first too. A detail she has never forgotten. 

Once Gemma decides on taking the next step on IVF, her boss Ian, who is a guru in self-help, asks her on a date. He is hot and handsome and she has liked him for the last seven years but is he what Gemma needs? Or is it Josh who is going with her to every doctor's appointment and makes her laugh when she is stressed?

Josh is hands down one of my favorite book boyfriends. He was there for Gemma all the way and I found him to be sweet, supportive, and super sexy.

Gemma was so much fun to read. She has so many great scenes like the koi pond, the pumpkin dress, the humble pie. Too many to count.

I loved Josh and Gemma Make a Baby so much. It's was hard to let go of these characters. I will miss them.

I did the audio for this novel and I thought it was phenomenal. I wanted to listen to it all at once, it was that compelling. The chapters just flew by. 

Trigger warning: Infertility.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

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

The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz


Title: The Accomplice
Author: Lisa Lutz
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: January 25, 2022

Everyone has the same questions about best friends Owen and Luna: What binds them together so tightly? Why weren't they ever a couple? And why do people around them keep turning up dead? In this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Passenger, every answer raises a new, more chilling question.

Owen Mann is charming, privileged, and chronically dissatisfied. Luna Grey is secretive, cautious, and pragmatic. Despite their differences, they begin forming a bond the moment they meet in college. Their names soon become indivisible--Owen and Luna, Luna and Owen--and stay that way even after an unexplained death rocks their social circle.

Years later, they're still best friends when Luna finds Owen's wife brutally murdered. The police investigation sheds some light on long-hidden secrets, but it can't penetrate the wall of mystery that surrounds Owen. To get to the heart of what happened and why, Luna has to dig up the one secret she's spent her whole life burying.

The Accomplice examines the bonds of shared history, what it costs to break them, and what happens when you start wondering if you ever truly knew the only person who truly knows you.

The Accomplice is a good thriller from the very beginning.

Luna Grey and Owen Mann have been friends since college. The friendship was an unexpected one. The popular guy and the secretive girl. Yes, Luna's secret is a big one. One that not even Owen knows.

Then Owen's ex-girlfriend is found dead in a hiking path and suspicion lies on Owen alone. 

In the present, Owen and Luna are still best buddies. Owen is married to Irene and Luna lives just a few houses from him. Luna is also married although she doesn't seem to be happy. When Luna finds out Owen is cheating and she learns this from Irene herself, she meets Owen to make sure he knows his wife knows. 

The next day, Irene is found dead, shot in the cemetery, and guess who finds her? Luna. What does Luna do? She runs to tell Owen instead of calling the cops.

Did Owen kill Irene and if yes, does this mean he killed his ex-girlfriend in college too? Has Luna been wrong about Owen all this time? Can she live with herself if this is true? 

The Accomplice was an entertaining novel that kept me guessing until the end. Up to the last part, it was a four for me but the ending let me down. After all the build-up, it was missing the "awe" conclusion it needed.  

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

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

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain


Title: The Last House on the Street 
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 11, 2022

From bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel that perfectly interweaves history, mystery, and social justice.

When Kayla Carter's husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It's clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area...and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla's elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it's clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

As always an interesting topic with an excellent narrative. Diane Chamberlain never disappoints me.

The Last House on the Street is set in Round Hill, NC. It has two timelines. The first one is in 1965 and the second one in 2010. 

In 1965, Ellie Hockley is a college student at UNC when she gets involved in the Civil Rights movement. Ellie decides to join the SCOPE project to make a difference. The program entails having white people motivate black people to vote.  

By joining SCOPE, Ellie alienates her family, her friends, and worse she becomes someone the Klan is interested in. Ellie doesn't care about any of that after she starts visiting the homes of black people and learning about the importance of them voting to get the help they need like new roads, electricity, etc.

In 2010, Ellie is returns to North Carolina for the first time in over four decades. Ellie is back to take care of her dying brother and her elderly mother too. 

In this same timeline, we also meet Kayla. Kayla Carter is an architect. She is also a recent widow. Her husband was an architect too and he died in an accident in her new home located in Shadow Ridge Estates. 

Kayla has mixed feelings about the new home. On the one hand, the house was the dream that she and her husband created. On the second hand, she doesn't feel safe living there when weird things begin to happen. 

There are so many questions...

What happened to Ellie in 1965? What is the connection between Ellie and Kayla? And why is someone threatening Kayla and her daughter? 

The Last House on the Street was quite an interesting, compelling and engaging novel. I was fearful for Ellie and Wyn from the very beginning. I was also trying to guess what happened and fearing the worst. For me, hands down, the 1965 timeline was much more addicting than the contemporary one. 

Why not a 5? I just didn't quite believe the big revelation at the end. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Silken Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #23

Title: Silken Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #23
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: May 7, 2013

Very early one morning, a Minnesota political fixer answers his doorbell. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up on the floor of a moving car, lying on a plastic sheet, his body wet with blood. When the car stops, a voice says, “Hey, I think he’s breathing,” and another voice says, “Yeah? Give me the bat.” And that’s the last thing he knows.

Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads to the man’s disappearance, then—very troublingly—to the Minneapolis police department, then—most troublingly of all—to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons. She has very definite ideas about the way the world should work, and the money, ruthlessness, and sheer will to make it happen.

No matter who gets in the way.

This series just keeps on giving. Giving me anxiety that is.

Is Lucas going to be hurt? Not again, please!

Is he going to lose his job? I think so. Plenty of foreshadowing.

Is he going to find the killers on time? I sure hope so.

Lucas Davenport, BCA agent receives a call from the Governor of Minnesota. The next race for Senate is about to be over and the democratic candidate is probably going to win it after child porn is found on the computer of Republican Senator Porter Smalls. The Governor who knows Smalls personally believes that Porter is not lying when he says that the porn was not his, hence the call to Lucas. He wants him to dig around and find out if there is the possibility of someone framing Smalls.

Lucas knows that involving his usual team could backfire if he gets in trouble and he knows if he loses his job, he will be ok but doesn't want the rest of them to lose theirs. He turns for help to Kidd (known to us from prior books) and Virgil Flowers instead. Kidd will help with the IT support part of the investigation. Lucas didn't realize the spectrum of Kidd's knowledge when the novel starts. It's hard to surprise Lucas but Kidd has done it. 

Lucas's investigation starts pointing to Democrat candidate Taryn Grant's campaign. Taryn is a billionaire who seems to have it all. She has her eyes set on a Senate seat and no one or nothing is going to stop her. She is a narcissist who is smart, cunning, and influential. Lucas is not sure how to prove that Taryn knew about the porn and the murders. Is she innocent then?

A great addition to the series. I love Kidd and his wife Lauren who has her own side story in this one. I always like seeing Flowers in the Prey books. They have great banter and even though I haven't read the Flowers series, I know I'm going to like him in it. 

My only disappointment is that I feel this is the third or fourth book when someone gets ways with a bad deed without punishment. And if we are going to let baddies get away with it, why couldn't Clara Rinker be one of them? 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs