Thursday, December 21, 2023

A Very Happy Christmas by Elise Noble


Title: A Very Happy Christmas
Author: Elise Noble
Publisher: Undercover Publishing Limited
Release Date: October 31, 2016

Some Christmas presents unwrap themselves...

When a colleague gets her 'S's mixed up, care worker Marissa Taylor gets a bigger Yuletide gift than she ever imagined. Stripper, Santa, they’re practically the same thing, right? At least none of the residents had a heart attack.

Marissa isn’t the impulsive type, but when Liam Carlisle offers her a private show, she decides to treat herself to a little festive fun. Can the Christmas magic last? Or will Marissa stop believing in Santa for good?

A Very Happy Christmas is a standalone romantic comedy novella in the Happy Ever After series.

Continuing with the Christmas spirit, I went and opened this book.

The story begins with Marissa Taylor who works at a nursing home. She is working on Christmas when the hired Santa shows up. It turns out that her boss instead of booking a regular Santa, has hired a stripper Santa.

Liam Carlisle is working as a stripper while he finishes med school. When he meets Marissa, he can't avoid proposing a private show.

Fun and interesting characters in this short novella. I like that Liam wasn't embarrassed about his side job. He was pretty confident. They made a good couple.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Peppermint Kisses by Macie St. James


Title: Peppermint Kisses
Series: Reindeer Ridge
Author: Macie St. James
Publisher: Amazon Digital Service
Release Date: October 15, 2021 

Love is in the air in Reindeer Ridge as four female shop owners celebrate the season.

Meredith Aikman is struggling as the newly elected mayor of Reindeer Ridge. She beat out her childhood friend Christopher Shepard for the job, so she's working extra hard to prove that voters made the right choice. But nobody warned her how complicated planning the town's Christmas festivals would be.

As former mayor, Christopher should want Meredith to fail. But he's secretly loved her since the first time he saw her in second grade, even if she never loved him back. When the opportunity arises to help her out, he can't resist.

The more time Meredith spends with Christopher, the more she realizes she might have misjudged him. Maybe he's not the heartbreaker she always thought he was. Maybe she should start seeing him as more than a friend.

The Reindeer Ridge series is a sweet, clean contemporary Christmas series filled with swoon-worthy heroes and a small-town setting.

Reindeer Ridge town has a new major, Meredith Aikman. Meredith is trying to prove herself to the town. However, she is drowning in Christmas preparations for the yearly festival. She knows she is running out of time. Then, she crashes into the prior major Christopher Shepard whom she has known all her life, and despite having run against him, he is willing to help her out.

Christopher has always cared for Meredith. You could say he had a crush on her since high school. Now as an adult, he wishes they could be more. He wants to help her succeed and as a bonus, he could spend more time with her in the process.

Really cute Christmas story. Love Christopher. He was a sweetheart.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead by Jenny Hollander


Title: Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead
Author: Jenny Hollander
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: February 6, 2024

What if everything you know about the worst night of your life turns out not to be true?

Nine years ago, with the world's eyes on her, Charlie Colbert fled. The press and the police called Charlie a "witness" to the nightmarish events at her elite graduate school on Christmas Eve—events known to the public as "Scarlet Christmas"—though Charlie knows she was much more than that.

Now, Charlie has meticulously rebuilt her life: She's the editor-in-chief of a major magazine, engaged to the golden child of the publishing industry, and hell-bent on never, ever letting her guard down again. But when a buzzy film made by one of Charlie's former classmates threatens to shatter everything she's worked for, Charlie realizes how much she's changed in nine years. Now, she's not going to let anything—not even the people she once loved most—get in her way.

With the incredibly engaging book name, I was excited to read this novel. Yet, I can't say that I loved it.

Charlie Colbert is the current editor-in-chief of a prestigious magazine called C. She is engaged to be married to Tripp who is a rich heir in the publishing world. Charlie reinvented herself after a horrible tragedy that occurred nine years earlier.

During her time as a student at Carroll, three people died in what is known as the Scarlett Christmas. A book has been published about the events of that night and now a movie is in the works. Charlie is not able to handle it. She needs to stop the movie from coming out. She is not sure what happened because at some point she passed out. She does worry if she hurt someone that night.

With the help of her therapist, Charlie will try to piece together what happened that horrible day before the movie is out.

I liked the first half of the book. I was interested in learning what really happened that night and who were the people who died. Unfortunately, the last part of the novel didn't work for me. It felt rushed and sloppy. Also, the romance between Tripp and Charlie felt lacking. Why were they even together?

This was a buddy read with Jayme and DeAnn. Check out their reviews.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

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

The Exchange by Jon Langford


Title: The Exchange
Author: Jon Langford

Fiction, Short Story

“Hello, sir. How may I help you?”

This 3-page short story was entertaining.  The main characters included an alarm clock, the owner, and a customer service representative.

I laughed out loud at this exchange. I recommend it to anyone who has dealt with a similar situation.

Here is the link:

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Behind a Closed Door by J.D. Barker


Title: Behind a Closed Door 
Author: J.D. Barker
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Release Date: May 13, 2024

Soon to be a major motion picture!Would you kill a total stranger to save someone you love?

Sugar & Spice is the latest app craze taking the world by storm, but for Abby and Brendan Hollander, downloading it leads to a dangerous game of life and death. When the app assigns them a series of increasingly taboo tasks, they soon find themselves caught up in a twisted web of seduction and violence in this sexually charged dark thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Fourth Monkey—master of suspense, J.D. Barker.

Thrilling until the end!

Behind A Closed Door begins with a therapy session. A couple's relationship, Abby and Brendan Hollander's marriage is in trouble. When the first session ends, their therapist recommends that they download an app called Sugar and Spice to improve their sex life.

In the beginning, the app seems interested in only spicing their sex life but progressively it becomes more intense until the app asks Abby to kill someone or Brendan will die. Abby believes this is true but she is nowhere near ready to murder a stranger or is she?

J.D. Barker writes very interesting characters that take over your life while reading his books. I could not put this book down. I had to know how it was all related and what ending was I getting.

Was I able to guess some of the twists? Yes, but not all of them. This could be a great movie!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Hampton Creek Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 8, 2023

None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell


Title: None of This Is True 
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: August 8, 2023

Lisa Jewell returns with a scintillating new psychological thriller about a woman who finds herself the subject of her own popular true crime podcast.

Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?

A strange one!

Alix Summers is a well-known podcaster. She is celebrating her fortieth birthday at the local pub with her husband and friends. She is happy. On a closeby table, Josie Fair is also celebrating her birthday. She is also turning forty. When Alix goes to the restroom, Josie follows. They have a brief interaction where Josie tells Alix, they are birth twins.

The next time they see each other, Josie is outside her children's school. Josie convinces Alix that she will be a great next subject for Alix's new podcast. Josie tells her, she is on the brink of major changes in her life and that she is ready to tell her story.

The more Josie reveals, the more shocked Alix is. On the one hand, Alix wants to stop because Josie has a dark energy but on the other hand, she knows she has gold in her hands. The podcast will be a sure success. Then Josie and her husband both disappear.

What has Josie done?

I did enjoy this book until the last part. I felt too many things were left open-ended. What was true? What was a lie? Who killed who? I am okay with leaving things for the reader to interpret but here there were way too many unanswered questions.

Would I read another book by Lisa Jewell? Of course, I would.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

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

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin
Rachel Krall #2


Title: Dark Corners 
Series: Rachel Krall #2
Author: Megan Goldin
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 8, 2023

Terence Bailey is about to be released from prison for breaking and entering, though investigators have long suspected him in the murders of six women. As his freedom approaches, Bailey gets a surprise visit from Maddison Logan, a hot, young influencer with a huge social media following. Hours later, Maddison disappears, and police suspect she’s been kidnapped—or worse. Is Maddison’s disappearance connected to her visit to Bailey? Why was she visiting him in the first place?

When they hit a wall in the investigation, the FBI reluctantly asks for Rachel’s help in finding the missing influencer. Maddison seems only to exist on social media; she has no family, no friends, and other than in her posts, most people have never seen her. Who is she, really? Using a fake Instagram account, Rachel Krall goes undercover to BuzzCon, a popular influencer conference, where she discovers a world of fierce rivalry that may have turned lethal.

When police find the body of a woman with a tattoo of a snake eating its tail, the FBI must consider a chilling possibility: Bailey has an accomplice on the outside and a dangerous obsession with influencers, including Rachel Krell herself. Suddenly a target of a monster hiding in plain sight, Rachel is forced to confront the very real dangers that lurk in the dark corners of the internet.

Rachel Krall, the true crime podcaster star of Megan Goldin’s acclaimed Night Swim returns to search for a popular social media influencer who disappeared after visiting a suspected serial killer.

I enjoyed Night Swim and Rachell Krall's character. I was glad Megan Goldin decided to bring her back.

Rachel is an athlete but she is better known as a true crime podcaster. Rachel is called by the FBI to come to Florida. A prisoner, Terence Bailey has shown a desire to speak with her after being visited by a famous influencer, Maddison Logan. Terence is in prison for breaking and entering but he is suspected of the murder of six sex workers. In forty-eight hours his release is imminent and the FBI will ask for any help trying to keep him locked up for life.

Rachel is intrigued about why he is asking for her and even more so when she learns that Maddison has gone missing too. A video shows someone possibly abducting her. Does this mean that Terence had an accomplice?

Rachel decides to infiltrate BuzzCon, an influencer meeting. She will go undercover using her athlete's account instead of her true crime persona. The more Rachel learns about Maddison and the other influencers the more questions she has. Has someone kidnapped her or has she created this to increase her followers count? What is the connection with Terence? and is there a second killer?

I enjoyed this one but not as much as the Night Swim. I like Rachel although, at times, I thought she put herself in danger despite the FBI agent telling her to pack her things and go before the serial killer got close to her.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

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

Before She Finds Me by Heather Chavez


Title: Before She Finds Me
Author: Heather Chavez
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: June 27, 2023

In this shocking thriller, two unlikely mothers race to uncover the truth behind a horrific attack—even after it becomes clear that the truth will destroy one of their families.

Julia Bennett has worked hard to create a stable life for her daughter, Cora, in Southern California. So when Cora leaves for college, the worst thing Julia expects on move-in day is an argument with her ex-husband and his new wife. But a sudden attack leaves the campus stunned—and only Julia’s quick actions save Cora’s life. Shaken in the aftermath, and haunted by a dark secret, Julia starts to wonder: What if the attack wasn’t as random as everyone believes?

Newly pregnant Ren Petrovic has an unusual career—she’s a trained assassin, operating under a strict moral code. Ren wasn’t on campus that day, but she knows who was: her husband, Nolan. What she doesn’t know is why Nolan has broken their rules by not telling her about the job in advance. The more Ren looks into the attack, the more she begins to question: Who really hired Nolan? And why did one woman in the crowd respond so differently from all the rest?

Julia and Ren each want answers, but their searches quickly pit them against each other. One woman is a hired killer, but the other is a determined survivor. And both mothers will defend their families to the bitter end. 

“Shield the innocent. Kill the guilty. Defend the family.”

Julia Bennett is a good mother. She has raised her daughter, Cora the best way she can. Cora is moving to college and Julia is terrified of letting her go but she knows she must. When the moving date occurs, Julia is also dreading the interaction between Cora and her ex-husband Eric, and his new wife, Brie. Then, the unimaginable happens, a sniper is shooting people down. Julia jumps in to protect her daughter from the attack. The shooter leaves fatalities behind. Julia starts doubting that the attack was random but who were the targets?

Ren Petrovic is an assassin married to Nolan who is also an assassin. Ren is pregnant and is looking forward to motherhood. She believes in a code of conduct and in her book only evil people should be eliminated. Getting paid while doing it is only a plus. Ren prefers poison to firearms but she can shoot if needed. When she learns of the attack, she immediately believes her husband is the shooter but why did he take a job without telling her?

Before She Finds Me was a riveting story that had me glued to the pages up to the very end! I love both female characters. Tough women in their own way. I was hoping for both to survive what was definitely coming for them.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

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

The Connellys of County Down by Tracey Lange


Title: The Connellys of County Down
Author: Tracey Lange 
Publisher: Celadon Books
Release Date: August 1, 2023

When Tara Connelly is released from prison after serving eighteen months on a drug charge, she knows rebuilding her life at thirty years old won’t be easy. With no money and no prospects, she returns home to live with her siblings, who are both busy with their own problems. Her brother, a single dad, struggles with the ongoing effects of a brain injury he sustained years ago, and her sister’s fragile facade of calm and order is cracking under the burden of big secrets. Life becomes even more complicated when the cop who put her in prison keeps showing up unannounced, leaving Tara to wonder what he wants from her now.

While she works to build a new career and hold her family together, Tara finds a chance at love in a most unlikely place. But when the Connellys’ secrets start to unravel and threaten her future, they all must face their worst fears and come clean, or risk losing each other forever.

The Connellys of County Down is a moving novel about testing the bounds of love and loyalty. It explores the possibility of beginning our lives anew, and reveals the pitfalls of shielding each other from the bitter truth.

Great sophomore novel!

The Connellys of County Down follows 3 siblings.

Tara Connelly: Tara has been serving time in prison for the last eighteen months for trafficking drugs. Tara was an art teacher but she won't be able to return to her job. She will need to start her life all over again. Without a place to call her own and without money, she will need to stay at their childhood home with her other 2 siblings and her nephew.

When her sister, Geraldine is not there to pick her up, she is offered a ride home by Brian Nolan. Brian is one of the two cops who arrested her. Why is he there?

Eddie Connelly: He had a traumatic brain injury many years ago but he's still dealing with the sequela of his trauma. He gets debilitating headaches. Eddie has a son, Connor who lives with him after his mother left them.

Geraldine Connelly: She likes rules and tries to keep the house running. She feels responsible for her family. She is also very stressed at work and in reality, being overwhelmed is a better way to describe her.

I love the dynamics of the main characters brought to life by Tracey Lange. Despite being flawed characters, it was hard not to root for a good outcome for all of them. The Connellys had not been treated well by life and you wanted a win for them.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

The Vanishing Hour by Seraphina Nova Glass


Title: The Vanishing Hour
Author: Seraphina Nova Glass
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: May 30, 2023

"Glass weaves a taut web of suspicion, murder and revenge in this chilling tale."—Liv Constantine, internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish, on Someone's Listening

From the Edgar Award–nominated author of On a Quiet Street comes a shocking thriller about secrets…and the lengths some people will go to keep them.

Grace Holloway keeps to herself. Since narrowly escaping death at the hands of the man who kidnapped her, she’s thrown herself into the small inn she runs in Rock Harbor, Maine. It’s quiet, quaint and, in the off-season, completely isolated—the perfect place for Grace to keep her own secrets.

But Grace isn’t the only one with something to hide, and Rock Harbor isn’t just a sleepy vacation town. Someone is taking young women—girls who look an awful lot like Grace did when she was kidnapped so many years ago.

When a surge of disappearances brings the investigation to her door, Grace finds herself unwillingly at the center of it all and doing everything she can to keep her distance. Because Grace knows something…something that could change everything. And when the truth comes to light, getting justice for the vanished might be more than Grace can handle alone…

The Vanishing Hour was interesting but the ending was too out there for me!

At night, women go missing from "the Strip" on Hemlock Lane. Over the years, drug addicts and prostitutes have disappeared from this sketchy area of town in Rock Harbor, Maine.

The latest young woman who was taken is Brooke Everett. Her mother Kira Everett will do anything to find her daughter. She follows all the clues she can get her hands on. She knows the police might not be enough.

Besides Brooke, Aden Coleman's father has also disappeared. At first, Aden thinks that he might have gone fishing and will be back soon but after talking to the police, he is not sure about this anymore. He decides to stay in an inn until his father is found.

Grace Holloway works for the local Inn. Usually, during summer it's busy but during winter, she has the place to herself. You see eight years ago, Grace was abducted and kept for a month until she was able to escape. Since then, she has kept to herself and doesn't watch TV or have a social media presence. However, she can't continue to stay in her cocoon when she discovers women who look like her are the ones being taken.

The Vanishing Hour started strong but the last third was chaos. Some parts were not realistic and unlikely to happen in real life.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A Fatal Affair by A.R. Torre

Title: A Fatal Affair 
Author: A.R. Torre
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: June 20, 2023

Stars. Lovers. Liars. Killers. This is Hollywood, and everyone has a part to play in a shocking novel of suspense by New York Times bestselling author A. R. Torre.

Actress Nora Kemp loves two men. One is Hugh Iverson, a philanthropic movie star who gives Nora security and respectability. The other is Hugh’s twin brother, Trent, a Hollywood bad boy who brings out Nora’s wild side. When Trent and an unidentified woman are found dead on the Iversons’ Beverly Hills property, more than Nora’s and Hugh’s reputations are at stake.

An investigation suggests murder-suicide. But there’s more to the crime than first meets the eye: suspicions of a serial killer with a bizarre motive, Hugh’s unnerved and cautious staff, and a missing mother and son. As two LA detectives sift through the deceptions of the innocent and the guilty—some living and some dead—solving the case becomes a cunning cat-and-mouse game.

Because in a city of illusions, the truth—no matter how dangerous—is so easy to hide.

I was completely immersed in this Hollywood thriller!

A murder has been committed at the mansion of Hugh Iverson, the most famous actor who is engaged to the most beautiful actress, Nora Kemp. 

A woman has been murdered on Hugh's property and the culprit of the murder-suicide seems to be none other than Hugh's twin brother, Trent, Hollywood's known bad boy. 

Many questions pile up. Who is the woman? Why was the woman there? Why did Trent kill her? What was the woman hiding?

The story is told from several points of view, including The Husband, one of the detectives investigating the case,  the Mom (murdered woman), the Kid (child of the deceased woman), Nora (The Leading Lady), the Accomplice, and the Leading Man. 

I remember when this book came out some of my book friends didn't love it. Maybe because I went in with low expectations, I found myself enjoying this book so much.  I couldn't put it away! 

In regards to the characters, I liked the Detective the most. I wish I could see her in another story, I really like her. 

Overall, yes, It was easy to guess the outcome and the murder but the ride was a good one. 

Alessandra's work is always a hit with this reviewer. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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