Sunday, February 5, 2023

Violet Is Nowhere by Faith Gardner
The Jolvix Episodes #2


Title: Violet Is Nowhere
Series: The Jolvix Episodes #2
Author: Faith Gardner
Publisher: Mirror House Press
Release Date: September 22, 2022

Two strangers. One phone.Everything on the line.

Rising rock star Violet is kidnapped from her Los Angeles home in a near-future dystopia. She wakes up locked in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a mysterious note and a burner phone that only dials one unfamiliar number.

Construction worker Bud answers a call from his Bay Area apartment and a stranger’s on the line claiming to have been kidnapped and locked in a cabin.

The note says they have one week to figure out the connection between them. Otherwise someone out there—or something—will take her life.

A psychological thriller with a sci-fi twist, this book is part of The Jolvix Episodes.

This is the second book in the world of Amen Maxine.

I enjoyed Amen Maxine and I was happy to be able to get a copy of Violet is Nowhere.

Violet is almost a famous rock star. She is becoming quite popular and even though she is in a band, it looks like her big break is about to happen. Then, she wakes up in a strange cabin. She has no way out. She is a captive and the only thing left behind is a cellphone with only one number. When she dials it, she gets a man named Bud on the other line.

Bud is a construction worker. He likes his beer and doesn't have any desire to improve himself. He had a couple of relationships that left him a little broken. When Violet dials him, at first he thinks it's all a joke but he can't shake the desperation he hears in the voice on the other side of the line. Soon, he is playing detective and trying to figure out, who captured her and why. He wants to help Violet get free.

Violet is Nowhere is a good installment but not as good as Amen Maxine. I felt bad for Violet and I was hoping for Budd to find her in time. The ending unfolded in an unexpected way, or at least part of it did.

I will continue reading the next book in this series. It has my attention.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

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

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan


Title: Nora Goes Off Script
Author: Annabel Monaghan
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: June 7, 2022

Nora's life is about to get a rewrite...

Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it's her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage's collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it's picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne'er do well husband Nora's life will never be the same.

The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He'll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it's the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it's the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.

Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story--the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen.

Nora Hamilton is a scriptwriter. When her husband leaves her and her kids, she writes a script about that too.  To her surprise,  a studio buys it and then decides to make it into a movie. To her shock, the most coveted actor, Leo Vance is playing her ex-Ben. 

Leo, who is handsome, rich, and famous is staying in his trailer next to her home since the filming is done at her house. How awesome is that!

After the movie wraps, she is ready to pay her debts and start writing a new script until she realizes that Leo didn't leave with the rest of the crew. Quite the opposite, he wants to pay her $1000 a day for one week to continue staying with them. Yet, when the week is done, nobody wants Leo to leave. Her kids have become used to him and she is falling for him. But, how can it work?

Loved the book, loved the audio. Nora and Leo were both very likable characters. They felt real and honest. I was rooting for their HEA the whole time.

Cliffhanger: No

4.5/5 Fangs

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Title: Hello Stranger 
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 11, 2023

Sadie Montogmery has had good breaks and bad breaks in her life, but as a struggling artist, all she needs is one lucky break. Things seem to be going her way when she lands one of the coveted finalist spots in a portrait competition. It happens to coincide with a surgery she needs to have. Minor, they say. Less than a week in the hospital they say. Nothing about you will change, they say. Upon recovery, it begins to dawn on Sadie that she can see everything around her, but she can no longer see faces.

Temporary, they say. Lots of people deal with this, they say. As she struggles to cope―and hang onto her artistic dreams―she finds solace in her fourteen-year-old dog, Peanut. Thankfully, she can still see animal faces. When Peanut gets sick, she rushes him to the emergency vet nearby. That’s when she meets veterinarian Dr. Addison. And she’s pleasantly surprised when he asks her on a date. But she doesn't want anyone to know about her face blindness. Least of all Joe, her obnoxious neighbor who always wears a bowling jacket and seems to know everyone in the building. He’s always there at the most embarrassing but convenient times, and soon, they develop a sort of friendship. But could it be something more?

As Sadie tries to save her career, confront her haunting past, and handle falling in love with two different guys she realizes that happiness can be found in the places―and people― you least expect.

5 amazing stars!

I have loved all of Katherine Center's books and this one is not the exception.

Our heroine is Sadie Montgomery. She is a struggling artist who paints portraits. She has recently entered a competition and she might have the chance to win 10000 dollars. This is the same competition her mother, who passed away, entered too. Sadie wants to demonstrate to her father that she can be successful in doing what she loves.

However, six weeks before the competition, she learns that she needs to have brain surgery. The surgery has minimal risk and after it, she could begin painting her portrait. What Sadie was not expecting is to stop being able to see faces. After her surgery, she develops acquire apperceptive prosopagnosia. When she realizes this, she freaks out. To make matters worse, her dog, Peanut gets sick. She takes him to the emergency vet. Dr. Addison is able to save Peanut and even without seeing his face, she falls for him. She's thrilled when he asks her out. But things can't be easy, she also meets Joe. He lives in the same building as she does. At first, she dislikes him but the more she gets to know him, the more she starts falling for him too.

What is Sadie going to do? And how is she going to win the competition without being able to see faces?

Loved it. Love Sadie and Joe. So cute together. I also loved Peanut and thankfully no John Wick harm comes to pass.

Now that Happiness for Beginners it's coming to the screen, Hello Stranger can come out as a movie too.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

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

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins


Title: The Villa
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 3, 2023

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.
As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Another good novel by Rachel Hawkins.

The Villa is narrated by two characters: Mari in 1974 and Emily in the present.

Emily and Chess have been friends since they were kids. Through the years, they have stayed in touch but they haven't been able to spend quality time together in a long time. 

Emily is a writer of cozy mysteries. Her series' love interest is based on her ex-husband and because of it, she is having a hard time starting her next book without killing the character. On the other hand, Chess has become a very famous and successful self-help writer. When Chess invites Emily to spend a few weeks in Orvieto, Italy, Emily decides to go. Not long after arriving in Italy, Emily becomes quite intrigued by Villa Aestas' history. She learns the house has been the site of a murder in 1974. Emily starts thinking that a book and an album might have clues about what really happened that fateful day.

In the 1970s, Villa Aestas was known as Villa Rosato. Here a famous singer Noel Gordon stayed with Pierce Sheldon, his girlfriend Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. After Pierce is murdered, Mary writes the greatest horror novel of all time and Lara will compose a platinum album that everybody has heard and most own. 

The question is: 

Is the person who killed Pierce really the man accused of the crime or perhaps there is more to the story. 

I enjoyed the two timelines and the two main characters. I liked how the story progressed. We are able to learn how things occurred in 1974 although when you think you know everything, you really don't. 

I've been a fan of  Rachel Hawkins since her Hex Hall series and now I'm a fan of her thrillers.

Lastly, if someone from Netflix is reading this review, I think the Villa could be a great movie!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca
Well Met #4

Title: Well Traveled 
Series: Well Met #4
Author: Jen DeLuca 
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: December 6, 2022

The Renaissance Faire is on the move, and Lulu and Dex are along for the ride, in the next utterly charming rom-com from Jen DeLuca.

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa "Lulu" Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

Super cute!

I liked this series and Well Traveled delivers a believable romance despite happing in the Renaissance Faire.

Louisa "Lulu" Malone is an attorney and in order to become a partner she has been working nonstop. When her boss calls her, she's at the Renaissance Faire. She has been working all day and she finally decided to spend some time walking through the Faire which brings her happy memories. When her boss tells her she needs to go back to work, she realizes she's never gonna become a partner and she decides to quit and gets rid of her phone. When she realizes she's out of a job and starts to panic, luckily there is Stacy who knows her cousin Mitch and who offers to take her traveling with the Faire for a few weeks. Stacy recognizes that disengaging from her laptop and her phone can help her realize what she wants to do next. She knows she does not want to do the same thing she has been doing for the last few years.

As part of the characters, she meets Dex who is part of the Dueling Kilts. He has a reputation for being a lady's man but as we get to know him we discover that he has some layers that no one has been willing to peel until Lulu.

I liked this one a lot. Stacey was a no-nonsense heroine. She was strong but I liked that she could be spontaneous too. Dex was a nice surprise and shame on those who didn't realize his potential. Another great thing was that we were able to see how the characters from the prior books were doing.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon


Title: Locust Lane 
Author: Stephen Amidon
Publisher:  Celadon Books
Release Date: January 17, 2023


For fans of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Stephen Amidon’s Locust Lane is a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town. Can anyone be trusted?

On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.

With a brilliantly woven, intricately crafted plot that gathers momentum on every page, this is superb storytelling told in terse prose—a dynamic read that is both intensely gripping and deeply affecting.

I have mixed feelings about this one. It was a slow-burn novel that kept me interested but the ending lost me, so a three-star rating is where this one falls for me.

Welcome to Emerson where money talks and using privilege can always keep you on top!

Eden Perry, a teenager has been found dead. She was known to be difficult although before she was murdered, she had started turning her life around. She had moved in with family members who were helping her since she couldn't see eye to eye with her mother.

The last people who saw her alive were three teenagers: Hannah, Christopher, and Jack. Jack came from a rich family and he believed everything was owed to him. Hannah was Jack's girlfriend and she was willing to do anything for him. Last, there is Christopher, the son of a local chef who becomes the prime suspect.

The parents of all three teenagers in one way or another will interfere with the investigation.

What I disliked included the portrayal of the cops with a one-track mind, one-dimensional to say the least. And as I mentioned earlier, I didn't like the ending. It was quite depressing.

What I enjoyed was getting to know the darkest part of these characters. No one was completely innocent. They all had shades of darkness.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

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

Sunday, January 8, 2023

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Title: All the Dangerous Things
Author: Stacy Willingham
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: January 10, 2023

One year ago, Isabelle Drake's life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle's entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle's past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust... including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

A great story!

Isabelle Drake has not had a good night's sleep in almost a year. Her insomnia started after her two-year-old son, Mason was taken from his bedroom while she and Ben, her husband were sleeping in the room next door.

Ben left Isabelle about six months after Mason disappeared. He is ready to move on with another younger version of Isabelle. Isabelle can't understand how Ben is already ready to give up while she is the complete opposite. Her son is on her mind 24/7 and she even travels to true crime conventions to speak about what happened to her in hope that someone can help her find him.  At the end of the latest convention, she meets a podcaster by the name of Waylon. He wants to interview her about her son's abduction. At first, she doesn't want to but then she agrees.  As she meets with him, she starts remembering things from her past that scare her. Could she have hurt her child?

This audio narrator, Karissa Vacker was fantastic. The development of the story had me on the edge of my seat. I was able to guess a couple of twists but not all of them. This was great! I can't wait to read another book by Stacy Willingham.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

A Hard Day for a Hangover by Darynda Jones
Sunshine Vicram #3


Title: A Hard Day for a Hangover
Series: Sunshine Vicram #3
Author: Darynda Jones
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: December 6, 2022 

Some people greet the day with open arms. Sheriff Sunshine Vicram would rather give it a hearty shove and get back into bed, because there’s just too much going on right now. There’s a series of women going missing, and Sunny feels powerless to stop it. There’s her persistent and awesomely-rebellious daughter Auri, who’s out to singlehandedly become Del Sol’s youngest and fiercest investigator. And then there’s drama with Levi Ravinder—the guy she’s loved and lusted after for years. The guy who might just be her one and only. The guy who comes from a family of disingenuous vipers looking to oust him—and Sunshine—for good.

I do love this series! Throughout it, I either cracked a smile or laugh out loud!

I will suggest reading this series in order to appreciate the storylines.

A Hard Day for a Hangover begins as its name says. Sherriff Sunshine Vicram is experiencing a hangover after drinking too much the night before. The morning also brings a Jane Doe who has been left for dead and found on a side of a mountain. When she starts digging, it looks like more women have gone missing in the years prior.

Sunshine's daughter Auri, is also interested in the case. She can't help herself from learning more about the case and doing a little bit of digging on her own. Auri's boyfriend is still recuperating from the events of book 2, but he is still very much present.

Of course, Levi is also accounted for. Yes, someone might be trying to get rid of him but he is around to help both Sunshine and Auri.

I'm quite invested in this series and I can't wait to read the next one. I hope the humor, the silliness, and the mysteries keep on coming. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall


Title: What Lies in the Woods
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: January 17, 2023

They were eleven when they sent a killer to prison . . .They were heroes . . . but they were liars.

Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.

And they were liars.

For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.

The narrator of this audio, Karissa Vacker, did a fantastic job!

What Lies in the Woods starts slow but picks up just at the right time.

Three friends share a common past. At eleven, Cassidy, Olivia, and Naomi were best friends. They were always together despite coming from different upbringings. 

Naomi's home life was not easy. Her father an alcoholic and hoarder didn't help her situation. In order to escape, she was more than willing to follow the games her friend, Cassidy created. This time the game is called The Goddess game where they all thought of themselves as goddesses and had to do different rituals in the woods. This is where they find a secret that they keep for twenty-five years.

While in the woods one day and only with one ritual left, Naomi is attacked and stabbed seventeen times. Her two friends run for help just in time and Naomi survives. They testify against a man, presumed to be a serial killer and Naomi's testimony sent him to jail. However, 25 years later, Naomi still has doubts about the identity of her stabber. When she gets a call that he has died in prison, she decides to go back home to see her two friends. Liv is ready to share the secret they have kept for so long. The other two are not sure this is the right time especially when a podcaster is lurking around trying to get their story. 

What Lies in the Woods was quite enjoyable. I had a few theories and a couple turn out to be right which didn't deter my entertainment. I like Naomi and she felt reliable (quite surprisingly in this genre).  The secrets and the whodunit kept my interest all the way through while the narration made it more real for me.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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

The Man I Never Met by Elle Cook


Title: The Man I Never Met
Author: Elle Cook
                        Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Dell
Release Date: November 22, 2022

Is it possible to love someone you've never met? A young woman finds out in this sweeping will-they-or-won't-they love story that begins with a chance wrong number dial. . . .

When Hannah picks up a call from an unknown number, she thinks nothing of it--it's just an easygoing American named Davey who misdialed her while calling into a job interview. And when Hannah wishes him luck after clearing up the confusion, she never actually expects to hear from him again.

Then she gets a text saying he got the job and he'll be moving to London, and she can't help but smile. Soon their texts become phone calls that turn into video calls, and their friendship becomes a relationship they can't wait to start in earnest once Davey lands in London in a month's time.

But when Hannah goes to meet him at the airport, Davey isn't there--and the reason why changes both of their lives in an instant. With their future together suddenly so uncertain, they don't know what to do but try to move on from each other.

Though their chance at love seems lost forever, neither is never far from the other's thoughts. Will fate intervene once more to bring the two together, or will Davey always be the man that Hannah never met?

So many feelings!

A wrong phone call places two strangers in each other's orbit.

Hannah is single and living in London. She is a young woman who is happy with her life, she spends time with her best friend and her friend's husband.

Davey is British but he has been living in the USA since he was a child.

When Davey calls Hannah by mistake, their paths will intersect. The same night Davey send a text telling her that he got the job. He is going to be moving to London. More texts followed over the next few days. They graduate then to phone calls and lastly to video calls over the next few months. A friendship begins until new feelings start developing on both sides.

As Davey's move becomes imminent, the two can stop thinking about it and be excited to finally be together. Hannah decides to pick him up at the airport but Davey never shows and the reason behind it is a big one.

Thoroughly enjoyed this love story of serendipity mixed with hope! I liked both characters and I was rooting for a happy ending. The secondary characters were also quite interesting and good friends all around.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Dell via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.