Thursday, May 24, 2018

Waking Olivia by Elizabeth O'Roark

Waking Olivia
by Elizabeth O'Roark

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Published by: Amazon Digital
Publish Date: March 12, 2016
Genre: New Adult
Rating: 4.5 Stars

A college track star with nothing to lose.
A coach who may lose everything to save her.

Will Langstrom has a failing farm, his father’s debt and a struggling college track team. The last thing he needs is Olivia Finnegan, a beautiful but troubled new transfer student.

Olivia Finnegan is her own worst enemy, with a past she can't seem to escape, and the last person she wants help from is a cocky track coach she can never seem to please.

Refusing to be pushed away, Will is determined to save her.
And determined to resist an attraction that could destroy them both.

I read this book as an ARC quite some time ago via NetGalley, but I just realized I never reviewed it on here. It was one of my favorite New Adult novels, so I knew I needed to get this review up on my page.

This is a character piece with a well-built relationship arc between Will and Olivia written in. I could tell the author spent a lot of time planning the narrative before she began writing. That's the mark of a truly great writer, in my opinion.

Both Will and Olivia are fully-realized with back stories that shape themselves and their relationship to one another. I liked the comparison to Olivia as a track star and the fact that in her sleep, she literally runs away from her demons, sleep-running only to wake up and not know where she is. Will decides to help her by letting her sleep at his family's farm so that he can prevent her nightly escapes. He truly cares about her and wants her to succeed in track and in life.

The romance between them was slow brewing which made it more believable and less taboo than most authors have the talent to portray. I was rooting for them the whole way through.

If you like new adult fiction, do yourself a favor and read this one immediately. You won't regret it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cross Your Heart by Kierney Scott

Cross Your Heart
by Kierney Scott

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Published by: Amazon Digital
Publish Date: April 25, 2018
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Three young girls are missing. All of them cold cases. All of them forgotten. But when Detective Jess Bishop identifies a disturbing link between them, she’s determined to find out what happened, and fights to re-open their cases. At the scene of each abduction the kidnapper left a clue – a small bag of candy – in place of the missing child. And then a fourth child is taken. Eight-year-old Ava is snatched from her hospital bed and when a bag of candy is found in her room, Jessica knows it’s the same kidnapper. As the pressure to solve the case pushes Jess and her team to breaking point, Jess takes a personal risk she fears she’ll live to regret. But she has no choice. Out of hospital, Ava can only get sicker: Jess is running out of time. Can she find Ava before it’s too late?

I typically like thrillers about detective work, cold cases, missing persons, and protagonists with a past. This book had all of those elements, so I was looking forward to reading it.

Immediately, I felt as if I should have read Book 1 in the series prior to reading the Book 2. I received this one as an ARC and was slightly confused about the references to the first installment, including what exactly happened to Detective Bishop to cause the mutilation to her hand. The author mentioned she cut it on glass while trying to escape from the perpetrator in the first book, but it was very foggy and unclear. I would have liked more of an explanation to tie it to her issues of PTSD in present day.

While she was on leave from her injuries, Det. Bishop spent time looking over cold case files. She found 3 cases in which there was a common denominator: blue cotton candy under the fingernails of the deceased children. Predictably, upon her return to work, none of her colleagues believe there is a serial killer out there targeting children by giving them blue cotton candy. Even more predictably, the next day, a fourth child is taken and blue cotton candy is found at the scene.

With those obvious issues with the beginning of the story, I was tempted to stop reading. I was worried that the plot would be transparent and wouldn't keep my interest. However, I pressed on.

Ultimately, I never saw the ending coming. The identity of the killer was surprising and unique. I enjoyed that twist.

While I found the story driven and surprising, I only gave this 3.5 stars as I don't think I'll be reading any more books in the series. I fear I'd have to go back and read the first one in order to really know what's going on in the overall arc.

Monday, February 5, 2018

It's Been Awhile . . .

Life has been a bit dramatic the last 2 years. I haven't been reading as much as usual, because I've been focusing on things like mental health and my eating disorder. Fun stuff. Although I'm not going to review them, I am going to list the books I've read with a few short comments on them for your reading pleasure. I promise to review my next read.

1. The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart - The house called Sunset has been Marcia’s summer home for her entire life. Both of her parents died there, and she and her brother spent their youth exploring its rambling hallways and seaside grounds. They love the old house, but Marcia’s sister-in-law has never taken to it. Juliette loathes the sea, and soon comes to loathe her husband, as well. After they divorce, Juliette pays a final visit to Sunset, demanding alimony. She is there for a few tense days before she disappears. It takes them a week to find her body.

The peace at Sunset has been shattered, and Marcia must work quickly to keep her beloved childhood home from being forever spoiled. Somewhere in the creaky old mansion, a murderer lurks. Will Marcia be accused of the crime? Or will she be the next victim? 

Mary Roberts Rinehart was to mystery novels in America what Agatha Christie was to mystery novels in the UK, however, MRR published 14 years prior to AC's first book. This book was easy to follow (another of hers which I read first and will post below was a tad confusing), and I highly recommend it if you enjoy AC. You can even download ALL of Mary's books for .99 cents on Amazon (which I recently did) here (no affiliate link).

2. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart - As far as Carol Spencer is concerned, the war has spoiled everything. She and Don had been engaged for years and were on the verge of marriage when he was shot down in the South Pacific, leaving Carol on the verge of spinsterhood at twenty-four. She wants to take some kind of job in the war effort, but her invalid mother demands that Carol accompany her to the family’s summer home in Maine. But when they arrive at the faded mansion, they find it completely locked up. The servants are gone, the lights are dark—and there is a body in the closet.

There is a killer on the grounds of the abandoned Spencer estate, and the police believe it is Carol. As war rages across the seas, Carol Spencer fights a private battle of her own—to prove her own innocence, and to save her mother’s life. 

This was the first book of MRR's I read and as I stated above, I found it a bit confusing at times. I felt like I was missing something. Characters often seemed to appear in two places at once which I couldn't understand. Maybe it was just me, because as I said, I've been a bit out of it for 2 years. I still recommend this one, however. It's only $1.99 on Amazon at the moment.

3. White Bird in a Blizzard by Laura Kasischke - When Katrina Connors' mother walks out on her family one frigid January day, Kat is surprised but not shocked; the whole year she has been "becoming sixteen"—falling in love with the boy next door, shedding her baby fat, discovering sex—her mother has slowly been withdrawing. As Kat and her father pick up the pieces of their daily life, she finds herself curiously unaffected by her mother's absence. But in dreams that become too real to ignore, she's haunted by her mother's cries for help. . . .

I got this book from the library soon after it first came out in 1999. I was all of 21/22 at the time, and something about this book really struck me. I'd been wanting to re-read it for some time, but could never remember the name of it. I finally figured it out when I found the movie version on Netflix starring Shailene Woodley. It was a horrible movie. Don't watch it. I did decide to re-read it. Although it didn't strike me in the same way that it did almost 20 years ago, it was still a solid read. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes interesting coming-of-age stories. It's not always an easy one to swallow, but it says important things about family dynamics.

4. Emma in the Night - by Wendy Walker - One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

The ending was definitely a twist for me. I did suspect one part of it for a long time, but the way in which the ending occurred was not what I predicted at all. I like stories of missing people returned and things of that nature. I watch a lot of ID channel. If you like that type of mystery, you'll enjoy this.

5. The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne - When firefighters respond to a suspected meth explosion at a trailer park, they discover a man's body, unburned but with terrible head wounds. Meanwhile, another man is discovered in a shipping container at the Port of Seattle, shot execution-style. For Homicide Detective Sarah Linden, two cases soon become one, and she must unravel a complex web of addiction, greed, and betrayal to reveal the killer.

This is a prequel to the TV show The Killing (all seasons can be found on Netflix). Loved the show and I wanted to read this book. It gave a bit of incite as to how Linden and Holder became who they were by the first episode of the first season. If you've ever seen the show, you'll want to read this gem!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of Lies
by Emily Carpenter
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Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 6, 2017
Genre & Subject Matter: Women's Fiction,
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.
Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.
Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

It's been quite awhile since I've reviewed a book on here, but after spending a frenzied, sleepless day and night poring over Emily Carpenter's second offering, I just had to get my thoughts down on paper. The Weight of Lies was quite a ride!

Emily Carpenter knows how to tackle a doozy of a tale. She appears to plot rigorously before settling into writing, making sure there are well-hidden clues throughout the piece that make the end all the more satisfying.

This book goes back and forth between sections of a book called Kitten, written by main character Meg's mother, Frances Ashley, and the present-day. Meg's mother wrote the book based on a real life murder that took place on Bonny Island where Frances spent a summer when she was nineteen. The character of Kitten is even based on a little girl named Dorothy whose father owned the hotel at the time.

As the fortieth anniversary of the best seller looms on the horizon, a book editor approaches Meg to write a tell-all about her tortured life with her mother, a Mommie Dearest-type. Meg's early twenty-something angst takes over and she agrees to share her childhood with the Kitten Cult readers. In order to learn more about her mother's time on island, she contacts adult Dorothy ("Doro"), who now owns the hotel, and descends on the island, eager to learn everything she can about what truly happened back in the 1970's. Was Doro truly the murderer as the book and Kitten Cultists suspect, or was it Frances herself? The deeper Meg descends into the mystery, sorting fact from fiction, the more she discovers about her mother and about herself.

The characters of Meg, Frances and Doro aren't short on dimension. Their mannerisms, back histories and the way they intertwine are all satisfyingly explored in the book. I loved that each chapter started with a paragraph from the book, Kitten, giving the reader a glimpse of the fictional account of the events surrounding the murder. Present-day events soon followed, giving the reader more pieces of the puzzle, sometimes contradictory to the information in Kitten. It truly is a Who-Dunnit until the very end, although I suspected things weren't as natural as they seemed with one of the characters.

I felt that the author tried to fit in too many twists involving too many characters. Almost every single character in the story had some kind of unknown-to-the-reader motive for being on Bonny Island. In my opinion, Koa's, in particular, seemed a bit of a stretch and without a ton of explanation, as did Koa as a character. He was very 1-dimensional. At the end of the book, you know what his goal in coming to the island was, but it didn't have a strong hold on me. There needed to be more depth to that storyline.

A couple of things were a bit far-reaching, like the lead poisoning, but I liked the book so much to gloss over those parts.

I've put a SPOILER warning on the information below the break. The plot will not be revealed, however reading below will give you one piece of insignificant information about two of the characters. I just wanted to mention my dislike.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ten Below Zero

Ten Below Zero
by Whitney Barbetti
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Published by: Whitney Barbetti
Publish Date: August 25, 2014
Genre & Subject Matter: NA, Cancer, Female being Attacked
Rating: 5 Stars

My name is Parker. My body is marked with scars from an attack I don’t remember. I’m indifferent to everything, everyone. The only emotion I feel with any kind of depth is annoyance, and I feel it often.

A text message sent to the wrong number proves to be my undoing.

His name is Everett, but I call him rude. He’s pushy, he’s arrogant, he crowds my personal space, and worst of all: he makes me feel. He chooses to wear all black, all the time, as if he’s waiting to attend a funeral. Probably because he is.

Everett is dying. And he’s spending his final days living, truly living. In doing so, he’s forcing me to feel, to heal. To come face to face with the demons I suppressed in my memory.

He hurts me, he fulfills me, he completes me. And still, he's dying.

This is my new favorite author! I have no idea how I ran across this book on Amazon, but I'm SO GLAD I took a chance on it in spite of it's foreshadowed end. This is literally the only book that's ever made me cry, yet I can't sing its praises enough!

We've all read books with the "terminal illness" trope and/or the "broken people who overcome things" trope, and hopefully, we're all ready to read a fresh and uncharted version of those. That's what Ten Below Zero is. While those are strong themes in the story, they are by no means the reason that this story resonates. The realistic characters and the journey they embark on that shaped this book in a way that no other has for me.

Parker has blocked out the terrible incident that caused her scars. In order to maintain that wall, she's turned off all of her emotions and is simply surviving instead of living. I completely identify with her, and not just because I've had my own attack experience. The author made me identify with her character through her carefully chosen words and descriptions of Parker.

Everett has a terminal illness and is choosing to fully live until the end. He's in the exact opposite place than Parker, and after a wrong number on his part and an impulsive move on hers, he is determined to show her how to feel and how to live.

The two set off for a road trip, Everett's last hurrah. Will Parker thaw? Will Everett find what he's looking for? You'll have to read to see. I do not want to give away any spoilers as it is best to let the story unfold naturally for the reader.

Let me know if you've read this one!