• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Cross Her Heart: blog tour and review

    Publisher: Amazon Publishing

    Pages: 351

    Date available: 3/17/2020

    A homicide detective’s violent family history repeats itself in #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author Melinda Leigh’s new novel of murder, secrets, and retribution.

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝗼𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬

    For more than twenty-five years, Philadelphia homicide detective Bree Taggert has tucked away the nightmarish childhood memories of her parents’ murder-suicide…Until her younger sister, Erin, is killed in a crime that echoes that tragic night: innocent witnesses and a stormy marriage that ended in gunfire. There’s just one chilling difference. Erin’s husband, Justin, has vanished.

    Bree knows how explosive the line between love and hate can be, yet the evidence against her troubled brother-in-law isn’t adding up. Teaming up with Justin’s old friend, former sheriff’s investigator and K-9 handler Matt Flynn, Bree vows to uncover the secrets of her sister’s life and death, as she promised Erin’s children. But as her investigation unfolds, the danger hits close to home. Once again, Bree’s family is caught in a death grip. And this time, it could be fatal for her.

    𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰

    I could not put this book down! Police procedurals are my favorite types of thrillers and this book did not disappoint.

    The characters all had pasts and were troubled but that was not the path this book took. Their individual tragedies and secrets played a role but were not the central focus which I appreciated.

    I felt a connection to nearly all the characters and despite the dark twists and turns, the details weren’t upsetting or triggering for me – which is why I think I love procedurals so much – solving the mystery from the police perspective is the primary focus.

    The writing was done well and while I had my own ideas about the crime, I was guessing until the end. The author gave the reader just enough to keep the plot moving and that made this book a page-turner for me. There was also a hint of romance and this being the first book of this series, I’m interested to see where that goes in the next book.

    Overall, this was a fantastic start to the series and I can’t wait for the second book. This book is available today from your favorite book seller!

    Thanks to OTPR and Amazon Publishing for this gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

    And be sure to check out my Instagram for a giveaway of this book with a signed bookplate! International entires are welcome.

    About the author

    Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, She Can Kill, Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, Midnight Obsession, Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, Seconds to Live, Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die and Save Your Breath. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit www.melindaleigh.com

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The Mountains Sing: blog tour & review

    Publisher: Algonquin Books

    Pages: 352

    Date: 3/17/2020

    “An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

    Synopsis:

    With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

    Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

    The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

    Review:

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    What a captivating novel! Within the first several pages I was transported to another time and place. This intergenerational novel tells the story from within Vietnam – one that many are unfamiliar with if you learned your country’s historical perspective of that time period.

    The writing was lyrical and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai did a phenomenal job of creating an atmosphere for the reader to experience not only the beauty of the country and people but also the horrors suffered.

    I loved learning about the culture, traditions, and proverbs that prevailed despite the turmoil and hardships faced. It was all so real and as I read, there were times I had to put the book down to process the author’s words. This book is an experience – far more than just words on a page.

    I felt a strong emotional connection with the characters and I have yet to stop thinking about this book. It’s one that I can recommend to anyone and I believe that this is one of those books that everyone should read. There are so many lessons to be learned, historical perspectives to be told, and experiences to be shared.

    This book has already made it into my top books of 2020 and I cannot wait to read what this author writes next! She is immensely talented.

    About the author:

    Born into the Viet Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street vendor and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, as well as international grants and fellowships. Quế Mai first learned English in 8th grade and The Mountains Sing is the first novel written in English by a Vietnamese national to be published by a major American publisher. Currently based in Indonesia, Quế Mai’s journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. For more information, visit www.nguyenphanquemai.com.

    Thank you to Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and promotion.

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Before She Knew Him: blog tour & review

    About Before She Knew Him

    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 25, 2020)

    Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

    From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

    Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

    But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

    Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

    The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

    Review

    Can you reread a thriller and love it just as much the second time? When it comes to a book by Peter Swanson, absolutely.

    I originally read this book last year and if I remember correctly, I tore through it in a few sittings. That’s always a good sign!

    Unreliable narrators are my favorite when done well and Swanson is a master at leaving a tiny doubt in the mind of the reader about each character. Hen was my favorite character because she struck a balance of endearing and barely believable because of her obsession with the case and her past.

    This book had me guessing from the beginning the first time around and while I did guess the big twist, I wasn’t disappointed but instead impressed with myself because Swanson always writes a great twist… or two. Reading it a second time gave me the opportunity to pick up on some subtleties I missed the first time and I appreciated the writing even more.

    I originally went into this book a bit concerned about the portrayal of mental illness but it is handled well. If you are sensitive to this, it’s something to be aware of but I wouldn’t let it discourage you from reading this book.

    Peter Swanson is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to thrillers – and I’m picky. If you haven’t read this one, add it to your TBR list soon!

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for this gifted copy in exchanged for my unbiased review.

    Purchase Links

    HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Photo by Jim Ferguson

    About Peter Swanson

    Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. He lives outside of Boston, where he is at work on his next novel.

    Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Resistance Women: a book review

    About:

    • Paperback: 640 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 4, 2020)

    One of BookBub’s best historical novels of the year and Oprah magazine’s buzziest books of the month.

    From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

    Purchase Links

    HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Synopsis:

    After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

    As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

    For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

    Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

    Review:

    Just when I thought that WWII historical fiction had been exhausted, a book like this comes along.Going into this book knowing that it was based on actual events and people kept me on the edge of my seat.

    Expertly researched, the author did a wonderful job highlighting the importance of not just military operations but also the resistance efforts of everyday civilians. The attention to detail and descriptions of 1930’s & 40’s Berlin captured my attention and the heroic actions of the characters – 3 real life people and 1 composite person – held my attention.

    This is a long book but never felt like it to me. Granted, I love thick books but I never felt that there were parts unnecessary to the plot. My one drawback, it takes awhile to get a good grasp of all the characters and their roles. But once you do, the book flies by. This is one I would recommend taking a few notes on as you go.

    Lastly, please don’t close this book until you read the Author’s Note – it is what made this book a five star read for me. Jennifer Chiaverini went above and beyond in her research and it should not go unnoticed.

    If you enjoyed The Alice Network, you will love Resistance Women.

    About the author:

    Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

  • Audiobooks,  Book Club For Introverts,  Book Reviews,  Himalayas of Literature,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Top Books of 2019

    When you read 153 books in one year, narrowing it down to a top list is so difficult. I am a firm believer in the DNF so if I finish a book, there is some value to be found in the writing. I picked these books based on what the book did for me. Did it change me as a person? As a reader? Did it change my world view? Did it bolster a current belief?

    I attempted a top 10 and couldn’t narrow it down by a single book more so here are my Top 11 Books for 2019:

    1. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s dark, but not too dark. It was thought provoking and expertly captured the human condition and our roles in society. This is my top book of 2019 – the rest are in no particular order.
    2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – A tough read but one that should be filed under “books everyone should read.” This book not only delved into the Underground Railroad but also what happened after “freedom” was achieved. It was an eye opener and a gut punch done so well because the author was not only well-researched but also an incredibly talented writer.
    3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi – Theatre kids are ________. Kidding, of course. But as the parent of a theatre kid, I throughly enjoyed this non-linear story that explored power, consent, revenge, and emotion. This was a challenging read but well worth it.
    4. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall – This book. It’s probably the one I can’t stop talking about. It’s also one I can recommend to almost anyone… for those who are religious, those who have been hurt by religion, those who doubt and question, those who enjoy historical fiction… I could go on and on. This book changed me as a person.
    5. A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar – What a wild ride! Told in a completely non-linear format – even the chapters were numbered out of order – this book explores what it is to be marginalized, forgotten, and what it takes for a teen to pull herself out of that life. This book stuck with me for quite some time.
    6. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Meet my new favorite author. This character driven story covers what it is to be a member in an imperfect family – so basically all of us. And extra stars for the audiobook, narrated by America’s favorite uncle, Tom Hanks. I listened to this book and loved every minute of it.
    7. There There by Tommy Orange – This book is an experience. It follows over a dozen Native American characters headed to the same event. Another non-linear format that flashed back to explain each character and the person they are in the present. If you want to understand more about the plight of the Native American, this would be great book to start with.
    8. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – I finished this book yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it. On the surface it seemed to be a book about divorce. Except it wasn’t. Gender roles, parenting, career sacrifices, marriage, and the old adage that “women can have it all” are what this book was really about. Definitely a book that I identified with and I cannot wait to post my full review of this one.
    9. Naamah by Sarah Blake – Magical realism is my favorite genre. Magical realism that takes place on Noah’s ark told through the eyes of Noah’s wife, Naamah? This was probably the most original book I read this year. It is not for everyone though – if you prefer the original version of Noah and his ark, you probably want to stick with that one.
    10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – This year’s A Little Life for me. This was an epic book of loss, love, deceit, and redemption. And yes, the book was better than the movie.
    11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This book changed me as a reader. I read this book with my Book Oblivion group and it was the beginning of a shift in focus for me. It’s a beast and not to be read alone. My Book Club for Introverts is tackling this book in January and February. Check us out on Goodreads if you’d like to join the fun! We are also reading another book during those months if Infinite Jest isn’t for you.

    Thanks for talking books with me this year!

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