Uncategorized

when my most anticipated read of 2017 was a huge letdown.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Pub. Date: July 18, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
Genre: Psychological Suspense

Behind Closed Doors was not only one of my Top Reads of 2016, it’s one of my favorite books period. It was absolutely horrifying – particularly because it could (and does) so easily happen – and I was unable to look away or get it out of my thoughts. A year later I’m still recommending it. Naturally when I heard about the follow-up I began counting down the days until it was in my hands (and fangirled hard over it in my post about the mystery/suspense novels of 2017 I needed to get my hands on).

Despite promising her husband she won’t take a shortcut through the woods on her way home, Cass does exactly that, knowing all too well how tricky the road can be to navigate during a storm…but it’ll shave a good chunk of time off her trip. Halfway down the road she sees a car pulled off to the side, its lights on. Cass debates stopping, but one too many crime dramas has her convinced this is all a setup, she’ll be robbed, shot, left in a ditch somewhere. Besides, the woman didn’t look up or flag her down as Cass drove by; she obviously already called a tow truck or someone to come to her aid. It isn’t until the following morning that Cass learns the devastating news – the woman had been brutally killed and, worse still, Cass actually knew her.

As the days following the murder turn into weeks, Cass can’t seem to get the woman out of her head. Her guilt slowly gives way to paranoia as she begins receiving mysterious phone calls. When she answers, she doesn’t hear anyone on the other end, but she knows there’s someone there. Things get even worse as Cass starts to forget little, everyday things: where did she put her car keys, what gift had been agreed upon for her friend’s birthday. Being so busy a lunch date with a friend is forgotten seems trivial, but for Cass, it could lead to something bigger. Cass’s mother passed away from complications due to dementia (something Cass has kept from her husband) and as her insignificant mishaps build (a baby stroller arrived that Cass doesn’t remember purchasing – not to mention she and Matthew don’t have any children) she fears she’s headed down the same path.

All of this sounds really thrilling, right? Unfortunately, The Breakdown was a huge letdown. I’m actually a little surprised this novel and Behind Closed Doors were written by the same author. Because of the VERY tiny cast of characters, it’s obvious from the start what’s going on, despite Paris’s weak attempts at tossing in a few red herrings. There were scenes and sentences that were so juvenile I contemplated abandoning the book completely. While I’m glad I didn’t, I can’t say The Breakdown ever really picked up steam.

Early on Cass quits her job as a teacher (the book opens in the summer while Cass is on break) and from there, her days are literally spent either a) asleep after popping prescription meds or b) out shopping to avoid being in the house alone. That’s it. There are a few lunch dates with her bestie thrown in, but apart from that, Cass does nothing. The chapters read more like a series of reactions Cass has to the phantom caller or a neighbor walking by her house. Not once does she think to actually do something about her fears. Instead, she swallows pills and sleeps the day away until Matthew comes home. Even things that would seem to be common sense (like checking her calendar where her lunch dates, appointments, etc have been penciled in) goes right over her head.

The one thing The Breakdown has going for it is that it’s an extremely quick read, largely aided by the fact that the final few chapters seem to be entirely written out in texts. Texts that rehash everything that has happened in the novel to that point. This was unnecessary, aggravating, and a cheap copout to wrap up the book.

For my most anticipated read of the year to turn out to be such a dud is SO upsetting. Behind Closed Doors was a phenomenal read, yet it’s The Breakdown that feels more like a debut with its weak twists, juvenile writing, and an all too predictable plot. While I’m fine with awful characters that have zero redeeming qualities, a lack of common sense is something I absolutely cannot tolerate, though I suppose there wouldn’t be a book had Cass demonstrated some level of intelligence. I’m so disappointed with this one and I’m hoping B.A. Paris will be back to form with her next novel. If you’re looking for a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride, The Breakdown is not it.

Uncategorized

An Italian villa, the Mafia, and a stolen identity.

Mad by Chloe Esposito
Pub. Date: June 13, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Dutton!)
Summary: In this compulsively readable debut, set between London and Sicily over one blood-drenched week in the dead of summer, an identical twin reveals the crazy lies and twists she’ll go through to not only steal her sister’s perfect life, but to keep on living it.
Genre: Contemporary, Beach Read

As children, Alvie and her twin sister Elizabeth were practically inseparable. Though it was clear from the start Beth was their mother’s favorite (she got a fancy helmet while Alvie got a trip to the hospital after crashing their scooter when they were 8, in a school Christmas play Beth had the coveted role of Mary…while Alvie was the back end of a donkey), the sisters nevertheless stuck together. As they grew older, however, it quickly became apparent that Beth was born to shine, whereas Alvie developed a taste for arson and shoplifting.

Two years after Beth’s fabulously over-the-top wedding to a ridiculously wealthy Italian, they still have yet to speak to one another. That is, until Beth begins e-mailing Alvie, begging her to come for a visit. As Alvie has just been fired from her dead-end job (and kicked out of her awful apartment – all in the same day), she really has no reason not to leave London. What awaits her in Italy, however, is unlike anything she had ever imagined.

Mad is the first in Esposito’s Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy and was, well, totally bonkers. Seriously. Alvie and Beth swap identities (initially Alvie is okay with it – Beth has a closet bursting with designer labels and a personal hairdresser on speed dial). Little does Alvie know the real reason Beth wanted to switch places. That hunky millionaire husband of hers? He not only has ties to the mafia, but he’s in deep with a lost Caravaggio. He just needs to close the deal and he’ll be a few million dollars richer – naturally it would go for triple the amount at auction, but, hey, it’s on the FBI’s watch list after being stolen a couple of decades earlier. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Beth wants out of that life, but in order to make a new start with her baby, she needs Alvie. Unfortunately for Alvie, she doesn’t realize that she’s meant to die. Whoops. With each chapter the body count grows – the mafia doesn’t play around, folks.

Though it’s not entirely believable, Mad is surprisingly fun. It’s an extremely quick, totally easy-breezy read that’s absolutely perfect for an afternoon spent lounging by a pool. Alvie is definitely not a likable character (and I could have done without all of the sex scenes – at one point, Alvie mentions that in the past few years she’s sleep with over 300 men), but Mad read like a cheesy made-for-tv movie and I am all about that life. While this book won’t be making any Top Ten lists, it was highly entertaining and I’m actually looking forward to the next!

Uncategorized

weekly wrap-up 6/18

• I took a teensy break from the blog last week, so this wrap-up will be short and sweet! A VERY happy Father’s Day to all you papas out there – do you have anything special planned? My brother’s birthday is next week, so we’re doing a joint Father’s Day/birthday get together this afternoon.

The Light in Summer by Mary McNear
Stick a dog in a book and there’s a good chance it’ll be in my hands. This guy’s name is Murphy and his owner, Billy Harper, is coming to terms with her past, the arrival of a new man to Butternut Lake, and the return of her son’s disappeared-before-he-was-even-born father. This is a total summer, beach read and I’m eager to dive in! I’ve read another book in this series and enjoyed it, so I’m pretty excited to see where this one goes. Thank you, William Morrow!

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
Flora has fallen hard for Elijah, so when he tells her about a hippie Quaker academy where he’ll be teaching next year, she practically tosses aside her elite prep school to hightail it for life on a farm. The only problem? When Flora arrives, Elijah doesn’t show up. This one sounds super fun and seems to be an epistolary novel – told solely through letters, e-mails, diary entries, etc. Thank you, Wednesday Books!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
Centuries ago Prosper’s ancestor made a pact with a demon. …and then broke it. Shockingly, the demon isn’t the type to forgive and forget and now he’s taken up residence inside Prosper. Okay, so I really don’t know much about this one but what I do know sounds REALLY fun. Thank you, Disney-Hyperion!

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
This has been getting some SERIOUS buzz and I’m not surprised – it sounds awesome! 1988 East Berlin, time travel, dark magic. Yep, count me in! Thank you, Albert Whitman Company!

Uncategorized

weekly wrap-up 6/11

He’s lucky he’s cute. This week Nacho (and Bay totally went along with it too, that traitor!) decided the best time to play is in the middle of the night. So, yeah, not a lot of sleeping has been happening for ANY of us ha.

• Remember when I mentioned one of my friends was hired by my company? WELL, later this month another will be starting too! We all used to work together and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am that three of us will be together again. Another friend submitted a resume and I put in a good word for him with the Big Boss, so fingers crossed! We’re busy enough to where we’re mostly at our desks all day, so it doesn’t leave much room to actually see them, but you know, IMs and e-mails and lunch dates. Just the idea that my besties are a few feet away makes the day SO much better ♥

• Last April I shared a SUPER simple (and vegan!) recipe for a Thai cucumber noodle bowl. It’s still one of my go-tos and I love how customizable it is. Have some tofu on hand? Toss it in! Not a fan of chickpeas? Throw in peas or carrots instead! Matt’s grandparents winter in Florida and now that they’re home we got together for dinner. Everyone brought a dish and this was mine – I’m THRILLED to say it was a huge hit!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Gail Godwin’s Grief Cottage wasn’t the ghost story I thought it would be (the summary is VERY misleading), but it was such a richly detailed, broody, atmospheric novel that I didn’t mind one bit! This book is the definition of slow – don’t go in expecting action-packed scenes – but, again, I’m the kind of gal who loves sinking into a novel and going through the characters’ day-to-day lives. Bonus points for having an absolutely perfect cover, too!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a GoodReads Recommends post but this week I featured contemporary romance titles! A dog, an online friendship, and a fake girlfriend. All of these are calling my name.

Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying by Amanda Hosch
An aunt is arrested for leading a smuggling ring. Another aunt shows up demanding to see the family’s private museum. Mabel hasn’t seen her parents in days. Something’s definitely fishy and Mabel, armed with her self-written spy handbook, is determined to get to the bottom of it. Thank you, Capstone!

Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis
You know things are bad when a colony of bees that mistake your hair for a hive is the least of your problems! Detention for yarn-bombing a statue – on the last day of school, a brother who mysteriously vanishes, poor Zinnia is having a monster of a bad day. This one has a touch of magical realism and I am swooning already. Thank you, Capstone!

Odd & True by Cat Winters
Like I need a reason to get all grabby-hands over a new Cat Winters book! A magician’s curse, a monster-slaying mother, Tru grew up hearing her sister’s stories, but now she wonders if they were less fact and more comfort: a bout of polio as a child left Tru permanently disabled. Then Odette suddenly reappears after two years, brandishing weapons and tales of horrific beasts. Historical, paranormal, sisters…this has my name all over it!! Thank you, Amulet Books!

Uncategorized

GoodReads Recommends: based on…contemporary romance!

If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, you know that I love checking in your GoodReads’ recommendations page to see what suggestions they have for me. Be sure to check out past editions: YA Thrillers, Contemporary Thrillers, recommendations based on two favorite novels, which led to discovering a third favorite novel, recs based on a favorite author, and recommendations based on one of my TOP READS of 2016!

Today I’m featuring three suggestions for contemporary romance. I’m embarrassingly new to the romance genre – I spent years and years obsessing over mysteries and fantasies, but now I’m hooked!

About a Dog by Jenn McKinlay
I’m a big fan of Jenn’s Cupcake Bakery Mystery series and I’m definitely intrigued to see how she tackles romance! About a Dog is the first in a new series set in the town of bluff Point, Maine. Mackenzie fled her hometown after being stood up at her wedding – and later found comfort in the arms of her best friend’s brother. A BIG no-no. Seven years later that same best friend is having a wedding of her own and Mac’s back in town. Gavin, now the town vet, never let go of his feelings for Mac and when she happens to drop by his office with a stray puppy, he’s determined to not let her flee again. Look, it a book has a puppy in it, I’m sold. Especially when it looks like a brindle just like my girl!

When it’s Real by Erin Watt
I absolutely loved Paper Princess (and seriously need to get back into that series!) and was thrilled to hear there was a new, YA standalone! A teen heartthrob-slash-child movie star has developed something of a reputation and can’t seem to stay out of the tabloids. In order to give his image a much-needed makeover, he needs a girlfriend – and fast. Enter Vaughn. She’s the definitely of a good girl, from her status as devoted sister to her part-time waitressing gig, she’s exactly what Oakley needs and with what he’s paying, Vaughn can’t justify saying no. This one sounds super trope-y but I am SO there.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
This one has been getting some SERIOUS love from bloggers and I’ll admit, I’m curious! It doesn’t hurt that it sounds crazy good: a classic movie fan has been online friends with a film geek known as Alex and, over time, Bailey has developed a crush on this mysterious boy. When she movies in with her dad – who just happens to live in the same California town as Alex – she begins to wonder if they should meet. What if he’s a creep? What if he’s not at all who he says he is? When she gets a job at a local museum, she has no idea that the aggravating security guard has a secret of his own. EEEEE, you already know how this one is going to end, but I’m a HUGE fan of hidden identities and I can see why so many readers are loving this one!

Uncategorized

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Bloomsbury!)
Summary: After his mother’s death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she’d moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.

The islanders call it Grief Cottage because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Coming of Age

Eleven-year-old Marcus has dealt with his share of disappointment and heartache. His single mom is struggling to make ends meet, bouncing around and ‘downsizing’ (as she puts it) with each move. He ruined his friendship with Wheezer, beat him to the point where it wasn’t clear if the boy would even survive. Seeing as how Marcus’s mother worked for the company owned by Wheezer’s family…yet another move is in their future. Despite their serious penny-pinching, Marcus and his mother live the best life they can, until the night of the car accident, the night the one person Marcus has in the world is swiftly and brutally ripped from him.

The only relative left is an elderly aunt Marcus has never met. Still, she’s appointed his guardian, and he’s escorted through airport gates to a new life on a South Carolina island. Aunt Charlotte is an artist, painting landscapes for those willing to pay, and there’s one cottage in particular that captivates tourists above all others: Grief Cottage. Half a century ago, a hurricane tore through the town and the family who lived in the home were assumed to have been swept out to sea. Naturally Marcus is fascinated – especially once he gets close enough to the ruins and feels an eerie presence.

Don’t go into Grief Cottage expecting an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat ride. That’s not what this book is, nor what it tries to be. When I was in high school, I was a huge anime fan and my favorite genre was known as slice of life. These shows were based in reality (sorry, no giant robots here!) and featured easygoing, meandering plots that were in no rush to get to where they were going. Grief Cottage reminded me of those shows as it tells the story of a little boy and the summer he spent on an island. There’s artwork, turtle hatching, finding a father-figure in a neighbor who has a taste for vintage cars.

While I love a good slow plot, one thing I was not a fan of was the ghost element. Take a second to read the book’s summary. It certainly sounds like this will be a ghost story, right? That’s definitely what I thought and was disheartened to discover that wasn’t the case at all. There are maybe three sightings of the dead boy throughout the entire novel and most of that arc surrounds Marcus’s desire to find out who the family was. While every other person involved with the hurricane is name-dropped in all the newspaper articles and novels Marcus can find from that time, the three out-of-towners who perished are merely glossed over. I would have loved to see more of this boy and watch his character develop.

Grief Cottage is a moody, atmospheric novel that certainly held me captive despite not being quite what I expected. Unfortunately, the blurb builds up the ghost element a bit too much, when in actuality, the sightings hardly amount to more than a few pages’ worth. I did notice several threads that trailed off (including the go-nowhere possible alcoholic turn of one character) and hopefully those loose ends will be tightened up in the finished version. Though I had some misgivings, I did enjoy this book and the cover alone makes it one to take home! That painting is gorgeous and captures to story so, so perfectly – bravo to the art department!

Uncategorized

weekly wrap-up 6/4

• My first week back to work (after a much needed staycation!) was one that has me looking forward to my next chuck of time off. It was one of those weeks where anything that could go wrong did, including – of all things – my office phone dying on me. Definitely the icing on the cake and the weekend couldn’t come fast enough!

• While yesterday was beautiful and sunny, today is looking pretty stormy. I had wanted to head to the Arts Festival (my brother and his girlfriend are on their way there) but, yeah, I’m not going to risk it. Today is all about snuggling with the pups and, as I type this, our newest is curled up with Matt ♥!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? My introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid wasn’t as life-changing as I had hoped. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo sounded like a book right up my alley (a 70-something movie legend finally wants to share her story but will only do so if a no-name journalist is the one to write it) but turned out to be a huge disappointment. The Big Reveal wasn’t all that shocking (in fact, it seems to be author’s go-to secret when they need a ~scandalous~ twist) and Evelyn’s actions were far too selfish for her to gain my sympathy.

My May 2017 recap was full of new puppies and surprisingly great reads. I felt like May was a month that didn’t have much going for it book-wise, but looking back over my reviews, I enjoyed way more than I didn’t (though the bad reads were truly awful).

FOR REVIEW

Second Chance Season by Liora Blake
I have never heard of this author before but I am SO in the mood for contemporary romances right now, so this couldn’t have arrived at a better time! Second Chance Season is the second book in the Grand Valley series, but it sounds like this is a series where each book follows different characters – and we all know how I’m a little notorious for reading books out of order anyway, so..! One of my ultimately guilty pleasures is a romance featuring total opposites: rich starlet with a poor average Joe, goody two-shoes meets the wrong side of the tracks, you get the idea. This book follows a country boy and a city girl and I’m seeing stars already. I’m even more intrigued about this first book, First Step Forward – pro-football player and an apple orchard owner! YESSSS! Thank you, Pocket books!