Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Two Thrillers - Book Reviews

*Thanks to Berkley and Dutton publishers for providing two thrillers this week.

Gemma owns a real estate business and is a wife and mother. It's taken years of hard work to build her life and she's very happy. After a weekend away at a business conference, Gemma is receiving disturbing messages--pictures and videos that could destroy her family. She remembers drinking more than usual at dinner and visiting with a client but beyond that her memory is hazy or completely gone. On her own, Gemma must fight for her everything she loves.

The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen started building the suspense right away but it never really ramped up to an intense level that left me breathless. The plot is revealed too early and I had a hard time pushing myself to finish. I didn't particularly care for the characters. The ending is exciting but overall this wasn't as gripping and frantic as I like my psychological thrillers.

The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen is published by Berkley and released April 24, 2018.

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan has just gotten back on duty after a frightening brush with a killer, when she is assigned to a suicide. The woman has hanged herself but something doesn't feel right and evidence from the autopsy, shows that Eleanor Costello has been murdered. The most like suspect, Eleanor's husband is missing. Then a girl from Frankie's hometown is murdered and there are connections to the Costello case. Frankie is willing to take all the risks to solve this case before someone else is killed.

Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan kept me up late into the night reading each frantic page as Frankie Sheehan chased down the killer. Every now and then I love a thrilling police procedural and Too Close to Breathe delivered the intensity I desired. There are plenty of twists and turns as the police uncover evidence that leads them closer to the killer and his disturbed group on the Dark Web. Not only is this fast paced and riveting, but the characters are well crafted. Frankie is smart and determined but also vulnerable and troubled. This is Kiernan's first novel and I hope it won't be her last.

Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan is published by Dutton and released on April 3, 2018.

**I received complimentary copies of the books. The reviews reflect my honest opinions. No compensation was received.*

Monday, April 16, 2018

Go Ask Fannie - Book Review

Thanks for the free book, Putnam!

The Blairs should be renamed the Bickersons. Even after they've grown up and moved away from each other, Ruth, George and Lizzie cannot stop fighting with each other. Their father, Murray, has requested that they all spend a weekend together at his New Hampshire farm and they're already at each other's throats. It's going to be a long weekend. Murray wants his older to kids to help dissuade Lizzie from dating her much older and married boyfriend. Ruth wants to convince her father to moving into a rest home. They all have a different agenda but they are united in their anger when Lizzie's boorish boyfriend ruins their mother's cookbook--the cookbook with all her written notes. It is their prized possession.

This family of four used to be a family of six. The death of their mother and brother Daniel years earlier rocked this family's core. The pain and heartbreak of that loss still lingers and effects each one of the Blairs. Perhaps this weekend, the kids can finally come to know their mother's story.

Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde is an inviting and engaging family drama. I love the cover. After a few dark reads, this cover called to me. I loved the setting of New Hampshire since it brought back memories of our time living in the Granite State. The characters are strong and flawed and changed from the trauma of their mother's death. Even now, they are influenced by the loss of their mother in the individual choices that they make. The siblings' constant picking at each other did become tiresome. Ultimately, I found the sections focused on Lillian, the mother, the strongest and most captivating.

Hyde is a strong writer with an easy style that flows. She's serious. She's light and humorous. She captures the mundane and the delightful aspects of a family that is real and absolutely believable. It's easy to just keep turning the pages.

Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde is published by Putnam and released on April 10, 2018.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Friday, April 13, 2018

Books, Books and More Great Books

I listened to two audio books in the last week and a half. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan and The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck were both excellent books and I talked about them constantly with my family. I would highly recommend both books.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan is based on the true story of Pino Lella. A bright teenager in Italy who loves to ski and hang out with his friends, he wants nothing to do with the Nazi who occupy his country. He's a trustworthy kid and soon he's enlisted to help the resistance. He will give up nearly all that he loves to fight against the Nazis. It's a moving and powerful book. There are a few issues with the writing style in the beginning but the books improves as it goes a long and it is definitely a valuable story from the Italian front of World War II.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan was published by Lake Union in May 2017.

I knew absolutely nothing about The Women in the Castle before I started listening to it. I honestly thought it was a ghost story or a thriller. I was pleased to discover that it is historical fiction regarding three widows who live together in a Bavarian castle following World War II. Marianne von Lingenfels is the wife of a resister. Her husband and her closest friend were executed for their roles in an assassination attempt on Hitler. After the war, Marianne sets to find a rescue her friend's wife and son and the wives of the other men involved in the failed plot. Marianne, Benita and Ania and their children make their home in Marianne's castle while Germany tries to recover from the war.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is so emotional and so amazing. As it discusses morality, guilt, love and redemption, it is a powerful novel that I will not soon forget. The audio version was fabulous. Cassandra Campbell delivered a wonderful performance that gave the book the right atmosphere.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck was published by William Morrow in January 2018.

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S. Harris is the newest mystery in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I jumped into this without reading any of the previous novels. It was fine as a stand-alone. There's a lot of intrigue and twists in the story. Any number of individuals may have killed Jane Ambrose, the musician and piano teacher to the young Princess Charlotte. My favorite part was learning more of the history of Princess Charlotte and her intense parents--the Prince Regent and his despised wife Princess Caroline.

It's always a chance to read a book late in a series and not surprisingly I missed out on much of the characterization of the St. Cyr and his wife Hero that surely has happened in previous books. However, the mystery was fun and well plotted and learning more of the history was worth it.

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S. Harris is published by Berkley Publishing and released on April 3, 2018.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Yesterday, I drove up to the Salt Lake Public Library for the semi annual used book sale. It's like Christmas for me. I went with a list of books that I wanted to buy (mostly books I listened to on audio or read on my kindle and loved enough to buy hard copies) and I only found one book from my list. However, I found lots of other books to enjoy. Now that I'm looking closely at the stack, I may actually own at least one of these books already. The book sale continues through this weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Peculiar Savage Beauty - GIVEAWAY!

Peculiar Savage Beauty is the story of a headstrong and fiercely independent young woman who charges into the heart of the wind- and drought-ravaged Great Plains in the 1930s, intent on battling the dust and healing the land. As a geologist working for the U.S. government, Rosa Jean “RJ” Evans must find her place in a small farming town that welcomes neither a woman in authority nor changes to their way of life. Inspired by actual historical events during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl environmental disaster, Peculiar Savage Beauty is a parable about man’s quest to dominate the land and nature’s refusal to be conquered, about unlikely alliances and unexpected love. The novel will be available in hardback and e-book on April 17, 2018 wherever books are sold.  

Jessica McCann worked for more than 25 years as a professional freelance journalist and corporate writer. Her articles have appeared in Business WeekThe WriterRaising Arizona KidsPhoenix and dozens of other magazines. McCann’s debut novel, All Different Kinds of Free, won the Freedom in Fiction Prize and was published by Bell Bridge Books. Her second novel, Peculiar Savage Beauty, will be available in hardcopy and ebook April 17, 2018. She lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona.

I am hosting a give away of a copy of Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann on my Instagram account. Be sure to enter there to win a copy of this exciting historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The book releases on April 17, 2018 and is published by Perspective Books.

Connect with Jessica online at:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Girls Burn Brighter - Book Review

Poornima's father hires Savitha to weave cloth to make saris and the two girls become dear friends. Even though they brighten each other's dark days, life is not easy for the girls. They are poor and they are girls in a society that does not value them as individuals. Poornima has long grown up knowing that her father wished she had been a boy or that she had drowned as a child. Circumstances beyond their control have separated and broken the girls but Poornima is determined to find her friend.

It took me weeks to read Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. I found myself reading a few chapters at a time and then setting it aside to read something else. I finally finished it and have been contemplating how I feel about it ever since. I've read many books that take place in India. I've read many books about girls in unfortunate situations in other countries and even in the US. I've read many books about the horrific sex trade. They are hard books to read and similarly, Girls Burn Brighter was a difficult read. We read these kinds of books to be enlightened. Hopefully, this enlightenment inspires us to fight for changes, to understand others and at the very least be aware of our own privilege. But at the heart of every novel, we want and crave a glimmer of hope for these girls. As readers we need to feel like their lives can somehow improve and that there is a way out of the suffering and pain.

The characters in Girls Burn Brighter are sympathetic and easy to care about. They are fighters. In spite of being in situations with little choice and freedom, Poornima and Savitha have a fire to find something better. Poornima's greatest desire is to find Savitha. She will travel to America to find her.  Unfortunately, Poornima was not in a position to actually free either of them if they found each other. She didn't have a plan beyond reuniting with her friend and in not truly considering whether this was a good idea, may have actually enslaved Savitha longer. I needed more than just their reunion. I really wanted them to succeed and escape from their captive lives. This hope kept me reading. The ending was so disappointing. Happy or sad, I'm almost always satisfied with the ending if it matches the theme and plot. But, I read the last eighteen pages of the book three times to see if I was missing any clues. It was vague. It was incomplete. It left me feeling frustrated and overly dissatisfied with the novel. Perhaps that was the point.

I definitely won't soon forget Girls Burn Brighter.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao is published by Flatiron Books and was released on March 6, 2018.