The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Publisher/Year: Orbit, 2019
Format: E-galley (Kindle)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Every story opens a door…

In a sprawling mansion filled with exotic treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. As each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, January discovers a story that might just be the key to unlocking the secrets of her past.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley & Orbit/Red Hook Books for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

If you have ever searched the back of your closet to try to find your way to Narnia, or if you’ve ever found yourself leaning on the wall at the train station in a last ditch effort to make it to Hogwarts–THIS IS A BOOK YOU NEED TO READ. I could go on and on about how much I loved this book, but, simply put, my writing isn’t the writing you’re going to fall in love with–Harrow’s is. It’s eloquent and breathtaking and will leave you in awe as to how she so perfectly describes the smallest detail. This is the book for lovers of books, lovers of books-within-books, lovers of language and words, lovers of strong, relatable, imperfect characters, lovers of fiercely loyal dogs, lovers of true love, lovers of adventure, and lovers of the type of wanderlust that keeps you incessantly searching for the next doorway to change. Honestly, this is one of those rare few cases when you absolutely should judge a book by its cover because this book is just as (if not more so) beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Take my word for it and indulge your fairytale-loving, adventure-seeking inner child–read this book!

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory
Publisher/Year: Atria Books, 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The #1 New York Times bestselling author and “one of the great storytellers of our time” (San Francisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, who cannot bear to conform to the life that lies before her.

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands–the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

It is dangerous for a woman to be different.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley & Atria Books for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

Philippa Gregory is the QUEEN of historical fiction, hands down. I truly loved the change of direction she took with this one–from writing about royalty to writing about ordinary folk. She just has a way of bringing a historical time and place to life. I absolutely fell in love with Alinor and her story. I was absorbed by this book from the get go, and after that ending, I am clamoring for the next installment already.

As always, you can tell that impeccable research was done by Gregory. I did not previously know much about this time period, so I did what I usually do, which was to do a bit of Wikipedia research, before reading this. And the thing I love about Gregory is that she brings that history to life by showing you to the people of the time–their daily habits, their worries, their joys, their living conditions, their socioeconomic classes, their relationships, etc. She really shows what it was like to have lived back then.

The novel itself ebbs and flows–there were times I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough and there were others where the story slowed down. To me, even that reflected what life would have been like. Plus, I got the feeling that Gregory was taking the time to truly establish the setting, as this is the first installment of a series.

And with Alinor–I so appreciated that she was a strong, independent woman who knew and stood behind what her beliefs and values were. However, this did not make her invincible. She very much had her own thoughts about things, but she realistically her own position would have been at the time.

As far as the other characters go, I can’t wait to see how their stories will play out–they’ve become so dear to me. Obviously, I grew pretty attached to Alinor, but her children, Rob and Alys also became favorites of mine–Rob, because I love watching his character grow from a child into a young man and Alys, because she took after her mother but with an added dash of ferocity. Some characters were a little more one-dimensional, like Ned or Mrs. Miller, but I also enjoyed (and am looking forward to) seeing the change in England’s politics played out in Ned’s character. And let’s be honest, it was just plain easy to dislike Mrs. Miller, and I can’t wait to see what (hopefully) despicable things happen to her. James was a character who was a little less black and white for me. I loved James and Alinor’s romance–I swooned! But when his true colors showed him to be a man of his times, I couldn’t help but feel betrayed and disappointed (in him, certainly not Gregory).

And can we talk about that ending?! The lingering sense of foreboding I had for Alinor finally came to fruition, and everything went from 0-60, and now I’m here dying for the next book. My husband thinks I’m crazy because my reactions to the ending went something like this: “What? What?! Alys, wtf! No! Now you, too?! Oh, you jerk! I liked you! Noooo! Omg. Omg. ALYS! YES! Fistpump!” And now I’m here wondering what I’m even going to do while I wait for book #2.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man by Alex North
Publisher/Year: Celadon Books, August 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley & Celadon Books for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

I read my first Stephen King novel at the ripe old age of 13. Since then, I’ve read through a majority of his works. All of this is simply to say–unless it’s written by Uncle Steve, I’m generally not phased or spooked by much. That’s why it absolutely blows my mind that this novel gave me the serious creeps, so much so that I had to only read it in the morning in order to avoid the nightmares it was giving me. I mean, come on:

If you leave a door half open,
Soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone,
Soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched,
You’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue,
The Whisper Man will come for you.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I refuse to go into more detail because it’s truly better if you go into this book blind. Just know that the hair on the back of my neck stood up frequently while reading this one. Children are creepy, serial killers are spine-chilling, that nursery rhyme above is nightmare-inducing, and imaginary friends are horrifying.

Besides all of the “scary stuff,” this book was just SO GOOD. As a psychological thriller, the twists and turns and multiple POVs really kept the pace moving so quickly that I could barely stand to put this down. And North’s character development was just impeccable. The characters here absolutely came to life, which added to the horror. Where this book goes above and beyond, and in my opinion is reminiscent of King himself, is that The Whisper Man is not “just” a scary book. North examines grief and father-son relationships in such a poignant way that it will evoke emotion out of just about any reader.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is absolutely unfathomable to me that this book isn’t even out yet (it debuts on August 20th), and I already can’t wait to read his next one! This book has landed squarely on my favorites of 2019 list–you’ll not want to miss this one. It was just announced as one of the August picks for BOTM, too. Whatever you have to do–get your hands on a copy of this book!

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron
Publisher/Year: Dutton, 2019
Format: E-galley (via NetGalley)
Rating: ⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A sensational crime, a missing teen, and a mother and daughter with no one to trust but themselves come together in this shocking debut thriller by R. H. Herron.

“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.

Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB–“Citizens Against Police Brutality”–movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper–and the police department–on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves…and time is running out.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

Unfortunately, this book turned out to be just “okay” for me. There were aspects of it that I did like, but then there were others that I didn’t, so let’s just dive in. There’s a lot going on in this novel: racism, feminism, rape, LGBTQ rights, police brutality, police corruption, mental health, and more. And while this speaks to today’s society and current events, it just felt like too much. I am all for using one’s voice to make a difference, but to me, it was just laid on too thick. It felt gimmicky, like the author was just throwing hot topics in there to get your attention.

All of that being said, my biggest issue with this novel was that so much of it felt, frankly, unbelievable. I know this took place in a “small town,” but it just seemed to me that there’s no way that Laurie and Jojo could have gotten away with some of the measure they took. Maybe I’m wrong–I have never worked for a police department–but I don’t buy it. I do want to give credit where credit’s due–what I did enjoy about this book was that, at times, it got my heart pounding, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I do want to warn readers that this one does get pretty graphic. Even I felt uncomfortable at some parts. One final point I wanted to make was that the ending felt kind of abrupt. The final chapters built up to this almost maddening pace, which was great, but then it was just over, with very little resolution.

As you can see, I felt pretty torn about this one. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. Again, Stolen Things was just okay for me. If this one sounds like something you enjoy, I say go for it because it was a heckuva thriller. I just don´t think that personally I´d be interested in other books by this author.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster, 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences however, threaten to tear them apart.

Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily–fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern–after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?

James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James’s escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.

In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church’s congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

I am really killing it with my choice of books this year! The Dearly Beloved was a beautiful, insightful, poignant read. I found myself highlighting entire passages of this book because it was so lyrically written. This was one of those books where I found myself stopping to re-read passages because they just took my breath away. It absolutely blows my mind that this was Wall’s debut novel. Don’t let the Christian theme turn you away–this was a stunning take on different types of faith, including non-faith, that was entirely objective and unbiased. Not only that, but this novel was also a perceptive rendition of the friendship between four almost completely different people. Readers will be able to find characters to relate to, as well as a depth that creates food for thought as the story follows Charles, Lily, Nan, and James throughout the years. Speaking of years, I loved how authentic the ’50s and ’60s felt while reading, too. Overall, The Dearly Beloved was a gorgeous debut novel not to be missed, and I’m already anticipating what Wall writes next.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Publisher/Year: Forever, 2019
Format: E-book (NetGalley)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A “deliciously hot, sweet debut” (L. J. Shen, USA Today bestselling author) contemporary romance between a stubborn, sassy woman and the sexy firefighter who melts her heart.

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen–especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

What I thought

ALL THE STARS for this one, folks. Hands down, this will be one of the best books of 2019. If you like your romances steamy with tensions running high, a side of laugh-out-loud humor, and (let’s not forget) a good ole gut-wrenching punch to the feels, look no further–The Friend Zone has all of this and more.

Once I started reading this one, it was pretty much physically painful to put it down. And here I am, days after finishing, unable to get it off my mind. It absolutely blows my mind that this is a debut novel because I loved everything about it. Josh and Kristen were incredibly well-written characters, and I loved reading their alternating perspectives. I think this was what made the push-and-pull between them less frustrating to read because as a reader, I was able to understand their choices and mindsets. My heart swooned over Josh, and my heart broke for Kristen. I loved that everything about their relationship felt real–from having period talk to getting through life’s many difficulties together. Sometimes feelings are complicated things, so it was nice to see how Abby brought that in–the story became just that much more relatable.

Not only that, but there were some more difficult subjects (infertility, grief, mental health) that Abby was able to compassionately shed some light on, and I know readers will appreciate that. Again, that added depth is part of what makes this story feel so real. Along those lines, for as often as this book had me crying, it also had me laughing out loud at some of the banter between characters, especially Josh and Kristen. For example:

“I cocked my head curlers shifting. ‘When did you stop drawing penises on stuff?’
He snorted. ‘What?’
‘Like, how old were you when you stopped drawing penises on stuff? I was just thinking about how great a guy roommate would be and I realized the only downside would be finding penises drawn in the steam on the bathroom mirror.’
His dimpled smile made me grin.
‘I just drew a penis on Brandon’s truck the other day.’
I laughed. ‘So men never outgrow it. Nice.'”

All in all, a truly good book can’t get much better than this. The Friend Zone is not some fluffy romance (which I’m okay with, now and then). This book will run you through a full gamut of emotions. You will laugh, you will cry, you will cheer, you will want to throw things. I’m not kidding, friends–you DO NOT want to miss this seriously impressive debut. It releases on June 11th–pre-order now and prepare yourself for one of the best books you will read in 2019!

**Note: I received a free e-ARC of this book via NetGalley from the publisher Forever in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
Publisher/Year: St. Martin’s Press, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 311
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

What I thought

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for including me as a stop on the blog tour for this wonderfully inventive novel! All of these thoughts and opinions are my own, and I mean it when I say I LOVED this one & want to push this book into ALL readers hands!

It has been quite some time since I’ve fallen in love with a story like I have with The Scent Keeper. Emmeline won me over from the very beginning and I got lost in the gorgeous, lyrical writing. Friends, this is one 2019 release you will not want to miss!

For starters, this novel has to have one of the most unique storylines I’ve read. The use of scent as a plot device was brilliant and enthralling, and it made it that much easier to sink into this story and lost track of my surroundings. I love how it encourages readers to slow down and take notice of the small details of life because when all is said and done, they’re the ones that matter. I can’t stress enough–the writing is truly beautiful and breathtaking.

I really grew to care about the cast of characters, as well. In particular, my favorites were Emmeline and Fisher, Henry and Colette. Oh, and Dodge–he was a good ole boy. Emmeline is fascinating–everything about her seemed so genuine and real, even when she goes to find herself. Fisher is the kind of boy I’d swoon over, I’ll just leave it at that. Henry and Colette are the best kind of pseudo-grandparents you could ask for–just thinking of them makes my heart swell. And I don’t want to say too much, but as for Emmeline’s parents, I love what she says of them in the novel’s opening lines: “We are the unwitting carriers of our parents’ secrets, the ripples made by stones we never saw thrown.” (And can we talk about that gorgeous writing again?!)

The last thing I’d like to mention is the ending. I’m kind of torn on it. I am personally not a huge fan of open endings, even though sometimes it is nice for readers to fill in the blanks themselves. But when it comes down to it, I think the ending really fits this novel and couldn’t have been any other way. I like to think of this ending like the tail notes of a scent, drifting away…

Anyway, this novel is fantastic! I cannot recommend it enough. Fiction at its finest, trust me when I tell you that you won’t want to miss this one! It’s release date is May 21st (right around the corner!)–preorder now, it will be one of the best books you read this summer, I promise!

**Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review featured on the blog tour for this title. This in no way affected my opinions presented here.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
Indie Bound
Powell’s

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Publisher/Year: St. Martin’s Press, August 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds.

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

What I thought

It’s been days since I finished this read, and I still can’t get it off my mind. If that’s not the mark of a 5-star read, I don’t know what is. This heartfelt novel has definitely made it onto my “favorites of 2019” list. You will not want to miss this one when it releases on August 13th!

I love women’s fiction & I read it for a number of reasons. Sometimes, I’m looking for something on the “fluffy” side, and sometimes, I’m just in the mood for a “feel-good” story. But I know I’ve found a favorite when I have a book that’s easy to sink into and hard to put down, and not only that, but one that makes me feel a whole range of emotions. And that’s precisely what I found with Things You Save in a Fire.

My heart alternately ached and soared for Cassie. I know it sounds cliche, but by story’s end, she truly felt like a friend. Center’s writing of her character (and just in general) blew me away. If you are a fan of Emily Giffin’s novels, I’d highly recommend this book. This wasn’t just a fluffy story (not that there’s anything wrong with them!)–there’s heartbreak, anger, fear, guilt, resentment…basically, depth to the story.

And back to Cassie–what a heroine! It was a joy to read along her journey and watch her grow. I won’t delve too much into that–just trust me, you’ll love her. And the rookie? You won’t be able to help being won over by him, too. The rest of the characters are wonderful, too–vivid and fleshed out. I honestly can’t get over how “real” this story felt to me, and maybe that’s part of why I can’t stop thinking about it.

I could gush about this book all day, but since I can’t force a copy into your hands, I will just highly recommend that you find a copy for yourself when this hits shelves in August!

**Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinions presented here.

Barefoot Beach (Harmony Harbor #8) by Debbie Mason

Barefoot Beach (Harmony Harbor #8) by Debbie Mason
Publisher/Year: Forever, June 2019
Format: E-book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Can a summer of love make up for a lifetime of secrets?

Wedding fever has taken over Harmony Harbor this summer, and the local matchmakers have set their sights on Theia Lawson, a former navy pilot who’s in town for a stay at Greystone Manor. And while Theia’s got her reasons to put this small town behind her as fast as she can, there’s a certain tall, dark, and irresistible man that she can’t seem to get off her mind.

Firefighter Marco DiRossi wants to beat the matchmakers at their own game so he conspires with Theia to pretend they’ve already fallen in love. It’s only for the summer. What could go wrong? Yet as the beach season draws to a close, Marco and Theia find their pretend relationship has led to very real attraction. But when a secret from the past is revealed, jeopardizing everything they hold dear, can this unlikely couple find their way to a happily-ever-after?

What I thought

What a perfect summer time read! This was entertaining enough to keep the pages turning, but also light enough to be able to kick back, relax, and just enjoy a good story. I truly enjoyed watching Theia and Marco’s story unfold. Theia was a strong female lead, which I can always appreciate, and it was also nice to see a major hunk like Marco with a soft side. And hello–a man who not only loves to cook, but cooks well? Sign me up! I also really enjoyed all of the antics that go with getting a large family together. It felt realistic and added an extra element of depth to the story so that the whole story didn’t just revolve around Marco and Theia.

My only complaint here doesn’t even really have to do with the book. I’ve never read any of the Harmony Harbor books before, and while for the most part, this works fine as a standalone, I still think I would have liked to know more of the family history. Again, this is no fault of the book, just more of an FYI for readers.

All in all, if you’re looking for a page-turning read to take to the beach with a set of characters you can’t help but grow attached to, I’d highly recommend looking for Barefoot Beach when it releases on June 4th!

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions presented here.

Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert

Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert
Publisher/Year: Gallery Books, July 2019
Format: Kindle
Pages: 320
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The name of the game is revenge–no matter the cost–in this emotionally charged thriller reminiscent of The Wife Between Us and The Perfect Nanny.

Kerrie O’Malley, jobless and in an unfulfilling relationship, can isolate the singular moment in her life when things veered off course–the night she was irrevocably wronged by someone she looked up to. Eighteen years later, when Kerrie sees the very woman who destroyed her life on televesion, a fire ignites inside her. The stakes are high. The risks are perilous. But she’ll stop at nothing to achieve the retribution she deserves.

Jordana Pierson is a gilded New Yorker who appears to have it all: wealth, glamour, a successful and handsome husband, and a thriving wedding concierge business. Her record is spotless. Her business is flourishing. No one knows the truth about her and the dark shadows of her past.

No one, that is, except Kerrie.

Exploring just how far someone will go for vengeance, Pretty Revenge is a riveting, compulsively readable novel bursting with twists and turns and plenty of suspense.

What I thought

First thing’s first–can we talk about this stunning cover?! It’s SO eye-catching!

As for the inside of this book, unfortunately, although I enjoyed my time spent reading this one, it fell flat in some ways for me. For a novel that’s described as a thriller, I guess I just wasn’t…thrilled enough. Reading this one required a lot of suspension of disbelief, which I can certainly look past, but then the big reveals along the way, plus that ending, were not dramatic enough for me. The story just kinda flopped.

On a more positive note, I really enjoyed the fact that by the end, I was feeling sympathetic towards both narrators. It was far less “good guy versus bad guy” than I was expecting. I love when an author can show that there’s more than one side to a person, and Liebert successfully created multi-faceted main characters. Not only that but her writing in general flows very well, making this a quick, easy read.

All in all, although I was pretty disappointed in this book as a thriller, I did enjoy Emily Liebert’s writing. So even though I don’t think I’d ever re-read this one, I would like to try some of Liebert’s other books.

**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this e-ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions or my review.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
Publisher/Year: Crooked Lane Books, 2018
Format: E-book (Netgalley)
Pages: 320
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Ruth Hogan, the international bestselling author behind the The Keeper of Lost Things returns with an irresistible novel of unexpected friendships, second changes–and dark secrets.

They say friends make life worth living…

Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, Masha’s life was forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds comfort in her faithful canine companion Haizum, and peace in the quiet lanes of her town’s swimming pool. Almost without her realizing it, her life has shuddered to a halt.

It’s only when Masha begins an unlikely friendship with the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice and a penchant for saying just what she means, that a new world of possibilities opens up: new friendships, new opportunities, and even a chance for new love. For the first time in years, Masha has the chance to start living again.

But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, her past comes roaring back…

Like her beloved debut, The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan’s second novel introduces a cast of wonderful characters, both ordinary and charmingly eccentric, who lead us through a moving exploration of the simple human connections that unite us all.

What I thought

What a lovely introduction to Ruth Hogan’s writing! I love a good book that makes you really feel something, and with this one, there were so many quotes and passages that alternately felt like a punch in the gut or that took my breath away that I feel as though I highlighted nearly half the book!

The Keeper of Lost Things has been on my TBR for quite some time, so when I saw that this was available on NetGalley, I requested it right away. I was a little worried that this would be a very heavy read, given some of the subject matter, but it really wasn’t. She handles topics like death, illness, and grieving with a sense of poignancy and grace. With the addition of humor (which had me actually laughing out loud at times) and a set of quirky characters to lighten the mood, the story felt perfectly balanced. This book was very well-written and compelling, and rather than being a page-turner, it was one that I wanted to slow down and savor.

Besides Sally, of course, Masha was my favorite character. She absolutely came to life for me, and she felt to real. I loved watching her character develop, as she went through grieving and learning to live again. I rooted for her the whole way, and she ended up feeling like a dear friend.

As for the plot, I love a good duel narrative, and this was no exception. I had an inkling of how everything would turn out, but I didn’t see how it would all happen. I feel very satisfied with the ending, and I loved seeing how it all came together.

Overall, this is a wonderful, compelling story, filled with emotion. I was so pleased with Hogan’s writing that I must get my hands on The Keeper of Lost Things very soon. This is one of those books that will make you feel a lot and give you a lot to think about. I know Sally Red Shoes will stay on my mind for some time to come.

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

38189172Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh
Publisher/Year: Waterfall Press, 2018
Format: E-book (Kindle/NetGalley)
Pages: 349
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

 

Summary (from Goodreads)

An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best–and worst–memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart–to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

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What I thought

Have you even been in the mood for a movie or book that you know is going to make you cry? Just a feel-good, emotional story about relationships or friendships and the joys and sorrows that can come with them? Well, friends, Things Left Unsaid hit the spot for me and I enjoyed it so incredibly much.

I’ll be totally honest, I was expecting this to be a whole lot lighter of a read, but it was full of depth and emotions and the hard things of life. Trigger warnings abound, so be warned. But despite all of that, I still walked away from this novel with that feel-good feeling. Let me be clear, there wasn’t a tidy little bow wrapping up the issues and brushing them under a HEA rug. Rather, once things are out in the open, there was an acknowledgement, a sort of “Here’s what happened, here’s where we are, let’s find a way to move forward now.” As a reader, that left me feeling so much better (and more respected) than a story book ending would have left me.

Walsh’s writing was gorgeous, and her characters felt real and relatable. My heart broke over and over again for each one as I read. I wasn’t aware when I started this that it was Christian-themed, but it was not pushy or in-your-face. And my favorite thing about this book was that it was so hard for me to put down! Overall, this was a wonderful, heartfelt book–I’d highly recommend pre-ordering this one: it comes out October 30th!

**Please note: I received a complementary copy of this work through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are, however, my own.