The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult @randomhouse #fiction #bookreview

Susanne’s Review:

Do you ever have those nightmares where you didn’t actually graduate University because you missed a few credits? Reading this book made me feel like I failed classes in Egyptology and Quantum Physics and therefore failed out of College.

This novel is about Dawn, a woman whose life is unfulfilled, even though she is married to Brian and has a teenaged daughter. Years prior, in college, she met and fell for Wyatt who she has never forgotten.

When the plane Dawn is on crashes, she has an opportunity: she can go back home or she can take a trip down memory lane, to Wyatt.

While I loved the first few pages of this novel all of which took place in New Haven, CT, a mere skip and a hop away from my hometown of Woodbridge and loved Dawn visiting all of my old haunts, once this novel delved into Egyptology I was completely lost.

The split past v present storyline was well done and somewhat intriguing and while I did find some part of this storyline and the characters to be enjoyable, on the whole, I skimmed through much of the story which felt like reading a University textbook.

On the whole, having read every single book Jodi Piccoult has written, “The Book of Two Ways” is my least favorite novel this author has written. I struggled to get through this and hope that the author returns to her tried and true the next time around.

This was another buddy read with Kaceey.

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine and Jodi Piccoult for the arc.

Published on Goodreads and Twitter,

Kaceey’s Review:

After my first read by Jodi Picoult Small Great Things, which received a multitude of 5-star reviews (including mine), I was excited to get started on her latest release.

Unfortunately, I may have chosen the wrong book to continue the journey. There were so many reviews revealing the primary focus was on Egyptology, while the storyline itself got lost along the way.

Sadly, I couldn’t agree more.

Even though I went in with an open mind, willing to discover something new, it began feeling more like a text book. As though I was back in University looking for the lecture hall for contemporary fiction but ending up in Egyptology 101. Still I tried to power through, though admittedly my mind wandered. So much so I found myself skimming the history lesson and just trying to piece together the rest of the story.

I’m not giving up on this author! Susanne just gifted me seven of her previous novels, now on my shelf waiting for me (us). I just know this one wasn’t the right fit for me.

A buddy read with Susanne.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Publishing for an ARC to read and review.

You Have a Match by Emma Lord @dilemmalord @stmartinspress #bookreview

Susanne’s Review:

Light and Heartwarming.

High School best friends Abby, Leo, and Connie are like the three musketeers.  About to be Seniors, they do everything together.  That includes signing up for a DNA service.  Abby and Connie mainly do it to support Leo, who is adopted and is looking to see who else might be a part of his family tree. It’s Abby however who gets the shock of her life when reviewing the DNA results and she discovers that she has a full-blood sister!

Enter eighteen-year-old Savvy.  Instagram Influencer who is sheer perfection in every way.  Savvy has always known she was adopted, she just didn’t know the story behind it.  The fact that Abby had an older sister however is a complete shock.  Now comes the hard part for the both of them, discovering the story behind their parent’s deception.

Then, of course, there’s Leo.  Abby has had a crush on him for eons.  Something almost happened between them a few months ago and then well, it didn’t and since then everything has been totally awkward between them.  Now however they are going to be spending the summer together at camp, along with Savvy and all of Savvy and Leo’s friends.  Enter sparks, romance, and a whole lot of teen angst!

“You Have a Match” is a sweet story filled with family, sisterhood, and romance by Emma Lord.  This is now the second book I’ve read by this author and while I liked this book, in my opinion, it was nowhere near as cute or funny as “Tweet Cute” – which I absolutely loved.   If you like YA novels, however, this might just be the perfect match for you.

Published on Goodreads and Twitter on 2.14.21.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @willrdean @AtriaBooks #suspense

Kaceey’s Review:

The Last Thing To Burn

Absolutely unputdownable!

From page one I was pulled in and finished this amazing read in only a couple of sittings!

Her captor calls her Jane.  That is not her real name but in her seven years of captivity it has become the name the monster uses to address her with.  She will never accept this name.  Nor will she ever accept her fate as his prisoner.  

But now it’s more than just  “Jane’s” freedom on the line.  She has a child to think of.  And maybe more casualties of her captor.  

My heart was thumping from beginning to end. You could feel “Jane’s” fear, loathing and frustration.  Her courage and will to survive showed in every step she took.  The author did an amazing job to bring the characters to life.

I have read a few similar books with a similar premise of women being held captive.  There was something about this book felt so different.  I felt like I was trapped in the cabin with “Jane”. 

I had seen so much hype for this book so I went in with a bit of trepidation that once again I would be let down.  Not a chance! One of the best reads so far for 2021. Highly recommend!

A buddy read with Susanne.

Thank you to Maudee Genao at Atria Books and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review.

Susanne’s Review:

Nary a moment goes by that “Jane” does not plan for her captor’s death…

Upon being the victim of human trafficking, we learn why.

 “Jane” whose real name is Thanh Dao has been held captive by Lenn for seven (7) long years. Originally from Vietnam, she now resides in a farmhouse somewhere in England. Held against her will.

Thanh Dao and her sister Kim-Ly originally traveled to England with the promise of employment.  Kim-Ly, she is told, is working at a Nail Salon in Manchester and so “Jane” stays, to keep her sister safe.  

After years in captivity, Jane finds herself in a bind. She is pregnant and keeping her child safe is, of course, of the utmost importance. Lenn has taken everything away from her, but he will not take her baby.

Dark, harrowing, powerful, taut, and terrifying, “The Last Thing to Burn” by Will Dean is an incredible character-driven suspense novel that is all-consuming.  

As soon as I started reading this dastardly tale, that flame inside of me ignited and I was all in.  Pulse-pounding in desperation, I quickly flipped each page, anxious to find out what would happen next. Horrified, petrified, and hopeful all at the same time. 

A thrilling, captivating, character-driven novel that delves into extremely difficult subjects, “The Last Thing to Burn” knocked my socks off and I think it will do the same for you as well.  This is yet another brilliant read that will most certainly appear on my Goodreads best-of-list for 2021.

Another buddy read with Kaceey that gave us much to discuss.

Thank you to Maudee Genao at Atria Books for the galley and NetGalley for the e-arc.

Published on Goodreads, Twitter, and Insta.

The Dry by Jane Harper @janeharperautho @Flatironbooks #crimefiction #bookreview

Susanne’s Review:

A Devastating Crime;  One Man’s Inescapable Past;  The Place Where it All Goes Down.

When Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns home to Kiewarra in the Australian Outback, it’s not because he’s homesick.  His best friend Luke is gone, and Falk goes home to attend his funeral.  That’s not all of course.  Luke is accused of a horrific crime and as much as Falk would like to bail as soon as he steps foot in Kiewarra, he has to make right by his friend.

Twenty (20) years prior, Luke stood by him when Falk was accused of a crime himself. The two always looked out for each other and remained friends even after Falk and his dad hightailed it to Melbourne after a myriad of accusations. 

Upon his return, the residents of Kiewarra make it absolutely clear that they want nothing to do with Aaron Falk regardless of the fact that he’s there to help one of their own.  

“The Dry” by Jane Harper is Literary Crime Fiction that packs a punch and keeps on walloping.  

It’s also a character-driven novel with a fast-pace that is taut with tension. Aaron Falk is a man to be reckoned with, who I’d be grateful to have on my side any day of the week. Once again, the vivid descriptions of the atmosphere, the catastrophic drought, and the land completely captured my attention, with each becoming its own character. 

This brilliantly plotted, completely captivating, mystery novel sucked me in from the very beginning.  

“The Dry” is my third read by Jane Harper; next up is “Force of Nature.”  While I absolutely loved this book – it doesn’t quite match the love I felt for my first Jane Harper novel: “The Lost Man” – I still can’t get the characters of Nathan and Xander out of my head and having read that book several years ago now, that’s saying something (thus if you haven’t read that, check it out!).

If you’re like me and are a little late to this party, add “The Dry” to your tbr.  I highly recommend it to readers of character-driven fiction, crime fiction, and mystery/suspense.

Published on Goodreads, Twitter, and Insta.

In The Clearing by J.P. Pomare @JPPomare @mulhollandbooks #suspense

Kaceey’s Review:

Once again J.P. Pomare delivers a shocking thriller that will leave you speechless.

Told from two perspectives:
Amy: a young fifteen year old girl living with her “new family” all her brothers and sisters. This is no peace love and s’mores kind of clan. These children are worked morning to night with little food to sustain them. No complaints though…. ‘Mother’ would not appreciate anyone speaking out of turn.

Freya: A single mother who always seems to be looking over her shoulder. She trusts no one. And holds onto her son maybe a bit too tightly. She has secrets (don’t we all😂) but you just know hers are going to be whoppers!

My head was spinning from all the twists J.P. Pomare kept throwing at me. I was able to figure a couple of the smaller ones out, but the shockers stopped me in my tracks! I mean I literally had to stop reading to process the enormity of the twists.😱

This is the second book I’ve read from this author and though I loved Call Me Evie just a bit more, both delivered everything I look for in a thriller.

Can’t wait for his next release! I’m already in line!🙋🏻‍♀‍

Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for an ARC to read and review,

He Started It by Samantha Downing @smariedowning @berkleypub #bookreview #suspense

Susanne’s Review:

Family: You can’t Pick ‘em, but Sometimes, you sure which you could!

Ah, the nostalgia of family road trips!

Unfortunately for Eddie, Beth and Portia, they don’t exactly have fond memories of the road trip they took with their dear old Grandpa when they were young. Nightmares are more like it! So why, pray tell would they be willing to relive the experience all over again? An inheritance of course! Dear sweet Grandpa bequeathed them each with lots of dough on one condition, they must take that exact road trip one more time. Sounds easy enough right?

Eddie, Beth and Portia, should have figured that it would be dangerous, treacherous even. After all, each prides themselves on keeping secrets. Whoppers, if you will.. and let’s face it, if you aren’t going to keep secrets from your family, who are you to keep secrets from?

“He Started It” by Samantha Downing has an oddly addictive quality to it! I kept turning page after page even when I knew I needed to put the book down! It’s compelling and engrossing and all of those dastardly little secrets got me and got me good! After having read Ms. Downing’s debut novel, “My Lovely Wife” (which was one of my favorite reads of 2018) and now this, I can say that Samantha Downing is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and I will read anything and everything she writes. For those of you who haven’t haven’t read anything by her, it’s about time you changed that!

As far as family road trips go, thanks for the lesson, I plan on steering clear!

This was another fabulous buddy read with Kaceey.

Thank you so much to Elisha at Penguin Publishing Group for the arc and to Samantha Downing as well.

Published on Goodreads.

Kaceey’s Review:

Road trip!! WHEEEEEEE!

Remember those unbearable road trips you took when you were a kid? Stuffed into the backseat with your annoying siblings! So busy fighting you missed all the bizarre roadside attractions?
Well, what if many years later you had to retrace those steps? That’s right boys and girls! It’s another road trip! Only now you’re all grown up! And guess what…if you make it to the end?
There just might be a surprise waiting for you! Bonus!

Buckle up!

When grandpa died, the instructions in his will requested his grandchildren to retrace the trip he took them on as children. If they can pull it off while adhering to a few specific rules along the way, they will all inherit from his estate. Good luck kids! ‘Cause you’re all going to need it!

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!

Samantha Downing writes a clever thriller that will keep you flipping the pages as the sibling rivalries are re-ignited, ramping up to full throttle! Secrets! Lies! Maybe even murder? How terribly juicy! Quick question: How is your relationship with your family members? Think you could all survive the Highway to Hell road trip?

Happy trails!

I’m glad I read this one alongside Susanne as it created quite a conversation at the end! I think it will for you too! I’ll be curious to see what you all think!

Thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing and Samantha Downing for an ARC to read and review.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary @macmillanaudio @librofm #romcom #betholeary

Kaceey’s Review:

A delightful read guaranteed to leave an ear-to-ear smile on your face.

Leena seemingly has it all in her busy London life. A top-tier job and a strikingly handsome boyfriend. Suddenly she finds her back against the wall after being unceremoniously forced into a sabbatical from her position.

Eileen is eighty and not about to give up on life or love. When granddaughter Lee arrives in her Yorkshire home she welcomes her with open arms. And dear grandma Eileen may just have a clever plan to help them both get what they need.

For Leena, a much needed respite away from the grind of the city. For Eileen, a chance to live London and see what it has to offer a spunky octogenarian.

Thus, the decision is made to Switch.

This is a sweet read that will have you cheering for Eileen and crossing your fingers that we’ll be that feisty in our eighties!

The audio version was perfect!

A buddy 🎧 with Susanne.

Thank you to libro.fm

Susanne’s Review:

Cute as a Button!

Can love be found at any age? Maybe!

When Leena Cotton is forced to take a two month leave from her job, she has an idea. Her Grandmother Eileen Cotton lives in Hameligh-in-Harskdale and has always wanted to live in London, thus the two decide to switch lives, with Leena moving to Hamleigh and Eileen moving to London.

Sounds like an adventure of a lifetime right?

For Eileen Cotton it is. She suddenly finds herself looking for love on a dating website for the elderly and what she finds is a whole lot of fun. Eileen also finds herself living in Leena’s apartment, along with Leena’s flatmates – which is an experience like no other.

Leena, on the other hand, has to take care of all of Eileen’s “projects” in Hamleigh and none of Eileen’s friends are very accepting of her. Can she win them over while also trying to mend her relationship with her mum with whom she hasn’t been close, in over a year?

A heartwarming novel that will warm your soul in the sweetest of ways, the words I would use to describe this book are “adorably cute.”

In tough times, I recommend listening to the audiobook, as it made me smile and I think it will make you smile too! 3.5 Stars

A buddy listen with Kaceey!

Thank you to Libro.fm and Macmillan Audio for the alc.

Published on Goodreads 

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary @flatironbooks #betholeary #romcom

Susanne’s Review:

Totes Adorbs.

If you’re in need of a light, sweet rom com that will pick you up when you’re feeling down, grab “The Flatshare” by Beth O’Leary – it hits all the right notes.

Tiffy and Leon become Flatmates in the most unusual of ways. Leon, you see, works nights and Tiffy works days so they stay in the apartment in shifts, with Leon having it during the day and Tiffy on nights and weekends. The two communicate only by post-it notes and learn all about each other’s lives that way, hearing funny, quirky stories, and lamenting about life. Somehow the two forge a relationship even though they’ve never laid eyes on each other.

Sounds impossible right? Here, somehow, the impossible becomes sweet, soulful and just plain perfect.

With a few hilarious moments thrown in, this novel is utter perfection, which I highly recommend.

A huge thank you to my local library for loaning me a copy of the audiobook.

Published on Goodreads.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing @smariedowning @berkleypub #thriller

Thriller Feature: An Oldie But a Goodie!

Kaceey’s Review:

Be prepared to be shocked!😳

If only I could give you a broader glimpse of what this book is about. Unfortunately, nearly everything I’d want to share would end up being a spoiler! So friends…less is more!

Millicent and her husband are living the typical suburban life. Both work, while raising two children. And of course, trying to keep up with the Jones’. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.
However, their “extracurricular activities” are, oh… a bit different than you and me (at least I hope so!) OK, that’s all I’m going to say…

This book is so twisted, so dark and macabre. I was speechless throughout! Once you’re in, it’s absolutely unputdownable! (I love that word!) And just when you think you’ve reached your maximum shock value? Well, not so fast. Samantha Downing isn’t done rocking your world and keeps the surprises coming! Did I mention this is her debut? Seriously! Cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

Make sure to clear your calendar, pack some snacks and put everything else aside. Because you won’t be able to tear yourself away until you reach the final page! This is a must-read for all thriller fans for spring of 2019! You don’t want to miss this one! Highly recommend!

A super fun, shockingly thrilling buddy read with Susanne!

Thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing Group for a galley copy to read and review.

Susanne’s Review:

A Brand of Crazy All its Own.

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid! Next time your neighbor or someone else smiles at you, perhaps you should just look away. Catching their eye could be extremely dangerous.

Me: Smiling wickedly as I read: “I love this, but it is vile! I really shouldn’t be liking this so much, I mean, it’s so not right, but I just can’t help my darn self!”

Me: Laughing mischievously, “Oh my gosh, is this actually happening? I cannot believe she just did that!”

So what’s the premise? A man and a woman meet, fall in love and marry. Together, they have the wildest and well, most terrifying of hobbies. It’s one I’d never imagine and frankly, hope remains fictional.

For me, reading this was like eating a potato chip. I simply couldn’t get enough! The secrets are whoppers and the suspense is all consuming, gritty, grimy and was like nothing I’ve ever read before.

“My Lovely Wife” by Samantha Downing is seriously unputdownable! You simply must get your hands on it, like right this second. Beg, borrow or steal if you have to, or maybe just ask nicely, whatever works. You will not regret it.

My final thought is this: “My Lovely Wife” is freakish and demented and I loved every second of it. It is so crazy that it will make me give almost everyone I meet from now on the side-eye, including you!

This was a buddy read with Kaceey. Most of the conversations I had above (smiling wickedly, etc.), happened in the context of texting with her. We went back and forth constantly, as we couldn’t believe our own eyes. It was totally awesome, thus I highly recommend this for a group read. Thanks so much as always Kaceey!

A huge thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing Group and to Samantha Downing for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram.

We Begin At The End by Chris Whittaker @WhittyAuthor @HenryHolt @MacmillanAudio #bookreview #bookblogger #fiction

Susanne’s Review:

My Cup Runneth Over and the Tears Spilled.

While reading this book, I was overcome with intense emotion and extraordinary heartbreak.

This is character-driven literary crime fiction about family, friendship, loss, and mystery that includes all of my favorite elements.  Dysfunction; grief, heartache; humanity; humor; love; loyalty, pain, regret, and unrelenting tragedy.

It’s a novel that is dripping with heart and that heart resides in the characters.  Characters that I love with all of my heart and then some. Characters who I’ve thought about every darn day since I turned the last page.

It’s the characters of Duchess, Robin, Walk, Hal, Dolly, and Martha who bring this book to life and made my heartache. 

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen (13) year-old self-proclaimed “Outlaw.”  Tough as nails, she’ll do whatever she has to do to take care of herself and her five (5) year old brother Robin, seeing as her mom has never been all that reliable, much to Duchess’ chagrin. Unfortunately for Duchess, after trying just a little too hard to take care of her family, she finds herself in a world of trouble, the likes of which I can’t imagine.

The bonds shared between brother and sister here are absolutely soul-wrenching. As if the characters of Duchess and Robin were real, I too found myself in great distress when tragedy befell these two time and again.  If I could have scooped them up and taken them to safety, I would have.

“Walk” is Chief of Police. Though he checks in on the Radleys from time to time, he’s not a miracle worker and he has other fish to fry, including helping his former best friend, Vincent King rehabilitate after spending 30 years in prison.  Walk, of course, has his own troubles, none of which he can run away from.

The mystery here is devastating, heart-wrenching, and gripping.  Though there is tragedy here, there is also humor.  Surprising, shocking, brilliant humor. The writing is beautiful and is full of grace and grit.

In truth:  “We Begin At The End” by Chris Whittaker IS the BEST book I’ve read so far this year and I would be stunned if another book surpasses it. It will of course be at the top of my Goodreads best-of-list for 2021!

This is my first read by Chris Whittaker but it will most certainly not be my last.  I will be searching for and reading his entire backlist shortly. 

If this is not on your tbr, search it out!  I switched back and forth between the book and the audiobook and loved both.  George Newbern narrated the audiobook and his narration is phenomenal!

Thank you to NetGalley, and Henry Holt and Company for arc, and MacMillan Audio for the alc.

Published on Goodreads. Twitter and Insta on 2.10.21