My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Susanne’s Review:

Life sure can be ugly, messy, and complicated.

A perfect example of that is depicted in Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.”

The emotions I felt while reading this heart-wrenching novel were mainly anger, frustration, and a whole lot of sadness.

At thirteen, Anna is the little sister, though from everything she’s gone through you wouldn’t know it. From before conception, her parents had a very specific plan for her. They designed her. Their firstborn daughter, Kate was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at a very young age. The doctors said that her best chance of survival would be to receive a blood transfusion, bone marrow, and potentially organ donations from a matched sibling. Enter Anna. Since the age of five, at her parent’s insistence, she has had to undergo multipe surgeries to save her sister’s life, with nary a care for her own.

When Anna turns thirteen, however, and kidney donation is the next step, all of that changes. For the first time, Anna decides to take a stand.

For Anna, this is a life choice. For Anna’s mother Sara, it is an abomination, as Anna is effectively writing Kate’s death sentence. Sara is a woman who admittedly, I did not understand. Yes, I know, she’s just a fictional character yet, my blood boiled at her actions while reading this novel. I wanted to shake her or slap her or if I’m being completely honest do a whole lot more to make her realize that she had three children to take care of, not just one. Seeing as I am not a mother perhaps my feelings for her would have been less, say aggressive if I had more insight into motherhood. For those of you who are mothers, perhaps your take on her is altogether different than mine.

The standout character here, for me, is, of course, Anna. Strong, forthright, kind, and brave, so very brave.

I first read this novel when it came out many moons ago, however, I have been re-reading some of my old favorites with my book buddy Kaceey. Though this was a difficult read, which garnered a lot of discussion between the two of us, it was an incredible one. Though this was a re-read for me, I admit to shedding a few tears throughout. Thank you for sharing it with me Kaceey. If you’re looking for another novel to read that has a partially similar premise, check out “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Having read almost every Jodi Picoult novel to date, this is one of my favorites.  I look forward to sharing the rest with you.

Published on Goodreads on 12.16.20.

Kaceey’s Review:

Emotional and profoundly thought-provoking.

If your child were deathly ill, what would you do to save them? Move heaven and earth…right? Would that include sacrificing your other child? Stops you in your tracks, doesn’t it.

Kate was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Conventional treatment wasn’t working. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant. But no one in the family was a close match. And there was no time to sit on the register hoping beyond hope to find a donor. 

Kate’s parents make the call of a lifetime…they decide to have another child through IVF to ensure as close to a perfect match for Kate.

Anna is ushered into this world with an abundance of love but also with the hope she will save Kate’s life. So many gut-wrenching decision follow. Morals and values to be considered. When is it enough? When will it stop? What will the repercussions be when all is said and done?

This book will have you taking a hard look at yourself in the mirror. How far can you go? Is causing harm to one daughter worth easing the pain of your other?

Jodi Picoult did an amazing job of portraying a family in the most unthinkable crisis.

A buddy read with Susanne that kept us discussing as much as reading.

Highly recommend!

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Susanne’s Review:

What makes a Great Leader? 

When I ask myself that question, the characteristics I look for (to name a few) are Compassion, Dedication, Hard Work, Honesty, Integrity, Intellect, Manners, Mastery, Responsibility, and Reverence. 

For me, Barack Obama, former President of the United States was and is the quintessential leader, he exudes integrity, and is the epitome of Presidential and grace under pressure.  In addition, his dedication to the job and to the people was evident throughout his Presidency.

Though I thought I knew a lot about him prior to both reading and listening to “A Promised Land,” I learned so much more as I delved into his memoir.

I switched between physically reading the book and listening to the audiobook, to mainly listening because I found President Obama’s voice to be extremely soothing.  I could listen to him speak for hours (and in fact I did, considering that the audiobook is 29 hours!).

First and foremost, I was impressed by how kind and considerate President Obama was and is.  Always recalling the names of campaign staffers and their families as well as the entire White House staff.  Always checking in to make sure that everyone was hanging in. Responding to letters from the American People who had questions and concerns and trying to allay their fears whenever possible.  

Always checking on his family no matter what was going on and being there for dinner, whenever possible.  His love for them was always ever-present.

Barack Obama’s relationships with his team (which included Axe, Plouffe, Reggie, and Ben, etc.) spoke volumes.  What was evident here was the amount of admiration, appreciation, and respect everyone had for each other.  

What struck me as I was reading and listening was how hard he worked to get where he is.  Reading, studying, gaining advice from aides, scholars, and government officials, even going so far as to reach across party lines to ensure that he was doing the best job he possibly could for the Nation.  

From what I could tell, he always went into every situation prepared.   

I was truly impressed by the attention to detail given by Barack Obama in “A Promised Land” and how he was able to recall key events and quotes from years prior with such accuracy.  

Based on his descriptions of trying to get the Affordable Care Act passed, addressing the financial crisis, climate change (aka saving the tigers), and terrorism, there was nary a moment where I doubted how tirelessly President Obama worked during the first years of his Presidency to deliver as much as he possibly could.    

To say that I miss this man doesn’t describe my feelings.  I miss his compassion, his dedication, his morality, and his responsiveness.  I miss the Obamas, plain and simple.  

Reading this brought me peace.  Remembering the feeling of being sheltered in a storm, when someone had our best interests at heart, made me feel safe, if only for a minute.  I miss that feeling immensely and I look forward with hope, to the days ahead.

Published on Goodreads on 12.14.20.

The Nowhere Man (Orphan X #2) by Gregg Hurwitz

Susanne’s Review:

Desperate. Methodical. Powerful.

The tables have turned and this time, it’s Evan Smoak (formerly known as Orphan X) who desperately needs help.

Can I just say NO?! Please don’t hurt Evan, I love him!

Held captive by a vicious man with unlimited resources and a need for money, Evan has to use every weapon in his arsenal to save himself. Lucky for him, his captors have no idea who they are dealing with.

Evan is on a time crunch however as there are people counting on him, people who need his help and failure simply isn’t an option. What he didn’t anticipate however is the arrival of mortal enemies.

My heart was in my throat for much of “The Nowhere Man” (as Kaceey can attest) as I just could not fathom how Evan could escape, battling a myriad of armed guards and dogs too ruthless to describe.

My 5 ft. 2 in., petite little self wanted to jump into the book and do battle to save him! (LOL!)

I think I could win Evan Smaok over that way, don’t you?! (Yes, I know that Gregg Hurwitz is married, but a girl can pretend!) Alas, I digress, while I didn’t think that “The Nowhere Man” was quite as good as its predecessor “Orphan X,” I truly enjoyed it and I absolutely loved the last quarter of the book having had an inkling as to what was going to happen from the very beginning. This is a captivating, compelling heart pounding thriller that completely ramps up the suspense as the novel progresses. The ending really pulls out all the stops and makes me super anxious to read Book 3!

This was a fabulous buddy read with Ms. Kaceey!

Thank you to Gregg Hurtwitz for writing a fabulous character driven thriller!

Published on Goodreads on 8.30.20.

Kaceey’s Review:

Uh-Oh… Evan may have just met his match!
Evan Smoak is known as the Nowhere Man. He’s dedicated to helping people who feel hopeless, with no one or nowhere to turn for help. For them, one phone call is all it takes.

But what happens when the tables are turned and someone nabs the Nowhere Man, determined to take away all that he has worked so hard for. His privacy, his anonymity, his money and very possibly his life! Can Evan save himself? Well after all, he is best super hero I know, so…💁🏻‍♀️

“You can’t start over. All you can do is change direction.”

This is book two of the popular Orphan X series, and though it lacked some of the magic as book one, it was still quite a thrill ride!

Oh, and can I just mention the ending!?😱

Susanne and I are binging the series and already have book three Hell Bent queued up and ready to start!

The Minders by John Marrs

Kaceey’s Review:

John Marrs pulled it off again. A fabulous out–of-the-box thriller certain to leave you speechless.

Five random people…chosen by the government to become minders. Surely you ask… what is a minder? They are individuals willing to have an implant placed in their brains. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? After all, this innocent little implant merely contains all the British documents and secrets the government doesn’t want anyone to get a hold of. Computers and clouds are no longer safe.
Out in cyber-land, there is a group blackmailing countries all over the world for this most valuable information. Britain feels confident they can stay one step ahead by hiding their information is this most unusual fashion until a better and safer solution can be found.

Wow! What a premise…right?! Had my full attention immediately!

Told from the perspectives of all the minders along with one unknown, you’re quickly dropped directly into their now desperate lives and their overwhelming challenges to keep safe.

John Marrs builds on his previous books, The One and The Passengers, in this latest release. While clearly able to stand alone, I highly recommend starting with those previous reads before you open the pages of this latest. I truly think this will give you the most gratifying reading experience.

I must say The One remains my favorite to date (Of course, romance always rules the day.) But this was equally entertaining and a must read for John Marrs’ fans.

A buddy read with Susanne
Thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing via NetGalley

Susanne’s Review:

Terrifying. In More Ways than One.

Hacking. Everyone knows that computers can be hacked. After all, it happens every day, right?

The British Government, however, has decided to ensure that their top-secret information stays that way, and to do so, they’ve figured out a way to store their data, deep in the minds of 5, extremely brilliant, people who are, therefore, unhackable.

These individuals are known as “The Minders” and now that they’ve had top-secret information implanted inside of their brains, they have to leave their old lives behind and start fresh.

Except for their handler, no one knows who they are, thus they cannot be found, or so they think.

Pulse-pounding, gripping and terrifying, “The Minders” is a brilliant mystery/suspense by John Marrs, who continues to push the envelope by coming up with fresh new ideas. This novel incorporates certain plot points from two of his prior novels (“The One” and “The Passengers”), thus I highly suggest reading those before diving into this one.

While “The Minders” gave me a lot to ponder as someone who works in the Legal/Tech industry and specifically with “electronic discovery” – I was troubled by the fact that the amount of electronic data implanted into an individual’s brain was never mentioned. I couldn’t help but wonder whether gigabytes, terabytes, or pedabytes were implanted. (For instance: 1 gigabyte = one truck full of paper; 1 terabyte = paper from 50,000 trees; and 1 pedabyte, = 250 billion pages of text, and so on) so while I enjoyed this book, the only real issue I had is that it didn’t include a few “key details” that the geek in me so desperately needed.

That being said, this is a solid, character-driven suspense with a fabulous ending. Let me just say that I can’t wait to see what John Marrs comes out with next!

A buddy read with Ms. Kaceey!

A huge thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for the arc.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

*Kaceey’s Review:

I know, I know! I’m late to the party reading this book!🙋🏻‍♀️

Silly me… I thought it was just another political thriller – my least favorite!🙄 But I was sooooo wrong! Gregg Hurwitz creates a recipe not only for an incredible lead character but for a franchise series just itching to be made into a movie.

Here’s the recipe: Add one part Bourne Identity to one part Mission Impossible. Shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker. Garnish with both Jack Reacher and Superman and voila, 🧚🏼 you now have Orphan X.

Evan was hand-selected as a youngster by his handler, Jack. And over time, molded into one of the world’s top assassins. Eventually Evan becomes disenchanted with the dirty business of killing for hire and is ready to leave the life, using his skills instead to only help people. Not so fast, friend. Are you naive enough to believe you can just walk away?

I absolutely loved Evan’s character! Fierce and tough as steel, but endowed with a heart of gold that just melted mine. I adored the relationship he had with his young neighbor Peter. It brought out a softer, kinder side of the hardened killing machine Evan had become. And Peter’s mom Mia? What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic…so you know I’m rooting for them all the way!

A buddy read with Susanne (thank you for gifting me this book). We are now planning to binge the entire series.

*Susanne’s Review:

Captivating, Controlled, Compelling.

A Thrill Ride a Minute, “Orphan X” will make your heart beat faster than taking a spin on your Peloton!

Evan Smoak is “The Nowhere Man.” He’s a myth – no one knows who he is though everyone is looking for him. Once an undercover government agent, he went underground ages ago putting his unique skills to good use, helping those who can’t help themselves.

After helping someone he only asks one thing, that they pass his number onto someone else in need.

Unfortunately for Evan, when he agrees to take on his latest case, he has no idea how dangerous it is or what the ramifications will be.

Evan Smoak is an extraordinary man. Always in control, regardless of the situation. Living by a code that cannot be broken. A man who chooses to help those in need instead of hurting them.

Needless to say, “Orphan X” surpassed all of my expectations. Wild, crazy, thrilling and wholly satisfying. My heart was in my throat for much of the novel. I was captivated and wholly intrigued.

Can I just say that I LOVE Evan Smoak?! I am sure I’m not alone in saying that either! I even loved his adoration for imported vodka and admit to googling each one out of sheer curiosity. (Lol.)

This was an amazing buddy read with Kaceey! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series with her to find out what happens next.

Published on Goodreads.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Kaceey’s Review:

Long Bright River has been sitting quietly and lonely on my shelf for well, let’s just say too long! Not sure why. Just never felt like the right time to read it. Once the audio version became available I knew it was the perfect opportunity to dive in and enjoy both the written and listening experience.

Mickey grew up in Philadelphia where she now serves as a police officer. Having lost several many family members to drugs, Mickey is now fearful of losing her younger sister Kacey to the same demons.

Closing in on what could potentially be a serial killer of young females living on the streets, Mickey prays her sister won’t be among the victims.

This is a slow burn of a thriller, putting you on the dark, back-alley haunts of one of the more undesirable sections of Philadelphia. Providing a front-row seat as you witness the utter devastation drugs have had, leaving so many lives in ruins.

The narrator did an amazing job to keep me engaged throughout. Highly recommend.

If this one is still sitting on your shelf it’s time to pick it up. You’ll only regret waiting so long.

A buddy read with Susanne.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group

Susanne’s Review:

Disturbing, Heartbreaking, Honest. 

When it comes to literary fiction, if I’m being frank, the dirtier it is, the better it is.  By that I mean, I like it complicated, messy and at times, really difficult, because in my opinion, that is real life.  

Lucky for me, “Long Bright River” by Liz Moore certainly fit that bill and then some.  

Long Bright River is a novel about dysfunction, layered on top of even more dysfunction – just how I like it.  

Addiction, Poverty, Familial Dysfunction, Disparate Treatment.  

Sisters, Mickey and Kacey couldn’t be more different.  Growing up on the outskirts of Philly where drugs run rampant, both sisters took very different paths.  Mickey became a cop, Kacey became an addict, and then some.  Kacey’s life is not pretty, though she never purported it to be.  What it is, is ugly, hard and wholly prevalent. Mickey took a different path, and is now a single mother, working a demanding job, always worried that Kacey won’t last another day.

While patrolling Kensington, where Mickey resides, bodies of female victims start piling up.  Someone is on the hunt and Mickey appears to be the only one to spot a pattern.  Unfortunately, Mickey also realizes that her sister Kacey has been missing from the streets for over a month.

All Mickey knows is that Kacey’s situation could be perilous.  Intense desperation, utter despair, and a driving need to find her sister, lead Mickey on a hazardous goose chase.  

A gritty, character-driven novel that leaves it all out on the table.

A buddy read/listen with Kaceey that was sitting in our queues for way too long.  So glad we finally got to it. For me, this was a top read for 2020!

Thank you to Edelweiss, Penguin Publishing Group – Riverhead Books for the arc.  Thank you to my local library for loaning me a copy of the audiobook.

Published on Goodreads.

Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered, #3) by Tessa Bailey

*Kaceey’s Review:

Hot! Hot! Hot!🔥🔥🔥
This is book three of the Hot and Hammered series. And just like the series title suggests it’s not just a rom com but a very steamy and raunchy read!

OK…You’ve been warned!⚠️

When I first started this series I had no idea what I was in for and I think I blushed through the entire book. But going into book three I was fully aware and ready! Bring on the heat!🙈

This latest installment focuses on Georgie’s older sister Bethany who is desperate to branch out on her own from her family business and flip a house. Though her family doesn’t quite believe she is capable. To her rescue is Wes. The new young man in town who recently arrived to care for his young niece when his half sister needed to take a timeout from her life.

Bethany does her best to fight the relationship.
(Of course – it’s a rom com where no romance is straight forward ). She can’t seem to get past the fact she is seven years older than Wes. But he is determined to break down all of her walls and in return may end up with more than he ever imagined.

The heat between these characters is palpable! The steamy scenes were risqué (to say the least) but fit the characters and storyline perfectly.

This rom com had everything I ask for in the genre. Both romance and Comedy. I loved the flirtation between Wes and Bethany. And, I had many laugh out loud moments as they navigated their relationship.

I’m not sure if this is the end of the series….but my fingers are crossed that it will continue!🤞

I listened to the audio version and Charlotte North once again did an amazing job bringing all of Tessa Bailey’s characters to life!

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot and Hammered, #2) by Tessa Bailey

*Kaceey’s Review:

It’s all about the fine art of communication!

This is book two of the Hot and Hammered series. And yes, I was fully prepared this time.🙈 I was poised to hit the fast forward button on my audio as the (shall we just say highly descriptive) spicy scenes lit up the airwaves!
After all, it’s a safety issue. I couldn’t have the narration steaming up my windshield while I was driving. Or even driving right off the road, right!?💁🏻‍♀️

This book focuses primarily on Rosie and Dominic. Their marriage is in big trouble and there may be no saving it! Even the marriage counselor admitted he wasn’t sure they could work it out! Rosie and Dom have been in love since they were teens. Truth is, they’re still hot for one another. But the communication between them has broken down completely. Can they discover how to speak each other’s love language? Or is it time to move on?

I listened to the audio version of this book, as with book one of the series. Once again the narrators did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of their characters, bringing you on a private journey into their failing marriage!

Can’t wait for the next installment of the series!

Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) by Tessa Bailey

*Kaceey’s Review:

It’s quite possible I’m still blushing!☺️

I read all the reviews! I heard it was a steamy read! Yet I failed to believe a story revolving sweet little innocent Georgie having a long standing crush on a washed up baseball player could be a hot read!

Well ladies and gentleman…the gloves are off! Yikes! Heed the warning!

I listened to the audio which gave it that much more of a steamy air!
If this is your cup of tea… I recommend the audio! The narrators were a perfect match for the characters. They did a fantastic job!

I have the follow up Love Her Or Lose Her on hold at the library! Just need to recover a bit from this one before diving back in! (Is it hot in here?)💁🏻‍♀️

Published on Goodreads.

Reasons why Everyone needs a little Evan Smoak (aka Orphan X) in their life.

  1. Evan Smoak lives by a code. He believes in “Random Acts of Kindness” – specifically helping those in need before helping himself.
  2. He won’t stop until the job is done, regardless of what it costs him.
  3. As “The Nowhere Man” he’s a Myth. Truly Undercover. If you ever need lessons in how to go incognito, he’s your guy.
  4. If your Self-Defense skills could use a little refresher, the Orphan X series might be useful.
  5. Evan is totally Crush-Worthy! Women and men alike SWOON over him. I know that I’d jump in the line of fire (0r into the pages of a book in this case) to do battle for him.
  6. Both Evan Smoak and Joey could teach lessons in Sarcasm and Wit for those in need. Talk about great Life Lessons!
  7. Are you interested in becoming a Vodka Connoisseur? Gaining insight from Evan Smoak could help you out in that department, and increase your credibility.
  8. Do you need Lessons in how to Win People Over? Evan Smoak is your guy.
  9. Are you in Need a Natural Adrenaline Rush? The Orphan X series delivers it instantaneously. Pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, eye-popping, and jaw-dropping. Prepare yourselves. That is all.
  10. Finally, are you hoping to find a Thriller Series with a little Romance on the side? Watch Evan Smoak’s moves. They’re Killer!