Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

Susanne’s Review:

Actions and Reactions.

Secrets and Lies.

Mothers and Daughters.

Husbands and Wives.

Isabelle Goodrow is a prim and proper woman. To her, appearances are everything.  As a mother, she is quite reserved. Her daughter Amy longs for something more.

When Amy finds it, she becomes, shall we say, unfettered.

Amy, entangled with someone older, someone inappropriate, somehow who most certainly should know better.  

An awkward situation, discovered. Isabelle beside herself, angry and desperate.

Actions, of course, have ramifications as both Isabelle and Amy soon devise.  

Amy and Isabelle are not alone.  Many folks in the town of Shirley Falls are keeping secrets of course, and they too suffer the consequences.  

Oh, the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter.  

Oh, how well Elizabeth Strout delves into the different facets of interpersonal relationships as a whole. 

Though “Amy and Isabelle” was not my favorite of Elizabeth Strout’s novels, I enjoyed certain aspects of it and appreciated the complexities of all of the personalities within this book and how each was impacted by the decisions they made.  Having read all but one other of Ms. Strout’s novels, I am anxiously awaiting her next release.   

Published on Goodreads on 1.3.21

City of Windows by Robert Pobi

Susanne’s Review:

Dr. Lucas Page thought his days working for the FBI were over. Then his former partner is murdered in broad daylight, killed by a near impossible sniper shot. Now the FBI needs Dr. Page’s help pinpointing where it came from. Dr. Page, now a University Professor, left the FBI a decade ago after losing several limbs in a horrific accident. Even though Dr. Page, who has an extraordinary ability to figure out a crime scene and break down the angles, agrees to help this one time, all that changes when the murdering spree continues.

Now it’s up to Dr. Page and the rest of the team at the FBI to find the killer before it’s too late.

If only Dr. Page’s new “gig” with the FBI didn’t upset the status quo at the ‘ole homestead where Lucas’s wife and their adopted children are waiting to prepare for the Christmas Holiday! It all comes down to priorities!

“City of Windows” by Robert Pobi is a fast paced, thrilling mystery / suspense that kept me on my toes throughout. Though this novel was a tad too intellectual for my liking and had me reaching for my dictionary a few times, it was still enjoyable. My favorite parts of this novel were Lucas’s interactions with his family, which I feel kept him grounded. I really enjoyed his character and look forward to seeing how it develops upon reading the next book in the series, “Under Pressure.”

A buddy read with Kaceey!

Kaceey’s Review:

Hold on tight, major turbulence ahead! Robert Pobi is about to take you on a full-throttle action ride!

Having book two Under Pressure sitting on my shelf, I chose to go back to the beginning of the series for a more complete picture. Wise choice on my part!

Lucas Page is retired from the FBI after an accident that nearly cost him his life, leaving him without an arm and a leg. (No…really!) Since then he’s been quietly living a far different life, teaching at the University while helping to raise foster children alongside his new wife. 

But after a targeted killing of an FBI agent in midtown Manhattan, the F.B.I. comes knocking on Lucas’ door pleading for his help. 

As advertised, the action was non-stop, as Lucas and the FBI race against time to find the assassin before he strikes again. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Lucas as the lead character. There’s a great deal lot of depth revealed about him personally and professionally.

My only draw-back was the author got overly technical involving Lucas’ expertise as my eyes stared glazing over as I became lost in all those facts and figures.🤪

I’m now ready to dive into book two!

A buddy read with Susanne!

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Kaceey’s Review:

Twin sisters are supposed to be as close as, well…two peas in a pod! Right!?

At least that’s the way it worked out for twins Fern and Rose. With Rose taking on the responsibility of looking after Fern. She has sensory issues that have consumed her life. And a past that Rose isn’t about to let her forget.

Sisters! Oy! Could I write an encyclopedia-size book on that subject!
But I digress…

For these two, the question is when does a functional loving ‘sisterly’ relationship stop being healthy? Well you might want to ask these two ladies!

Though somewhat predictable, (I had most of the book figured out nearly immediately) I still enjoyed every bit of the ride.

Sally Hepworth writes a highly engaging read you won’t easily be able to put down. Certainly true for me!

For a light, engaging thriller that delves into family dysfunction…look no further!

A buddy read with Susanne that we both really enjoyed!

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC to read and review.

Susanne’s Review:

Wickedly Devine.

Sisters. They REALLY Can’t be Trusted, Can They?

Speaking from experience, I’d say that answer is no. (And I really am “The Good Sister.”) (JK!)

Baaawaaahh!!!

What can I tell you about this Wildly Captivating, Entertaining, and Enthralling Domestic Thriller?

It’s DEVILISH.

It’s Fun.

It’s Crazy.

And it’s Hella Good!

Is it a tad predictable? Yes. Admittedly, I guessed what would happen early on but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment in the least. In fact, I couldn’t turn the pages of this one fast enough.

It’s twisty-turny and there are still surprises to be had!

A Brilliant Buddy Read with Kaceey!

*To my sister, Karin: As for who is the “Good Sister” – we can agree to disagree. Love you!

A huge thank you goes out to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the arc. This was a delightfully wild, wicked read. I can’t wait to see what Sally Hepworth comes out with next.

Published on Goodreads on 12.27.20.

Susanne’s Goodreads Best-of-List for 2020

In this most difficult year, for me, there has been one constant. Books, which, leads to book reviews and of course, all of you whom I’ve met on Goodreads over the last few years. For your friendship, support, and general encouragement, I thank you.   

What I know is this: Having each other is immeasurable, for when we need a friend, we have each other and of course, we always have books.  

This year, I surpassed my reading goal by reading more books than ever before. (I would have read more but I have indulged in a little more TV than usual, lol, (who can blame me though right?!). That said, I am proud of where I ended up.

When it comes to my Best-of List, below are my favorites (in no particular order):

Fiction:

  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Mr. Backman – your ability to understand Human Connection astounds. Your characters get under my skin like no other.)
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Terrifying, heart-wrenching, stunning. An incredible story of survival).
  • The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (Cussy Mary – Oh what an inspiration you are and oh how I miss you. This was my first best-of novel of 2020 and what a novel it was!)
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Complicated and messy. In my book, that is known as sheer perfection (at least when it comes to books that is!) Well done Sally Rooney!).
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (How surprising. Way to make me sob like a baby!)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab (Addie Larue, I assure you, I will remember you, always. Simply brilliant, devastating and perfect.)
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore (Disturbing, dirty and dysfunctional. Probably the best literary fiction novel I have read in years.)
  • My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy (This is my kind of book. Brilliant characterizations and a story that envelops you and makes you feel safe.)
  • Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Dark, Ominous, Legendary, and Simply Ingenious. Don’t worry, I take heed Ms. Hoffman!)
  • Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout (Oh Olive, you do beat all! Somehow you ingrained yourself into my soul, and now well, you’ve won me over in pure Olive fashion!)
  • This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel (To know this family is to love them. Poppy, your bravery inspires me!)

Grit Lit:

  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Absolutely devastating and oh so good.)
  • Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panovich (Hauntingly perfect. Brian Panovich, you slay me.)

Memoirs:

  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Thank you for bringing me peace and reminding me what it feels like to be safe!).

Rom-Coms:

  • The Happily Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez (If only real life was like this, I might be a believer.)
  • Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams (Noah, you rock!)

Mystery / Suspense:

  • The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter (KS, How COULD you? All I have to say is, I’m still not over it and I’m not sure I ever will be.)
  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Spooky spooky!)

Science Fiction / Fantasy:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Virtual Reality on Steroids narrated by the masterful Wil Wheaton – in case it’s not obvious, Wil: I’ll Stand By You.)

Women’s Fiction:

  • Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center (Women’s Fiction doesn’t get better than this: Jake and Helen are sheer perfection.)
  • Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren (My final favorite best of for 2020. The perfect book to steal your heart.)
  • November 9 by Colleen Hoover (COHO: Cue All the Feels!)

Honorable Mentions go to:

  • The Orphan X Series by Gregg Hurwitz (Heartstopping, thrilling and so darn good Mr. Hurwitz!  Evan Smoak: You are Oh So Crushworthy!)
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Oh Olive, somehow I grew to love you.. (even though you reminded me of someone extremely difficult!) What an incredible feat Ms. Strout pulled off!)
  • The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Bob Burgess: there is something about your character that has stayed with me – perhaps because I understand you or perhaps because I’ve been you. Well done, Ms. Strout!)  
  • The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (Stellar writing, brilliant legal arguments, and the inclusion of my favorite Connelly characters (including one of my favorite literary characters of all time: Harry Bosch). What’s not to love?) 

Favorite New to Me Authors: 

  • Colleen Hoover
  • Gregg Hurwitz
  • Sally Rooney
  • Elizabeth Strout

Published on Goodreads

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

Susanne’s Review:

A Seriously Cute, albeit predictable romance that helped get me in the Holiday Spirit!

As a single woman in her mid-30’s Kate has been unlucky in love.  After being pushed by Laura, one of her best friends, Kate decides to embark on “The Twelve Dates of Christmas.”  After signing up, Kate is then matched on twelve different dates with twelve different men throughout the month of December.

Love and snowflakes are in the air!

All of the dates are festive, fun, and extremely creative.  The men Kate are matched with are another thing altogether!  Believe it or not, Kate had absolutely no idea what she was getting herself into.  

Charming, sweet, and just what the doctor ordered to get me in the spirit this holiday season, “The Twelve Dates of Christmas” filled me with light and love and a few laughs as well.  Although I immediately knew where this holiday read was going as soon as I began listening to it, I still really enjoyed this audiobook and would recommend it to those looking for a light novel to lift their spirits.

Published on Goodreads on 12.27.20.

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor @cjtudor @randomhouse #mystery #bookreview

Susanne’s Review:

Bewitching, Spooky, and Suspenseful!

Jack Brooks is the new Vicar in Chapel Croft.  She and her daughter Flo are new in town. Unfortunately for them, Chapel Croft has a history, and the community itself isn’t exactly welcoming. 

What is the town known for, you ask?  Exorcisms; Burning Girls; Martyrs; Missing Girls; and Murder.  

Not exactly homey, if I do say so myself.  

Upon moving into the cottage next to the Chapel, both Jack and Flo find themselves in danger, and neither is willing to admit it to the other.  

Tsk tsk. Big Mistake!  Huge, in Fact.

Ghosts of burning girls appear. Is it a trick of the eye? Most of the townsfolk act nice. Can they be trusted? Long kept secrets are discovered. What pray tell does it all mean?

The devil, my friends, is in the details.  

Atmospheric, Dark, and Wholly Entertaining. 

A brilliantly plotted, taut, character-driven suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.  “The Burning Girls” is yet another winner by C.J. Tudor, who continues to impress me and give a nod to one of her (and my) favorite authors, Stephen King.  

A huge thank you goes out to Kathleen Quinlan at Random House Publishing and NetGalley, for the arc. 

Published on Goodreads on 12.27.20.

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen

Kaceey’s Review:

Carl Hiaasen delivers a clever, humorous novel that’s going to leave you shaking your head saying “Oh no, tell me he didn’t just go there!?” Oh yes friends, he did! And lucky you were along for the ride!

When Kiki Fitzsimmons disappears from a charity ball at the country club in S. Florida, the search is on! After all, she couldn’t and wouldn’t have simply walked away.

Well, leave it to the twisted mind of Carl Hiaasen to take her disappearance to the next level! While your deductive skills may be highly-honed, I’m betting more than a few will stumble guessing what happened to our little socialite. So sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride the author is about to take you.

As with any Hiaasen novel, you’re assured to have your requisite laugh-out-loud moments.

This was the perfect send off to such a tough year! What better way to say goodbye to 2020 than through smiles and laughter! I think we could all use more of that!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Random House Publishing for an ARC to read and review.

Into the Fire (Orphan X #5)

Kaceey’s Review:

Greg Hurwitz has done it again!  

Book five of the Orphan X series. And this latest storyline, as well as Evan himself, have not lost steam! 

Each time Evan answers his phone he understands he’ll be risking his own life to help someone with nowhere else to turn. This time is no different. 

To say Max Merriweather is down on his luck would be a massive understatement. Recently separated from his wife and daughter, Max is barely scraping by. The weight of the world has reduced him to a shadow of his former self.  To add to his misery, his cousin was murdered. But not before leaving Max in possession of a mysterious envelope. With implicit instructions to put it in the hands of a trusted reporter 

Now no one is safe and once again, it’s up to Evan to put the pieces of this strange puzzle together and save Max!  

As with all the books in this series…it’s non-stop action! I just love Evan as he tries to figure out what he wants for his own future while still being willing to help those in need.  

Why hasn’t this series been turned into a movie (multiple movies)!?🍿🍿 

Only one book left in the series. Pardon me, Mr. Hurwitz 🙋🏻‍♀️

I hate to be a bother but do be a dear and pick up the pace! I need more books. please!  

Thank you!

A buddy read with Susanne!  

Susanne’s Review:

Heart Stopping and Completely Thrilling!

Just when Evan Smoak has decided to turn over a new leaf and stay out of trouble, he finds himself in the thick of it. This time, helping a man whose cousin was murdered and whose family has completely turned against him. A man named Max Merriweather who is now on someone’s hit list for unknown reasons.

Evan would like nothing more to just walk away from it all and yet, it is not in him. He is a man who lives by a code.

“Into the Fire” started off on a bit of a depressing note, with Evan feeling lost and alone. Being the person that I am, loving Evan the way that I do, I wanted to dive into the book and comfort him and tell him that everything would be alright. That being said, Evan is a survivor and triumphs over all.

This novel was pulse pounding, highly emotional and it put me through the absolute ringer. Reading this series, I sometimes wonder how on earth I pull through! What I loved most about this book was Evan’s interaction with Joey Morales. Joey is a fantastic addition to this series and I love the witty banter between these two. If you’re looking for a series that will entertain and make you feel alive, the Orphan X series is definitely it!

“Into the Fire” was another fabulous buddy read with Kaceey!

Thank you to my local library for loaning me a copy of this book (and series). I have loved it so much that I went out and bought the entire series!

Published on Goodreads on 10.18.20.

Hellbent (Orphan X #3) by Gregg Hurwitz

Kaceey’s Review:

Could the most lethal human weapon have a softer side? Well…I think we’re about to discover the answer!

Evan was once a professional assassin, handled by his mentor, Jack Jones. Choosing to put that life behind him, Evan went rogue from the “program.” That decision put his life in imminent danger, as those in charge needed to clean up loose ends. But who exactly is in charge of tidying things up? And what other name is on the dirty laundry list?

After a bit of a slow start, the tension increased with the turn of each page. Soon I found myself flipping pages as fast as I could. I love how we’re privy to seeing every side of Evan. His take-no-prisoners tough persona, as well as his longing to have a real home and maybe someone to care for.

By the end, (and yes, another cliffhanger that leaves you reaching for the next) I was feeling all five stars!

A buddy binge read with Susanne that we both loved! We are already reaching for book four Out of the Dark.

Susanne’s Review:

Holla! Evan Smoak is back and this time he’s not going it alone!

In “Hellbent” the third book in the “Orphan X” series, Evan is tasked with obtaining a package and that package is more precious than Evan could ever dream. Turns out it’s Joey, a teenage girl who failed out of the program that Evan escaped from long ago. Now it’s up to him to save her and himself from Orphan Y, also known as Charles Van Sciver, who has been tasked with wiping out all other orphans.

Of course, Evan and Joey have their work cut out for them. If they’re going to defeat Orphan Y, they have to learn to trust each other first.

Are you excited yet? Is your heart pounding in your throat? It should be! This installment hit all the right notes. It was thrilling, pulse pounding, sentimental and sweet.

I simply adored the character of Joey Morales and loved that she brought out a softer side of Evan Smoak. I loved the idea of the student becoming the teacher and hope that this storyline continues to develop.

This was an amazing buddy read with Kaceey. We both loved this addition to the series and can’t wait to continue the journey with Evan Smoak.

Published on Goodreads on 9.26.20.

Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Susanne’s Review:

What is it like to be “The Other Woman?”  

Personally, I would not know.  

In “Here Is the Beehive” however, we get a glimpse, and pretty, it is not.  

Nor is it anything like I’d imagined.

On display here we have Ana.  An Estate Attorney who is married to Paul, with whom she has two children.  Ana meets Connor when she becomes the Executor of his will.  The two embark on a 3-year relationship thereafter, though Connor is also married (to Rebecca, with whom he has two children).

Every day of Ana’s life is carried on in secret.  

There is before and there is after.  Before Connor’s death and after.

There is love, deep, and abiding, within which lie frustration and intense need.  Then there is heartache, guilt, loss, and loneliness.  

After his death, Ana wants nothing more than to get close to Connor’s widow.  To know her, to understand why he never left her.  

Real, raw, and wholly honest, the way Ana is portrayed here is eye-opening.  Sucker-punched, grief-stricken, full of regret.  My sympathy for Ana knows no bounds (which was completely unexpected, if I do so say myself.).

“Here Is the Beehive” by Sarah Crossan is brilliant, heart-wrenching, and wholly stirring, evoking emotion in the most affecting of ways.  The characterizations here are extremely well done, and the writing is exquisite and lyrical. 

A huge thank you goes out to my Goodreads friend Michelle, for her stellar review, which made me want to read this fantastic novel.  

Published on Goodreads on 12.24.20.