Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The New Husband by DJ Palmer Review

Title: The New Husband 
Author: DJ Palmer 
Age Group: Adult 
Genre: Mystery/Thriller 
Series: Standalone 
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The publisher sent me a free advanced readers’ copy of this book. Thank you so much to DJ Palmer and St. Martin’s Press! 

I was lucky enough to receive DJ Palmer’s debut novel, Saving Meghan, and I loved it. The New Husband is his sophomore novel, and I daresay that it might be the best of his works yet. This novel asks the reader a truly chilling question: How well do we really know the ones we love and care about? This book was a finely tuned, taut thriller that had me alternately gasping, screaming, or scratching my head. The New Husband is one of my favorite books of 2020; it was deliciously creepy and so confusing, all at once. This book was a mystery, but to call it that simply would be to do the author a great disservice. This book was just like the cleverest sleight of hand, all smoke and mirrors and red herrings. I was on edge the whole time; a sense of dread permeates the book. I had no idea what was going to happen. Usually, as a genre, mysteries tend to make me leery. I have a bad habit for predicting the plot. But with this book, I was blindsided the entire time. I had no idea what to think. I love mysteries and thrillers because they can peel back the layers of our hidden, private lives, exposing secrets, lies, and perhaps even something deadly. 

Nina Garrity has been hurt before. When her first husband, Glen, disappeared, leaving her with decades of questions. But when the charming, caring Simon Fitch, all smiles and good looks, meets her by bringing back her dog, Daisy, she begins to relax. After all, Simon knows everything about her: her past, her favorite food, supports her and loves her unconditionally. Everything seems perfect. But usually when something seems to be good to be true it is, and Simon is hiding dark, deadly secrets. Add to that her daughter, Maggie, is convinced that her father is still alive, and refuses to welcome Simon into their fractured family. But Simon Fitch has something terrible in store for Nina, if she keeps digging into his past... 

This book was a spine-tingling mystery of domestic bliss; or is it? Everything seems perfect from the beginning. But beneath the shiny veneer, all is not what it seems. Nina Garrity, the axis of a broken woman that this novel revolves around, is an amazing main character; I loved watching her grow throughout the novel. I really sympathized with her. Just become we love someone doesn’t mean we truly know them. I was just as confused as Nina as the book went on; this book had so many twists and turns it practically gave me whiplash. Who is Simon Fitch, really, and what is he hiding? I loved this book; it was chilling, shocking, and darkly suspenseful. I loved the sense of dread and anticipation lingering over every word. I also adored the way Nina’s children, especially Maggie, dug into Simon’s past, until all of his dark, terrible secrets came to light. I did not see this book coming; I read DJ Palmer’s first novel, Saving Meghan, and I loved it, but The New Husband for sure takes the cake as his best thus far! This mystery novel was unlike any I’ve read; I had no idea about any of it, but especially the ending! DJ Palmer did a fantastic job with his sophomore novel! The bottom line: The New Husband is a chilling, taut domestic thriller that was a spine-tingling journey into a dark abyss from which there seems to be no escape, and I loved every moment of it! Next on deck: The Last Flight by Julie Clark!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Whisperer by Karin Fossum Review

Title: The Whisperer 
Author: Karin Fossum, translated by Kari Dickson 
Age Group: Adult 
Genre: Mystery/Thriller 
Series: Konrad Sejer, book 13 
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway; thank you so much to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Goodreads! 

So, I have a confession to make: My house is overrun with books! Between library loans, my own purchases, and books I’ve received for free in the mail, I’ve been trying to reduce the number! I’ve been trying to swap my advanced readers’ copies to try and staunch the flow somewhat. This book is part of a package that I’ll be sending out later in the week, and holy smokes! I’m really sorry that I slept on this book for so long! Karin Fossum is hailed as Norway’s Queen of Crime, and after reading The Whisperer, it’s easy to see why! This book was a mystery unlike any I’ve ever experienced; I just finished it only two days ago, and I still can’t stop thinking about it! This book is technically the thirteenth in a lengthy series; and I’ll admit that I didn’t realize that when I won it. Regardless, this book could be read as a standalone easily. Konrad Sejer, ace detective returns, this time in response to an awful, unspeakable crime.  

Ragna Reigel is, foremost, a survivor. After enduring an awful tragedy that has quite literally stolen her voice. As a result, she is near mute. How she ends up at the police station opposite Detective Sejer is a mystery that Ragna herself cannot seem to fully process. She lives alone, and when she begins to receive threatening messages, she begins to fear for her own sanity. What follows is a web of secrets, lies, and intrigue that may lead to justice, or to damnation... 

I really enjoyed this book, a lot more than I expected, actually! I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly. I love mysteries and thrillers, but all too often, I can see the ending coming a mile away. This was such an unexpected pleasure, not the least of which because this was a translation from Norway! That was so cool! I love to read, and one of my favorite parts of it is finding new authors from countries other than the US. This was a mystery, but it was so strange; at times, it felt like a fever dream. Fossum, at times, blurred the line between memory, time and reality so well I had to go back and reread to actually understand what was happening. I also adored the way that Fossum robbed Ragna of her voice, forcing her and the other characters to adapt frequently in order to communicate well. The sense of suspense and dread was at times so terrible I had to put the book down and collect myself. I loved this book, and I ate it up, all the way down to the last word. I’m really looking forward to passing this on! The bottom line: Tersely written and fraught with emotion and humanity, I loved The Whisperer! Next on deck: The New Husband by DJ Palmer! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center Review

Title: Things You Save in a Fire 
Author: Katherine Center 
Age Group: Adult 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance 
Series: Standalone 
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher and reviewed it. 

I’ve got a confession to make: my house is awash with books! Library books, advanced readers’ copies, books from my own collections, gifts, and research. Since my library is currently closed right now, I’ve decided to start reading things so I could swap them! This was the book I chose to start off with, and I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Katherine Center, and I can promise that it won’t be my last! I loved every hilarious, heartfelt moment of it. This book was such a sweet, hidden gem! A tender and beautifully written story, I loved Things You Save in a Fire! It reminded me of how much I love romance stories, and why. This book gave me everything I didn’t know I needed: a strong and empathetic heroine, a love story that made me melt, swoon, and cry, a story of love, family, and friendship, across the board. This may be one of my favorite books of all time, and I’m so excited to pass it on! 

Cassie Hanwell is the only female firefighter in her prominent station in Austin, Texas, and she knows she’s good. In fact, she’s the best. She has a prominent career, despite lacking any real meaningful relationships. But her life is soon utterly derailed after a personal incident. When her estranged mother calls, begging for help, Cassie chooses to take the fresh start it offers, despite having to start over in the state of Massachusetts from scratch. Once there, Cassie finds herself against an entire squad of male firefighters, only one of which is even close to her age. Add that to caring for her ailing, blind mother, Cassie finds herself in a situation where she’s not saving a patient but herself. Cassie must fight some old habits and her own demons, if she’s ever going to fix her mistakes and really take a leap of faith... 

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Center, and I can tell you all with confidence that it definitely won’t be my last. I loved this book; it was like a breath of fresh air. It was a great reminder of why I don’t always read fantasy or science fiction; sometimes, you need something truer to life. To be entirely honest, when this arrived in my mailbox, I was intrigued by the bright blue cover, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This book was a love story, that is true, but it also a novel of family, finding yourself and coming to grips with trauma, how to do everything even when it scares you half to death. I loved this book; I especially loved how guarded Cassie was in the beginning of the book. She was a different sort of heroine, and I absolutely loved her for it. I mean, a badass female firefighter in a room full of men who can’t even hope to keep up with her? I was so here for this! I loved watching her character develop, the way she went from guarded, cautious and suspicious to open, loving, and meaningful relationship! This might be one of my favorite books of 2019, and probably 2020 also! I loved all of the characters, especially the rookie and the rest of the firefighters in Boston. But my favorite was probably Cassie’s mom, Diana; I loved watching the way their relationship went from glacial to unbreakable. This book was amazing; Katherine Center has become one of my new favorite authors! I’m really happy to pass on this early copy! The bottom line: Rich, hilarious, emotional and full of life and love, I loved Things You Save in a Fire! Next on deck: The Whisperer by Karin Fossum!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella Review

Title: Ghosts of Harvard 
Author: Francesca Serritella 
Age Group: Adult 
Genre: Mystery/Thriller 
Series: Standalone 
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program—many heartfelt thanks to the publisher, Goodreads, and the author for the free book! 

So, I’d like to start this review by confessing something: When I won this book, I had no idea who Francesca Serritella was. The only thing I knew was that several of my reviewer and book-loving friends were dying to get their hands on it. I decided to swap with someone from Facebook once I finished. My second confession? I finished this book over a week ago, and I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. Truth be told, I still haven’t completely untangled my thoughts. A lot of people have called this debut novel a mystery and a thriller, but I feel like that description is a bit basic. This was a mystery, of a gothic sort, with a healthy dose of historical fact thrown in for good measure. I never imagined I would know such a storied and prestigious school so intimately, all of its hidden horrors and dark history. I loved every strange, terse moment of this beautifully written novel; some of the scientific elements were kind of lost on me at first, but I very much enjoyed this book! Dark, chilling, thought-provoking, I loved Ghosts of Harvard! Definitely one of my favorite books of 2020! 

Candence ‘Cady’ Archer is a young woman who has never felt so bereft; her older brother and best friend, Eric, committed suicide over a year ago, in the worst throes of mental illness; specifically, schizophrenia. Missing him with every fiber of her being and desperate for the answers to Eric’s untimely death, she convinces her parents to let her go to Harvard. When she arrives at the school, she’s soon dealing with stressful exams, an evil professor who seems to be out to get her, and trying to navigate tricky relationships with her new roommates. But in searching for answers about Eric, Cady might just unearth some secrets that could kill her—literally... 

This book! I finished it over a week ago and I’m still not quite sure what to say about it. But I will say that I wish all mysteries were like this one: thought-provoking, dark, shocking and more than a little chilling. I love mysteries that have me thinking on the most basic building blocks of life: life and death, and whether both states are permanent, ghosts, mental illness and the toll it takes on individuals and families alike, as well as the dark and sordid history behind America’s past. As I said, there were several times that I had to go back and reread the scientific parts to fully understand what was going on. Nonetheless, I like my mysteries a little more cerebral anyway. I love the feeling that I’m learning about something new, even when I’m reading fiction. The atmosphere, too, was compelling; I felt like I was exploring the storied university right along with Cady, questioning her sanity when she begins to hear more than one voice. That was one of her brother’s first symptoms. I loved, also, how this book tenderly and very realistically portrayed mental illness. This book was very well-researched; at first, I was a bit leery; all too often, fiction on mental illness can veer into something more like a caricature than a character. (Talk about one heck of a tongue-twister with that one!) I loved the way Serritella wove together four distinct timelines: that of Cady, her brother Eric, and her parents, Whit, the fiercely hopeful and gentle WWII soldier, and Bilhah, a desperate slave in need of Cady’s help. This book was beautifully written, and honestly, as someone who’s dealt with mental illness, very emotional! I loved all of the characters in this novel, but I will say that Cady’s parents, at times, made me want to rip my hair out. Nonetheless, I don’t want to say too much about the plot; I don’t want to spoil it! The bottom line: Tender, surprising, and beautifully written, I loved Ghosts of Harvard! Next on deck: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast Review

Title: Moon Chosen 
Author: P.C. Cast 
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult 
Genre: Fantasy 
Series: Tales of a New World, book one 
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it. 

P.C. Cast’s books have been hit and miss with me; I don’t care for the mother-daughter writing duo’s vampire series, but I really enjoyed this series opener! For some reason, I’ve been craving fantasies that are more animal heavy; maybe my childhood self is longing for that sense of discovery I found in books when I was a little girl. So, to that end, I ordered Moon Chosen. It’s been sitting at the top of my library stack for several weeks, and I only just got to it. I’ve been trying to find a balance between my own books, the books I was given for reviews, and library loans, and this was the kickoff! Moon Chosen was a deep, rich fantasy that was alive with war, conflict, power and true friendship, as well as romantic love. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great series opener; I just finished it two days ago, and I’m already looking forward to Sun Warrior! 

Mari is an Earth Walker, a member of a gifted tribe that draws from the moon and nature itself to wash her people of the dangerous Night Fever that plagues the men of her tribe. Nik is from The Tribe of the Trees, where man and beast live in harmony, as partners. He takes the women of Mari’s tribe, women struck by melancholia; he calls them Scratchers, believing that they are but children, unable to care for themselves. But his path crosses with Mari’s, warning of a dark and dangerous force that is on the rise, and they must join forces and make peace before it destroys everything in its path... 

I loved this novel; it was such an immersive experience for me. It was a fantasy, with a gorgeous romance and a dark, bloody conflict at its center. The world captivated me, and I loved Mari, soulful and true and entirely herself, as well as the people she serves as Moon Woman. Nik was also amazing; I loved how he was confident he was, but he wasn’t aggressive or brutish. One of my favorite parts of this book was the romance; it felt so authentic and hard-won. Plus, I’m such a sucker for enemies-to-lovers romance! At times, the narrative was a little hard to follow, just because there were so many characters to keep track of at any given time. But nonetheless, this book was a wonderful, delicious escapist treat. I loved it a lot, and I can’t wait to read Sun Warrior! The bottom line: Rich, immersive, and exciting, I loved Moon Chosen! Next on deck: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella!