3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, S

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea
by Rita Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

 

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 400

Read: May 18 – 25, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library E-Book

 

Blurb: In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.


Review: This was a total impulse read based on a Goodreads challenge callout requirement. It’s not something that I would have picked up under any other circumstances.

Overall I was not that impressed by this book. It was just “ok” for me. I felt like a good 100 pages could have been deleted out and the story still could have accomplished its goal. Plus I didn’t care how there were so many points of view. Some of them didn’t feel necessary to tell the story being told.

It just didn’t work for me to be honest. It wasn’t bad, and it read easily enough. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019, S

Review: John Adams Vol. 2 (1784-1826) by Page Smith

John Adams Vol. 2 (1784-1826)
by Page Smith

John Adams (Smith)

 

Copyright: 1963

Pages: 537

Read: March 21 – April 19, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: abebooks.com

 

Review: This book is the second in a two-book series by Page Smith. Volume 2 covers Adams’ life from the point when Abigail joins him in Europe during his overseas diplomatic years until his death on July 4, 1826.

I personally felt like this book was the stronger of the two books. I think that was more because I had a lot more interest in the time period it covered than the first book. I can say that I enjoyed learning more about his vice presidency and presidency.

Overall, I enjoyed reading these two books. It gives a lot more detailed information on Mr. Adams. There were times when it wasn’t necessarily easy reading, but I thoroughly appreciated getting a more in-depth look into John Adams, his personal life and public career.

Even though these books were written in the 1960s, I feel like they are still easily read and highly informative and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend these two books for those wanting more information on John Adams than a single volume can provide.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019, S

Review: John Adams Vol. 1 (1735-1784) by Page Smith

John Adams Vol. 1 (1735-1784)
by Page Smith

John Adams (Smith)

 

Copyright: 1962

Pages: 599

Read: Feb. 21 – March 20, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: abebooks.com

 

Review: This book is the first in a two-book series by Page Smith. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. Volume 1 covers Adams’ life from his birth to the point when Abigail joins him in Europe during his overseas diplomatic years.

While this book was originally published in the 1960s, I had no issue whatsoever with the writing style. I found it to be quite easy to read and very informative. In fact, it was almost mesmerizing in some points – Mr. Smith certainly had a way with words.

One thing that I did greatly appreciate as a reader is that I felt like the author kept things relatively balanced. Sure, you can definitely tell that he is definitely a John Adams fan, but I didn’t feel like he bent over backwards to place him on an unnecessary pedestal.

After having read the David McCullough book I greatly appreciated this book in that it could expand on things that Mr. McCullough only merely touched upon. For a more casual reader this book would likely give you more information than you could ever want, but as a follow-up, I found it to be quite enjoyable.

As stated, this is only a review of the first volume of the two-volume set. I am getting ready to start on Volume 2 and I look forward to learning more about the second half of John Adams’ life – that of his Vice Presidency, Presidency and retirement years.

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, S, TLC Book Tours

Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew HimAbout Before She Knew Him

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 5, 2019)

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .


Review:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

I have never read a book by Peter Swanson before, although I do have a copy of The Kind Worth Killing on my shelf. So I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review this book!

I am a firm believer that the less you know about this book going in – the better off you will be. It’s full of twists and turns, some you see coming … and some you don’t! There’s one particular twist that it was just like “WHOA! Stop the presses on that one…” I totally didn’t see it coming and it made the book even creepier than it was before.

I really, really enjoyed this one. I found it to be very fast-paced and thrilling. The characters were all well-developed and somewhat unreliable at times. That plot … it may seem like it’s a bit far-reaching (because, you know, most people don’t really think they live next door to a murderer), but Mr. Swanson definitely makes it work in this book.

Overall, a really great book that left me practically breathless! It was a race to the finish to see how it would all end up for Hen.

Highly, highly, highly recommended 🙂


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Peter Swanson AP Photo by Jim Ferguson.jpg
Photo by Jim Ferguson

 

 

About Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson is the author of three novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; and his most recent, Her Every Fear. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife.

Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

tlc tour host

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, Lucas Davenport, RATING, Read in 2018, S, SERIES

Review: Night Prey by John Sandford

Night Prey
by John Sandford

Copyright: 1994

Pages: 384

Read: Nov. 11-14, 2018

Rating: 4/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: John Sandford’s acclaimed Prey novels have taken readers into the minds of murderers and manhunters. Now his brilliant detective, Lucas Davenport, faces an equally brilliant – and elusive – opponent. A madman who becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman – and carves her initials into the flesh of his victims. 


Review: It had been over a year since the last time I picked up a Lucas Davenport novel, so I was excited to jump back in with Lucas … especially since I had so enjoyed the previous installment. I was most definitely looking forward to the 6th book. And this one did not disappoint! 

This is one twisted and crazy read. It was gruesome and violent. But I still thoroughly enjoyed it! Mr. Sandford definitely comes up with some creepy and clever killers for Lucas to have to hunt down. I really enjoyed the addition of Meagan’s character, even though I knew she wouldn’t be a long-lasting one (she was dying of cancer). It was interesting to see Lucas work with a female “partner” on this case. 

I am generally a huge supporter of reading series books in order (I’m actually kind of fanatical about it…) but I really think this book would read well as a standalone if needed. Either way, I definitely would recommend picking up this backlist book if you are looking for a fast paced thriller. 

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

One Perfect Lie
by Lisa Scottoline

One Perfect Lie

 

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 351

Read: Sept. 19 – 23, 2018

Rating: 4/5

Source: Grandmother

 

 

 

Blurb: Chris Brennan looks perfect, on paper. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as assistant baseball coach, and his resume is impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan in a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a free-spirited pitcher who’s the star of the baseball team. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving Raz vulnerable to any new father figure, who might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who admires her son Jordan’s passion for baseball and feels guilty that she can’t be at his games, like the booster moms. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he’s being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man whose fun-loving manner might conceal a darker side.

Mindy Kostis is a surgeon’s wife who fills her days with benefit luncheons and cocktails. She has no idea that her husband and son Evan are keeping deadly secrets that could rip their family apart.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he pretending to be someone else? What does he want? And how far will he go to get it?


Review: My grandmother gave me this book a couple of weeks ago with a glowing recommendation. I was eager to get to it! And I was not disappointed! It starts off with a bang and I was hooked almost immediately, reading the first 100 pages the day I started it.

It’s an intricately woven story with more than a few twists and turns. It had me on edge the entire way through trying to figure out who was who and what was what! I really enjoyed it and couldn’t get through it fast enough!

I can’t say much about this book other than to give this one a try – I doubt you’ll be disappointed … I know I sure wasn’t!!

Highly recommended!

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied
by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 370

Read: Aug 4 – 6, 2018

Rating: 5/5

Source: Book of the Month Club

 

 

 
Blurb: Two truths and a lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she – or anyone – saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips. 

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings – massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager but soon discovers a security camera – the only one on the property – pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to her friends, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.


Review: So earlier this year I read and absolutely LOVED Riley Sager’s first book, Final Girls. So when I saw he had another book coming out this year I immediately put it on my radar. I was over the moon when I saw that Book of the Month Club had chosen it for a July selection. I can’t tell you how fast I clicked that “select” button on it! I knew I didn’t want it to linger for too long … but I was also a little nervous about the sophomore slump happening. So I decided I would take it with me on our quick trip out to Vegas. I read the first 80 pages on the plane ride before I had even blinked. It immediately caught and kept my attention!

I honestly have not been this excited for a new book release in a very long time. And I’m ecstatic to say that it definitely did not disappoint! I believe my exact words when I finally finished this book (after staying up entirely too late to finish those last 75 pages because I simply could not put it down until the next day…) was “Holy. Shit.” I mean there’s a twist in those last few pages that I never in my wildest dreams could have ever dreamed up!

I loved the setting of this book – Camp Nightingale. It reminded me of my own memories of a week at Girl Scout Camp. I LOVED how Emma was actually a “final girl” (if you read Final Girls, you’ll understand this!) The pacing was great. The characters were all well-developed and interesting in their own right. It was just a super thrilling, wonderful book! A roller coaster ride that never seemed to let up! I LOVED IT.

I have to say that Mr. Sager may only be two books in, but he has officially topped my “auto-buy, no questions asked” list.

Don’t wait … read this book!

4.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
by Marisa de los Santos

I'll Be Your Blue Sky

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 309

Read: July 19 – 24, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: Clare Hobbes is tying the knot with a bona fide catch: a handsome, smart, hardworking lawyer who adores her. Zach makes a perfect egg over easy, refuses to go anywhere without her, reads the same books she does, and tells her he will never have a happy day for the rest of his life if they aren’t together. So why is she so jittery? Is it just prewedding nerves? She and Zach met a year ago, and since the moment he popped the question, her life has been like one long, breathless fall. How, Clare wonders, did she get here?

On the morning of the ceremony, the bride-to-be meets a woman named Edith Herron. During the course of their spontaneous yet profound conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she longs to do: follow her heart. Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died, and that the elderly woman has given her another unexpected gift – the space to discover what she truly wants – an old house along the Delaware shore.

Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay, Blue Sky House once opened its doors to seaside vacationers. Though the rambling home has been empty for years, Clare instantly feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by her and her long-dead husband, Joseph. While exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman – and Blue Sky House no ordinary place.

With the help of her mother, Viviana; her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown; and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House – a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she gradually peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare uncovers a tale of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, what she wants, and who she truly loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present day and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos – an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and reminds us that in our darkest times, the people dearest to us are the light that illuminates our lives.


Review: This is the August selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. Once again this is a book that I would never have picked up on my own. In fact, I had never even heard of Marisa de los Santos before this book was announced as August’s read. However, I was willing to give it a go (MMD hasn’t let me down yet…) and was thrilled to be able to get it through my local library.

I was not expecting to be so swept up in this story! It was the perfect blend of present day and flashbacks – a structure that doesn’t always work for me. I do want to say that this is technically the conclusion of a trilogy. That being said, I found it to read quite well as a standalone. I had no trouble at all falling in with all of the characters, and if I had to guess the only thing that I would have “missed” is how Clare and Zach got together to begin with. But the way this book is set up, it worked well enough to already be at the wedding without much background of the courtship.

I feel like Marisa de los Santos is an extremely gifted author. She definitely has a beautiful way of words. That said, I will say that the only thing keeping this book from having a 5 star rating from me was the stretch that it sometimes took. It’s hard to explain this without giving away the whole book, but basically the way the characters were all connected in the end was a little far-fetched to me. It was almost too cookie cutter, happily ever after for my tastes. I had to really push down the “yeah, right ::eyeroll::” feelings at the very end. I guess I just prefer things to be a little messier than this one ended up being. That one little criticism is really all I have for the entire book though.

If you want a happy, feel-good story this will definitely fit the bill for you. It was fun to work out all the questions that Clare was left with in the Blue Sky House. I definitely enjoyed it and will be looking forward to exploring more of Marisa de los Santos’ works in the future!

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire
by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 274

Read: March 31 – April 6, 2018

Rating: 5/5

Source: Library

 

 

Blurb: Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When Parvaiz surfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Then handsome, charismatic Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.

Internationally acclaimed for her riveting and ambitiously imagined novels, here Kamila Shamsie explores how secrets and family loyalty can both bind lives together and threaten to spin them out of control. Searing and suspenseful, Home Fire asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?


Review: This is not the type of book I normally read. Not even close. But when I saw on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s site that it was her book club’s April selection I dug deeper into the book. I previewed the first page on Goodreads and knew immediately that I had to join the book club for this discussion and immediately get a copy of that book. (You can find that intro here if you’re curious to know what was so compelling to make me fork over money to join a virtual book club and head straight to the library.)

I had seen on the MMD website that this is actually a modern retelling of Antigone. I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what Antigone was even about. It was all I could do to not Google it before I finished the book! I’m ultimately glad that I avoided doing so since I think it would have definitely affected the way I viewed this book.

This book has so many different themes that are explored, but family and country relationships are definitely at the core. It brings forth a lot of feelings and made me really wonder what I would do in those situations. Let’s be frank: I’m an upper-middle class white woman who has no idea what the real world is really like to more underprivileged people. This book made me think more about what it would be like to be a woman trying to do everything in her power to avoid bringing attention to herself lest people think she was a terrorist. It made me think about what it would be like to be so driven in life that I would essentially deny my entire familial background. It made me think about what it would be like to be so driven in my grief that I would willingly manipulate seemingly innocent people in order to get what I ultimately wanted. It made me think about what it would be like to want to know who your father was so badly that you would (inadvertently?) join a terrorist group in order to get the answers you so desperately wanted.

Yeah, it’s that kind of book.

This book really made me think. And I’m not used to books like that. I’m used to murder mysteries where I just have to figure out who the killer is. This book opened my mind to a lot more things than I ever imagined. And it’s stuck with me. I finished this book nearly 2 weeks ago and am just now sitting down to write this review because I’ve been in a book hangover trying to wrap my mind around it.

I still do not think I can adequately put into words my feelings on this book. All I can say is that I was enamored by it. I was enthralled by it. I was engrossed in it. It’ll be in my mind for quite some time.

And I would recommend everyone to read it.

4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, NetGalley, RATING, Read in 2018, Review Book, S

Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth
by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 320

Read: March 2-8, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: ARC from NetGalley

 
Blurb: Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

From blazing new talent Zoje Stage, Baby Teeth is a story about a perfect-looking family, and a darling little girl who wants nothing more than to kill her mother.


Review: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions are my own.

I first found this book in a NetGalley email advertising it as Read Now. I immediately logged in and downloaded it. It caught my eye nearly instantly! It looked like such a good book, I knew I had to read it.

And oh my goodness was it so creepy good. I devoured it. I was absolutely enthralled by Hanna and Suzette’s story.

The only reason this one didn’t get a 5 star rating is because I had a little bit of a hard time accepting that a 7 year old could actually be as evil as Hanna. At one point it flashes back to when Hanna was like 2 or 3 and she realized that Mommy was going to fail her “test”? I mean, come on – I have two children, almost 6 and almost 3 years old …. there’s no way at 2/3 a child could think in that manner. And to imagine that at 7 she could be actively plotting to kill her mother? I’m not sure that I buy that either…. And we won’t even talk about the unhealthy obsession Hanna has with her father. Yikes.

The ending (or really lack thereof) was a little disappointing. But I can totally understand why Ms. Stage chose to end it as she did. I can appreciate that, but I would have liked a little more closure than I got. Maybe a teenage Hanna will re-emerge in a few years?! 😉

I’m nearly positive this is going to be one of the most talked about books this summer. It’s definitely buzz worthy. It’s controversial. It’s enthralling. I’m glad that I read it and I’m looking forward to Ms. Stage’s future ventures in writing!

While I can fully appreciate that this book would not be for everyone, it’s definitely a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be recommending it to everyone I know!