“Relic” by Gretchen McNeil For Annie Kramer, the summer before college is bittersweet—both a last hurrah of freedom and the last days she’ll spend with her boyfriend, Jack, before they head off to different colleges.… More
“Lies That Bind Us” by Andrew Hart
Jan needs this. She’s flying to Crete to reunite with friends she met there five years ago and relive an idyllic vacation. Basking in the warmth of the sun, the azure sea, and the aura of antiquity, she can once again pretend—for a little while—that she belongs. Her ex-boyfriend Marcus will be among them, but even he doesn’t know the secrets she keeps hidden behind a veil of lies. None of them really know her, and that’s only part of the problem. Then again, how well does she know them? When Jan awakens in utter darkness, chained to a wall, a manacle around her wrist, her echoing screams only give her a sense of how small her cell is. As she desperately tries to reconstruct what happened and determine who is holding her prisoner, dread covers despair like a hand clamped over her mouth. Because, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth in Greek myth, her captor will be coming back for her, and all the lies will catch up to her…
This book was very hit and miss for me. I enjoyed some aspects of it and it was interesting enough to keep me reading, but some of it was kind of a turn off and a little over the top.
I was really drawn to this book because of the setting. I absolutely adore Greece and really enjoyed Crete when I traveled there. The perfect setting can really make a book. For this book, I would say the setting absolutely helped the story. They also mixed in some Greek mythology which added an element of creepiness.
Jan is completely unlikeable. I think she was meant to be that way, but she is an unreliable character. She is a pathological liar and you can never really be sure what she’s saying is true or false. All of the other characters were unfortunately unlikable as well.
The book switches back and forth between the reunion vacation they are all on and Jan being locked up in a small cell. This is the most interesting aspect. You want to know why she’s chained to the wall. What does she know that put her in danger? Who’s after her? Could one of her beautiful and glamorous “friends” be behind this?
Overall the story fell a bit flat for me. It was a fine read. It went quick enough and I was interested enough to keep reading, but it was really just ok. Nothing spectacular.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
“The Retreat” by Mark Edwards
Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive. Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events. When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?
This book was equal parts spooky and suspenseful. Set in the small town of Beddmarr, the novel explores the local folklore of The Red Widow. The Red Widow reminded me of childhood myths such a Bloody Mary or the Boogeyman. Don’t even get me started on how terrifying Bloody Mary was to a 1st grader. But I digress. The Red Widow is a witch that demands a child sacrifice every 35 years. If a child is not given to her then she will place a curse on the small Welsh town. Is it fact or fiction? Lucas does not believe in The Red Widow, but as he begins to investigate the disappearance of Lily he is no longer sure what to believe. He is unable to explain some of the eerie things that begin to happen. When the puzzle he is trying to solve is linked to a little girl who goes missing 35 years prior to Lily, he can no longer deny that there is some sort of Red Widow connection. Could the Red Widow be behind the disappearances?
Not a fan of the supernatural? No need to fear, there is always a reasonable explanation. I enjoyed how Edwards was able to blend supernatural elements, but make them explainable. I promise this doesn’t give anything away. It’s also a testament to what can happen when people believe strongly in something. Would people be willing to sacrifice a child to appease a witch and avoid a town curse? You’ll have to read it to find out.
The book was entertaining, engaging, and just the right amount of spooky. The characters were likable and decently developed. Julia and Lucas mesh well together as characters. The plot was well thought out and despite some aspects being a bit far-fetched, it was really fun.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
“Darkness and Grace” by Kathryn Schleich
Even the strongest of families aren’t immune to malice, betrayal, and deceit. Supportive, loving, and affluent, the Pierson family is delighted to celebrate the marriage of sensitive middle son Paul Pierson and his wife, Pamela. Everyone rejoices that Paul has finally recovered from the tragic loss of his beloved first wife and looks forward to Paul and Pamela’s new life together. But just as family members are celebrating his happiness, they start noticing that his beautiful bride may not be what she seems. As the strain between siblings and spouses worsens, the Piersons discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep the family safe from one woman’s malicious intent. When the true nature of this family member is revealed, each of the Piersons is confronted with the quandary of human conduct and moral responsibility.
This book was originally published in 2007 under a pseudonym with the title Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace and is a work of fiction inspired by true events.
I was really surprised at this book. It was not at all what I was expecting. It was a work of fiction that read more like a sort of memoir, which for me felt kind of confusing. This sort of writing style is not my jam. I know other people enjoy this style, but it’s just not for me. Because of that reason, this book fell flat for me.
Schleich is very descriptive, which has pluses and negatives. The plus was that you really got to know the characters in depth. The negative was that at times there were so many unnecessary details and descriptions that it bordered on boring. Again, just my opinion – I know there are others who really enjoy a very descriptive and side-detailed book.
The book is about a very tight-knit Midwestern family who find out that Pamela, a woman marrying into the Pierson family, has malicious intents hidden inside the façade she puts on. As the Piersons are pulled farther into Pamela’s web of deceit, a battle within the family begins. Siblings who have always been tight, start to fight with each other. Paul, Pamela’s husband, spins into darkness with his siblings as his only hope for digging him out. It really shows that no matter how close a family is, there are always going to be outside factors that can cause cracks in the group. The deeper Pamela digs her way in, the more the cracks widen.
This book is set in Minnesota, which was fun for me since I am a born and raised Minnesotan. It was fun to hear of places I knew/been to. For those that are not from here, these parts might be a bit too detailed. Schleich is trying to set the scene every time the characters go somewhere or do something, but the amount of detail she goes into seemed unnecessary to me. I found myself skimming a lot of those parts. I will say that the story at the core of this book is interesting. It did start out slow and I was not sure that it would be interesting, but the last 1/3 of the book hooked me. It gets pretty crazy! Also, it ends with a huge twist I absolutely did not see coming. I enjoy twists, and definitely give props for the creativity. Again, it still felt disjointed for me because it read as a memoir, but the ending read as fiction to me. It just didn’t flow quite right for me.
I tried to find information on the true story behind the book, but sadly I was not able to piece anything together. If anyone has any insight, hit me up! Haha. I love true crime, so I am super intrigued by what really happened.
Overall, the book was fine. It just wasn’t my style. I could absolutely see a different reader really enjoying it though.
A huge thank you to Book Publicity Services for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. You can check out more information about Kathryn Schleich and her other works by visiting her website at kathrynscleich.com.
Are you going to read this book? Let me know in the comments.
“If The Shoe Fits” by Julie Murphy
(Meant To Be #1)
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion. Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
The description hooked me immediately. I was a bit worried going into it that it might be too cheesy. Cinderella re-tellings tend to lean in that direction. I was pleasantly surprised within the first couple of chapters. This was a perfect re-imagining of Cinderella. It was far enough away from the original inspiration to be unique, but with little Cinderella elements within it. My second worry was that this was going to be too YA – not that I don’t enjoy a YA, but some can feel too young. This was definitely adult with the ability for a YA crowd to still be able to read it and enjoy it.
The characters were interesting and likable. I enjoyed the relationship between Cindy and her step-family. The “evil stepmom” trope is so tired, so it was really nice to have Cindy’s relationship with her step-mom be a positive one, albeit a little awkward at times as happens with joined families. Her relationship with her step-sisters is also positive, but with a past filled with some clashing which is typical of teen girls trying to fit in. And even better, half-siblings (triplets) thrown into the mix as well. It was such a realistic look at what combined families can look like – despite the whole “stepmom is a reality show executive producer” bit.
I’m a sucker for books about reality shows, especially ones about plus-size characters. I.E. One To Watch, The Next Big Thing, etc. But this one felt different. Cindy is a plus-size contestant on a Bachelor-esque TV show, who decides to be on the show to jump-start her career in the fashion world designing shoes. She isn’t expecting love, and frankly not expecting to stick around for very long due to her shapely figure. But when the lead is revealed, her viewpoint begins to shift. Is she still there for the exposure/money or is she now there for love?
Although Cindy is plus-size, that isn’t the main focus of the book. It’s not a shock that an attractive man likes her. In other books with plus-size characters, it’s a main focus. Cindy is confident in herself. She knows who she is. She’s fat and that doesn’t affect her viewpoint on her talent in designing and she’s not completely in shock when a man is attracted to her. I really liked this viewpoint. Not every fat person is self-conscious about their weight and most times stories will latch on to the otherness of fat people – because someone is fat then they have to hate their fat. As a person in the fat community, I appreciated seeing a different perspective. Of course, there are times where a self-conscious side comes out, but that happens to everybody regardless of size.
The story was fun and I flew through the pages. I could not put this book down! It was light-hearted and sucked me in from the very first page. I enjoyed every second reading it. It says “Meant To Be #1” so I hope that means there will be more in the series. If not, it ended perfectly. The last line was perfection!
I haven’t read Julie Murphy’s other books, but I definitely intend to after reading this one.
A big thank you to Disney Publishing Worldwide for sending me an ARC through NetGalley to read and review!
If The Shoe Fits will be published on August 3, 2021.
Do you plan on reading this book? Have you read other books by Julie Murphy? Let me know in the comments.
The Therapist by B.A. Paris
When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive… As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before. Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…
I’ve read every B.A. Paris book and none of them have come close to how amazing Behind Closed Doors was… until now. The Therapist feels like B.A. Paris going back to her roots. This is hands down the best book she’s written since Behind Closed Doors and I was absolutely sucked in.
Alice and Leo are a couple who have been mostly long-distance and have now decided to move in together in London. Leo chooses a house within an exclusive gated community named The Circle. What Alice can’t understand is how such a house in such an exclusive neighborhood could be so cheap. As the book progresses, we find out what secrets lay buried within the house and within the neighborhood.
It’s amazing to think that a book with mostly unlikable characters had me flying through the pages. Alice is obsessive, naïve, and a bit dim. Bad vibes fly off Leo from the very start and only get worse throughout the book. The neighbors are pretty terrible people. Somehow it all works though. There isn’t really anyone to root for, but the mystery of it all keeps you reading.
There were parts of the plot that were predictable, but I didn’t see one part of the twist coming at the end. I love a good twist! I don’t want to give too much away though.
If you liked Behind Closed Doors, I personally think you’ll like this one as well.
The Therapist will be published on July 13, 2021, so be sure to keep an eye out for it or pre-order it.
A big thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC through NetGalley to read and review!
Are you looking forward to reading The Therapist? Let me know in the comments.
“Beautiful Disaster” by Jamie McGuire
The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
I absolutely adored this book. Abby is a classic “good girl” character and Travis is your typical “bad boy with a good heart” character. It is a cliché and I love it. The whole story just works. Travis is a hot, tattooed fighter and Abby is trying to steer clear of her past and bad decisions like Travis. You know how this one ends…
I do find Travis problematic – he has rage and control issues. I in no way condone that sort of behavior, but I did try to take it with a grain of salt. Although he is never abusive towards Abby, his general attitude can be construed as abusive and controlling. It was a bit of a love-hate relationship with Travis. You wanted to root for him, but at times he made it difficult to love him. I do feel like he grew within the book though. Abby did string Travis along for a lot of the book, which was frustrating. But I could also see her point.
This book isn’t for everyone. If you are triggered by problematic male characters, then you should steer clear. If you’ve read books like Twilight, After, etc. and have been able to see beyond the toxic masculinity, then you might enjoy this one.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave me a comment below.
Have you heard of The Wordy Traveler Book Box? If not, then I’m about to blow your mind!
The Wordy Traveler combines two things I love – reading and traveling! Each quarterly box is a unique experience that takes you on an adventure to a new place! They combine items inspired by or from a region and pair it with books about that same place. How cool is that?!?
The Spring Journey (the box I received) took me to Egypt! I was super excited because I’ve been obsessed with Egypt since I was a kid. Obviously this was the perfect book box journey for me.
Do you want to know what was in my box? Of course you do!
- A hand blown and painted Egyptian perfume bottle
- A Lapis charm
- The book “Nefertiti” by Nick Drake
- The book “Death Comes As The End” by Agatha Christie
- The book “The Twelfth Transforming” by Pauline Gedge
- A woven bookmark
- A hand carved wooden box
- A bag of Kuju pour over ethically sourced coffee
- An exclusive print by artist Charity Stewart
- A bag of Ohio Tea Co exclusive Egyptian Black Tea blend
This box was FULL of amazing items! And even more amazing is that a portion of the proceeds from this box have been donated to Vitamin Angels who help to provide life saving nutrition to pregnant women and children.
There are two subscription options – the “Backpacker” which gives you 1 book or the “Full Suitcase” which gives you 3 books. The box shown is the Full Suitcase. You can also give them your preference of fiction or non-fiction! This unique book box is definitely worth a journey!
If you’re interested in learning more or want to subscribe, I’ve included a link HERE.
“Queen of Babble” by Meg Cabot
(Queen of Babble #1)
Lizzie Nichols has a problem, and it isn’t that she doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s going to do with her life, or that she’s blowing what should be her down payment on a cute little Manhattan apartment on a trip to London to visit her long-distance boyfriend, Andrew. Lizzie’s biggest problem is that she can’t keep her mouth shut. And it’s not just that she can’t keep her own secrets, she can’t keep anything to herself. This time when she opens her big mouth, her good intentions get Andrew in major hot water. So now Lizzie’s stuck in London with no boyfriend and no place to stay until the departure date written on her non-refundable airline ticket. Fortunately, there’s Shari, Lizzie’s best friend and college roommate, who’s spending her summer in southern France, catering weddings with her boyfriend, Chaz, in a sixteenth-century château. One call and Lizzie’s on a train to Souillac. Who cares if she’s never traveled alone in her life and only speaks rudimentary French? One glimpse of gorgeous Château Mirac – not to mention gorgeous Luke, the son of Château Mirac’s owner – and she’s smitten. But as drama ensues, Lizzie and her big mouth have to find a way to save the day (and her love life).
I read a bunch of Meg Cabot books back in my teen years and really enjoyed them. I haven’t revisited her writing since then so I was unsure of what to expect. I actually liked this book way more than I ever thought I would. Lizzie is definitely an annoying, self-absorbed character, but regardless I really enjoyed the story. Lizzie, a wanna-be fashion designer/vintage clothes rehabber, is not always likeable but I did root for her throughout the book. Her constant fashion advice was a little annoying, but I was able to get past it with a quick eye roll or two. The supporting characters were likable, which really helped the story. It was nice to have characters that balanced Lizzie out.
I am not sure how anyone could not have realized they needed to write a thesis in order to graduate with their fashion degree, but Lizzie somehow managed to do it. There were snippets of her “thesis” in the book at the beginning of each chapter. I really disliked it – I found it unnecessary and completely silly. There is no way any part of these snippets could pass for a thesis. It would have been better had the author just cut those out. It did not add anything to the story.
After finishing this book I was really excited to read the next one in the series (Queen of Babble in the Big City), but after starting it I was quickly disappointed. The spark that the first one had was just not there for the second one. Lizzie was even more annoying, which I didn’t think was possible. I ended up only reading a few chapters before giving up and throwing it into my DNF pile. I will not be returning to this series, but I really did enjoy the first one. Just don’t expect much from the follow ups.
Have you read this book? Did you read the whole series? Let me know in the comments.
“Bring Me Back” by B.A. Paris
Young couple Finn and Layla are driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a rest stop to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told the police. But it is not the whole story. Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them together, but there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully trusted. Not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call from someone from his past that claims to have seen Layla. There are other odd occurrences: items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house, emails from strangers who seem to know too much, and secret messages, clues, and warnings. Is Layla alive? And how much does she know?
This book’s plot summary immediately made me think of the movie The Vanishing with Kiefer Sutherland. That movie was so good! Unfortunately, this book was not. I really LOVED B.A. Paris’ first book, Behind Closed Doors, but after reading her second novel, The Breakdown, I was somewhat reluctant to pick this one up. I should have gone with my instinct. Although this book was better than The Breakdown, it still wasn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but nowhere near as amazing as Behind Closed Doors.
Finn and Layla are unlikeable characters and clearly had a toxic relationship. Ellen, on the other hand, is very blah. There really isn’t a character to root for in this book (unless you count the dog). It is slow moving and the “suspense” isn’t very suspenseful. The first twist is predictable and the end twist, although surprising, is pretty far-fetched. There was really nothing exciting about this book. The story felt mostly stale.
I should say that the book started out ok, got boring in the middle, and then was ok. I did keep reading so I guess the book kept me interested enough for me to finish it. I wouldn’t say this one is high on my recommendation list. I didn’t hate it, but it’s pretty forgettable. I am, however, currently reading her recent book The Dilemma and will be soon reading an ARC of her new novel The Therapist. I’m not giving up on her.
Rating: 3/5 (I was feeling generous. I stayed somewhat interested and I kept reading. I’ll give the book a little credit.)
Have you read this book? How did it compare to other B.A. Paris books?
“The Last One” by Alexandra Oliva
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
I enjoy books based on reality TV and stories about survival, but this book was not my jam. It was frustrating, poorly written, and sometimes hard to follow. It jumps back and forth between the beginning of tapping the TV show and Zoo off on her own after the disease hits.
The unfortunate part was that there are multiple names for characters – nicknames, descriptions of what they look like, and their actual names – and they NEVER clarify who is who so it gets VERY confusing. You basically have to piece it together yourself. To top it off, the main character (Zoo) should be likable, but she is not. She is insufferable and completely delusional. After the disease hits, she is convinced that everything she sees is part of the show. I don’t know how anyone can be that dumb, but apparently she was. The author tried to make it come off as Zoo blocking it all out, but only a truly stupid person could not see the realities of what was happening.
I was occasionally interested in the plot, but I mostly did not enjoy this book. I wouldn’t recommend it. My husband enjoyed it more than I did, but I don’t think he enjoyed it that much either.