The Time Traveling Matchmaker #Review @Janie_Emaus @WildRosePress #NetGalley

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley and the publisher, The Wild Rose Press. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

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The book cover was the first thing that attracted me to this story. Then the blurb sucked me in. Also, Janie Emaus is a fellow Wild Rose Press author, and I love supporting others.

This book is different from anything I’ve ever read. I loved the story concept of an organization whose purpose is to bring soulmates together, even if it involves traveling backward or forward in time.

I’ll admit it took me a few chapters to really get invested in the story. The pace starts slow but steady. However, around the mid-mark, things pick up and shift into high gear.

Jessica Singleton isn’t looking for love. In fact, quite the opposite. She’s recovering from a bad breakup and sworn off men. She’s putting all her energy into writing screenplays and working in a coffee shop.

That is until a mysterious stranger shows up with a shimmering trenchcoat and a disturbing disappearing act. Of course, she has no idea what to make of the strange events that occur whenever the stranger is around. And she has no idea she’s been chosen to be a soulmate for an unknown man named Frank.

But the tables turn when sparks fly between Jessica and the time-traveling matchmaker, Renn. Once it becomes obvious that a mistake has been made and Renn and Jessica are the true soulmates, the entire organization and the greed and corruption that’s spawned begin to unravel.

There are so many great scenes once Jessica discovers Renn is from another space in time. Then there’s a tie-in with Jessica’s deceased mother and her father, who is still alive.

If you like a romance where sparks do more than fly, with a different sort of twist, you’ll enjoy this book from Janie Emaus.

I rated this book 3.5 stars and rounded it up to 4 for Amazon and Goodreads.

The Family Game #NewRelease @CatSteadman #NetGalley #Thiller

I received this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Purchase Link

MY REVIEW:

A darkly twisted story that became almost too believable!
The story begins as a tender love story. Harriet Reed is a writer. And she has fallen in love with not only a devastatingly handsome man but one who is also from one of the wealthiest families in America.
The Holbecks are mega-wealthy But Harriet or Harry, as she is affectionately called has no idea at first. Edward Holbeck is estranged from his family.
That’s just the beginning. As their relationship grows, he slips a ring on her finger. And not just any ring, but his great-grandmother’s wedding ring. This is where things start to change.
Now, although she is terrified she wants to meet his family. After all, how bad could they be? As an orphan, she longs for a big family. But Edward warns that they are ‘different.’
Still, Harriet is ready to meet them.
She is ill-prepared for the luxurious wealth they possess. And even more ill-prepared when her future father-in-law asks for a private meeting with her in his study. He hands her a tape that will change her life, everyone’s lives. So many secrets!
Then she finds out the family plays games, and not the innocent kind of board games most families play. Their games are terrifying and eventually turn deadly.
The twist in this story left me reeling.
Told in first person through Harriet’s POV, it was easy to become immersed in the story. The author did a great job of scattering backstory in bits and pieces throughout so there was never a big info dump. As things unravel, I found myself glued to the book and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I had to know the identity of the murderer and it was shocking! I could easily see this book as a movie. It’s a psychological thriller with an unexpected twist.

The Friendship Pact – Jill Shalvis #BookReview #Netgalley @JillShalvis

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and Avon Publishing in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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The Friendship Pact is a story about family, friendship, and forgiveness. The characters in this story are deeply flawed and fighting to rise above their limitations, both physical and mental.

I enjoyed many of the tertiary characters in the story, but the story focuses mainly on Tae Holmes and Riggs Copeland, as well as Tae’s relationship with her mother, April, and Riggs’ relationship with his brother, Jake.

Mistakes were made when April discovered she was pregnant after a one-night stand at a party. Lies were told. But can those lies stay buried?

Tae and Riggs essentially grew up together, both coming from hardships and struggles. Riggs’ father was an abusive alcoholic. He and his brother Jake caught the brunt force of his fists too many times. Joining the military was their way out.

Tae’s entire world revolves around her mother. They are all each other has. They’ve always struggled to make ends meet. April sought security and a better way of life for her and her daughter through a continuous flow of men through her door. As a result, Tae has become independent and tough, her heart closed to the idea of any deep relationship with a man. After all, she had no father and none of the men April chose came close to her idea of a father.

So, at age 28, Tae is a successful businesswoman, dedicated to her mother, and consumed by her work. She’s good at her job and good at protecting her heart. But now Riggs is back in town for the summer to help his disabled brother provide summer activities for wounded veterans and other disabled adults and children.

Sparks fly between Tae and Riggs. She’d lost her virginity to him in high school. But then he’d gone into the military and disappeared from her life. And she isn’t ready to let him back in. They have to find a way to work together for the summer, so a friendship pact is formed.

It doesn’t take long for that to grow into something bigger. But both are better at running away than staying. Add in the complication of a father Tae thought to be dead, showing up very much alive and this story takes lots of heart-stopping twists and turns.

The author did a fabulous job at weaving all the characters together. They are complex, multi-dimensional, and believable with relatable struggles. Tae was my favorite character. She fought hard for independence. She needed no one. Riggs’ brother, Jake, is a character I admired. Despite the paralyzed legs, he dared to live life, fall in love, and help others struggling with disabilities. While this is a romance, it is also much more, diving into dysfunctional family struggles and the attempt to forgive and heal. I highly recommend it and give it a solid four stars!

Stay Awake – Book Review @megangoldin #psychologicalthriller

This book was offered via NetGalley and Canelo Crime in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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Liv Reese has a rare and complex form of amnesia. Every time she goes to sleep, she wakes up, remembering absolutely nothing from the past two years. So, her solution is never to sleep. She drinks highly caffeinated drinks, espresso, energy drinks, and takes over-the-counter pills to stay awake. Despite all her efforts, occasionally, she falls asleep. Sometimes on a bus, sometimes on a park bench. She awakens to the same confusion and memory loss over and over again.

Except now, there is a murder with all the evidence pointing to her as the perpetrator. Liv has no memory of the person she wakes up next to, who is now dead. Yet, the fact that it is her ex-fiance gives detectives Halliday and Lavelle more reason to believe Liv has killed Ted Cole. I loved the depth of character the author exposed with both of these detectives. It was an interesting sub-plot.

The storyline drew me in from the first. However, I was confused at times, as the timeline went back and forth between present-day and two years prior when Liv Reese’s life as she’d known it came to a brutal and terrifying end. Once I got accustomed to the author’s technique of telling the whole story, it got easier to keep up, although I have to admit there were still some confusing scenes. For instance, when Liv wakes up in a dingy, rundown apartment with only a mattress on the floor for a bed, walls covered with writing, and the floor littered with empty caffeine drink containers, I had no idea how she rented or why and that part was never explained.

The most fascinating part of the story was the way Liv’s brain struggled, holding on to the trauma that created this type of amnesia for her. “Stay awake,” was a phrase she mumbled to herself over and over. She wrote it on her hand, so she would see it. She also wrote lots of other words on her hand, like “Don’t Trust the cops,” and “Don’t open the door.”

The way it came together in a climactic ending explained everything, the trauma that sent her brain into this Groundhog Day syndrome, the phrase “stay awake,” the obsession with a fleur de lise pattern, writing on her hands and arms—All of it made sense.

While I struggled with parts of the book, I gave it four stars. What a twisted tale!

#BookReview – Brother of Interest @KarinaBartow #Netgalley #Mystery

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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What I like most about this book is the strained relationship between Minka Avery and her brother, Robin, and how it grows and evolves through the story. Minka was a detective and a good one. But when she and her husband, Wes, decided to start a family, she trades in her badge for strollers and diapers. While she loves being a mother, the lure of solving a mystery that involves her estranged brother is too much to deny.
Robin is arrested for an alleged attack on his boss who had recently fired him, and Minka has her doubts about her brother’s guilt or innocence. But as the clues unfold and everything points to someone else, she is determined to work on the case from the sidelines, often bringing her baby, Caela, along with her.
All of the characters in this story are likable, even the nosy neighbor they call “Scoop.” Minka’s relationship with her brother-in-law is endearing. Not only was he her partner when she worked for the police department but is her best friend as well as her husband’s brother. And it’s interesting to watch Minka’s reaction to Cael’s new love interest.
The author did a good job of revealing one clue after another much like peeling back the layers of an onion. My only critique would be about a large amount of backstory included. To be honest, I skimmed over most of it as it didn’t seem to affect the outcome of the story. If you like a good mystery with deep personal relationships, you will enjoy this book.

I gave it Four Stars.

Magpie – Psychological Thriller #NewRelease @elizabday #NetGalley

Elizabeth Day is a new author to me and I picked this book up courtesy of NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Publisher.

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All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

The story basically consists of three characters, Marisa, Jake, and Kate. A side character, Jake’s mother, Annabelle, also plays a critical part in the story.
It opens with Marisa in a scene where she is looking at a house for her and Jake to move in together after a short three-month romance. A Magpie flies in through an open door and basically has little to do with the story or plot. It almost felt as if the author added it so it could be the book title. Although it does come back into the story toward the end…One for Sorrow, Two for Joy.
As a psychological thriller, this story took me on quite a ride. The backstory became tedious at times, but I can also see where it is necessary to explain some actions later. However, I wanted to get on with the story instead of going backward every other chapter.

The entirety of the plot is focused on the difficulties of getting pregnant and struggling with fertility treatments. Jake wants a baby. Will it be Jake and Marisa’s baby, or will it be Jake and Kate’s baby? It was at least halfway through the story before I figured that part out.

As the real story unfolds, it becomes obvious there are serious mental issues with more than one character, but especially with Marisa. Schizophrenia is portrayed in a realistic and believable way.
Kate is the most solid character in the story. I got more than a little annoyed with Jake for allowing his mother to dominate and manipulate him. It became obvious early on, that Annabelle is narcissistic. There are so many different psychological issues at play in this story.

This one excerpt explains a lot: “Risperidone is licensed to treat the following conditions: schizophrenia, psychosis, mania…”
I don’t want to leave any spoilers, by giving anything away, so I will just say it is quite a tale, giving the reader a rollercoaster ride. Other than too much backstory told in large info dumps, it is well-written. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, you will most likely enjoy this one.

I gave it three stars.

#BookReview – Reckless Girls – @LadyHawkins @NetGalley

BOOK BLURB:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes Reckless Girls, a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake, and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indications, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

MY REVIEW:

I received a complimentary ARC of this book through NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press.

I picked this book up after a recommendation from another reader, and I was not disappointed. As the blurb says, Nico and Lux are hired to sail two women, Brittany and Amma, to Meroe, a remote deserted island, for an adventure on Nico’s boat, The Susannah.

But when they arrive in paradise, they find they are not alone. There is a luxury catamaran already anchored with two occupants, Jake and Eliza.

At first, things are wonderful. The six people get along great and are soon best of friends, sharing the beauty of the island, extravagant meals courtesy of Jake and Eliza, and hours of swimming, drinking, sunning, and exploring.

The island, once used as a staging area during World War II, has a dark history. A ship’s crew trapped there had to resort to eating the bodies of the dead in order to survive. When the men were finally rescued, out of 32, there were only 8 still alive.

This is the first hint of foreboding in the story. But that part of the island’s history was so long ago, none of the characters pay much attention to the legend that the island is haunted, even though they discover the abandoned airstrip, along with a human skull.

Each character in the story has baggage, which the author does a great job of revealing in bits and pieces throughout the story. Nico and Jake have one thing in common. They both come from extremely wealthy families. Brittany and Amma appear to have grief in common. And Lux is dealing with her own grief after the death of her mother from cancer. The biggest mystery is Eliza who is the epitome of perfection.

However, the arrival of another man, Robbie, starts the decline of all the relationships. There is something sinister about him and Lux has a confrontation that leaves her rattled and shaken. It isn’t until he disappears that Nico and Jake find their radios smashed and the group now cut off from any communication with the outside world. Boundaries are crossed and trust destroyed.

And that’s just the beginning of the mounting tension.

I like how the author shifts between timelines throughout the story, giving the reader glimpses into each character’s past. These are done in snippets, so there is never info dump and never so much told that the reader has the whole picture.

It isn’t until the end of the story that everything becomes crystal clear with a string of dead bodies left behind. The book comes to a satisfying, if somewhat jaw-dropping conclusion, and is a quick entertaining read.

This is an intricately woven psychological thriller that will be released in January 2022. If you love a story that transports you to a beautiful dream location, standing out in stark contrast to deadly motives, you will devour this story as I did. Thank you, Mae Clair, for recommending it!