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.

PURCHASE LINK

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 – Summer Nights With A Cowboy @_CaitlinCrews #NetGalley

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

PURCHASE LINK

When I picked up this book, I didn’t realize it was book #3 in a series. However, it reads well as a standalone, and nothing was lost.
Janie Atwood is a nurse and a good one. She lost her mother in childbirth and has lived her entire life with her grandparents. It was a good life and she was happy. It wasn’t until after the grandparents’ deaths, that she receives a letter from her grandmother with some shocking revelations.
When a job opening comes up to care for Damaris Gardiner in Cold River, Colorado, she jumps at the chance to find the answers to all the questions the letter raised, while making a living doing what she loves, caring for the elderly.
History is written by the people with the most to hide. Cold River is like any small town with a group of founding families and a hierarchy or pecking order. The author did a fabulous job of portraying the small-town image with lots of firmly rooted imagery.

Zack Kittredge is the sheriff of the small town and he prides himself in keeping order. He’s well-known for his stern grumpiness and devastatingly good looks. Everything in Zack’s world is black or white, right or wrong. There is no in-between and no flexibility with anything outside those rigid guidelines.
Janie’s introduction to Zack is to trip over her own two feet and send a spray of snowy mocha java all down the front of his pristine lawman shirt. She’s always been clumsy. She’s always been the good-natured friend or big sister in relationships with the opposite sex. That is until Zack.

I loved all of the complex family dynamics displayed in this story. Not just Janie’s estranged family, but Zack’s and Damaris Gardiner’s, the Halls, the Everetts, and everyone in between. Each family has issues and baggage. And just like in real life, they skirt around the issues, ignoring the elephants in the room and pretending everything is the way it should be.

It takes Janie’s honesty and bravery to set in motion a chain of events that will change everyone’s lives forever.

I loved this excerpt: Families were a collection of sweetness piled on top of sorrow, stories told and corrected and retold and misheard by every member, all interlaced together over the years.
After all, they are just people.

The story unfolds in entertaining and delicious layers. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to anyone who loves complex romance stories set in small towns.

I gave this book an easy 5-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.

PURCHASE LINK

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.

The Texans Favor – #NewRelease @dk_deters #WesternRomance @NetGalley @WildRosePress

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and Wild Rose Press. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

Purchase Link

Jake Fontaine, a Texas Ranger, is hot on the trail of the vicious outlaw, Grizzly Duvall, when everything goes wrong.

Kat Collins is hellbent on escaping from her abusive uncle when she witnesses the ambush that will end the lawman’s life. She makes a rash decision to fire at the attackers and her actions save him.

Now, Jake is obligated. But because she’s dressed like a boy, he doesn’t realize she’s a woman until her hat falls off and her braid tumbles out. His Texas code of ethics won’t allow him to leave a woman alone in the wilds of Kansas. Frustrated that this new turn of events causes him to lose the outlaw he is so determined to capture, he offers to accompany her to the ferry that will take her across the river to St. Louis.

Kat is strongly independent. She needs no one. She will make it to St. Louis and start a new life as a seamstress. So, when Jake insists on accompanying her, she makes it clear she does not need his help.

Thus begins a tumultuous relationship. Each struggles to deny any attraction they feel.

Things go sideways when Kat’s uncle catches up to the pair and forces Jake to marry her. After all her uncle is a judge and the marriage is legal and binding. For me, this part of the story was not believable. That a man would go to all the trouble to track down his niece, then not force her to return with him seemed a little far-fetched.

But now they’re married and when one night of passion brings them together, maybe they are going to work out their differences after all.

Not the case. While Jake is sleeping, Kat sneaks away, taking his horse with her.

Throughout the rest of the story, Kat is running and Jake is pursuing and each time they meet up, their relationship switches from cold to hot in seconds.

The story ramps up when Jake’s grandfather goes to St. Louis to find Kat and get her out of his grandson’s life forever. But instead, in five short weeks, he falls in love with the woman who has given birth to his great-granddaughter and on his dying bed, wills the ranch in Texas to her.

Now things get really complicated. Jake is betrothed to another. He has no idea he has a daughter.

He and Kat are like oil and water. I grew a little frustrated with both of them at different times during the story when they lied to each other and danced around the truth over and over.

However, the story does culminate into an action-filled shoot-out and happy ending.

If not for the frustration I felt while reading the story, and a couple of plot twists that were not believable, this would be a five-star read for me. However, I give it a four-star rating.

If you enjoy westerns, and tumultuous romances, you would enjoy this story.

Shadows of Pecan Hollow – #DebutNovel @CaroFrostWrites @NetGalley @williammorrowbooks

I received this book complements of NetGalley and the publisher, William Morrow and Custom House.

The blurb for this book drew me in and it was promoted as “Paper Moon meets Badlands.” I have to add my own spin on that. To me, it was more like “Where The Crawdads Sing” meets John Steinbeck.

I’ve read a lot of books this year and this one is landing at the top of my “best books” ever list! I don’t think I’ve met such horribly flawed characters.

A baby girl without a name, unwanted, discarded at birth like a piece of garbage, who never knows acceptance or love through the many foster homes is the main character. “The policeman who had found her as an infant had supposedly named her Katherine, but the only time she heard her name spoken was when a teacher called roll or a social worker handed her off to a new foster family.

At thirteen, she ran. She has one tiny piece of paper that tells her of an aunt who lives in Pecan Hollow and that’s where she blindly heads. Starving, she steals food from a gas station, then attempts to steal a bag of food from a Mustang parked outside when she gets caught. Instead of Manny turning her over to the authorities, he takes her in. She struggles when he asks her name and finally tells him it’s Kit. He feeds her. He grooms her for his wants and needs. Like in Paper Moon, she distracts the victims while Manny steals. She finally knows what it feels like to be loved, wanted, and useful.

But Manny’s petty theft escapades soon escalate to more and they became known as the Texaco Twosome for the string of armed robberies across the state. As Kit grows and develops into a teenager, her infatuation for Manny grows. He has not made any sexual advances toward her, and that is his one redeeming quality.

That eventually changes and Kit gets pregnant. Manny insists on an abortion. I don’t want to reveal too much about this story, but Manny gets caught in an armed robbery while Kit escapes. She arrives in Pecan Hollow at her aunt’s house with nothing but a baby inside her. It’s here she puts down roots.

Kit is tough. And her daughter, Charlie, refers to her mom as “bat-shit crazy.” Kit cannot feel pain. She only knows she is wounded when blood flows. But the pain that rests in her heart makes up for the lack of physical pain.

This story is well-written, gripping and I absolutely devoured it. The plot twists and thriller ending left me reeling. Kudos to this author for such a tremendous debut novel. While Caroline Frost is a new author to me, I can promise I will be reading everything she writes! She’s that good!

The book is set for release in February, 2022 but is available now for pre-order.

I might add that this author doesn’t have a lot of followers on Twitter, but seems to really appreciate each one, so you might consider following her.

Caroline Frost on Twitter

#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!

Whiplash – Janet Dailey #Review #NetGalley

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

I picked this book up because I have enjoyed other books written by Janet Dailey.

But there is something different about this book. Janet Dailey passed away in 2013, so I am assuming Whiplash was written by a ghostwriter. I was not able to conjure up any empathy for the heroine, Val. She never seemed to able to move past her sordid past and terrible mistakes to embrace the present opportunities. That gave me no reason to root for her.


The book is set in the world of the National PBR (Professional Bullriding) Finals rodeo event in Las Vegas, Nevada. I loved the way the author set the scene and took me inside the rodeo arena to see the action close-up. When a man climbs on the back of a 1,800-pound bull and the chute is opened, anything can happen – and does.


Casey Bozeman is the hero in this story and I immediately fell in love with him. He is one of those people we all know, who will step up to help anyone in need. His job is to protect the cowboys that ride the bulls. And more times than one, he had to collide with the angry bull to save another man’s life.

Casey and Val fell in love when they were teenagers. But that was years ago. And after Val left with no explanation and dropped off the face of the earth, he was left with a broken heart and life. But he put himself back together and even tried marriage, which failed. He finally came to grips with the notion he could never love anyone the way he loved Val, but she was gone. That is until she turns up with her family at the PBR. But Val is in trouble. The kind of trouble that threatens lives. You don’t cross the mafia and live. And yet Casey is determined to help her and to get her back into his bed.

There were parts of this book that I loved. The older sister, Tess, the younger sister, Lexie, and her husband Shane were all great characters. They are united with one goal and that is to save their ranch and produce some stock bulls to ride into the big money in the rodeo arena. Each character has flaws, but they form a united front. Val is the outsider, even though she’s come back home after leaving a drug and alcohol rehab treatment. The troubles Val brings to their door, are monumental and can end it all. She repetitiously has thoughts of remorse, but her actions don’t back up those thoughts. She has deep dark secrets that she keeps hidden along with the scars on her body.

The author drops hints throughout the book as to what her secret is, but until it all comes out, the reader is left to wonder what it is that keeps this beautiful woman so conflicted. I commend the author for that.

While I loved the rodeo setting and enjoyed the plot, I would like to have seen Val be more genuine instead of trying to manipulate everyone, including the men who were determined to kill her. She is playing a deadly game with innocent lives.

The star of the story is a bull named Whiplash. Even though he’s been bred to be bucking stock for the rodeo, he’s young and easily traumatized. But it took his fury to bring down the antagonist.

The story comes to a conclusion with an overall happy ending.

With less repetitious thoughts and scenes, this would be a stronger story.

While I would like to give this book a higher rating, I can only offer up Three Stars.