review: Slip of the Tongue by Jessica Hawkins

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Thank you to Jessica Hawkins and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!~

Was this book good?

Well, what does it tell you that right after reading it, I bought everything else Jessica Hawkins has ever read and devoured her words like a starving animal? Maybe that last sentence was unnecessarily creepy, but you get the idea.

Just…

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So, this was not at all what I expected. Given the summary, I fully believed I’d be rooting for one particular couple, and the opposite happened. Don’t you love that? I love, love, love when authors surprise me – especially New Adult authors. It’s a genre that often relies on routine plots, and Jessica Hawkins is anything but routine in her writing and imagining.

Slip of the Tongue is about Sadie Hunt. She’s your typical New York girl – living in Manhattan with her husband Nate, working for a PR firm and struggling with the idea of growing up and moving on. Worse, her husband – once loving, sexual and sweet – has turned into a ghost overnight. Cold, mono-syllabic and withdrawn, Nate has taken his love away from Sadie – something she can’t understand and can’t bear. He won’t discuss it with her, leaving her to draw her own conclusions.

Enter a new neighbor, stage left.

Finn Cohen is the opposite of Nate. He wants Sadie. Badly. He seems to be willing to do anything to be with her – and in her current mindset, it’s very, very tough for Sadie to resist.

Does she?

You’ll have to read to find out, but it’s obvious from most of Hawkins’ writing that she is fascinated by cheating, and it’s no different here. I love that she focuses on this particular part of relationships – monogamy, finding the ‘one’, marriage, affairs, etc – because so many authors really shy away from it. On GoodReads, most novels that deal with cheating have terrible reviews. It’s not something many readers can stomach. I’m normally one of them actually. For instance, Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens is super popular and the entire thing infuriated me. Mainly because of the main character.

Sadie was different. I really felt for her. She seemed like a genuinely good person who just can’t help herself / nor figure out what the hell happened to her life. She struggles with her decisions, knowing that what she’s doing is wrong – but in the end, she tries to do the right thing. She tries to give everyone what they want.

Naturally, she can’t. But she still tries, and that means something to me. Her marriage with Nate felt very real to me – as were the reasons behind his sudden change of heart. How the little things DO add up. How it can be the smallest thing, but in a marriage – it can mean disaster.

Regardless of small quibbles (the ending wraps up too quickly for me), I just loved, loved, love this. I’ve read it twice. Go and give Jessica Hawkins the fame she deserves! Go, go, go!

review: Hanover House (Hanover House Chronicles 0.5) by Brenda Novak

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Greatly appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
Welcome to Hanover House….

Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Why do psychopaths act as they do? How do they come to be? Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause? And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?

After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her. So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.

But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area. Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them. And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through. He’s even attracted to her. Which is partly why he worries.

He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong…

Review
So, you’re Evelyn, right?

And when you were a teenager, your lovely boyfriend viciously murdered your friends and then for kicks, kept you in a shack in the woods, tortured and raped you and then sliced open your throat… because he’s just that kind of guy.

You escaped, natch (or there wouldn’t be a book) and you’ve decided the best thing to do with your remaining days is set up camp in the Alaskan wilderness and study serial killers and psychopaths, right.up.close.

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Evelyn…

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Seriously though, this was really entertaining! Especially for a prequel AND a novella, two things I normally don’t enjoy in the slightest.

I understand that a prequel is simply meant to set the stage, rather than delve too deeply, so I won’t dock this one too many points for what I see as missed opportunities – greater depth for Evelyn’s character, more of a sense of ‘place’ (the Alaskan wilderness has to be one of the most scenic and interesting places in terms of ambiance in the United States) and perhaps a touch more development as to the idea of Hanover House and its purpose in the world.

However, I expect to see all those things and more in Whiteout, the first book in the series, which comes out in September of 2016. I can’t waiiiiiit. The premise is just so fascinating.

While I think Evelyn’s plans have a whiff of whackadoodle, I can still understand and sympathize with her. Raped and within a breath of being murdered by the guy you trust the most? That has to mess with a girl’s head. And Evelyn seeks some semblance of control by attempting to talk to, reason with and understand these men who commit these hideous crimes. She wants to find out why she didn’t see Jasper’s madness, why she didn’t even have the faintest hint that he was as black as night inside, as black as the deepest holes in space.

The book largely concentrates on Evelyn’s past, and her uncertain future. Her romance with the dashing Sergeant Amarok is a non-starter, given Evelyn can’t bear to be touched, but she’s still drawn toward the state trooper because let’s face it, he’s a total babe, and she wants him baaaad.

When Evelyn’s past becomes present in one sickening rush, she’s forced to confront her own scars in a way she hasn’t had to for decades. Taut and electrifying (if a tad too quick for my tastes), the end of this novella is a definite page-turner. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of Novak’s extensive research into psychopathy. Recommended…. and can’t wait for the series.

review: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

intheunlikelyevent {Source: GoodReads.com}

Note: I won this book in a GoodReads.com giveaway from the publisher, Knopf. I thank them for the chance to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Oh, Judy.

I love Judy Blume so much. As soon as I finished In the Unlikely Event, I immediately picked up my well-read copy of Summer Sisters so I could be back in one of Judy’s worlds again.

In this tale, we follow quite a few perspectives (I admit to finding this tough and a tad confusing in the beginning, but I quickly found my groove), but the main heart of the story is Miri Ammerman, a fifteen-year-old girl living in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s. As planes plummet to earth, Miri struggles with the fever of first love, a best friend who seems to be unraveling at the seams, a rambunctious, opinionated and loving family, and a town in chaos.

Three planes did actually crash in quick succession in Elizabeth, during Judy’s childhood. Those scenes are especially vivid and all the more wrenching because you know it happened. Those balls of fire, those plane bellies upended and spilling intestines, those bits of people found strewn across the earth like piano keys. It’s all too much, and that’s reflected in the characters’ growing horror as they wonder… what is happening? Is the world ending? Is it a conspiracy to kill children? Is it just bad luck?

Could it be that the world is that cruel, that unfeeling… that dark?

I loved following Miri’s story, and I found her to be an engaging and lovely character – tart in her opinions, intelligent and as fiercely trusting as only a fifteen-year-old girl can be. The haunting touches throughout the book – Ruby (she hit me the most, like a smack, looking into that baby’s eyes), Natalie’s eating disorder, Penny and Betsey, Fred the dog, Mason… it all comes together to form a tapestry of normal life, made even more beautiful by tragedy.

Judy Blume has said this may be the last book she ever writes. If so, it’s a worthy coda to her wildly successful career. But I hope it isn’t true. I can’t wait to fall into another one of Judy’s worlds again.

She’s just that good.

review: In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

inthewaninglight {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake Romance for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it, as always!

I moved this week. The house is a shambles. My husband and I have been turning corners in the kitchen, unaware of where we put the knives, or the ground cinnamon, or the plates.

But still, I read. I had to. Loreth Anne White is quickly becoming one of my favourite mystery authors, and after A Dark Lure, I knew that In the Waning Light was at the top of my must-reads list.

This tale is captivating. It has one of my book kinks – a tragic past following the heroine into the future – immediately I was hooked. This book is unputdownable. It’s the story of Meg Brogan, a true-crimes author who returns to her childhood home to write about her own sister’s brutal murder. As a teen, Sherry Brogan was viciously raped and strangled. On that night, Meg was also hurt and almost died – but her memories have been washed away, like a footprint at high tide.

Upon her return, it becomes evident that the residents of Shelter Bay are unimpressed with Meg digging around in the past. Some violently so. As Meg peels the onion of her sister’s murder, she also finds herself again – in love and life, reconnecting with her first boyfriend, Blake Sutton. Although the romance is lovely AND sexy (a rare thing), it’s her relationship with Blake’s son Noah that I found most touching. This young boy, so desperate for affection and grieving so intensely for his mother – he’s heartrending, and Meg engages with him in such a way that tells the reader she is truly a good person. Brave, strong, compassionate and pretty badass.

I guessed who murdered Sherry mid-way through, but I did NOT guess the reasons behind it, nor the circumstances. It’s a shocker, and it’s brutal and upsetting and horrifying. Loreth Anne White is not afraid to go into the darkness, nor is she afraid to take you there with her. Her sense of place is astounding. It’s one of her biggest talents as an author.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some repetition in the phrasing and prose. When I was in creative writing class, my teacher told me that although she loved my poetry, she found I had a few favourite words and phrases, and fell back onto them time and time again. White does this often – with things like “bowels”, “black and inky”, “black and oily” and “chinkled”. It’s a little distracting – because the phrases are so raw and distinctive.

Overall, highly recommended. I cannot wait for the next mystery from White. She’s truly talented and creates worlds that you can reach out and touch, taste, feel and experience.

review: A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

adarklure {Source: GoodReads.com}

READ THIS BOOK READ THIS BOOK READ THIS BOOK

Now that that’s out of the way. Ahem. I LOVED this book. It’s not often that I can say that. Especially in this genre, which so often misses the mark. Either I loathe the main character, or the symptoms of PTSD are glossed over, or the mystery isn’t compelling. A Dark Lure has it all: a complicated and intelligent heroine, a complex and layered portrayal of trauma, a sexy and compassionate hero, beautiful and elegant writing AND it scared the you-know-what right out of me.

I couldn’t read it alone. That’s how frightening I found the subject matter.

A Dark Lure tells the story of Olivia West (nee Sarah Baker), who lives with the memories of a nightmare that happened over a decade past, but feels as fresh as a raw wound. Twelve years before, Olivia was kidnapped, held captive, raped and almost gutted by the Watt Lake Killer. After escaping, Olivia loses everything – her husband, her family, her child and almost her mind. She finds some solace in the wilds of Broken Bar Ranch, rebuilding her life one piece at a time with the help of her rescue dog Ace, and the cantankerous owner of the ranch, Myron McDonough.

When Myron’s health begins to fail and his son arrives, Olivia’s carefully constructed existence begins to crumble. Cole McDonough is sexy, rugged and smart – he begins to awaken desires in Olivia that she believed to be long dead. When a brutal murder occurs nearby, capturing nationwide attention for its similarities to the Watt Lake killings, and a storm threatens to enrobe the ranch in chilling white, Olivia begins to wonder if the nightmare is closer than she thinks…

Genuinely terrifying, with a thrumming romance at its centre, and a well-sketched cast of characters (plus a few twists along the way), A Dark Lure was the perfect read. Rich, weighty, satisfying and with a gasp-inducing climax.

I loved it. 5 well-deserved stars.

review: Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

playingwithfire{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars

Honestly? You had me at Tess Gerritsen.

I love Gerritsen’s writing. Her talent for crafting strong, relatable, complex female characters is outstanding for the genre, and she writes a lovely, layered mystery too.

Playing with Fire is a departure for Gerritsen, and I could really feel that she took so much pleasure in writing the tale. In the book, we meet Julia Ansdell, a professional violinist, who stumbles upon a dusty piece of music in a lonely shop in Rome. Back home, Ansdell plays the piece – the Incendio waltz, and it is shatteringly beautiful. It also appears to trigger her three-year-old daughter Lily into brutal violence.

Frightened and disassembled by the escalating madness encroaching on her life, Julia travels to Venice, Italy, in an attempt to discover the truth about the waltz and its origins.

The novel flips back and forth between Julia’s story and that of Lorenzo Todesco, a young man growing up in the horrors of the Second World War. At the beginning, I thought these transitions would annoy me, but they were extremely well done, and the differences in tone / perspective / voice were so vivid and well captured. Bravo to Gerritsen for pulling that off so well.

Another note that I feel I should mention is how well Gerritsen portrays Julia. In the beginning, I was annoyed on her behalf. Like, her daughter does these absolutely psychotic things and no one seems to bat an eyelid? But as the novel progressed, I became unraveled, wondering… what was true? Was Julia reliable? Really wonderfully done.

In the crescendo of the novel, all is revealed, and I just couldn’t put it down. It’s at times so sad that it feels heartbreaking, but there is a sweet element of hope that rivers through the piece – and that is heartbreaking too.

Loved it. Would recommend to anyone who loves a good thriller (the bits with Lily and Julia are genuinely horrifying) and anyone who enjoys their mystery with a side of history. You’ll be enthralled.

review: It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

itwasme {Source: GoodReads.com}

Andie’s story was, at its core, all too familiar to me. Not the unhappiness of her childhood or her obsession with sweets – but at the heart, her comforting herself with food? Her untreated depression? Her discomfort in her own body? I felt those intensely.

For me, it’s not sweets… it’s cheese, sour cream, chips. Basically, a plate of nachos. It’s my kryptonite and has been ever since I first tasted “7 layer dip” as a kid. Through high school, I comforted myself with food – bags of chips dipped into containers of sour cream was the fave.

To read about Andie’s frustration with herself was intense for me – and I believe it would be for anyone who suffers/suffered from an eating disorder. And her journey toward better health – both mental and physical – was lovely and felt true. It was a bit glossed over (I started walking and lost 135 pounds…) and I definitely don’t think that eating everything in moderation is possible for everyone – or even most people. But it worked for Andie.

Not to mention, she met Leonardo DiCaprio. As someone who went to Titanic six times in the theatre, heavily related. If I touched his back, I think I’d faint. Congrats, Andie. Get it girl.

review: On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

ondublinstreet {Source: GoodReads.com}

So here’s the thing.

This is the thing.

On Dublin Street gets four stars because the sex was crazy hot. The hero was also crazy hot.

BUT.

Let’s do a list, shall we?

The Good

1. The sex. Again, it was just molten. I don’t normally get at all excited by sex scenes in books because well, I spent my teen years reading Harlequins and after one penis-in-vagina moment, they’re all pretty much the same. But I could spend a few days reading about Braden dirty talking and not get bored. My only quibble was Joss’ ability to orgasm purely from penetration, which I think is a myth perpetuated by New Adult books and I just hope young girls don’t feel odd when they need a little hand or oral action during sex. It’s NOT ODD, ladies. It’s NORMAL. Yes, some lucky souls can come purely from intercourse, but they’re honestly not the norm and we can only envy them and move on.

2. Braden, in a way. He was slightly alpha (and the scene in the break room was right up my alley, rawr…) and I also enjoyed how he pretty much made fun of Joss constantly. I understood his initial interest in her, because she was a challenge, but after that… not so much. The guy is hot, rich, smart and owns half of Edinburgh. Not to mention he was actually pretty… nice? In other words, he’s a catch. He’s not going to put up with constant mind games, drama and (excuse this phrase, but it’s apt when it comes to Joss) cock teasing, without peacing out. He just isn’t.

The Not-so-good

1. Braden’s girlfriends. It’s always interesting to me in books when we’re supposed to still like a hero even though he dates vapid Barbies who are cruel to his sister and friends. What does it say about Braden that he dates these girls for months? What do they talk about? It’s just the kind of plot black hole that I loathe.

2. Joss. Straight-up, she’s pretty much a foul bitch to everyone she meets (including Ellie – and although Ellie is a Mary-Sue at heart, I still thought she seemed like a nice person and she had ACTUAL problems going on right that second, and yet Joss STILL couldn’t be there for her) and yet we’re expected to believe she has tons of friends and people love her and Braden just can’t stay away from her? It doesn’t compute.

I GET that Joss has issues – who wouldn’t with what happened to her. BUT it just doesn’t give her a free pass to be heinous to everyone.

Not to mention, she’s got piles of money but she pretends she doesn’t spend it (oh please, are you enjoying your $5,000 a month apartment and your designer dresses?), she works at a bar because she ‘wants to’ (suuuure, everyone loves menial service jobs), she can’t “love” Braden because… oh no, wait, she didn’t really have a reason beyond manufactured drama… ehhh, she’s just a pill. When she FINALLY gets a little self-awareness toward the end, it’s nice, but too little too late. She even manages to make Ellie’s crisis about her… how did she do that?

The only thing I really liked was how Samantha Young had Joss at the gym pretty much every day, because if there’s anything I hate more than slut-shaming in books, it’s a girl who eats like a truck driver but tee hee doesn’t work out. It’s unrealistic, it’s insulting, it makes girls feel like shit, and it’s beneath female authors to write about. Joss having to work for her body was refreshing.

3. Again, Joss and Braden’s relationship. The sex – yes. The relationship. I just don’t know. I didn’t believe he would stick around long enough to actually fall in love with her. She was way too hot and cold, way too mind gamey and way too bitchy. I feel like anyone would get tired of that eventually – girl or guy. And when she basically abandons her supposed best friend – his sister – when she’s found out life altering news? Yeah. Goooooodbye.

It sounds like all I did was complain about this book and yet I gave it four stars. It’s interesting – I really couldn’t put it down, and Braden was exactly the kind of hero I like… kept picturing Logan from Gilmore Girls for some reason…

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No idea why since he’s blond… I guess it’s that smirky rich boy thing.

Anyway, I’m not knocking On Dublin Street – it’s sexy hot, Braden’s smokin’ and it’s immensely readable. I guess it says it all that I ran to buy Down London Road doesn’t it?

review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

trynototbreathe {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine – for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I can’t BELIEVE this is Holly Seddon’s first novel! It’s engrossing, raw, mesmerizing and utterly unputdownable. I was so entranced with this mystery that I actually snapped at my husband when he interrupted my reading. I put off chores so I could finish it. It’s THAT good.

Try Not to Breathe is the story of Alex Dale, a journalist teetering on the brink of disaster. Every morning, Alex writes freelance stories. Every afternoon, Alex gets blind drunk and often wakes up with urine-soaked sheets. It’s a devastatingly accurate depiction of severe alcoholism, and Seddon doesn’t sugar coat it. Alex is truly without a friend in the world – her only friend, her only love, is drinking.

But then – one day, while researching the work of a doctor who specializes in comatose patients, Alex stumbles upon a patient she recognizes. Amy Stevenson, a young girl who was attacked and left for dead over fifteen years before – now in her thirties, frozen somewhere in the quagmire of her own mind. Alex sets out to unravel the mystery of Amy’s attack – hoping to track down the person(s) responsible and in doing so, find some kind of redemption – personal and professional.

I absolutely adored spending time with Alex. After all, perfect characters are boring. Alex is a messy disaster of a person, and yet. You just can’t help rooting for her to get herself together and find the truth. The mystery is riveting, the peeks into Amy’s drifting, vanishing life are heartbreaking, and the surprise twist at the end actually *surprised* me. Excellent, excellent work.

5 enthusiastic stars. I can’t wait to read much, much more from this author. She’s off to a fantastic start in her professional writing career.