4 Star Books · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · fiction · mental health · Uncategorized

Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

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Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

Published: September 2, 2016

Publisher: Upperhand Press, LLC

Pages: 425

Genres: fiction, domestic fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: Lifetime Movies, over the top parents, Law & Order SVU, books about family dynamics

Foodie Vibes: carrot juice and French fries ~ oh, the contradictions of being a teenager

 

Synopsis: 

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what’s needed to keep your children from harm.

Phoebe’s mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother’s mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident.

Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.

 

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

Trigger warning: many fairly graphic mentions of self harm and suicide. Please do not read this book if you’re not in a mentally healthy place, especially if you’re sensitive to these topics in particular.

That being said I enjoyed the whirlwind of drama and incredibly serious topics. It reminds me of a mix between a Lifetime movie and episode of Law and Order SVU. Kind of a perfect combo. We get an in depth look at the challenges and drama of teenage girls lives from the perspective of them and their parents. 

I really liked reading about Phoebe and her mother. I wish the story focused more on them. I disliked the amount of focus put on Phoebe’s dad and Sandy, the mother of Phoebe’s classmate/friend. The difference between the parenting styles was both horrifying and interesting. 

I so disliked the character of Sandy. She was so psychologically unbalanced and awful. She meant well, for her daughter, so at least she has that going for her. The focus was on her too much, when I felt it should have been more on Phoebe. Also the trope of parents providing teens with alcohol and getting in legal trouble has been done a lot before. But it’s still something that people could be reminded of. 

All in all, Saving Phoebe Murrow is highly entertaining, drama filled, and a warning for parents and teens alike.

 

If you could turn a TV show into a book, which show would you choose? 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · LGBTQIA+ Books · romance · Uncategorized

Undue Influence: A Persuasion Retelling by Jenny Holiday

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Undue Influence: A Persuasion Retelling by Jenny Holiday 

Published: September 4, 2018

Publisher: Kindle 

Pages: 230

Genres: contemporary, romance, contemporary romance, LGBTQIA+

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: second chance romance stories, M/M romance, stories about small towns, sweet guys

Foodie Vibes: grilled cheese with apple slices and champagne – simply tasty food that’s so very effective

 

Synopsis:

Second chances only come around once.

Eight years ago, Adam Elliot made the biggest mistake of his life. Now that mistake is coming back to haunt him. His family’s beloved vineyard has gone into foreclosure, and the new owner is the sister of the only man he’s ever loved—the man he dumped under pressure from family and friends who thought the match was beneath him.

When Freddy Wentworth, aka the bad boy of Bishop’s Glen, left town with a broken heart, he vowed never to return. But a recently widowed friend needs his help, so here he is. He’s a rich and famous celebrity chef now, though, so everyone can just eff right off.

But some things are easier said than done. Despite their attempts to resist each other, old love rekindles—and old wounds reopen. If they want to make things work the second time around, they’ll have to learn to set aside their pride—and prejudice.

This modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a standalone novel that can be enjoyed by Austen-philes and by those allergic to the nineteenth century.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Jenny Holiday, and the publisher for the ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Adam and Freddy both grew up in the same small town with slightly different circumstances. One was a bit of a misunderstood rebel/bad boy. The other did what his family wanted and enjoyed being alone with his thoughts. They met eight years ago one summer and fell in love. Circumstances, fear, and stubbornness got in the way of their happily ever after.

Now they’re all grown up. Freddy left home to become a big time chef, restaurant owner and reality TV star. Adam chose to stay in his much beloved small town, working as a mechanic for his friend and mentor. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they’re back in each other’s lives. Sparks ignite. But can they rekindle their love for each other after years of heartbreak?

I really enjoyed reading Undue Influence. The romance is so sweet without being overly sappy. The two men are genuinely nice people that I enjoyed getting to know. Adam and Freddy are such a cute couple. Here are a few more things I enjoyed about the book:

  • Shows the spectrum of gay, bisexual and pansexual men. Also a drag queen. Not just the token one or two gay characters.
  • A mechanic who reads and enjoys nature. Love!
  • Shows that not everyone has to hate the small town they grew up in
  • Respectfully distancing yourself from toxic family members allows you to be much happier #LifeLesson

The only downside is that it took me some time to get into the story at the beginning. 

 

What’s your must have in a romance novel?

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · mystery · Police Procedural · psychological thriller · suspense · thriller · Uncategorized

Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell

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Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell

Published: August 30, 2018

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Pages: 348

Genres: mystery, thriller, suspense, police procedural, psychological thriller

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: twisted serial killers, police procedurals, characters to root for, the TV show Criminal Minds

Foodie Vibes: home cooked meals alternating with bad police station coffee

 

Synopsis:

Meet Amy Winter: Detective Inspector, daughter of a serial killer.

DI Amy Winter is hoping to follow in the footsteps of her highly respected police officer father. But when a letter arrives from the prison cell of Lillian Grimes, one half of a notorious husband-and-wife serial-killer team, it contains a revelation that will tear her life apart.

Responsible for a string of heinous killings decades ago, Lillian is pure evil. A psychopathic murderer. And Amy’s biological mother. Now, she is ready to reveal the location of three of her victims—but only if Amy plays along with her twisted game.

While her fellow detectives frantically search for a young girl taken from her mother’s doorstep, Amy must confront her own dark past. Haunted by blurred memories of a sister who sacrificed herself to save her, Amy faces a race against time to uncover the missing bodies.

But what if, from behind bars, Grimes has been pulling the strings even tighter than Amy thought? And can she overcome her demons to prevent another murder?

 

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer, and Caroline Mitchell for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

Truth and Lies pulled me in right from the beginning. I was so engrossed in the story that I hardly stopped to take notes for my book review. The character of Amy, a Detective Inspector, made the entire book work. She’s the daughter of a serial killer and is being contacted by her imprisoned mother. Forced to unearth haunting memories of her childhood to solve the case.

I really enjoyed the creepy multilayer story. It reminded me of a Criminal Minds episode but set in the U.K. And Criminal Minds is my favorite TV show, so that’s good all around. The evil from Amy’s mother was so far reaching. It impacted many people and made for a great novel.

At the beginning I had trouble figuring out which police personal were which. As the story went on, it made more sense. Also, I wish the characters were more developed. Now this isn’t always possible with an intense police procedural. I really want to get to know Amy better and find out what happens to her next. I hope there’s a sequel!

 

Have you read the book?

Do books ever remind you of TV shows?

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · historical fiction · LGBTQIA+ Books · Literary Fiction · Uncategorized

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Published: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 421 

Genres: literary fiction, historical fiction, LGBTQ

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: historical fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the 80s

Read with food: Chinese takeaway

 

Synopsis:

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to the publisher and author for a copy. As always, an honest review.

I was disappointed by this read. The story takes place in the art world in 1980s Chicago and also present day Paris. The main focus is the lives of the gay community during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, which the author does justice. Despite what could be a phenomenal book, it fell short for me.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, nor did the story draw me in. Therefore I went through the book appreciating and enjoying certain moments, but overall not invested in either story due to lack of connection. Also the two separate stories barely had anything to do with each other. They honestly could have been 2 separate books or even eliminated most of the present day Paris storyline.

The Great Believers had some redeeming benefits though. It told a story that isn’t always portrayed in the media and actually went into detail instead of glossing over unfavorable moments. A part of the history books that isn’t always done justice.

If you can connect with the characters, then you will probably enjoy it more than I did. But if not then take my thoughts into consideration. The tone of the book and writing doesn’t really change as you get farther along in the book.

 

I liked the overall concept, but it didn’t pan out for me.

 

Anyone have any other similar books that you really liked and would recommend to me?

 

 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Chick Lit · contemporary romance · Humorous Fiction · Uncategorized · Women's Fiction

Book Review: One Good Thing by Wendy Wax

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One Good Thing by Wendy Wax 

Published by Berkley Books on April 25, 2017

Pages: 368

Genres: chick lit, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, humorous fiction

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: beach reads, chick lit, strong determined women

Read with food: strawberry margaritas (21+ and be safe!) and your junk food of choice

 

Synopsis:

Before you can fix it up, you might have to tear it down…
 
Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships.
 
Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and dealing with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, or trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached…
 
But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to the publisher and author for a copy. As always, an honest review.

If you’re looking for a fun summer beach read, One Good Thing fits that criteria. Good friends are all going through different life changes from pregnancy to loss of relationships to financial hardships. The setting for all these life changes happens in sunny Florida in a beachside community.

Now onto the pros first:

It’s a fun breezy summer read, and it’s currently summer where I live, so the mood is perfect. With four completely different stories about the four main characters, there’s always someone and some circumstance for the reader to relate to. The life experiences are also a great mix of fun, relatable, and serious. The author is really good at painting a picture of the gorgeous beach setting. I felt as if I was right there on the sandy beaches of Florida. 

Despite all of these wonderful elements, it took me awhile to get into the book. I was reading short segments at the beginning, so that may have contributed. Eventually I found my rhythm reading and really enjoyed the story. Also I wish that all the storylines were as strong as my favorites in the book.

Overall, a fun summer read that would be great for this heat wave that half the country is currently experiencing. 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · feminism · non fiction · religion · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

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The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

Published by Beacon Press on May 15, 2018

Pages: 192

Genres: non fiction, religion, feminism

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: social and personal experiments, feminist reads, learning about religion with modern interpretations

Read with food: whatever you want and your body needs, because it’s important that you do what’s best for you

 

Synopsis:

A young feminist finds herself questioning why “hotness” has become necessary for female empowerment–and looks for alternatives.

Looking good feels good. But in a society where looking good is posited as being strong, while negotiating for better pay is statistically proven to damage our careers, is it fair to say that wicked eyeliner, weekly blowouts, and a polished Instagram feed are the keys to our liberation? If so–if “hot” really is a good enough synonym for “empowered”–why do so many of us feel, deep in our bones, that the sexy-as-strong model is a distraction? Is “pretty” still the closest to power women can get? Why is looking fierce an acceptable substitute for living in a world where women are safe?

Inspired in seminary by American Muslimahs who wear the hijab for feminist reasons, Lauren Shields took off what she calls the Beauty Suit–the “done” hair, the tasteful and carefully applied makeup, the tight clothes and foot-binding shoes–for nine months. She’d really only wanted to do an experiment. Instead, her life–especially her views on what constitutes “liberation”–changed forever.

Rooted in feminist theory and religious history, and guided by a snappy personal narrative, The Beauty Suit unpacks modern American womanhood: a landscape where the female body is still so often the battleground for male ideals, and where we struggle with our rights as human beings to define and exercise our freedom.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

Lauren Shields’ year of religious modesty, for herself, prompted her to write this book to share her thoughts about the journey. Overall the book reads as a bit disjointed, but that’s fairly in keeping with such a complex multi dimensional experiment. Throughout she’s figuring out for herself how to define her religion, other religions, modesty, feminism, the modern culture, and more. The author has a background in religious studies, so she’s very well versed in these topics. The book reads as an educational text combined with a memoir.

I enjoyed all the new information that I gained, especially the alternate interpretations of modest dress within a religious context. I also enjoyed the in depth discussions about feminism, both relating to religion and culture in general. 

However, there were some topics in which I disagreed with the author including women’s empowerment versus self objectification. Also it came across to me that Lauren believes being spiritual is less than being religious. I’m not sure this was what she was trying to convey, or maybe it’s what’s true for her personally. But that aspect bothered me. Also, I wish there were more written bout the actual modesty experiment. Much of the book was a lesson about religion, modesty, feminism, and cultural norms. 

In general, I enjoyed The Beauty Suit and learned more about religion, especially in a modern cultural context. I think this would be a good book for young women who are religious but struggle to connect feminism, choice and strength with some traditional religious teachings. 

 

How many of you want to take off the “beauty suit” defined by our culture? 

Bookish Posts · Uncategorized

Seriously Underrated Books ~ less than 1,000 Ratings

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

While writing these posts, I am continually surprised at how few ratings that some of these books have on Goodreads. 

I hope you will give some of these books a read, as I’ve immensely enjoyed them. 

Be sure to check out my other lists of Seriously Underrated Books less than 100 ratings and less than 500 ratings

Now onto really great books with less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads.

The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

An eerie mystery with a slow build up of drama, complex relationships and characters, and two settings 50 years apart. The secrets and twists kept me captivated throughout as I read about the murders horrifying the small town. 

Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy E. Herman

An interesting book to help anyone learn to perceive situations better. With the author’s guidance we can learn to observe almost anything better. I really enjoyed the numerous examples to practice my newly acquired observational skills in everyday life and using the artwork provided in the book. I found myself highly engaged throughout. Very helpful for business, healthcare workers, students, etc. 

Promise by Minrose Gwin

A wonderful historical fiction novel that tells the story of a town of people dealing with the aftermath of a terrible tornado. Set in the 1930s, we experience two perspectives of the same event, separated mainly by skin color. I loved the great character development and insight and also the lovely unique writing style. 

Snow Falling by Jane Gloriana Villaneuva

A sweet historical romance! If you’re a fan of the TV show Jane the Virgin, I highly recommend this book. If not, still give it a read for the fun, sweet, romantic story of Snow Falling.

Proof by Jordyn Redwood

An engaging thriller made even better by the medical setting. The author is a nurse, so this lends a wonderful authenticity to the novel that absolutely makes it work. I was absolutely intrigued throughout, and the science nerd in me loved it!

Scared Scriptless by Alison Sweeney

A sweet, fun contemporary romance set in the world of Hollywood. One of the first romance novels I read and thoroughly enjoyed. Alison Sweeney, the author, works in Hollywood, which lends a wonderful authenticity to her book.

Arthur: The Dog who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord

A magnificent story about a magnificent dog. Arthur was a stray dog that Mikael encountered while adventure racing in Ecuador. He was special. The book tells the heartfelt story of the hard journey to bring Arthur home and make him a part of the family. A must read for animal lovers!

Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life by Rebecca Pacheco

A yoga book that I truly related to. I found myself marking so many passages with post its. There are so many teachings about yoga from the ancient teachings to practical integrated practices for our busy modern day lives. The content was informative, detailed, and all encompassing, but never boring. 

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

One of my favorite books that I’ve read all year! Song of a Captive Bird tells the tory of a famous and controversial Iranian poet. She’s a spirited young woman in a world that expects girls to always be quiet and respectful. The writing is captivating, as are the descriptions of the Iranian countryside. The translations of her poetry make this novel even better.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America by Samhita Mukhopadhyay

If you haven’t heard about Nasty Women, you are missing out! I was skeptical at first, thinking the title was a gimmick to sell books. But I was so thrilled to find quality information from so many women with so many different perspectives. I learned a lot and have recommended the book to so many people. 

 

Some of these books have made best seller lists, but still have less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads. That’s ratings, not even reviews. Why do you think that is? Legitimately, let me know, I’m curious as to some of your theories. 

Also, please share with which of these books you’re adding to your TBR lists!

 

5 Star Books · Audiobooks · Book Reviews · mystery · non fiction · True Crime · Uncategorized

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Published by Harper on February 27, 2018

Pages: 328

Genres: true crime, non fiction, mystery

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: true crime

Read with food: strawberries and homemade whipped cream ~ this food choice really has nothing to do with the content of the book, but I was listening to the audiobook while washing and processing the strawberries from my garden, so those foods and this book will forever be linked for me 

 

Synopsis:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark —the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Review:

I’m obsessed with this book!

Everyone I’ve talked to about it, loves it as well. As I was listening to the audiobook version, my mom was asking me about it too.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a methodical, obsessive, and intriguing search for the Golden State Killer. She takes us through his crimes, the police investigations, and her painstaking research. I don’t think there are enough words to accurately convey how much I enjoyed this book.

As a true crime book, it discusses the crimes without going into unnecessary graphic detail. She does justice for the victims and their families, first through her blog and then through her book. Michelle helped so many people even after her death.

At the time of publication the killer had not been identified or taken into police custody. A few months ago both happened, and it’s so satisfying. Almost immediately after finishing reading I searched for news articles and videos about his capture.

I so, so recommend giving this book a read!

 

Question for you all:

If Michelle McNamara were still alive today, what would you tell her about her book and the real life capture of the Golden State killer?

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · mystery · psychological thriller · suspense · Uncategorized

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

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Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Published by Thomas & Mercer on July 1, 2017

Pages: 300

Genres: psychological thriller, suspense, mystery

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: psychological thrillers, the TV show Criminal Minds

Read with food: nothing because you’re too nervous to eat

 

Synopsis:

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Review:

Such an addicting book!

Gwen took her kids and ran, trying to stay one step ahead of all the people wanting to hurt her family. Her emotions and struggles drew me in and didn’t let go. Her fear was palpable. Her love for her children was genuine. The book was a wonderful terrifying ride set in the world of one of the worst what ifs.

What if my husband was secretly a serial killer and I never knew?

What if the world turned on me and was convinced I helped that sicko, but in reality I had no idea.

It’s a whirlwind of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cliffhanger made me definitely want to find out what happens next to the family. 

One downside was that I felt the last quarter or so was a bit rushed. The story started out better than it ended, but the psychological suspense was still phenomenal. So looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Do you like it when books have cliffhangers?