BOOK REVIEW: Snow by Ronald Malfi

Title: Snow

Author: Ronald Malfi

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-fi, Folklore-Monsters, Paranormal

Read Start Date: October 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 29, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

My Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed so that I could read it again, and that rarely happens.

Todd Curry is traveling to Des Moines to see his young son. HIs connecting flight in Chicago is cancelled due to a bad snow storm, but he is anxious to get home. He promised his son that he’d be there by morning. Todd and his son’s mother are separated, and he rarely sees the boy, so it’s important to keep his promise. Todd has the idea to rent a car and drive to Des Moines. Storm be damned.

The woman in front of him at the rental car counter gets the last SUV. Kate Jansen, a woman Todd had met at the airport bar while waiting to hear the fate of his flight, offers to give Todd a lift. He accepts gladly. Fred and Nan Wilkinson, a “silver-haired couple in their late sixties”, are also stranded at the airport. They decide to join Todd and Kate and together all 4 set off to Des Moines, with Todd at the wheel.

They have barely left the city, when they encounter a strange man in the middle of the highway, alone in the snow storm. “Suddenly, the figure was in the middle of the road, only a few yards in front of them as if he had materialized out of thin air.” Todd crashes into a snow bank and wrecks the SUV. They climb out of the car, to find a lone man standing in the road. The man’s name is Eddie Clement and his daughter, aged eight, is lost somewhere in the storm.

Something isn’t right about Eddie, or his story. “Kate put a hand on Eddie’s broad flannel back and led him to the Cherokee. Todd noticed two rips in the fabric of Eddie Clement’s flannel coat, one at each shoulder blade, each one perhaps five inches long. The fabric around each slit looked frayed.”

They four-some in the vehicle are skeptical. A man out in the bitter cold, alone, looking for his daughter for who knows how long…how isn’t he a popsicle? Why would his daughter run off in this weather? Nothing seems to make sense. As a reader, you get the feeling that something is terribly off with Eddie and it adds a layer of tension to the story. At this point, we are only 39 pages in, and the tension only increases with each page.

Seeking shelter, they walk to the nearest town. What they find there would change their lives forever, if they manage to survive that is.

By page 69, we learn that the town is virtually deserted. Where did everyone go? And then they encounter someone:

“A man was standing directly behind Nan, no more than five feet away. His clothes hung off him in tattered ribbons and were splattered with blood. The man’s eyes were dead in their sockets, his face as expressionless as an Egyptian mummy.” …

“The sound of the rifle fire was almost deafening.

In the street, the man’s head evaporated into a red mist. The body sagged forward, then dropped straight to the ground, its legs folded neatly beneath it.

Nan screamed and Fred cursed. Kate clawed at the back of Todd’s neck, gripping a fistful of hair.

Then something else happened. The headless body in the street bucked once, twice, three times. Hot blood spurted from the abbreviated neck and coursed like an oil slick across the ice. There was the impression of levitation, although the dead man never actually left the ground; rather, something from within the man’s body was rising up, up. For one insane moment, Todd actually believed he was witnessing the dead man’s soul vacating the body.

But this was no one’s soul. What rose up was a hurricane swirl of snow, funneled and compacted so that it was nearly tangible. It held the vague form of a human being, though as it continued to withdraw itself from the man’s body, Todd could see its arms–or whatever served as arms–were nearly twice the length of a normal person’s. It had no definable characteristics beyond the vague suggestion of humanity. And as it peeled away from the corpse–from out of the corpse–it hovered briefly above the body, nearly solid and comprehensible, before it dispersed into a scattering of snowflakes and was gone.

The silence that followed was thundering.”

Snow by Ronald Malfi, pages 68-69

I got chills reading that again — soooo good! At this point in the story, I was already hooked, but this entrenched me in the story further.

This book is probably one of the best horror stories I’ve read this year. I would give it 10 out of 5 stars (if that were possible). The writing is fantastic. I love the way Malfi paints the picture. The monsters were super cool, the storyline creepy as hell. I had a hard time putting this book down. A must read.

BOOK REVIEW: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Title: Book Lovers

Author: Emily Henry

Book Length: 384 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

GenreFiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

My Review: I am not usually a romance novel reader, but have gotten into it recently because I’ve heard that you should read what you are currently writing to get you in the mindset. I also am not usually a fan of romance movies or rom coms. From my limited understanding, this book covers the small town romance trope. Emily Henry writes in the “Behind the Book” section at the end of the book:

“And having seen enough of these low-angst, made-for-TV delights (Hallmark and otherwise), I found myself fascinated with one particular iteration of the small-town romance. It goes like this: an uptight, joyless, career-obsessed main character gets shipped off from the big city they call home to conduct business in Middle America. They don’t want to go! They don’t even have the right shoes for this kind of setting! But once they’re there, not only do they manage to fall in love with one of the sweet, small-town locals, but they also manage to learn the true meaning of life. (Spoiler alert: it’s not a high-power career in a major metropolis. And everyone ends up happy. Well, everyone except for the ex. The woman (or man) left behind in the city, whose entire role is usually to call the lead character and bark at them over the phone, remind them that they went to Smalltown, USA for business–to conduct a mass layoff, or to crush the local toy emporium so Big Toy can open its 667th location in the heart of the town, while maybe bulldozing a gazebo or two on the way.”

Emily Henry goes on to say about the inspiration for Book Lovers: “I found myself asking, who is this woman? Where does her story go from here?”

Enter Nora Stephenson, the woman left behind in the big city. Nora, a high earning, workaholic, book agent, has been left behind THREE times! Nora loves her job, the city (a.k.a. Manhattan), and her life there. The City is where she grew up with her mother and sister Libby — where her mother died. The City for Nora is not only a place to live, but a place where her mother’s memory can be found on every corner. She couldn’t imagine anything worse than living in one of those small-towns from the romance novels she reads, or in general moving from the City to anyplace else.

We meet Charlie Lastra (a book editor) pretty early in the book, and it is obvious that this guy will be the love interest. Nora is late to her meeting with Charlie because she was being dumped, en route, by another guy who is leaving her for a small-town local girl. At this point, Nora is so used to this being her luck with men, that it doesn’t phase her. She really could care less. When she arrives at the table, to pitch her client’s new manuscript, which takes place in Sunshine Falls, a small town in North Carolina, Charlie turns down the book. Whatever, Charlie is a nightmare anyway (everyone says so).

The joke is on Charlie Lastra, because 2 years later, the book Nora was pitching is a best seller making tons of money.

Libby (Nora’s sister) is a mother of 2, with a 3rd on the way, and guilts Nora into taking a four-week relaxation vacation to Sunshine Falls. Nora, who gives Libby whatever she wants, agrees. There is a lot of baggage in the relationship between the sisters, stemming from the death of their mother when they were young. In short, Nora had to step into the mother role and gave up a lot of her dreams. Nora puts Libby first, but Libby is unhappy that Nora works too much and doesn’t seem to have time for Libby anymore, etc.

Anyway, they go to Sunshine Falls, and who should Nora see there, but Charlie. Turns out he is FROM Sunshine Falls, which is why he didn’t want to edit the book because it was clear from the manuscript that the author had never been to Sunshine Falls. Sparks fly, etc. Charlie and Nora are like the same person, except you know, Nora is a woman and Charlie is a man. Has Nora stepped into a small-town romance of her own?

I could go on about the plot, but I think you get the idea.

From the synopsis, I was afraid that this book was going to be too much like Beach Read, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not. I really liked the main characters Charlie and Nora. Their characters were believable, with real problems. I felt that this was a “small-town romance”, but in real terms rather than movie terms. Nora was a smart, professional woman, who had a hard time finding a man who could handle that — which unfortunately is a very real problem. Charlie, also in love with the City, is stuck in Sunshine falls taking care of the family business and his ailing father. This is also a real life problem faced by many people. Aging parents, no one else to take care of them…etc.

I think that Bookshelf Fantasies says it best in saying that “[t]he plot has much more depth than you might expect. Emily Henry excels at creating funny, quirky, unusual characters, then giving them rich backstories that humanize them and expose the pains and sorrows behind their facades. The same is true here, and it makes Nora much more likable than she initially comes across, so much so that I became very invested in her happiness and well-being.”

I also loved how Charlie and Nora were not perfect, but perfect for each other. I agree with Ali’s Books, when she says “Charlie and Nora are perfection together. When they come together it’s HOT and not because the scenes are steamy, but because you feel their connection so deeply. The way Charlie worships and adores Nora is just everything. And watching the sisters heal and reconnect was beautiful, too.”

I also appreciated that the banter between the characters did not get tiresome as in most romance books I’ve read lately. They are both playfully sarcastic, but the conversations were not stupid or annoying, and did not seem contrived just for the sake of having a conversation to show how sarcastic the characters were — meaning that the conversation had purpose, depth, a certain realistic edge to it.

While the ending was predictably a happy one, it was also very realistic, which was great. I can’t stand sappy, ridiculous endings that just ruin an otherwise good book. I’m so glad that this didn’t happen here, because I would have been pretty annoyed.

All in all another great book from Emily Henry!

BOOK REVIEW: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

18045891Title: Sharp Objects

Author: Gillian Flynn

Book Length: 321 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Contemporary

Read Start Date: September 4, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My ReviewCamille Preaker, now a reported living in Chicago, is sent to her childhood hometown Wind Gap to cover the story of two child murders. To say that Camille had a troubled childhood would be an understatement. The tag line on the cover of the book I rented from the library states: “This family isn’t nuclear. It’s toxic.” That’s a mild way to put it.

Adora, the family matriarch and Camille’s mother is beloved by the small town of 2,000 residents. The Preaker’s are old money, and own the biggest business in town: a hog farm and butchery. When Camille was thirteen, her sister Marian died after a long bout of illnesses. Marian, the more loved child. The more adored child. Camille had always been second best. Soon after, Camille started cutting words on her body until only a small patch of skin on her back was unmarred. By the time she was an adult, she was also an alcoholic.

At the age of 30 she went to rehab for 6 months, a place for girls who cut. Her mother only visited once. “Then, inevitably, came the stories of Marian. She’d already lost one child, you see. It had nearly killed her. Why would the older (though necessarily less beloved) deliberately harm herself? I was so different from her lost girl, who — think of it — would be almost thirty had be lived. Marian embraced life, what she had been spared. Lord, she had soaked up the world — remember, Camille, how she laughed even in the hospital? I hated to point out to my mother that such was the nature of a bewildered, expiring ten-year-old. Why bother? It’s impossible to compete with the dead. I wished I could stop trying.”

Despite this horrible relationship and past, Camille, fresh out of rehab is heading back to the place where her demons grew up — to stay in the very house where they were created. Wind Gap was “the place where [her] sister died, the place [she] started cutting [her]self. A town so suffocating and small, you tripped over people you hated every day. People who knew things about you. It’s the kind of place that leaves a mark.”

For the first time in a long time, Camille sees Amma, the half-sister she knows very little about. “My mother said she was the most popular girl in school, and I believed it. Jackie said she was the meanest, and I believed that, too. Living in a swirl of Adora’s bitterness had to make one a bit crooked. And what did Amma make of Marian, I wondered? How confusing to live in the shadow of a shadow. But Amma was a smart girl — she did her acting out away from home. Near Adora she was compliant, sweet, needy — just what she had to be, to get my mother’s love.”

Gillian Flynn paints the picture of a bleak town in Nowheresville, America, where you are either a winner or a loser. “Old money and trash,” as Camille puts it. Now, two young teenagers are dead, strangled with their teeth pulled out. By all accounts these girls had their troubles — sometimes they were even bullies, but who would do such a heinous thing? Suspects abound, the police seem a tad incompetent, or at best overwhelmed / out of their league. Will the killer be caught before the next girl goes missing?

The mystery keeps you in it’s grip until the end.

I also really love Gillian Flynn’s writing style. Here are some examples:

“I rang the doorbell, which had been a cat-calling screech when I was very young, now subdued and truncated, like the bing! you hear on children’s records when it’s time to turn the page.”

“I drank more vodka. There was nothing I wanted to do more than be unconscious again, wrapped in black, gone away. I was raw. I felt swollen with potential tears, like a water balloon filled to burst. Begging for a pin prick. Wind Gap was unhealthy for me. This home was unhealthy for me.”

This book was published back in 2006 — wow already 16 years ago — so chances are you might have already read it. In case you haven’t yet, please do. This book is just fantastic.

BOOK REVIEW: Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

58989873Title: Happy-Go-Lucky

Author: David Sedaris

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Essays, Memoir, Short Stories, LGBT

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 30, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

My Review: This book is so hilarious I actually laughed out loud. The synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound like a lot of this book is surrounding the events of COVID, but that’s not actually the case. It’s really only a small part toward the end of the book.

I listened to this as an audiobook and it was read by David Sedaris himself. Some of the parts were “narrated” and some of the parts were recordings of Sedaris at a book reading event — you can hear the laughter of the audience in the background.

Although most of the book is funny, Sedaris includes some dark tales surrounding the abuse suffered by Sedaris and his siblings at the hands of their father. Once, when Sedaris was about 10 years old, he complained of a stomach ache in order to get out of going to school the next day. Later that night, when Sedaris was playing with his guinea pig, his father had Sedaris go to the bathroom for a visual “anal exam”. His father, who Sedaris described as some guy who always walked around in his underwear, would also do weird and creepy things to Sedaris’ sisters. For example: “He said of my sister, who was tottering on platform shoes, a straw hat on her head, looking, I’d later realize, a lot like Jody Foster in Taxi Driver: ‘God she’s got a great set of pins!’ I didn’t know what pins were and when I later learned that they were legs, I thought ‘well that’s a…nice…thing…to say about someone, in general, I mean, if that person isn’t, you know, your daughter.'”

A lot of the stories in the book were about Sedaris’ father, now deceased, but who at the time was old and infirm in a nursing home. The creepy man that Sedaris used to know was long gone and Sedaris had to reconcile the horrible man he used to know and dislike, with the affable, rather pleasant person he had become in his old age.

I think it takes a lot of courage to write such private things into a book that will be read by millions.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in need of a good laugh.

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility by C.W. Allen

60716812._SY475_Title: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility

Author: C.W. Allen

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s  Middle Grade

Read Start Date: September 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 11, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.

When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?

Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As with the first book in this series, The Secret Benefits of Being Invisible is absolutely delightful! How often as adults to we ignore children simply because they are children? I think we often forget how even young children are capable of so much! Tuesday and Zed are no exception — they manage to save the day in spite of “only” being children, and because of their “invisibility” in the eyes of adults, they are able to take down the bad guys.

This book was much more focused on the politics of Falinnheim, rather than action, so it was a little slower for me than the first book — but then again, I am an adult and not the intended audience of this book. The message of this book is wonderful — even children can be heroes. 

I think that this is a great book for young children (and it’s fun for adults as well) and I would highly recommend it. 

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Other Books in this Series

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.

When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.

Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

See my review of Relatively Normal Secrets here.

BOOK REVIEW: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

58909880Title: The House Across the Lake

Author: Riley Sager

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, Paranormal

Read Start Date: August 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 9, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night (“a master of the twist and the turn” – Rolling Stone) is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

My Review: I think the Goodreads synopsis on this book is pretty good, so I won’t go too much in detail regarding the plot. This book reminded me a lot of The Woman in the Window. Lonely / isolated woman who has trouble with alcohol, has nothing better to do than to spy on her neighbors. What she spies through the binoculars is a dysfunctional relationship, but she isn’t believed by anyone (mostly having to do with her alcohol consumption and the fact that she is spying.)

At some point the two books separate in theme, and the House Across the Lake takes it into a totally different and unexpected realm, where there are 2 twists at the end that I was not expecting at all!

I really liked The BiblioSanctum’s take on this book: “I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Whatever you might think is going to happen from the short synopsis I provided above, I guarantee it will be wrong. That’s because for most of the novel, Sager leads you to believe The House Across the Lake is going to be another one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill thriller mysteries with a perfectly mundane albeit exciting explanation that you would expect, if not perfectly predict. In reality though, it’s all just a ruse to make you feel all the more astonished and knocked for a loop when everything—and I mean everything—is turned on its head once he drops the big twist.

And it’s big. Genre-changing big. Without spoiling even the tiniest of details, I’ll just say that there is a supernatural element to this, and that is why I think reactions to the ending will be mixed depending on the type of reader you are. Even speaking as someone who enjoys fantasy and speculative fiction, I felt the twist was a bit too much, too sudden, and too in-your-face, so if you’re more into earthly non-supernatural thrillers, I can see how the bombshell might frustrate or even anger you.”

I got through this book pretty quickly, because I couldn’t stop listening to it (I was listening to the audiobook). If you like thrillers, murder mysteries and ghosts, then I’d recommend this!

BOOK REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover

59344312._SY475_Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Review: This book was such a mind f***! From the first sentence this book grabbed my attention. I found it very hard to put down, which was a problem since I was reading this book in order to fall asleep. I have read other Colleen Hoover books before (e.g. Ugly Love (see my review here), It End With Us (see my review here)), but this is by far my favorite one.

The main character Lowen Ashleigh is an author who hasn’t had much success — this is mostly because she doesn’t do book readings or tour — she is a self described introvert. This is a shame, because she is in fact a really good writer. Her luck is about to change.

On her way to a meeting with her agent, she witnesses a fatal car accident. Covered in gore, she is approached by a good Samaritan, Jeremy Crawford, who lends her his shirt, so that she doesn’t have to wear her blood soaked shirt anymore. Sparks fly during this encounter, but it doesn’t matter because she is never going to see him again anyway. Right?

Wrong! Fast forward to the meeting, she learns that Jeremy is attending the same meeting. What’s more, he is the husband of best selling author Verity Crawford, who after suffering a near fatal accident, is essentially in a waking coma. Jeremy wants to hire Lowen to co-author the remaining 3 books in Verity’s hit series. Taking this job would change Lowen’s life forever. Verity’s series is already wildly popular and Lowen will be paid a large sum for her work. This is the break she has been waiting for. Despite this, Lowen has some reservations — she does not do book tours.

Lowen, following the slow and emotionally draining death of her mother, is broke and has been recently kicked out of her apartment, so she accepts the job, with the caveat that she doesn’t have to do public appearances, and travels to Jeremy’s home to go through Verity’s office to try to find notes / outlines that will help her write the next books. What she finds is something all together different — a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, in which she reveals some disturbing things about herself, her relationship with Jeremy, and the circumstances surrounding the death of their twin daughters.

Regarding the alternating story line between Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s perspective, which added layers of plot: Zainab Chats! writes in her review that “It really felt like each secret that was revealed may have both a literal and deeper meaning to Lowen in regards to how she felt about Verity. And it was very unique because it seemed as she read more and more of Verity’s manuscript she seemed to be even more frightened, of a helpless woman with traumatic injuries.”

I loved the layers of complexity created by this dual narrative.

Verity’s novels are so popular because Verity writes in the villain’s point of view. So what is the truth? Is she really a monster and that is why she can write the part of the villain so well? Meanwhile, Jeremy and Lowen are obviously falling for each other, but then strange things start happening around the house. Door are locked when they shouldn’t be, Crew (Jeremy’s and Verity’s son) talks about his mother as though she is awake, and Lowen even sees an apparition of Verity on the stairs.

What is the truth? What is happening at this house??

What I liked most about this book: It was a total page turner. I wanted to know what happened next. The author kept me, the reader, engaged in the story. I loved to hate Verity as her autobiography was truly heinous–she writes about abusing her kids as babies, about loving one twin over the other etc. Would Lowen and Jeremy finally get together, or were they always going to be stuck in platonic world, seeing as Jeremy was still technically married? What really happened to the twins? Was Verity involved in their deaths? The twist at the end was totally unexpected. It was great!

There was a few downsides about the ending though that left me a little unsettled. Ruminative Philomath says it best: “I don’t understand Verity’s end. It felt forcefully concluded…like there was so much story build-up around her but it turned out to be nothing.”

There’s a reason why this book has been highly recommended on Booktok. I second this recommendation!

BOOK REVIEW: Black Snow by James M. Scott

40611189Title: Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

Author: James M. Scott

Audiobook Length: 12 hours 58 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, WWII, Aviation

Read Start Date: August 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description above pretty accurately describes the subject matter of the book, so I won’t go into plot details here.

Although the beginning of the book dragged a little bit, the pace picked up speed when America starting bombing the Japanese. The description of the animals and people, especially children, being burned to death was so heart wrenching that I nearly broke down in tears several times. I would even go so far as to provide a trigger warning here, as at times it was really hard to listen to. People being burned alive, boiling to death in super heated rivers, or drowning to death while trying to escape the flames. Yikes. It is the stuff of nightmares — and this really happened.

If this were fiction, it would be classified as a horror novel.

It is unfathomable to me that after seeing all this death and destruction, humans CONTINUE to do engage in war, death, destruction — right now we are amidst a war that is decimating an entire people and culture. WHY DO WE NEVER LEARN???

The book is immensely well researched and well written and is regarding a subject that I had not known about previously. Yes, everyone has (surely) learned about the atomic bomb in school, but I do not remember ever learning about prior incendiary attacks on Tokyo.

My emotions on the subject are so torn. On the one hand it is shameful that America was responsible for such atrocities. On the other hand, the Japanese were not saints, and they were also guilty of their own atrocities for which they should feel equally ashamed. That is not to say that anyone “deserved” it — especially not the innocent children and babies who were killed in the air raids. I hugged my daughter a little tighter after hearing some scenes.

I think war is ugly and stupid and that there must be better ways to resolve conflict. It is for this reason that books like this are important to make people SEE / HEAR / LEARN about what the impact of war is, in the hopes to avoid the same in the future.

I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

57693165._SY475_Title: The Christie Affair

Author: Nina de Gramont

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Read Start Date: June 24, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 1, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:Why would the world’s most famous mystery writer disappear for eleven days? What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage? How deeply can a person crave revenge?

In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.

It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.

What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.

My Review: Why does this book have only 3.75 stars on Goodreads (as of the date of this post)? This book made me feel so many things! Nina de Gramont flawlessly blends fact with fiction to the point where I don’t know what she made up! It could all be plausible from the time period.

The book is told in the first person by the character Nan O’Dea, who is having an affair with the husband of Agatha Christie. When Agatha finds out about the affair, she disappears, igniting a countrywide search. Nan takes a vacation to keep herself out of the spotlight. While staying at a hotel, there are two suspicious deaths.

The book switches between present day (during the period of Agatha’s disappearance) and the past, when Nan was a young girl in a star-crossed love affair with an Irish boy. I love the twist in the end where everything comes together. I was not expecting it at all!

SPOILER ALERT:

To really give a proper review, I have to reveal spoilers. In the storyline taking place in the past, Nan becomes pregnant and is sent to an Irish convent by her boyfriend’s parents (without his knowledge–he was deathly ill at the time). She is forced to give her baby up for adoption to an Englishman, and when she finds out that her baby is gone, she nearly kills the nun responsible. I had so many feelings about this scene. Firstly, I know it was common practice “back in the day” that unmarried women could not keep their babies because it was “shameful” to have babies out of wedlock, but WTF. That’s seriously f***ed up. I could not imagine having my baby taken away from me, and was disappointed that the vindictive nun, who gave away the baby out of spite (she was angry with Nan), was not murdered right then and there! Godly my a**!

Secondly, there was a priest at the convent who was raping a pregnant woman. What a total POS! These people are supposed to be Godly, but they are not better than sick and twisted criminals! It is because of people like this, the ones supposed to be representatives of God on Earth, that spoils religion and everything it stands for. Hypocrites the lot of them!

So anyway, rant over.

I haven’t really read any Agatha Christie books (I have been meaning too), but I suspect this book is written in the style of Christie. So if you are a fan of her books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I really liked this book and I would say that this should be on your must read lists for 2022.

BOOK REVIEW: Relatively Normal Secrets by C.W. Allen

60191693._SY475_Title: Relatively Normal Secrets

Author: C.W. Allen

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 11 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s  Middle Grade

Read Start Date: August 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 19, 2022

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.

When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.

Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is absolutely delightful! It is fun, cute, and creative and reminds me a lot of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (without all the Christian undertones). I could imagine when my baby is old enough (she is only 1 year now) listening to this book in the car on a trip. I think that she would find it very interesting and engaging — there is a lot of action, riddles (that are easy for adults but maybe for challenging for young children), and a happy ending.

The book ends on sort of a cliff hanger, so I wonder if there will be a second book. I’ll be watching and waiting with fingers crossed!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.