Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Skim

Week of 5/24/2020:


Currently Reading:

                                                                Looking Forward To:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Jenn's Review: Wolf Lake

Author: John Verdon
Series: Dave Gurney #4
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Counterpoint
Pages: 375
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Crime/Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line:"What crueler and more wicked way could you kill a man than make him kill himself?"
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Blurb: Could a nightmare be used as a murder weapon? That’s the provocative question confronting Gurney in the thrilling new installment in this series of international bestsellers. The former NYPD star homicide detective is called upon to solve a baffling puzzle: Four people who live in different parts of the country and who seem to have little in common, report having had the same dream—a terrifying nightmare involving a bloody dagger with a carved wolf’s head on the handle. All four are subsequently found with their wrists cut — apparent suicides — and the weapon used in each case was a wolf’s head dagger. 

Police zero in quickly on Richard Hammond, a controversial psychologist who conducts hypnotherapy sessions at a spooky old Adirondack inn called Wolf Lake Lodge. It seems that each of the victims had gone there to meet with Hammond shortly before turning up dead. 

Troubled by odd holes in the official approach to the case, Gurney begins his own investigation — an action that puts him in the crosshairs of not only an icy murderer and the local police but the darkest corner of the federal government. As ruthless as the blizzard trapping him in the sinister eeriness of Wolf Lake, Gurney’s enemies set out to keep him from the truth at any cost — including an all-out assault on the sanity of his beloved wife Madeleine. 

With his emotional resources strained to the breaking point, Gurney must throw himself into a deadly battle of wits with the most frightening opponent he has ever faced. 

Review:  John Verdon is one of my favorite suspense authors and his books stick with me long after I put them down.  Such is the case with Wolf Lake, though I read it on vacation, the return to snowy WNY seems to keep bringing Madeleine and Dave Gurney's adventure foremost in my thoughts.

For once, Maddie is encouraging Dave to investigate, which should be a red flag from the beginning that this is not going to be your typical Dave Gurney novel.  Not only is Maddie encouraging Dave to assist Harding in his wild case, but she is going to come along for the ride.

The case seems to be going off in wildly different directions and layering on Madeleine's unusual behavior, things become complicated very quickly.  I will say, for the first time, I partially solved the case before Dave did.  I'm not sure if I'm proud of that fact or a little disappointed, but I think it's a combination of both. The big reveal felt a little rushed and some of the characters weren't fully fleshed out for me but the case itself has stuck with me all week.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Julie's Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

Author: Josie Silver
Series: None
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Loved Lydia but would have preferred a different ending

Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Summary: Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.  Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.  So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants is to hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life—and perhaps even love—again.  But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened. Lydia is pulled again and again through the doorway to her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Review: One Day in December was one of my favorite novels of 2019 and I was looking forward to her sophomore novel and it didn't disappoint. For their teenage years and most of their adult life it's been Lydia and Freddie with their clan of friends and family. Unfortunately, Freddie and Lydia don't get their happily ever after because he dies in a car accident on her 28th birthday. Lydia doesn't know how to be without Freddie and it unsettles her. She realizes that her whole life has been wrapped through Freddie. For the better part of 56 days her sister, Elle and mom have been taking care of her. Making sure she eats and basically trying to get her to live again. She's not really sleeping but taking naps on the couch throughout the day. Until she gets a prescription for some sleeping pills and falls into a slumber but it's not a normal sleep; she's propelled into an alternate world where Freddie is still alive and they are still planning their wedding.

As Lydia starts to make her way back to the rest of the world, she's torn between moving on without Freddie and going to sleep so she can go back to being with Freddie. As Lydia begins to creep back into the world, she begins to live a little bit again. She starts going out with her sister and brother in law to the pub and talking to her friends again. Or specifically her and Freddie's 3rd wheel, Jonah. Except he wasn't always a 3rd wheel, before Freddie and Lydia dated, Jonah was her closest friend.

Lydia keeps 1 foot firmly planted in the real world and another planted in the her asleep world but it starts to take a toll on her life in the real world because she's not really getting the sleep she needs to heal and function. Also, she finds out that while her sleeping world is an alternative it's not exactly all peachy there either, especially when it comes to their honeymoon.

As her life starts to get back on track in the real world, Lydia has a choice to make between the living and the sleeping life. I loved how Lydia started to figure out who she was without Freddie and really who she wanted to be. She made changes on her own and some were made for her.

I really loved Lydia, her mom and her sister. I wasn't really sure about Freddie though for some reason. I thought maybe he was a bit too perfect but to be fair whenever someone does that we tend to remember the good and forget the things that drove us nuts.

I was hoping that Ms. Silver would go a different way with the ending but in the end she went where I thought earlier in the book. It didn't take away from the story but I just didn't want it to go the way she wrote it.

I can't wait to read what she writes next. This is a great novel to spend some hours with at  any point in your day.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday Skim

Week of 5/17/2020:


Currently Reading:

                                                                Looking Forward To:

I've decided to give audiobooks a rest for now. Between the kids doing school work and meetings at work, I just can't concentrate on them. I've been on a book roll a bit so I'm happy about that and thinking I'll get some reading done this long weekend. Hope you all are having a great holiday weekend, even though it's different than normal I'm sure.


Friday, May 22, 2020

Julie's Review: The Paris Hours

Author: Alex George
Series: None
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 266
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line:
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Summary: One day in the City of Light. One night in search of lost time. Paris between the wars teems with artists, writers, and musicians, a glittering crucible of genius. But amidst the dazzling creativity of the city’s most famous citizens, four regular people are each searching for something they’ve lost. Camille was the maid of Marcel Proust, and she has a secret: when she was asked to burn her employer’s notebooks, she saved one for herself. Now she is desperate to find it before her betrayal is revealed. Souren, an Armenian refugee, performs puppet shows for children that are nothing like the fairy tales they expect. Lovesick artist Guillaume is down on his luck and running from a debt he cannot repay—but when Gertrude Stein walks into his studio, he wonders if this is the day everything could change. And Jean-Paul is a journalist who tells other people’s stories, because his own is too painful to tell. When the quartet’s paths finally cross in an unforgettable climax, each discovers if they will find what they are looking for. Told over the course of a single day in 1927, The Paris Hours takes four ordinary people whose stories, told together, are as extraordinary as the glorious city they inhabit.

Review: Here's the thing about great writers, they don't spell it all out for you they make you put the puzzle pieces together yourself. Alex George is a great writer because in The Paris Hours he leads you down a path but then leaves it up to you to chose what you think it all implies.

We have 4 different stories at the beginning of the novel that are very separate from each other: Jean-Paul who seeks to tell other stories because he can't confront the pain of his own; Camille who is in search of a book that her old employer kept because she's fearful for what it will reveal; Souren who tells his story through his puppet shows and Guillaume who owes the wrong people money and is trying to scrape up the money by selling the only painting that is significant to him emotionally.

Each of their stories is about love, pain, loss and survival but in just very different experiences. Each of them showcases their decisions whether during war, during employment, during a love affair and during marriage. The story that impacted me the most was Souren's because his what he went through and saw during the war. That doesn't mean that each of the other stories isn't impactful because they most definitely are but his is the one that sticks with me the most weeks after reading the novel. 

I wasn't sure how all of these stories were going to intersect but Mr. George brings them all together in such a way that wasn't expected but was so beautiful, I couldn't imagine it ending any other way.

I have read all of Mr. George's other novel and he really never disappoints, except that he needs to write quicker. 😀 If you haven't read him, you must and any of his books will be wonderful.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Julie's Review: Feels Like Falling

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: None
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Friends can be family too
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy. Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy. Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience. With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all. In her warmest, wisest novel yet, Kristy Woodson Harvey delivers a discerning portrait of modern womanhood through two vastly different lenses. Feels Like Falling is a beach bag essential for Harvey fans—and for a new generation of readers. 

Review: There is something inherently summer with a Kristy Woodson Harvey novel; probably because they are usually set at a beach and make me want to curl up with a book and feel the ocean air. Plus her covers are always so awesome and envious. Being that I'm in Illinois and well going to the beach on Lake Michigan isn't the same as going to the ocean beach.

Grey is going through a shitty divorce and I mean the way her soon to be ex told her he wanted one isn't that great either and her mom just died of cancer, so she's on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster when she pretty much overreacts to some pictures not coming out right at the local drug store. Unfortunately her reaction has devastating effects for Diana Harrington who just lost her job along with losing her place to stay because she broke up with her loser boyfriend.  Diana is made of tough stuff and this won't get her down; she'll figure something out.

Turns out that Grey has a heart and actually needs some help at her beach house and Diana can stay there while she figures out her next steps. Turns out that they both need each other in ways that they couldn't imagine. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart. They might not have ever met if it wasn't for Grey complaining but they are the people they need at that time in their lives. Although I do think they will be involved in each others lives from here on out.

I love the message that friends are the family you chose and make throughout this novel. It is so true and you realize it the older you get. It's not even that there has to be something wrong with your family but sometimes you need someone who brings a different perspective. I think that's what Diana and Grey gave each other, a glimpse into a different way of thinking.


Monday, May 18, 2020

Julie's Review: To Have and To Hoax

Author: Martha Waters
Series: None
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 367
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Romance
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A fun romp in Austen Era England
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Summary: Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since. Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent. Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them? With charm, wit, and heart in spades, To Have and to Hoax is a fresh and eminently entertaining romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory and Julia Quinn. 

Review: I wanted something campy and fun to read and this novel definitely fit the bill. It's set in "Jane Austen" England which means a lot of women weren't bold and brash but more likely to do what their position in society told them to do. That is definitely not Violet at all much to the chagrin of her mother who just wants her to be proper and hold up her duty as a wife. Violet meets Lord James at a party where she was alone on a balcony with another guy (a no no at the time) and came in to rescue her. Of course, Violet doesn't need rescuing but she really does need James. They quickly fall in love and get married.

Of course Violet has a temper as does James, so a year into their marriage they have an epic fight, which means no speaking and separate lives. When James takes a spill off of a horse, Violet rushes to his side only to find out he's not really hurt that badly. She's so irritated that he's not hurt and she rushed to him, that she comes up with an elaborate plan to get revenge on him. Except of course it doesn't really go as planned because James isn't dumb and sees through her little plan. He decides to go along with it.

What ensues is a comedy that will have you laughing and a bit of eye rolling but in the best way. I love the way they both love each other but have a hard time admitting it to each other because they are seriously stubborn. I think this would be a great film or limited series.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday Skim

Week 4/26/2020, 5/3/2020 & 5/10/2020:


Currently Reading:

                                                                Looking Forward To:

I'll be honest, it's been hard to concentrate on books on and off over the last few weeks. Even harder to write some reviews so I'm a bit backlogged but you'll see some on the blog over the next few weeks. The books I'm reading are great so it's not lack of material it's just the uncertainty of things which adds to the stress, right? I finished a 1000 piece puzzle and that was satisfying but I have 3 I ordered and I don't want to do them right now. Anyone else feeling like this? I know I can't be alone. I can't wait for the nicer weather to be consistent so we can get outside a bit more.

I hope you are all healthy and safe.