#Mini Book Reviews #Reading For Kids

Reading for Kids is a meme started by Rae Longest at Powerful Women Readers.

I usually post these on Sundays, but as we read picture books every day, Monday is as good day as any to share our new finds.

My Ocean is Blue by Darren Lebeuf and Ashley Barron

From the blurb: “This is my ocean,” the young girl begins as she heads over the dunes with her mother. Then, as they pass the whole day at the seaside, she lyrically describes her ocean in simple, sensory detail.

Our thoughts:
The protagonist of the story is a little girl who uses crutches to help her to walk. I could really relate to her as I spent almost a year using them as a child. The girl spends a lovely day at the beach with her mother. She sees the ocean in its variety of colours and characteristics- big and small at the same time, shallow in some places and deep in others, slimy, sandy, sparkly, dry and wet. She focuses on sounds – the ‘splashes and crashes and echoes, and squawks’ – and the marine life in its glorious diversity.
There is a lot of repetition which is important for a young reader and a lot of vocabulary building (e.g. colours-‘vibrant pink’, ‘rusty orange’, ‘faded white’) to help your child describe their sensory experiences.
The cut-paper illustrations are simple and gorgeous at the same time. Charming and original, this book inspires children to pay close attention to the natural beauty around them.

What Larry Grew in his Garden by laura Alary and Kass Reich

Grace and Larry are neighbours. Together they take care of a little garden where they plant and water and prune things. They solve problems as they come up by doing a bit of research and using their creativity. When Grace asks Larry why they are growing tiny tomato plants, Larry asks her to wait and then she will see that this project is about much more than tomatoes. and indeed it is about growing a community spirit and facilitating kind interactions between the neighbours.

I love the fact that this kind and beautiful book is based on a real person, a teacher, who helps children overcome their fears and mistrust, and become a part of community. He asks his students grow tiny tomato plants and give them as a present with a thoughtful note, showing their appreciation of the person they are giving it to.

The colours are so gentle and lovely, and the whole story is full of genuine optimism and kindness. It is also about persevering, problem solving, and cooperation. The book is aimed at slightly older children than my toddler, 6-7 year olds.

Why do we cry? by Fran pintadera and Ana Sender

This book is so beautiful and poetic!
A little boy asks his mother why we cry and she gently explains all the different emotions expressed by tears: sadness, anger, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and happiness. The pictures are wonderfully expressive. They feature the mother as a young girl experiencing all the feelings she is talking about, and this makes her explanation so powerful. The message of tears being a universal language and helping us in a variety ways (to relieve pain or stress, to express our joy, to empathise with another person to name but a few) and not knowing gender, race, or age boundaries is a very positive one. This book is a marvelous resource for parents and teachers who are trying to help children develop their emotional intelligence and deepen their understanding of the world.

‘We cry for a lot of reasons, Mario. Sometimes we cry because the sadness we feel is so great that we just can’t contain it..

Other times, we cry because we’re full of anger and we need to let it out, like a storm cloud releases rain. after that, we feel lighter, just like the cloud…

We cry because, sometimes, we don’t understand the world, and our tears go in search of the answers we need.

We cry because it helps us grow. Every tear nourishes us, little by little. If we didn’t cry, we’d turn to stone…

and we can also cry when we are happy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for the advanced review copies provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Thank you for stopping by! Wishing you happy holidays and wonderful, peaceful time with your loved ones!

#Top Ten Tuesday #Winter 2019-2020 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books we have on our to-be-read-soon list. Some of the books I would like to read in the nex three months have been on my list for quite a long time, others are yet to be released. Here they come (in no particular order):

1 Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

A follow up to The Bromance Book Club, which I really enjoyed, this one deals with Braden Mack and Holly’s sister Liv’s story.

2 Knock on Wood by Leslie Tall Manning

I am a huge fan of Leslie’s writing, so I can’t wait to start this one. I’m sure the story of Billy, who had a tragic accident as a teenager and went into a coma, is going to be emotional and full of love and kindness.

3 Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlaine

I would like to read more historical fiction and this novel with two interwoven stories of Anna dale, an artist in 1940, and Morgan Christopher, a convict, serving a prison sentence in 2018, promises to be a gripping and thought-provoking read.

4 Normal People by Sally Rooney

A story about complex family relationships, first love, friendship, class, and self-destructive behaviour. My friends warned me it is a dark and disturbing read, but the wirting is supposed to be very insightful, so I have very high hopes for this book on my list.

5 You’re not listening by Kate Murphy

This is one of the Travelling Friends Book Club reads. I was very happy to see a non-fiction book included and the blurb sounds very enticing:

Listening has the potential to transform our relationships and our working lives, improve our self-knowledge, and increase our creativity and happiness. While it may take some effort, it’s a skill that can be learnt and perfected. When all we crave is to understand and be understood, You’re Not Listening shows us how.

6 Saint X by Alexis Shaitkin

From Goodreads:

Alexis Schaitkin’s stunning debut Saint X is a haunting portrait of grief, obsession, and the bond between two sisters never truly given the chance to know one another.

“Here is a marvel of a book, a kaleidoscopic examination of race and privilege, family and self, told with the propulsive, kinetic focus of a crime thriller. Brilliant and unflinching, Saint X marks the debut of a stunningly gifted writer. I simply couldn’t stop reading.” Chang Rae Lee

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

7 You Are Not Alone by Greer Hedricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I haven’t read their previous novels, but Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have been on my radar for some time now, and psychological thrillers is one of my favourite genres.

The blurb is deliberately vague.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely. Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. Shay would die for them to like her. She may have to.

Well, sometimes it is better to go into reading knowing as little as possible…Especially, if the book comes from these two authors famous for their mind-blowing plot twists.

8 Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobiel

I really enjoy reading about mother-daughter relationships (the more complicated, the better), so I just couldn’t pass this one:

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold. Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar. (From Goodreads)

9 The Sun Down Motel by Simone St.James

From the book blurb:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

10 The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord

And I just had to have something form YA fiction on my list. This one focuses on my favourite topics – identity, friendships, family, life choices.

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

These are just ten titles on my ever-growing-and-never-diminishing list of books to read.

What are you reading this winter?

#Book Review #No, We Can't Be Friends by Sophie Ranald

From the book blurb:

Everyone knows a girl like Sloane. She was always The Single One. She never brought a plus-one to weddings. She was the woman you’d set up with your single cousin. She joined ballroom dancing classes to meet men and was the queen of online dating.

But then she met Myles. Perfect Myles, with denim-blue eyes and a dazzling smile that melted her insides. She’d finally found The One.

Except she didn’t imagine that Myles’s idea of Happy Ever After would include Sloane battling an overflowing laundry basket, buying birthday cards for his family, and ironing his Calvin Klein underpants.

Then Sloane finds out that Myles has a secret.

The fairy tale is well and truly over. Her heart is blown to smithereens. Eating her weight in Ben & Jerry’s and large Meat Feast pizzas can only get Sloane so far before she has to make a decision… Can she learn to love herself more than she loved the love of her life?

No, We Can’t Be Friends is a brilliantly relatable, hilarious and feel-good novel that every woman with a waste-of-space ex HAS to read! If you’re a fan of romantic comedies by Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk, and TV shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin, pick up this laugh-out-loud book – you won’t regret it.

My thoughts:

  I don’t know whether to put it in the category of contemporary women’s fiction, humour, or romance. With a slightly older protagonist, it doesn’t seem to fit neatly into the chick-lit category, although it is written in a light-hearted, easy style. ‘No, We Can’t Be Friends’ is a life story, honest and relatable. It is also entertaining (although not exactly laugh out loud) and hard to put down.

Sloane Cassidy is a successful professional- she is a co-owner of a PR/ talent agency. She has been married for five years to Myles, whom she loves deeply, and is thinking of starting family. As their dream house renovation work continues, little cracks begin to appear in her marriage. Sloane doesn’t exactly brush them off, she just wants to double her efforts to be the best wife possible. After all, ‘she’s in it to win it’. Gradually, Sloane discovers her husband might not be the man she has always imagined him to be. Oh, he can still make her laugh, and her body might still crave the warmth of his body in their bed, but how do you reconcile this with the secret text message sent to a mutual ‘friend’ ‘I have never loved her’? How do you learn to see your relationship with the new eyes of knowing it was based on lies? How do you take off those rose-tinted glasses we all wear when we look at our One and Only? What do you do with your hopes for future which seemed already written somewhere? How do you give up your wish to become a mother when you are 35 and are facing a divorce?

Sloane is a fantastic character, a girl I would love to have as a friend in real life. She is kind and strong, sensible and realistic. She doesn’t complain or wallow (maybe just a bit, but then we all need somebody to make us a strong cup of tea at the right moment and take care of us just for a day to let us get on our feet). She genuinely wants to re-build her life and understands that it will take time.


Sloane is not alone, of course, and that is not surprising. She cares about people around her and sees the best in them, and they stand by her when her own life seems to crumble.
I really loved her relationship with Megan (the other co-owner of the agency) and the way Sloane turns up at the right moment to help the brand-new mother- sometimes it is all you need: a shower and 20 minutes to yourself and a conversation with an adult about anything not baby-related!


I hope I’m not going to spoil the story by saying that there is also a new man in her life, but the romance is so secondary, so in the background, that there is no doubt- this novel focuses on Sloane and her divorce, rather than anything or anybody else. Actually, I would have liked to see a more developed male character ( friend or foe) in this book, as they all seemed a bit one-dimensional.

Sophie Ranald wrote a very relatable story as any of us who have gone through a long-term relationship breakup or a divorce will vouch for. It is also uplifting and heart-warming. At the end of the day, it is people in our lives (friends, family, co-workers, kind strangers) that matter, not houses or fancy decor. And we can make our own if not HEA, at least HFN, if we take our life decisions in our own hands.

Thank you to NetGalley and Boukouture for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Expected Publication Date: 10th of January 2020.

  • Have you read ‘No, We Can’t Be Friends’ or any other books by Sophie Ranald?
  • What’s the best book dealing with post-separation /post-divorce topic have you read?
  • Where does ‘chick-lit’ end and ‘Women’s fiction’ begin for you?

#Book Review #A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

(From the book blurb)

******

My thoughts:

This is my first book by this incredibly talented writer, so I had very few, if any, expectations. I was swept away by the beauty of descriptions of the West Coast of New Zealand:

.…She stood on a jagged cliff looking out over the crashing sea below as fog wove through the treetops, a light misty rain falling and dissipating before it ever got to her...

Nature plays such a prominent role in this novel that it is impossible not to mention how it foreshadows the events in the book and amplifies already strong emotions. It is ‘primal and untamed‘, it is one of the protagonists of this masterfully-crafted mystery and thriller.

Anahera Spenser-Ashby Rawiri returns to her home town of Golden Cove after eight years of absence, a successful career as a classical pianist and the death of her handsome, elegant and cheating husband. The first lines were shocking and memorable, and set the tone of the whole story:

She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick. Anahera stood stone-faced, staring down at the gleaming mahogany coffin…

Anahera, whose name means ‘Angel’ in Maori, is a fascinating character and you gradually discover how her strength and hardness are the result of tragic experiences in her childhood and adolescence. You also discover that she is fiercely loyal, kind, and proud of her Maori heritage.

Will is a decorated police officer who got sent away from Christchurch and is now serving as the one and only policeman in Golden Cove. He takes his job seriously and is liked by the locals, although it will take a long time for the people of Golden Cove to accept him and stop treating him as an outsider. The ghost of a little boy he promised to protect and failed to save from the fire set by his violent and abusive father is haunting Will and making sure he won’t leave a stone unturned when a local girl goes missing.

Nineteen year old Miriama is slender, graceful and radiantly beautiful. It is always difficult to write a character destined to become a victim of the crime that drives the plot. Make him/her too likeable and the reader’s heart is going to be broken. Make them too generic, and the reader isn’t going to feel invested in the story. Miri is blessed with her looks and is admired and courted by many men, both local and passing tourists. Her mother died of an overdose and the little girl grew up with her aunt Matilda, who, unfortunately, has the worst taste possible in men. Miri is repeatedly described as sunshine, full of life, and aroha (love), but her story is not a happy one.

When Miri goes for a run, wearing bright running clothes, and fails to come back home, Will leads first the search party and then the police investigation and finally solves the mystery, not only of Miriama’s death, but also the cold case of three female hikers who disappeared fifteen years ago in a similar way.


There are plenty of suspects, as well as plenty of secrets that run ‘like a thick tide of lava beneath the surface‘. At some point, it seemed that almost any man in the town could have committed this crime, but Will, who is ‘relenless, like water on rock‘, is added by Anahera’s insight into the past and present life of the locals, as well as her empathy and ability to talk to people who share their secrets with her, safe in the knowledge she will always be on their side.

There is romance between the two hard, life-beaten protagonists, but mostly A Madness of Sunshine is a mystery, trying to piece together what exactly happened to crush the young and innocent life of Miriama.

Whether you are a fan of Nalini Singh or new to this author, and are just looking for a thriller set in New Zealand, this unique story has a lot to offer.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Haveyou read A Madness of Sunshine or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read any other books by Nalini Singh?

# Can't-Wait Wednesday #Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you’re continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

The book I am waiting for this Wednesday comes from Megan Goldin, the author of ‘The Escape Room’ which was one of the most gripping thrillers I read in summer.

The new book is also a psychological thriller/suspense:

From Goodreads:

In this new thriller from the author of The Escape Room, a podcast host covering a controversial trial in a small town becomes obsessed with a brutal crime that took place there years before.

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

***************

Expected publication date: August 4th, 2020

Publisher: St.Martin’s Press

Genre: Fiction/ Thriller/ Psychological

No of pages: 352

  • Have you read ‘The Escape Room’? if yes, would you be interested in this new book from Megan Goldin?
  • Do you read ‘True Crime’ books? Have you ever listened to a podcast with this theme?

#Top Ten Tuesday #Holiday/Winter Reads

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is Holiday reads– Yay!!!

There are a few classic books I grew up with and cannot imagine this season without and a few recent releases.

  1. Julia Donaldson ‘Stickman’

Stick Man lives in the family tree with his wife and three children. One day he gets carried away by a dog and his adventures begin. You see everybody thinks he’s just a stick and sticks are there for fetching, dropping in water, weaving into a nest, being a sandcastle mast or a sword, a pen or a bat…until he almost gets burnt in a fireplace on the Christmas night. Luckily, his old friend Santa saves him and delivers him to his loyal family.

2 Nikolaj Gogol ‘The night before Christmas’ – I know it might be a bit obscure, but it’s a cute love story.

One snowy night a witch steals the stars and the Devil takes the moon, leaving the people of Dikanka village in pitch darkness. The Devil has orchestrated this because he is upset with the town blacksmith, Vakula, who paints religious pictures as a pastime. A beautiful but very vain girl, Oksana, is the focus of young men of the village. The witch is in league with the Devil to cause mischief in the lives of Vakula, her son, and Choub, Oksana’s father, because she wants to marry Choub and gain his wealth. The Devil wants to cause hate between Vakula and Choub so that Choub will beat Vakula who would then be unable to paint religious pictures.

3 The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry (William Sydney Porter).

One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure — her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift. (From Goodreads)

4 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

Genly Ai is an emissary from the human galaxy to Winter, a lost, stray world. His mission is to bring the planet back into the fold of an evolving galactic civilization, but to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own culture and prejudices and those that he encounters .

5 Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- no Christmas list is complete without this one!

Published by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843, Christmas Carol tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation resulting from a supernatural visit by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. The book was written and published in early Victorian era Britain, a period when there was strong nostalgia for old Christmas traditions together with the introduction of new customs, such as Christmas trees and greeting cards.

6 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

As a New England mother struggles to support her family in the wake of her husband’s service in the Civil War, her four daughters struggle, too – caught between childhood dreams and the realities of burgeoning adulthood. For Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, raised in integrity and virtue, negotiating the right path in life means making choices that will either narrow or expand their destinies.

You might also want to read this modern re-telling:

Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.
Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.
One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams. (From Goodreads)

7 How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr.Seuss

For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop. His “wonderful, awful” idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville, and strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee once and for all. (From Goodreads)

8 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia — a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change … and a great sacrifice. (From Goodreads)

And two more recent releases:

9 Christmas Angels by Nancy Naigle

Growing up, Liz Westmoreland dreamed of taking over her grandparents inn located in the small mountain town of Angels Creek only for it to be sold before she ever got the chance. While browsing the internet, she stumbles upon a listing for what looks to be the picturesque inn and it’s set to go to auction. Liz places a bid, and by a miracle, wins the auction. But when she gets there she finds the property in significant disrepair.

When Matt Hardy narrowly lost the inn and property that butted his land, he just hoped it wasn’t another city slicker coming to make matters worse after the previous owners gutted the place for an art gallery. But the minute he recognized the sweet, freckle-faced girl from his childhood and heard her plans to reopen the inn, he jumps at the chance to help his childhood crush restore a place where he made so many fond memories.

While working on repairs, Liz and Matt discover her grandmother’s collection of angels in one of the cabins. When the angels start mysteriously showing up all over the inn, she begins to look at them as reassurance—that restoring the inn is what she’s meant to do. But when an accident leaves Liz feeling like she made a mistake, will Matt—and the residents of Angels Creek—be able to show Liz that she’s found a home? And possibly true love as well? (From Goodreads)

10 Lavender & Mistletoe by Donna Kauffman

This Christmas, small-town Blue Hollow Falls will work big holiday magic for two people who have researched everything but love . . .

Avery Kent needs a project. The busy brain that earned her two PhDs before the age of eighteen is fascinated by the home she’s created with her three friends in Blue Hollow Falls, but the farm and the tearoom are running like clockwork now. As the holiday season approaches, it’s time for Avery to dive into one of her last uncharted research topics: love. Not for herself, of course; for her friend, Chey! But a closer look at the handsome young veterinarian Avery has chosen for this romantic equation has her wishing for gifts she never thought she wanted . . .

Another former child prodigy, Ben Chandler is more like Avery than she ever imagined. His intellect is a perfect match for hers—and everything else about him attracts her in ways that send delicious tingles down her spine. But a relationship? That’s something Avery will need to analyze—unless her friends can help Ben convince her that romance is more magic than science, and that a good old-fashioned kiss under the mistletoe is the perfect way to open her heart to the possibility of the greatest gift of all . . . (From Goodreads)

********************************

What?!? That’s already ten? I could go on and on… What’s on your TTT Holiday reads?

#Book Review #Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

A riveting mystery that introduces a bold and audacious rookie detective assigned to hunt for a killer who is haunted by the past in this gripping murder case…

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

Spellbinding and gripping, Trace of Evil is a novel of twisting suspense that will leave you breathless.

(From the official synopsis)

*****

My thoughts:

In order to get to understand Natalie Lockhart you need to know two things about her: where she comes from and her family.
Burning Lake is a small town in upstate New York, mostly famous for the stunning beauty of autumn trees and the burning of three innocent women convicted of witchcraft which happened in 1712. Their accusers later admitted it had all been made up. For years this event remained buried in town history until a book about the witch trials came out and put the town on the map. Hundreds of tourists come to visit its occult shops selling magic kits, spellbooks and souvenir cauldrons. ‘Dabbling in witchcraft was something of a rite of passage in Burning Lake’ and Natalie herself went through ‘a witchy phase’.

Another thing you need to know about Natalie is that she is the youngest of three sisters, and her oldest sister Willow Lockhart was brutally murdered twenty years ago at the age of 18, stabbed 27 times. The perpetrator was quickly arrested and sentenced for life, although he continues to maintain his innocence. The tragedy marked the remaining two sisters and their parents. Their mother never wanted to have more than one child, so having lost her favourite daughter destroyed her world and her will for living. Natalie’s father was more even in his affections. He was a police officer and often left little puzzles and mysteries for Natalie to solve. He noticed she had an inquisitive mind and a stubborn streak, and tried to teach her everything he knew about his work and life.

A secret is like a magic mirror, with endless layers of illusion. What you assume to be a fact isn’t always real.

Trace of Evil focuses on two interwoven cases. The first one is called The Missing Nine and is a group of cold cases that involved mysterious disappearings of transients, homeless people and troubled teenagers over a long period of time. Any new detective in BLPD is asked to give these files a fresh look, although nobody expects a major breakthrough: there is too little reliable information to go on. The second case is the murder of  a school teacher and Natalie’s sister’s best friend Daisy Buckner, who also happened to be the wife of one of the detectives in BLPD.
I’m not going to give away the story. Suffice it to say, the story kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending was quite unexpected. There is also a touch of burgeoning romance with an old childhood friend, which is, I hope, going to develop in the following books.

I liked Natalie for her tenacity and her courage, which I define as acting in spite of fear. She is a kind person, respectful of other people’s boundaries and need for autonomy, and a fantastically supportive sister and aunt. The cases in this book were very personal for Natalie for a variety of reasons, but I would like to see how Natalie’s character evolves in the light of other experiences.

The writing was absolutely compelling, there was depth and beauty in the descriptions, which made it really difficult for me to put down the book – I needed to read it from cover to cover.

My only regret is that I did not read this book in October- with it’s dark and slightly creepy atmosphere, it would have made an excellent choice for the Halloween month.
I will definitely be looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Minotaur books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Trace of Evil or is it on your tbr?

Can’t-wait-Wednesday # Big lies in a small town by Diane Chamberlain

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you’re continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

The book I am waiting for on this Wednesday is:

From the official synopsis:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

*****

Publisher: St.Martin’s Press

Expected Publication Date: January 14th 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

*****

I haven’t read any books by Diane Chamberlaine- something I intend to correct with this book. The blurb had me intrigued. It sounds like the story is going to touch on some serious and thought-provoking issues.

Have you read Big Lies in a Small Town or is it on your tbr? If yes, do you recommend it?

Have you read any other books by Diane Chamberlaine?

#Book Review #A Cowboy Like You by Donna Grant (Heart of Texas #4)


Danny Oldman, the handsome Lone Star sheriff, is still single. He tells himself, and anyone who asks, that he is married to his job―and what matters most is keeping the people of his beloved Texas hometown safe. The truth? Danny still hasn’t gotten over his high school crush. She moved away after graduation and took Danny’s heart with her.

Skylar Long never thought she would have to flee Houston and return home―where it all began for her. But that’s what happened after the man of her dreams turned out to be an actual nightmare. Now, Skylar is desperate to escape her obsessive boyfriend. Nothing shocks her more than seeing Danny again and realizing that their long-ago attraction is more powerful than ever. But can she and Danny find a way to fight against Skylar’s wealthy, powerful ex who is dead set on tearing them apart?

(From the book blurb)

My thoughts:

Danny Oldman may hide his loneliness behind his even temper and cheerful smiles, but his friends know he seems to spend an awful lot of time either working or staying at home and hasn’t had a date in a long time. Danny lives for his job and does it really well, but all these years of working as a police officer and sheriff have left him feeling sad and lonely. He knows he has been drinking more and more just to get through the night and it can’t be good. On some nights he just gets a takeaway and eats it quietly in his car, not in a mood to talk to anybody. This is how Danny happens to witness a woman trying to run away from an abusive husband or boyfriend who catches up with her and drags her out of the car by hair. When Danny intervenes, he is just doing the right thing, as a sheriff and a decent man, as, hopefully, anybody would. The woman gratefully acknowledges his help and admits that she has tried and failed to escape before, but this time she also has a concealed gun with a permit. Who knows how the night might have ended, had Danny not arrested Matt Gaudet.

Danny knows cases like these are not easy and far from being over with the arrest. First of all, Skylar will have to prove what has been happening, and even if she manages to do so (victims of domestic abuse rarely report or document this crime), the perpetrator might still get away with a minimum punishment, while Skylar will have to uproot all her life, trying to find a place where she can feel safe. At least, Danny can help her with this, by taking her to his friends’ ranch. Danny and Skylar went to the same school and he even had a crush on her, but she always had big dreams and it was clear she’d leave their small town in search of something bigger.

When Matt Gaudet’s lawyer gets him out on a $500 bail and threatens Danny, insinuating that the arrest was a set up, Danny finds out that Matt comes from one of the richest and most powerful families in Texas. He also knows he has to help Skylar.

Fans of Donna Grant will be delighted with this continuation of the Heart of Texas series. There is something comforting in coming back to the same setting and finding out how the familiar characters continue living their lives. If you are new to the series, you might still find yourself charmed by the setting and the cast. Danny Oldman is a good man who knows right from wrong and who is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in (swoon) and it seems that he has almost been waiting for Skylar to come back into his life, because she is The One for him (double swoon). Skylar is trying to work out ho how to get her own life back without putting other people in danger. A romance between them is a predictable, but sweet story of second chances, and it is difficult to resist the charm of this trope. There is a lot of drama-any true love needs to overcome obstacles- and there is a Happily Ever After, of course, which makes this book so suited for this season when we tend to focus on love, family, and hope for new beginnings.


Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s paperbacks for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read any books by Donna Grant? Are you familiar with this series?
  • Do you enjoy reading stories with the second chance love trope?
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