Category Archives: 20 Books of Summer 2020

Going Outside My Reading Comfort Zone

My wife loves romance novels. So, every once in a while I like to read (or listen to) one or two to understand and share that love with her.

And now, I’ve read three different books that are a bit outside of my usual reading comfort zone and I’ve got a few thoughts….

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry

January Andrews and August Everett have been rivals since their college days. But while January sees Gus on the best-seller list, she never quite expected to run him again.

That is, until, her world comes crashing down around her following the death of her father. Breaking up her long-term boyfriend, rocked by revelations about her dad’s fidelity (or lack thereof), and facing a looming deadline, January retreats to her father’s lakeside cottage to get it ready to sell and hopefully get some writing done. But she didn’t count on the fact that Gus Everett would live right next door. Continue reading

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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue bu V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueNearing her 23rd birthday in a small village, the Addie LaRue of 1714 wants nothing to do with her family’s plans to marry her to a widowed man nearly twice her age. Desperate to escape, Addie calls upon the gods, making a Faustian deal with a devil named Luc.

Addie won’t age. But she also won’t make an impact on the world nor will anyone she interacts with remember who she is. The deal runs out when grows weary and willingly surrenders her soul to Luc. But Addie didn’t count on the immediate heartbreak of her family instantly forgetting her, leaving her without a home and forced to find loopholes to make minor impressions upon the world for the next three hundred years.

Until one day, she wanders into a bookstore and meets Henry. And while stealing a book (Addie gets by stealing a lot of what she needs since people don’t recall her once she’s out of sight), Henry follows her and confronts her, saying the three words she’s been dying to hear for so long — “I remember you.” Continue reading

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Review: The One by John Marrs

The One

Instead of swiping left or right to meet your Match, what if you swabbed the inside of your mouth and got paired with the person who is genetically coded as your ideal match?

For the past decade, Match Your DNA has been doing just that, slowly building up a database of potential matches and pairing couples together. And while there has been a rise in successful marriages, there have also been side effects to pairings from discrimination against those who aren’t matched yet to the breaking up of long-term relationships when the results reveal that they aren’t genetically meant to be.

John Marrs’ The One explores the lives of five people who have all recently received their results and the impact — both expected and unexpected — it has on their lives.

Cycling between each character, chapters are short, impactful, and always leave you wanting to come back and find out what will happen next to each character, though I will admit some of the story lines grabbed my attention with more urgency than others. The most intriguing is Christopher, a serial killer who is using another dating app to choose his next victim and working toward thirty victims. Into his life comes Amy, who it turns out is a policewoman investigating the series of murders that Christopher if committing. The give and take as Christopher tries to reach his deadline while balancing his relationship with Amy makes for some of The One‘s most intriguing and compelling moments.

We also meet Nick, who is happily engaged to Sally until his results reveal his match is a man named Alex. Then there’s Elle, a successful businesswoman who hasn’t really connected with anyone in her past but has just paired with a new man who might just sweep her off her feet. There’s also a woman who’s match is dead but she connects with his family, to the point that she’s willing to go to extraordinary lengths to make a connection and the woman who travels across the world to find out her match isn’t what was advertised.

Marrs juggles all of our various characters in a clever, entertaining fashion, giving us one development or revelation per chapter to set the hook and then keep you wanting to come back for more. However, the later the novel goes, some of the twists feel a bit like piling on or having anther twist for the sake of having another one. Of the five stories, I found Christopher and Elle’s the most intriguing and I will give Marrs credit that he doesn’t give in to the temptation to have all these stories intersect at some point.

I also see that this novel has been picked up a series for Netflix. Given the episodic nature of each chapter, adapting it into a compelling series designed for binge-watching should be a straight-forward affair and I have to admit I’m looking forward to seeing it.

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Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-LawWhen Lucy’s mother passed away while she was a girl, Lucy hoped that someday she’d find a mother/daughter bond with her future mother-in-law. But that kind of bond has never really materialized with Diana, who keeps her children at arm’s length and wants to make sure that each of them can stand on their own in this world.

So, when Diana passes away suddenly under potentially suspicious circumstances, each member of her family has a really good motive.

Less a murder mystery and more a domestic thriller, Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law is a character study of both Lucy and Diana. Told in alternating viewpoints and at various points in their lives of both Lucy and Diana, Hepworth takes time to give us the perspective of all the parties involved and help us to understand their motivations. Several of Diana’s children see her desire for them to stand on their own two feet as a punishment or her being vindictive. But, instead, we are allowed inside Diana’s world to understand how her helping those less fortunate or not allowed the same opportunities as her family has brought her to the point of wanting her children to stand on their own for both good and bad.

And while the stakes aren’t necessarily high ones, they are still compelling ones, especially when the kids find out that Diana has changed her will and that her death won’t be the easy “get of jail free” card some of them were hoping for (or counting on).

A compelling thriller with some great character study, The Mother-in-Law is a very different kind of domestic suspense page turner.

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Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa

With cover blurbs from Stephen King and Gillian Flynn and solid on-line buzz from a variety of reviewers, my expectations for Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel, My Dark Vanessa may have been a bit lofty.

Vanessa met Jacob Strane when she was in her teens and he was in his early thirties. At first, Vanessa found the fact that he was twice as old as she was a novelty, something to ponder to herself as she went through life at a private girl’s school. Estranged from her only friend during her first year over a conflict over a guy, Vanessa falls under Strane’s influence and is slowly manipulated into a relationship with the older man. And yet, despite all of Strane’s abuses (and there are many), Vanessa staunchly refuses to see herself as a victim — even years later as Strane’s pattern of behavior becomes public and more and more victims began to go public with their stories. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallero and Emily Henry

Hello GirlsLucille Price and Wynona Olsen met the night they headed to the local police station to turn in various family members for a variety of crimes. Realizing that going to the cops will probably make things far worse than better, the duo decides to head for a local dive-bar that won’t look too closely at their fake IDs for a few G&Ts.

That night a new friendship is born. Each girl has someone (or multiple someones) they want to escape from. Wynona’s is her controlling father, the popular, enigmatic weatherman Stormy Olson. Stormy keeps Wynona on a short leash, saying he’s saving her from becoming like her drug-addicted mother who passed away a decade ago. Stormy cultivates an image of the perfect family and life, all while abusing Wynona and keeping her rich grandfather carefully under his thumb. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite MatineeDelia’s dad vanished from her life just after her eighth birthday, leaving behind a love of b-grade horror movies and a plethora of nagging questions. He also left stacks of VHS tapes with the horror films.

With her best friend Josie, Delia shares the horror films on their hit public access show, Midnite Matinee using the alter egos Rayne Ravencroft and Deliah Darkwood.

As they graduate from high school, both girls face questions about their future. Josie wants to pursue a career in television but is juggling options from staying in Jackson to do the show with Delia and an internship with the Food Network while attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Josie’s also got a new romance with Lawson, a burgeoning MMA fighter who distressingly (to Josie) counts pancakes as his favorite food. Delia struggles with feelings that everyone she loves abandons her and with what to do with the information she’s paid a private investigator to track down about her father.

The solution to many of these problems could come at the annual Shudder-Con in Orlando, Florida if the two can find a way to attend. Continue reading

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July Reading Wrap-Up

We’re in the home-stretch for 2020!  Here’s what I read last month.

And yes, I know one of my photos above has two books in it that I haven’t quite finished yet.   I got a bit too zealous in the photo taking.

Physical Books

  1.  I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  2. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
  3. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
  4. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
  5. The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

Ebooks:

  1.  A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
  2. Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone
  3. The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michelle Campbell

Audiobooks:

  1.  Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks by Eric Saward
  2. Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher
  3. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

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Audiobook Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

The Rest of the StoryEmma Saylor expected the three weeks following her father’s wedding to be filled with lazy days by the pool with one of her best friends, Gretchen, trying to catch the eye of cute twin-brother lifeguards. But a health emergency in Gretchen’s family leaves Emma and her father scrambling to find somewhere she can stay (their new house is under constructions and her Nana’s apartment is being renovated).

The last place Emma Saylor expected to land was North Lake, the area her mother grew up. Divorced from her father a decade ago and then overdose five years later, Emma has always felt a bit of a hole in her life when it comes to knowing who her mother was and where she came from.

Could three weeks give her some answers or possibly begin to fill in The Rest of the Story? Continue reading

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Review: Camino Winds by John Grisham

Camino Winds (Camino Island #2)John Grisham rarely writes sequels or follow-up novels. But given how wacky 2020 has been so far, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that Grisham is giving us not one but two sequels this year.

Camino Winds revisits the book-central world of Camino Island and bookstore owner Bruce Cable. As a hurricane bears down on the island, most of the residents flee but a few hearty souls stay on the island. Apparently, a hurricane is an ideal setting for a nearly perfect murder. That’s exactly what happens early on in the story and then things slowly begin to spiral out of control as Bruce attempts to solve the mystery.

As with all things Grisham, there is more going on here than meets the eye. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but I couldn’t help but feel as if Camino Winds existed on island time.

Nelson Kerr is one of the authors that regularly participates in Bruce’s writer dinners on the island. The author of four novels that sold well (this book, like <i>Camino Island</i> pulls back the curtain a bit on the writing industry), and he’s working on his fifth. His latest centers on nursing home fraud and how patients’ lives are possibly being extended for billions of dollars in federal government payments. Nelson’s fiction may have hit too close to home and he’s suddenly the target of several large corporations who want to keep this cash-cow going.

As with a lot of recent Grisham, you do have to wade through a few passages intended to sway you into thinking whatever social injustice is taking place is the worst thing ever and how we could or should be taking steps to fight against it. In a related note, I’m finding it easier to skim these to get back to why I’m here — to have some type of resolution to the central mystery.

If your usual expectation of Grisham is a pulse-pounding, page-turner, odds are you’re going to be disappointed by this one. If you’re looking for a laid back, summer mystery read that is character-driven and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, give this one a try.

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