Category Archives: #20booksofsummer

#20BooksofSummer: The Club by Ellery Lloyd

The Club

Can we all agree to retire in media res? Or maybe just put it (and the unreliable narrator, for that matter) on the back burner for a couple of years?

Ellery Lloyd’s The Club establishes early that something nefarious has happened on the opening weekend of the exclusive Island Club — the latest in a long line of clubs where the rich and famous play in the lap of luxury. However, exactly who is murdered and why only slowly becomes apparent as the novel fills in a lot of gaps and introduces a lot of characters who have a very good motive to murder Ned Groom, owner and head of the Club, and a lot of other people staying on the island.

An interesting set-up for a locked-room mystery is pretty much squandered by the time we get around to the big reveals of who did what and their motive. The cast of this one is fairly large and each chapter rotates to the viewpoint of various characters with motives to do away with Ned, though it feels like a lot of the middle part of this book is treading water until Ned finally meets his final end (or does he?!? the book will tease).

As intriguing as the early set-up is, the central mystery itself is never quite as interesting as it should be. Part of that is Ned is portrayed as an all-around terrible person who really had it coming from a lot of the people on the island. While the book does try to create sympathy for everyone who comes into Ned’s sphere of influence, Ned himself keeps coming across as a complete jerk and you can see why people might stoop to murdering him. I suppose we don’t have to necessarily love the victim, but if everyone else can get time in the novel to be sympathetic, then so could Ned.

The Club isn’t necessarily one you’ll want to join for long. Try it at your own risk.

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#20BooksofSummer Review: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl

Like tie-in novels from my favorite pop-culture franchises, rom-coms are a great way to distract/entertain myself while working out or completing daily life stuff.

But every once in a while, one of those stories breaks out from the pack and surprises you in the most unexpected of ways. That’s exactly what Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Weather Girl did.

Ari Abrams has achieved her professional dream, working for the woman who inspired her to study meteorology at the station she grew up watching. But this dream isn’t exactly everything Ari hoped it would be since her would-be mentor and her ex-husband, Torrence and Seth Hale, spend more time feuding than they do running the station or mentoring the news staff. After a spectacular blow-out at the office holiday party, Ari and sports anchor Russell Barranger hatch a plot to Parent Trap the Hales back together, in the hopes of allowing the station to become more professional and for them to get the professional encouragement and guidance they crave.

It isn’t long before Ari and Russ begin to see each other as more than just colleagues helping their bosses get together. There’s already an undercurrent of romantic tension, one that slowly builds over the course of the novel.

What makes Weather Girl such a refreshing entry in the rom-com field is that both Ari and Russ have obstacles separately and collectively along the way to “happily ever after.” Ari and her mother are clinically depressed and Ari worries that her depression makes her “too much” for anyone who might find out the truth about her. Russell has a “dad bod” and a 12-year-old daughter who is into musical theater. Oh, and he hasn’t…ahem…dated in five years either.

As each obstacle arises in Ari and Russ’s journey together, the characters actually come together in a mature fashion and discuss the obstacles facing them. And while the truth isn’t necessarily a magic cure nor does telling it instantly fix everything, it’s nice to see characters interacting in a mature, believable fashion to overcome obstacles and not allow them to become bigger than they could or should be.

Even late in the game with a huge obstacle arises, it’s dealt with realistically based on what we’ve learned about the characters to this point.

A sweet, funny, authentic-feeling rom-com is nothing to sneeze at. And this may be why this one has lingered with me a bit after I finished listening to it.

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20 Books of Summer, 2022 Edition

A couple of summers ago, I participated in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge and really enjoyed it. So, when I heard the challenge had continued and was renewed again for this summer, I decided to jump in. And since technically it’s only been a few days since meteorological summer began, I’m only slightly behind, right?

So, here’s what I hope to read this summer (and this could totally change, of course)

  1. Star Wars: Brotherhood by Michael Chen
  2. Phasers on Stun by Ryan Britt
  3. Sparring Partners by John Grisham
  4. Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
  5. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  6. Sparring Partners by John Grisham
  7. Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll by Terrance Dicks
  8. Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  9. Book Worms by Emily Henry (audiobook)
  10. The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
  11. Boom Town by Garrison Keillor
  12. Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  13. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
  14. When She Was Good by Michael Robotham
  15. The Club by Ellery Lloyd
  16. Doctor Who and the Face of Evil by Terrance Dicks (audiobook)
  17. Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
  18. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  19. Birds of California by Katie Cotugno
  20. The Friends Zone by Abby Jimenez (audiobook)

And I’m going to leave myself some wiggle room with a couple of “wild cards” because you never quite know what will catch my eye on the library shelf or the Galley of Nets.

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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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