Book Review: FIND ME by Alafair Burke

FIND ME by Alafair Burke Book CoverFind Me by Alafair Burke
ISBN: 9780062853363 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062853387 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062985019 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0876GPJGF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08728FV3Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction | Suspense Thriller | Psychological Thriller

The disappearance of a young woman leaves her closest friend reeling and an NYPD homicide detective digging into her own past in this thrilling mystery full of twists from the New York Times bestselling author of The Better Sister and The Wife.

Some pasts won’t stay forgotten . . .

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind—or been running from. Now, fifteen years later, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.

Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a new beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace—the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.

With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death twenty years earlier—and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

 
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A woman with no sense of a past decides, after 15 years in a small town, to move on with her life. Hope Miller survived a car accident but has no idea where she came from or even who she was before the accident. She’s been dealing with amnesia for 15 years. The woman that discovered the accident scene is now Hope’s best friend. Hope decides to move from New Jersey to the Hamptons in New York. She has no driver’s license, no social security number, and doesn’t officially exist due to her amnesia. She finds a kind landlord willing to rent to her without documentation, as well as an employer willing to hire her and pay her in cash. Then Hope disappears. Her friend, Lindsay Kelly, is determined to find her no matter what. Little does Lindsay know that her “investigation” will open the proverbial “Pandora’s box” linking Hope’s past to murder. Sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past…or is it?

Folks, as soon as I read about this book with the amnesia hook and featured character Ellie Hatcher, I knew it had to be a book on my MBR (must be read) list. It has been a few years since I read any books in the Ellie Hatcher series. I enjoyed the books I had read and definitely wanted to find out what’s happening now! I found Find Me to be a bit of a slow read at first, but when it picked up, it picked up with a bang. This story incorporated amnesia, murders (past and present), possible blackmail, secret love, and more. The more Ms. Burke revealed about Hope Miller, the more it was possible to see just how her past was intimately linked to Ellie Hatcher’s past. (No, I’m not going to tell you how. Read the book to find out for yourself!) There are plenty of twists and turns in Lyndsay Kelly’s investigation into the disappearance of her friend, Hope Miller. Some of those twists bring in Ellie Hatcher and her brother. The more Lyndsay discovers, the more she realizes that perhaps she didn’t know Hope as well as she had thought. But is it ever possible to know everything about another person? The tension in this story gradually builds and continued even after several unbelievable reveals. For those of you that have read anything by Ms. Burke or if you’re into suspense thrillers, then I encourage you to grab a copy of Find Me. I have a feeling that I’ll be re-reading the Ellie Hatcher series just so I have an excuse (not really needed, but…) Find Me. If you do grab a copy of this book, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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 349: CITY OF TIME AND MAGIC by Paula Brackston

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

 
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Xanthe Westlake no longer only has Harley to rely upon when finding lost things that sing to her. She has confided her talents to step through time to her mother, Flora, and her boyfriend, Liam. The third book of this series, The Garden of Promises and Lies ended with Xanthe traveling back in time with Liam. Unfortunately, Liam was snatched from her when they attempted to return to their own time. Now Xanthe, Harley, and Flora are eager to find something that not only sings to Xanthe but will take her back to the right time to rescue Liam. Xanthe’s past travels haven’t been without danger, especially in the form Benedict Fairfax, another time spinner. But this time she has to deal with dangers that not affect those of that time period, but her loved ones as well. Is Liam safe? Where is he? How is he? What dangers, if any, are awaiting Xanthe back in time? And what would motivate another time spinner to snatch Liam in an effort to obtain Xanthe’s attention?

If you’ve been following me for any time now, you know beyond any reasonable doubt that I re-read the previous books in this series—Little Shop of Found Things, Secrets of the Chocolate House, and The Garden of Promises and Lies—to re-familiarize myself (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), before reading City of Time and Magic. Just as the third book in this series was a bit different from the first two, this book reintroduces us to Elizabeth (Hawksmith) Balmoral, originally introduced in The Witch’s Daughter, as well as Mistress Lydia Flyte, Erasmus Balmoral — a time stepper, former lover to Lydia Flyte and now married to Elizabeth Hawksmith, Dougal Harley — publican, neighbor to Flora and Xanthe, and Xanthe’s “advisor.” We’re also introduced to a host of other characters that play major and minor roles within the story, including more time spinners. This particular chapter of Xanthe’s ongoing saga, she must not only right a wrong from the past, but she also to choose the side of the righteous spinners. Her choice will have repercussions on her friends and acquaintances from the past as well as her contemporary loved ones. Does she have to battle evil again, well you’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself!

Reading City of Time and Magic took me a bit longer than normal, not because I found in uninteresting but because of a variety of family trials (elderly parental health issues and a death in the family). I was simply unable to focus my attention on reading for a few days because of these situations. However, once I began to re-read this book, I was enraptured and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between Liam and Mistress Flyte, Liam and the Balmorals, as well as Harley with everyone else. Yes, Harley gets to travel back in time to assist Xanthe. Xanthe, Liam, and Harley make quite the team in this story and although I can’t tell you more about what happens, I sincerely hope that they will have more adventures in the future, especially with Elizabeth Hawksmith Balmoral! Can you tell I enjoyed this story? City of Time and Magic has hints of romance, intrigue, magic, betrayal, and more. I can’t say that this is the best book in the Found Series because I love them all. I can say that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of City of Time and Magic to read. This author provides the reader with fascinating glimpses of the past and usage of past items when compared to contemporary times. The juxtaposition of the timelines is just one of the many things that make this series so enjoyable, at least to this reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, bits of fantasy, or just plain good writing, then I encourage you to read this series, consider it a gift to yourself for the holiday season! Something tells me I’ll be getting all four books for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 87 & 307: THE PASSING STORM by Christine Nolfi

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713592433 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary Fiction | Women’s Fiction

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

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Small towns seem to have a lot of similarities across the world. Neighbors think they know everything about every person in the community and often make judgments based on what they see and think they know. The town where Rae Langdon and Quinn Galecki live fits this definition (as it is in most small towns). Quinn is judged based on who his parents are and their behavior rather than who he is as an individual. Rae Langdon is very aware of being judged by those in her community as she’s a single mother and never revealed who fathered her child. The judgment calls made by others in small community can be emotionally and physically taxing for even the strongest person to endure, add in keeping devastating personal secrets and it can be even more burdensome. Although Rae is dealing with some heavy emotions, she has fallen into the trap of judging Quinn and finding him lacking, or at least she was until she got to know him a bit better. Her opinion changes and her family quickly grows with the addition of Quinn to her household. This addition is not without misunderstandings and emotional turmoil.

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi is an amazing read. I’ve found it to be totally engrossing from the first page to the very last on both my initial read and during my recent re-read. This book could be categorized as women’s fiction and/or family fiction, I simply classify it as a darn good read. The characters are not only realistic but are realistically flawed. The action is wholly believable. The Passing Storm deals with plenty of different themes and some are incredibly weighty, such as abuse (sexual, emotional, and psychological). Ms. Nolfi has crafted a story that deals with these issues in a skillful manner, not minimizing the impact in anyway, but presenting them with deference and respect for the victims without trivializing their experiences or discussing them in a manner that could be construed as traumatizing for the reader. Some of the other themes presented are keeping secrets (from family and dear friends), forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family (those we are born into and those we choose). Needless to say, there’s a lot more happening in this story than the little I’ve revealed. I was incredibly excited to learn that The Passing Storm was being offered as one of the Prime Reads choices by Amazon for the month of October. Yes, I already had a digital review copy to read, but I grabbed a digital copy of this book via Prime Reads and have a print copy pre-ordered to give to my almost 87-y.o. mother (her birthday is November 1st). If you’ve read any titles by Ms. Nolfi in the past, you probably already have this book pre-ordered. If you don’t I suggest you do so ASAP. Seriously people, I can’t recommend this book enough to you. There may be a few tear-filled moments while you read, but the story is one that will stay with you for quite some time after reading. What more can you ask from any book?!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 283: THE VANISHED DAYS by Susanna Kearsley

The Vanished Days, The Scottish Series, by Susanna Kearsley
ISBN-10: 1492650161 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781492650164 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728249582 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781492650171 (ebook)
ASIN: B08XM9QJ6T (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: October 5, 2021

I’ve loved every one of Susanna’s books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly’s delicate touch with characters–sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won’t let go!–DIANA GABALDON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

From international bestselling author Susanna Kearsley comes a historical tale of intrigue and revolution in Scotland, where the exile of King James brought plots, machinations, suspicion and untold bravery to light. An investigation of a young widow’s secrets by a man who’s far from objective, leads to a multi-layered tale of adventure, endurance, romance…and the courage to hope.

In the autumn of 1707, old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England. At the same time, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to bring the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger.

Queen Anne’s commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun paying out money sent up from London to settle the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier–an ill-fated venture that left Scotland all but bankrupt.

When the young widow of a Darien sailor comes forward to collect her husband’s wages, her claim is challenged. One of the men assigned to investigate has only days to decide if she’s honest, or if his own feelings are blinding him to the truth.

The Vanished Days is a prequel and companion novel to The Winter Sea, with action that overlaps some of the action in that book. The Vanished Days goes back in time to the 1680s and introduces the reader to the Moray and Graeme families.

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Imagine Scotland in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Now imagine being a young girl, Lilias “Lily” Aitcheson, whose parents have both died and you’ve been sent to work for an area family by her stepmother (no, she’s not an evil stepmother, she’s just struggling to survive with two young children at home). Now imagine that this girl has spent a number of years being treated as an equal to this family’s daughter, but when she hits puberty, the man she’s thought of as a surrogate father makes untoward advances and gives her extra money. This child has grown up hearing about women who take money for sex and these women aren’t treated well by society. The child’s only recourse, or so she feels, is to runaway. She is taken in by another family in a nearby town, but this household is just as corrupt but in a different way. The “father” expects his “children” to participate in various criminal enterprises and the “wife” is a woman who takes money for sex. Lily has a deep fondness for her adoptive brothers and mother, so she makes do of a bad situation. Years later, Lily is reported to be the widow of one James Graeme, is attempting to claim his wages, but the marriage license is suspect. As a favor to a friend, Sergeant Williamson and others are tasked with investigating the claim of this widow. Is it possible for this investigation to uncover the truth considering the “witnesses” to the marriage license are all deceased? Is it possible for the investigation to continue given that Sergeant Williamson has a marked attraction for the lovely widow? Will Lily be branded a liar and a possible forger?

I’ve read everything written by Susanna Kearsley and was quite happy when given the opportunity to read The Vanished Days. I love her incorporation of history with the story (I’ve learned quite a bit about the Jacobites from her books). The characters are always intriguing and realistically flawed in some way. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m reading about fictional characters from 300 years ago, I’m invested in their lives and everything that is occurring within the story. This book was no exception. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the story was narrated from a male character’s perspective. The Vanished Days includes tidbits from American as well as Scottish history. There seem to be multiple story lines happening and it isn’t until the very end that everything becomes clear and the twist is revealed (and it’s a great twist – you’ll have to read the book to discover more). This story deals with politics, treason, crime, child labor, child abuse (in the form of molestation and forced participation in criminal enterprises), emotional abuse, romance, how far one is willing to go to protect loved ones, regrets over days past, and more. One theme that seems to be prevalent is that family isn’t always the one we’re born into but the one we make for ourselves. For those of you that have read anything by Susanna Kearsley in the past, I’m sure this book is already on your TBR list. For those of you that enjoy historical fiction, I suggest you put this on your TBR list ASAP. For those of you that aren’t sure about historical fiction, I suggest you grab a copy of The Vanished Days as well as the sequel The Winter Sea. Together or solo, these books make for great reading. Personally, I can’t wait to reread both The Vanished Days and The Winter Sea. I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Vanished Days as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 250: FORGOTTEN IN DEATH by J. D. Robb

Forgotten In Death, In Death #53, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250272812 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272829 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250810625 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250817662 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08V236NLL (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2KNYVW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 7, 2021

In the latest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas sifts through the wreckage of the past to find a killer.

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change—and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel on litterers and other such offenders is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains—in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing—unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke—not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away…

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There are two things I look forward to each Winter and late Summer/Early Fall, and that’s the new releases in the In Death series. (I look forward to a lot of other books as well, but these books are yearly favorites.) Earlier this year, readers got to continue Eve and Roarke’s story with Faithless In Death. Now, Eve and Roarke continue their romance and crime fighting in the latest addition to this series, Forgotten In Death. This book begins, as most do, with a murder. A sweet, homeless woman is found bludgeoned to death on one of Roarke’s construction sites. Known as the “concerned citizen” due to her habit of writing up infractions of those in the neighborhood and reporting the same to the police, she was truly harmless. Eve’s investigation into this murder has barely begun when she is pulled into another murder, also found on a nearby construction site, and eerily reminiscent of the bodies found in the An Didean shelter a few years ago. This body is found with bullet shells, walled up in a basement, and with a fetus. Adding to the mystery, the body has been on the site for at least forty years. It is quite likely that both murder victims would be considered forgettable, but Eve Dallas isn’t your typical police office and no one is ever forgotten on her watch. Will she be able to locate the killers? Will Eve be able to obtain justice for these victims?

It’s easy to think that too much time has passed on some crimes, such as with the walled up body found on one construction site. Or that the deceased woman thrown into the dumpster on another construction site isn’t worth the time or effort of an in-depth investigation since she was homeless. That might be the prevailing attitude of some today and continue into the future, but for those of us that know and love Eve Dallas, Roarke, and friends, we know that there is no such thing as an unworthy victim. Eve Dallas goes all out to find out the whys and whodunit for both murder victims. It doesn’t matter to her that one woman was homeless or that the other crime occurred almost forty years ago. These women are hers now and Eve will not stop until justice prevails.

I could give you specifics about how the investigation is performed or how the two murders intersect (if they, in fact, intersect), but you already know I’m not going to do that. Yes, there are decidedly predictable elements to this story, but all that aside, I found the story credible and engaging. If it had not been for this current migraine series, I probably would have read this one in one sitting. Sadly, it took me took two days simply because I kept having to set this aside due to pain and vision issues. One of the many things I enjoy about this continuing series, is watching the characters grow in their relationships with one another and on their jobs. We didn’t get to see as much of Feeney in this one, but McNab, Delia, Dr. Mira, Nadine, Cher Reo, Harvo (aka Queen of Hair and Fiber), Dr. Garnet DeWinter, Summerset, Dr. Li Morris, Dickie Berenski, and Commander Whitney make reappearances, as do Baxter, Trueheart, Jenkinson, and others from the Homicide squad. I’m eagerly awaiting future developments with Mavis, Leonardo, Bella, and their new additions (both the baby and the house). There are a lot of themes to unpack in this story, including spousal abuse, classicism, affluenza, privilege, and more. Forgotten In Death is a story of two women, one from the past and one from the present day (okay, Eve and Roarke’s present day), who might otherwise be considered disposable and forgotten due to the perceived privilege of wealth and class of others. We know better and yes, justice ultimately prevails. I enjoyed Forgotten in Death and look forward to seeing what happens next in the ongoing saga of Eve Dallas, Roarke, and friends.


 Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

Guest Post/Review by Savannah Cordova of MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Good day, book people. We’ve made it to the end of another month, yay! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending my days either reading or thinking about what I should read next from my alarmingly huge TBR list. (I know, if I stopped re-reading, I might actually be able to whittle down the TBR list. Hey, let’s not get crazy people!) While I ponder what to read next and get ready to celebrate my youngest brother’s birthday (our birthdays are exactly one week apart minus a bunch of years), I’m pleased to welcome a guest writer/reviewer today. Please help me welcome Savannah Cordova as she provides us a with her review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Thank you, Savannah for stopping by today and providing us this review. I can’t wait to see what your thoughts are on this book.

MEXICAN GOTHIC - SMGarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
ISBN: 9780525620808 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780525620792 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593213865 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07YK1K1YK (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B082TKH2K7 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: June 15, 2021 (Paperback edition)
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Horror | Science Fiction & Fantasy

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

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Mexican Gothic: A Bold Postcolonial Promise That Doesn’t Quite Come Through

Creepy gothic mansion? Check.
Page-turning, thrilling plot? Check.
Confident female protagonist? Check.
Stayed up late to finish it? Cheeeeck.

And yet, for a book that features so many of my favorite literary ingredients, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic fell short of my expectations. Before we examine why, let’s talk about the book’s premise.

Mexican Gothic begins in Mexico, 1950. Noemí Taboada and her father have just received a disturbing letter from Noemí’s cousin Catalina, who has recently married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and gone to live in his family’s mansion in the Mexican mountains. Urged by her father, Noemí heads to the mysterious old house to assess her cousin’s health, understand what prompted her letter, and rescue her if necessary.

Certain key strengths immediately stand out in this novel: the setting of the story, for example, is immaculately realized, rich in detail, and highly immersive in its creepy atmosphere. Similarly, it’s hard not to appreciate the tightly controlled story structure Moreno-Garcia employs. What at first appears to be a realist narrative gradually builds suspense through quietly observed bizarre moments, gaining seriously page-turning momentum and reaching a climax where — if you’ll pardon my language — shit really hits the fan.

Much like a murder mystery, it’s impossible to resist the draw of the book once it gets going, and that takes real skill to accomplish. More than that, the thriller dimension of this book didn’t feel cheaply done, like the author had just thrown in a few random ideas to shock the reader; rather, it felt like a steady, deliberate effort that was successfully horrifying (I won’t give specifics to avoid spoilers, but consider this your trigger warning for body horror and sexual assault).

Returning to the premise of the novel, Mexican Gothic is based on a genuinely cool, exciting concept. Unlike the Gothic classics it evokes (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Yellow Wallpaper all lurk in the shadows), it is written from a postcolonial perspective, and dares to tackle things that Jane Eyre, for example, famously overlooks (though perhaps Moreno-Garcia was inspired by Wide Sargasso Sea). Colorism, racism, and eugenics all come into play in the clashes between Noemí and the Doyle family. Unfortunately, this is where my qualms with the novel begin.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that near its resolution, Mexican Gothic takes a sharp turn toward fantasy, leaving most of its postcolonial dimensions behind — which seemed a shame. The fantasy elements, in contrast to the ideas introduced earlier in the novel, felt rushed and vague, filling me with all sorts of last-minute questions about the world-building and how things worked. So while the novel swept me along with the force of a powerful wave, I did feel a bit like the ending dropped me flat on my back.

Another frustrating thing about this book was its somewhat lazy characterization, especially in comparison to the vivid realization of the setting. I found out an awful lot about Noemí’s fashion choices, for example, but not so much about why she likes what she likes or why she behaves the way she behaves. Similarly, the entire Doyle family, and Catalina, struck me as shockingly flat characters, whose personalities aren’t explored in much depth. There’s a reason the “show, don’t tell” rule exists, and Mexican Gothic is not the book to provide an exception.

Style and dialogue were another distracting issue in this novel. Inconsistently shifting between vaguely dated, formal-sounding language to contemporary informal speech (e.g. Noemí exclaiming “what the fuck?”), the novel failed to convince me that it was set in the mid-century. Instead, it comes across as temporally insecure and adrift between time periods.

In summary, this was a book I wanted to enjoy, and one I read with hungry enthusiasm, but which didn’t quite meet my (admittedly high) expectations. When style is among a book’s weaknesses, it becomes frustrating to read; it’s like you’re persisting in spite of your various issues with the language.

That said, I’d still recommend this book to readers of creepy, thrilling, or suspenseful fiction who don’t mind the occasional stylistic lapse — precisely because it’s a novel that still succeeds in building tension, creeping you out, and thrilling you out to an impressive degree.


Meet the Reviewer

Savannah Cordova headshot newSavannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors self-publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals — and helps aspiring authors with their creative writing so they can get there. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and low fantasy, as well as writing the occasional short story.

2021 Book 133: LEGACY by Nora Roberts

LEGACY by Nora Roberts book cover, water front, possible creek or river, fall foliage with leaves on the ground, and red, wood covered bridge crossing the water in the background

Legacy by Nora Roberts
ISBN: 9781250272935 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272942 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250802378 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250802354 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08H8V21KC (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FGVFNP7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 25, 2021

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a new novel of a mother and a daughter, of ambition and romance, and of a traumatic past reawakened by a terrifying threat…

Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

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Lina Rizzo was a relatively naïve Georgetown college student when she had an affair with a married professor and wound up pregnant. She was told that he was in the process of getting a divorce. He lied. She left school. Had the baby and began a fitness and health company. She never told her daughter, Adrian, the whole truth about her conception other than she fell in love in college and she was the result. Seven years later, Lina, Adrian, and Lina’s best friend as well as Adrian’s nanny — Mimi, are back in Georgetown when the college professor shows up drunk and begins to beat up Mimi, before turning his attention to Adrian and then Lina. Fortunately, Lina fights back and the professor unfortunately dies in what is classified as self-defense. It is that year that Adrian gains her first childhood friend while staying with her maternal grandparents, Dom and Sophia Rizzo in Traveler’s Creek, Maryland. Maya Wells is the daughter of the new cook at Rizzo’s, Jan Wells. Her older brother, Raylan, is a gifted artist whose main interests are comics and graphic novels. A few years later, Adrian is in high school in New York and makes three new friends, Teesha Kirk – who later becomes her business manager, Hector Sung – who becomes her fitness videographer, and Loren Moorhead – who becomes her business lawyer. Meeting Teesha, Hector, and Loren changes Adrian’s life for the better and sets her on the course for the rest of her life, fitness her style. It also introduces her to an anonymous poet that begins to threaten her life and continues to do so for the better part of ten years. Who is this poet and why does he or she want her dead? Will the police or FBI be able to find the anonymous stalker before it’s too late?

Legacy is the latest romantic suspense thriller from the talented Nora Roberts. I’ve got to say that initially I felt that this book had a bit of a “been there, read that” feel to it, but the more I read the more it began to feel different from previous books by this author. Yes, there are some elements from previous books, namely shades of Hideaway with the child of a talented parent discovering their own talent and building their niche, Black Hills with the child of divorce (although Adrian isn’t the child of divorce, her circumstances with her grandparents are quite similar) spending time with the maternal grandparents, and Tribute with the graphic artist theme. Although there are similarities, there are also major differences. Adrian respects and loves her mother as well as adores her maternal grandparents. She also loves spending time in a small town, something her mother never truly enjoyed. Adrian has made life-long friends in both New York and in Traveler’s Creek. She has purposefully made her own path in the fitness industry without trying to use her mother’s influence. Legacy deals with a lot of themes, including friendship, family – those we’re born into and those we choose to make, love, physical abuse, school shootings, mental illness, murder, and warped ideas of vengeance. Yes, there’s a lot happening in this story, but I loved the diversity of the characters, their friendships, and the way they related to one another, as well as the whole small-town vibe (not that I can fully understand it even though I’m from a small town myself). One of the many things I appreciate when reading a Nora Roberts story is that I’ll be sucked into the story by the writing, complex characters, and involved storylines. Legacy is an outstanding addition to the Roberts collection and one I recommend to romance readers or those that enjoy complicated suspense thrillers. Legacy is yet another book going on my to-be-reread pile for the year. I’ll also be ordering a print copy of this one for my 86-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 132: MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson

MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson cover, toy animal carousel laying on the grass

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

ISBN: 9780062855343 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9780062855367 (ebook)

ISBN: 9780063092068 (digital audiobook)

ASIN: B08QDSNDPT (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08FT7MQHH (Kindle edition)

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 6, 2021

 
 

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

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Two women raised by single parents in poverty in rural Georgia had very different life experiences. One went to a state university, married well, and has three beautiful children along with a loving husband. The other lost her scholarship over a scandal, devolved into a spiraling cycle of drugs and crime. Both women are linked from an event that took place over thirty years ago even though they may not know it until the unimaginable happens.

Sabreena “Bree” Kroger Cabbat simply wanted to watch her eldest daughter’s play rehearsal. Her infant son is sleeping, so she leaves him in his car seat and watches. When she turns back around to check on her son, he’s gone and her nightmare begins. A fellow parent and old hometown friend, Marshall Chase, is on hand and takes her daughters to her mother’s for the weekend after claiming a bout with a stomach virus. When he sees her later that evening, he quickly realizes that there is much more going on than a “stomach virus.” A baby is missing. A man is murdered and Bree, her husband, and his deceased law partner – Spencer Shaw seem to be at the center of this problem. Bree, Marshall (a private detective at the law firm where Bree’s husband works), and another lawyer – Gabrielle Baxter, are working as quickly as possible to try and find the perpetrator as well as the possible motives for the kidnapping and murder. When they discover what Robert Cabbat the Third aka Trey — Bree’s husband and his partner Spence did in college it doesn’t justify the actions of the kidnapper/murderer but it does seem to explain it. What would or wouldn’t a mother do to try and protect her child or avenge the damage and injustice done?

Mother May I is more than a story of mothers protecting their children, it’s a story of bad behavior in college and those who ultimately pay for that behavior. When something bad happens, whether it involves star athletes or the wealthy versus a scholarship or student from a poor family, whose version of the story is believed. This is not just a story of “boys will be boys” but of boys doing something that will have repercussions for years. Mother May I deals with many harsh themes including campus sexual assault, drug abuse, workplace sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, and more. Everyone has a story to be revealed but which version is accurate? No, I won’t tell you! This is something you’ll need to discover for yourself by reading this book. I will say that Ms. Jackson has crafted a nuanced story that kept me wondering where it would lead until the final page. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and even felt some empathy for the reasons why the kidnapper/murdered felt compelled to do what was done (trust me, that makes a lot more sense when you read the story). If you enjoy reading taut mystery thrillers with believable characters, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Mother May I. This is one I’m putting on my to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 67: THE LAST STRAW by Sharon Sala

The Last Straw, The Jigsaw Files #4, by Sharon Sala
ISBN: 9780778331995 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778331438 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369705440 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210594 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799959335 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08JH7XP2G (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HV2DD2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: February 23, 2021

Charlie Dodge may be down, but he’s most definitely not out. He’s still reeling after a series of earth-shattering events, so when a desperate woman hires Dodge Investigations to find her missing sister, the head-scratcher of a case is exactly the distraction Charlie and his steadfast partner, Wyrick, need. Two weeks prior, Rachel Dean disappeared without a trace from her locked-from-the-inside Dallas apartment, and every possible trail has gone cold.

Grappling with the fallout of her efforts to dismantle the shadowy organization Universal Theorem, Wyrick throws herself into her investigative work. Charlie knows his partner can handle herself, but when she uncovers a past connection that paints a target on her back, the threat of losing her hits Charlie hard. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep Wyrick safe, but with the clock ticking on a victim they’ve yet to find, it’s only a matter of time before the cold-blooded killer leads them to a deadly end.

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Read an excerpt here.

 
 Readers were introduced to Charlie Dodge of Dodge Investigations and his rather enigmatic, genius associate/partner Jade Wyrick in The Missing Piece. We learned that Charlie is a retired Army Ranger and has been struggling with his wife Annie’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. Wyrick (don’t call her Jade), is a multi-millionaire (possibly a billionaire), has invented and patented numerous creations, created a number of popular video games, and owns and operates numerous businesses in addition to assisting Charlie with his private investigation business. Wyrick is also an accomplished pilot and a breast cancer survivor. She opted to forego breast reconstruction after her double mastectomies and sports an intriguing dragon tattoo that covers her chest, a portion of her back, and upper hips. (Wyrick is a mixture of Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on steroids with a bit of Wonder Woman and a heaping dose of Einstein!) Readers also learned that Wyrick was genetically modified by Universal Theorem or UT and although she worked for UT, she was “fired” after she developed cancer because she was seen as defective. Since she survived her bout with cancer against all odds (actually she cured herself), UT has been willing to do anything to get her back. In Blind Faith, book three in this series, we saw Wyrick and Charlie do the seemingly impossible when they find a missing boy in a national park, uncovered the truth behind’s the boy’s accident, and, in Wyrick’s spare time, she released to the public and law enforcement documentation about all of the illegal and unethical practices of UT.

Now, in book four – The Last Straw, Charlie Dodge is now dealing with the death of his wife whilst Wyrick is dealing with the death of her landlord and only other friend, Arthur Merlin. Merlin has left Wyrick his mansion and all of his wealth (not that Wyrick really needed more money, but she’ll put it to good use). On the personal front, Charlie moves into Wyrick’s home after an attempt is made on her life and she’s injured. Now, in addition to being business partners, Wyrick and Charlie have become roommates. Although Wyrick has been adept at keeping people at great distance by her unusual makeup stylings, flamboyant clothes, and terse manners, Charlie soon learns that she is much softer than even he realized. Charlie becomes Wyrick’s protector in addition to her boss/partner now that a new enemy has shown up, a radical cult fronting as a church that wants Wyrick dead. On the business front, Charlie and Wyrick are dealing with a unique locked-door mystery involving a missing woman, Rachel Dean, and trying to deal with a number of assaults against Wyrick’s life. Can he protect Wyrick against these new enemies? Will he ever learn that she is in love with him? Will he be able to reciprocate given the depth of affection he felt for his now deceased wife? Can they solve the locked-door mystery and find the missing woman before it’s too late?

The Last Straw is the fourth and final book in “The Jigsaw Files” series by Sharon Sala. To say that there’s a lot going on with this story is somewhat of an understatement. First up is the locked-door mystery when the missing woman, Rachel Dean, seemingly vanishes from her locked apartment without a trace. Next is the religious cult trying to kill Wyrick because their leader has decided she must be evil due to her knowledge, skills, and abilities. If that’s not enough, Wyrick is now capable of harnessing her healing energy to heal others as well as herself. When the news of her healing abilities is released, people come out of the woodwork trying to get her to heal their loved ones not caring how this impacts Wyrick’s health in the least. Oh, I forget to mention the press conference. Yes, Wyrick holds a press conference with hopes that it will get the cult to back off. They don’t, so Wyrick has to teach them a lesson they same way she taught UT a lesson. The Last Straw is filled with plenty of horrors, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, torture, murders, and more, but it is also filled with hope, second chances, and love. The Last Straw presents a somewhat kinder, gentler Jade Wyrick that is also able to kick-butt, take names, and make people regret they ever heard about her. Although I can’t give you specifics on each and every thing that occurs in this book, I can tell you that there’s a HEA. So for all of you that enjoy romantic-suspense and if you’ve read The Missing Piece, Second Sight, and Blind Faith, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Last Straw to read. If you haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, I strongly encourage you to grab them all, read them all, and pre-order your copy of The Last Straw. Seriously, people, this is a #mustreadseries! Although I’m sad to see this series end, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of these books and look forward to re-reading them in the near future.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”

2021 Book 52: THE KINDEST LIE by Nancy Johnson

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
ISBN: 9780063005631 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780063005655 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063005662 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0872K2Y82 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B086ZRRYCW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

A promise could betray you.

Its 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

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Read an excerpt here.

 
Ruth Tuttle Shaw is in her late twenties and living her best life in Chicago, Illinois. She has an Ivy-league education, a good job as a chemical engineer, and is married to an amazing, loving, and successful man, Xavier Shaw. They have a wonderful home, a wide circle of friends, and after four years of marriage, her husband is ready to start a family. The only problem is Ruth has never told him about the child she gave up for adoption eleven years earlier. To say that this revelation puts a strain on their marriage is somewhat of an understatement. They quickly go from a major high in celebrating the historic election of the first Black president of the United States to a secret that just might tear their relationship apart. Unsure of how to proceed with Xavier, she decides to head back to Indiana and begin the search for her biological child.

Patrick “Midnight” Boyd, is an eleven-year-old white child living in poverty in Ganton, Indiana. His mother died from preeclampsia when he was seven years old and he currently lives with his maternal grandmother. Midnight has one functional arm due to nerve damage in the other caused by some boys intentionally setting him on fire. His best friend is Corey Cunningham, a Black kid and the primary reason he was set on fire, for defending his friend of a different race. Midnight is unaware of his privilege as a White boy and only sees that Corey has more money and a better home life and family than he does. When he learns that might be sent to live with relatives in Louisiana, his fear of leaving all that he’s known and his jealousy of his friend begin to eat him up. After learning a secret about Corey, that jealousy becomes so overpowering that it just might lead to something neither he nor Corey will be able to come back from in a community that is torn behind poverty and racial animosity.

The Kindest Lie is told in alternating voices of Ruth, a twenty-something Black female and Midnight, a White tween male. The only things they appear to have in common are being raised in near poverty in the same small town. But Ruth’s maternal grandparents and Midnight’s maternal grandparents were actually good friends back in the day. Ruth and her brother were raised by their maternal grandparents and Midnight is being raised by his maternal grandmother. Ruth attempts to befriend Midnight and the two seem to be more different than the same, superficially. However, both are seeking answers to questions about family and love although they are going about in different ways. The Kindest Lie is a story about hope, love, motherhood, family, race relations, secrets, dreams, dreams deferred, as well as the lies we tell ourselves and to others. It’s also a story about what family is willing to do to make some of those dreams come true. For those of you that have read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett or Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Kindest Lie to read. If you’re interested in reading a well-written debut novel that tackles hard questions in a hopeful manner, again, you’ll want to grab a copy of The Kindest Lie to read. This book is one of my #mustread recommendations for 2021.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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.”