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.”

2021 Book 42: WILD RAIN by Beverly Jenkins

Wild Rain, Women Who Dare #2, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861719 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780063075153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062861726 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861733 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZTVKBPW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZP1NLD8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021

The second novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new Women Who Dare series follows a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War.

A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister, Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met.

But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love?

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Read an excerpt here.
 
 I was rather late in discovering Beverly Jenkins, but when I did I rapidly devoured every title of hers I could find. I’m a huge fan of her contemporary fiction the “Blessings” series (and it’s being developed into a television show). But I was introduced to her via her historical fiction and I reread all of them every year. (Yes, you read that correctly. I re-read all of her historical fiction titles every year!) I kicked off this year by re-reading her “Old West” series, and I’m glad I did because book three of that series introduced us to the Lees of Wyoming, Dr. Colton Lee, his sister, Spring Lee, and their cantankerous grandfather, Lee. Although it wasn’t necessary to read Tempest before reading Wild Rain, it helped to refresh my memory a bit. (Hey, you try reading 450+ books a year and see if you can remember all of the details of every book read!)

Wild Rain is the second book in the Women Who Dare series and the action takes place a few months after Tempest ended. Tempest featured Colton Lee and his relationship with his wife, Regan Carmichael Lee. Wild Rain centers on Spring Lee, her developing relationship with Garrett McCray, a reporter from the East trying to help his father’s sundown newspaper survive by bringing in stories of intriguing people of color from the US territories, namely Dr. Colton Lee. However, once Garrett McCray arrives in Wyoming territory, he finds that he is ill-prepared for riding horseback most of the day, days filled with snow, and his encounters with the unique Spring Rain Lee. Spring winds up saving Garrett on numerous occasions and introduces him to the folks in and around Paradise. Just when it seems as if Garrett is beginning to acclimate himself to life in Paradise and spending time with Spring, someone from her past makes an appearance in town and revives stories that belittle and demean her as a woman of worth. Can Garrett accept his attraction to a woman willing to stand up for herself and go against the norms of the time or will he succumb to his family wishes and return to D.C. and a life filled with constraints?

Although I had been looking forward to the next installment in the Women Who Dare series by Beverly Jenkins, I had no idea it was centered on a character from a previous book. Yes, I should have known and would have known if I had just read the synopsis. But all I saw was a new Beverly Jenkins book, historical fiction, and it was “hey, count me in!” Readers were introduced to a bit of Spring Lee’s backstory in the book Tempest, but Ms. Jenkins provides quite a bit more in Wild Rain. We’re also provided more information about Colton and Spring’s paternal grandmother, and parents. It was quite nice getting to know more about Spring and her family heritage and it helped to explain why she made the decisions made in the past and why she lives as she does in the present. To say that Spring had a bit of a harsh upbringing after her parents’ death would be a major understatement and most of that rests with her paternal grandfather, Ben. Garrett McCray was an interesting male protagonist. He was a former slave, former sailor during the Civil War, a skilled carpenter, and a reporter for a sundown newspaper (a newspaper that people worked on part-time basis after they worked their full-time jobs, usually after the sun went down). Initially, Garrett was taken aback by Spring’s lack of a male guardian, the fact that she owned and operated her own ranch, wore what he considered male clothing meaning denims, and went into saloons, but he grows to respect and love her for exactly who she is. Ms. Jenkins always provides interesting tidbits of Black American history in her fiction and her books usually feature an author’s note at the end with a list of suggested reading (just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading her books). Wild Rain is a romance so of course it has a HEA, but you’ll need to read it to find out how the couple arrives at their “Happy Ever After.” There’s plenty of drama and even trauma before they get there. If you’ve read Tempest, then you’ll definitely want to read Wild Rain. If you read Rebel, book 1 in the Women Who Dare series, then you should grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. If you enjoy reading historical romance or simply well-crafted romance, then I suggest you grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. For all you Ms. Bevy fans, I don’t have to tell you anything because I know you already have this one on your TBR list or you’ve pre-ordered it. I’ll be ordering a print copy to give to my 86-y.o. mother now that I have her hooked on reading Ms. Bevy’s books. Hope you enjoy reading this one 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 37: FAITHLESS IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

Faithless In Death, In Death #52, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250272744 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272751 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250787828 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250787859 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B0889FH56N (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B086ZXF6MR (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 9, 2021

In the new Eve Dallas police thriller from #1 New York Times-bestselling author J. D. Robb, what looked like a lover’s quarrel turned fatal has larger—and more terrifying—motives behind it…

The scene in the West Village studio appears to be classic crime-of-passion: two wineglasses by the bed, music playing, and a young sculptor named Ariel Byrd with the back of her head bashed in. But when Dallas tracks down the wealthy Upper East Side woman who called 911, the details don’t add up. Gwen Huffman is wealthy, elegant, comforted by her handsome fiancé as she sheds tears over the trauma of finding the body—but why did it take an hour to report it? And why is she lying about little things?

As Eve and her team look into Gwen, her past, and the people around her, they find that the lies are about more than murder. As with sculpture, they need to chip away at the layers of deception to find the shape within—and soon they’re getting the FBI involved in a case that involves a sinister, fanatical group and a stunning criminal conspiracy.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

One of the many things I look forward to at the beginning of each year are the new releases in the In Death series as well as other books by favorite authors. Faithless In Death picks up with Eve doing paperwork after the Cobbe event Shadows in Death and, of course, there’s a new murder. Her witness is a liar and also has ties to one of the patrol officers in Eve’s division. Eve and Delia quickly discern that their witness is not only a liar but someone that tries to manipulate others to get her way and the sole reason why is for monetary gain. Her parents will stipulate she must marry a Caucasian male and have a child in order to inherit her trust fund before age 35 or she’s cut off completely. The only problem with that stipulation is that she’s a lesbian and her fiance is completely clueless. One would hope that by 2061, such petty things as racial prejudice, prejudice against sexual orientation, and notions of racial superiority would have died out. But in this fictional world (and something tells me in the real world as well), these prejudices are alive and well. It begins with the murder of a multiracial, lesbian artist and the alibi by the witness leads Eve Dallas and her trusty sidekick, Delia Peabody, along with Eve’s uber-wealthy husband, Roarke, into the shadowy world of what can only be called an alt-right, ultra-conservative, white supremacists religious organization called the Natural Order. The group graciously allows people of inferior birth, i.e., lower races to join, but keeps them segregated and forces them to wear color-coded clothing to ensure they remain separated. Women are considered inferior to men and good for only one thing, childbearing and are forced to do so, if necessary. One murder uncovers a plethora of evil by this group and Eve, the New York Police and Safety Department, the FBI, Interpol, and Homeland Security and are all working diligently to shut it down as quickly as possible so that none of the leaders are able to get away without being duly charged for their crimes.

As with most of the In Death stories, there’s a lot of action going on in this story. I was happy to see a brief appearance of Mavis, Leonardo, and Bella (y’all, they bought a house!). Nadine reappears in this story although not as prominently as in the past, as does Dr. Mira. However, Feeney, McNab, are all duly noted throughout the story. As previously mentioned, Faithless In Death features a lot of action, namely murder, spousal abuse, child abuse (although not directly seen), rape is mentioned as is drug abuse and suicide, embezzlement, forced sexual re-orientation therapy, forced marriage, trafficking, cults, and more. There were definitely some dark elements to this story, but not as dark as some of the previous stories. I felt that Ms. Robb presented the story in a respectful manner yet stayed true to the themes being presented, and that is often difficult to do when dealing with stories of abuse. This story was much more about the case than it was about the people doing the investigation and perhaps that’s because we’ve become so invested in these characters, they feel like family after 50+ books. I enjoyed reading Faithless In Death and recommend it to anyone that’s read and enjoyed this series. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Eve Dallas, Roarke, Delia Peabody, Ian McNab, etc.
 

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 15: DEEP INTO THE DARK by P. J. Tracy

Deep Into The Dark, Detective Margaret Nolan #1, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250754943 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250783578 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250790071 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B088ML1NXZ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKL7N6K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.

But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.

Set in an LA where real people live and work—not the superficial LA of Beverly Hills or the gritty underbelly of the city—Deep into the Dark features two really engaging, dynamic main characters and explores the nature of obsession, revenge, and grief.

P. J. Tracy is known for her “fast, fresh, and funny” characters (Harlan Coben) and her “sizzling” plots (People); the Monkeewrench series was her first, set in Minneapolis and co-written with her mother. Now with Deep into the Dark she’s on her own—and it’s a home run.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | AudiobooksNow | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt by clicking here.

Good day, book people. I know some of you struggled with reading during 2020, but it was a banner year for me. Although I’m a bit ahead of my reading schedule for 2021, I’ve been struggling with my reading for the past few days. This is partially due to renewed tech device issues (yes, I killed another tablet and then I had to wait for the new tablet to arrive, set it up, and transfer most of my 9700+ ebooks to said new device; apparently tablets aren’t designed to be used 15+ hours/day. Who knew?!) and a series of severe migraine headaches. As a result, it took me several days to get into Deep Into the Dark. I struggled with the first perhaps 15-20% of the book (it’s difficult to provide page numbers when I’m reading a digital review copy and only see percent read, sorry) and that took the better part of the first two days. Perhaps my inability to read it in one sitting was due to the frustration over tech device issues (I had numerous issues with one reading app and it gave me nightmares after installing the app, attempting to download some of the 4100+ titles owned via this company, then removing/reinstalling it several times before it actually worked and allowed me to download anything, whew!). Then again, it might have been due to the severe pain from the migraine headaches. I can’t say for sure what the cause was but once I made it past the 20% mark, I was hooked on this story. I needed to learn more about Sam Easton and Melody Traeger and their dark places and pasts. I needed to know more about the police investigation into the serial murders and then the murders linked to Sam and Melody. I simply needed to know more.

I’ve read all of the Monkeewrench series by P.J. Tracy and was looking forward to reading the start of this new series. Although Deep Into the Dark got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, I’m hooked. I enjoyed the twists and turns the multiple storylines took. I enjoyed the friendship and similarities between Sam and Melody in terms of their past traumas and shared current experiences. I liked Margaret Nolan and the only drawback, if any, is that I didn’t feel that I got to know her as much as I got to know Sam and Melody. All of the primary characters are realistically flawed and quite human rather than caricatures or stereotypes. The action within the story was believable and the secondary characters were just as relatable and realistic as the primary characters. Deep Into the Dark is a psychological thriller with several mystery storylines happening, and also introduces characters dealing with marital separation, marital infidelity, post-traumatic stress disorder, continued drug recovery, attempts at alcohol recovery, physical abuse, survivor guilt, and murder. Ms. Tracy provides the reader with just enough information about the twin mysteries to keep you guessing until the bitter end. I can’t reveal any more without revealing too much, but if you have read the Monkeewrench series, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark. For those of you that enjoy psychological thrillers filled with plenty of dark twists, then I suggest you grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark as well. If you’re not sure about psychological thrillers but just want something a bit out of your comfort zone to read this year, then please add Deep Into the Dark to your TBR list, it won’t disappoint. For now, I’m patiently awaiting the next release in this series and, who knows, perhaps I’ll be re-reading Deep Into the Dark while I wait.

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 3: THE FORTUNATE ONES by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

ISBN: 9781616206802 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9781643751078 (ebook)

ISBN: 9781649040237 (audiobook)

ISBN: 9781664709461 (audiobook on CD)

ASIN: B08QXZMS9Q (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08519FF6Z (Kindle edition)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Release Date: January 5, 2021

The Fortunate Ones feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one. Tarkington’s understanding of the human heart and mind is deep, wise, and uncommonly empathetic. As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next.” —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.

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The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington has been called a contemporary The Great Gatsby, and I can definitely see the similarities. Charlie Boykin is definitely from the “have nots” and the wrong-side of town according to those in the know in Nashville society. His life changes, possibly for the better and then again maybe not, when he is provided a scholarship to an elite all-boys school and is befriended by Archer Creigh. Over the course of Charlie’s high school career, he eventually moves away from the wrong-side of town when his mother is offered a job as a personal assistant to a wealthy society matron. That move changes Charlie’s life forever. It isn’t just the disparity between the haves and the have-nots that shakes Charlie up, it’s the “affluenza” and, for lack of a better phrase, “white privilege” that he bears witness to that finally pushes him away from his family and friends permanently.

I’m going to go out a limb here and say that I didn’t really like The Great Gatsby, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Fortunate Ones. I liked the way Mr. Tarkington told the story, in almost a flashback mode, by taking us from Charlie’s present life to his past and then brought us back to the present. Although Charlie is the focal point of the story, the reader gets to know all of the secondary characters through Charlie’s eyes. I enjoyed reading about his friendships in high school, his return to Nashville in his late 20s, and his final departure from the life he knew but grew to despise. There’s a lot to take in with this story, including: class, racism, closeted homosexuality, mental illness, suicide, marital infidelity, affluenza/white privilege, love, the psychological toll of trying to be something and someone you’re not, loyalty, and more. Mr. Tarkington has crafted a coming-of-age story that pulled this reader in from the first chapter until the very end. For those of you that actually enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby and are interested in a modern retelling, then I highly recommend The Fortunate Ones. For those that are like me and didn’t exactly care for The Great Gatsby or didn’t read it, I still encourage you to grab a copy of The Fortunate Ones to read. This is my first #mustread recommendation for the year, folks. Now, go grab yourself a copy!

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 2: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
ISBN: 9781250245496 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250245519 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250752451 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250752468 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08DRR2K6X (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKLVZRJ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

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I debated internally over whether I would post this review on my blog or not, but then decided to go for it. I had been looking forward to reading The Wife Upstairs ever since I heard it was a modern, Southern gothic take on Jane Eyre. If you follow me on social media, then you probably know that Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite classic novels. I've read several retellings of this book and enjoyed them all, well up until now. I really wanted to like this book, especially after reading some of the advance reviews and praise. Sadly, this one just didn't work for me. I can't point to any one thing about this book that I didn't like other than I'm very upset over the fact that Jane isn't very likeable, is a thief, and isn't even a Jane (you'll need to read the book to understand that part). 
I found this to be somewhat of a slow read and actually had to set it aside several times before I could actually start it and read through to the end. The first third of the book seemed to go very slow and I didn't care about any of the characters. Normally having unlikeable characters isn't an issue, but perhaps because this is an adaptation of my favorite book it became a problem for me. The one interesting thing was that the book was told from multiple viewpoints, that of Jane and of Bea (aka Bertha Mason Rochester). I didn't really become invested into the action within this story until the last few chapters of the book. This just might be one of those books that readers even love or hate. I don't "hate" it, but it just didn't grab me the way I had hoped. Well-written? Yes! Interesting premise? Again, yes, but there was just something that didn't quite come together to make this an intriguing or gripping read for this reader. Hopefully I'll be able to pick this one up in a few months and tell you differently. If you grab a copy of The Wife Upstairs then I hope that you're in the "love it" reader camp.

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.”

2020 Book 438: CONFESSIONS IN B-FLAT by Donna Hill

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill 
ISBN: 9781640638990 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781640638297 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781640638303 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662051647 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662052507 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08JHCB9MC  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0879HJ7S6   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 24, 2020 
Publisher: Sideways Books

Essence bestselling author Donna Hill brings us an emotional love story set against the powerful backdrop of the civil rights movement that gripped a nation—a story as timely as it is timeless…


The year is 1963. In Harlem, the epicenter of Black culture, the fight for equality has never been stronger. The time is now. Enough is enough. Yet even within its ranks, a different kind of battle rages. Love thy neighbor? Or rise up against your oppressors?


Jason Tanner has just arrived in New York to help spread the message of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of passive resistance, while beat poet Anita Hopkins believes the teachings of Malcolm X with all her heart: that the way to true freedom is “by any means necessary.” When Jason sees Anita perform her poetry at the iconic B-Flat lounge, he’s transfixed. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this…


One movement, two warring ideologies—can love be enough to unite them?

Confessions in B-Flat is a celebration of the hard-won victories of those who came before us, and a stark reminder of just how far we still have to go.


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Anita Hopkins is a New York girl that fervently believes in the message of Minister Malcolm X Shabazz, “by any means necessary.” She volunteers for the movement, works as a waitress, is a poet with a growing local following, and a music lover. She doesn’t believe in compromise until she meets Jason Tanner. Jason is from Atlanta, an avid churchgoer, and is devoted to the message of nonviolence taught by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He’s moved from Georgia to New York with the hopes of bringing the message of nonviolent protest to the North. To say that Anita and Jason stand on opposite sides of the Civil Rights movement is a major understatement, but their attraction to one another just might help them bridge the divide. Gradually, they begin to accept that their views will continue to differ but they’re willing to “agree to disagree” to keep the peace as their relationship grows. Eventually, Anita introduces Jason to her parents in Brooklyn and Jason introduces Anita to his family in Atlanta. Jason wants more permanence to their relationship, namely marriage, but Anita thinks that they can simply live together for now. Just when it seems as if their relationship can’t handle another stumbling block, they come together once again until Jason makes a decision that Anita can’t understand or accept. This separation just might be the death knell for them when the Tanner family and Anita receive startling news. Anita might have stopped going to church after high school, but she needs faith and prayer now more than ever before. 


I’ve read a lot of romance novels over the years, beginning with my first Harlequin when I was about 13-years-old. I can’t believe that I’ve never read anything by Donna Hill before now. Confessions in B-Flat is more than a story about opposites-attract romance, it’s also about the two sides of the Civil Rights movement: the philosophies surrounding those movements and the reasons for those philosophies. The story touches on justice, protest movements, and even the early days of Vietnam. There’s a lot going on in this story and I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed the brief scenes with Dr. King, John Lewis, Andrew Young, the glimpses of 1960s Apollo theater music reviews, the inclusion of bits of speeches by Malcolm X, thoughts by James Baldwin, and others. Anita and Jason have a tempestuous relationship, but it was fascinating to read about the development of their romance. I enjoyed the scenes with Anita’s parents, as well as those with Jason’s family. Confessions in B-Flat has tons of angst and drama along with the romance and Civil Rights action. (Although this novel is set in the early 1960s, it is just as topical today with the Black Lives Matter campaigns, protests against police violence, etc.) This might not be a typical romance novel, but it was definitely one I enjoyed and feel can be enjoyed by anyone that enjoys reading romance stories featuring recent history. If you’re not a romance reader, then you can enjoy reading Confessions in B-Flat for just the history alone (not to mention the poetry). I look forward to reading more by Donna Hill in the future and have already amassed a list of her previous books that I want to read. I’ll be getting a print copy of Confessions in B-Flat for my 86-y.o. mother to read because I think she’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.


Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy 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.”

2020 Book 427: THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts

The Awakening, The Dragon Heart Legacy #1, by Nora Roberts 
ISBN: 9781250272614 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272607 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250770301 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250770295 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B083LMBNFL  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082RS9D42  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 24, 2020 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword—representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…


When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.


This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…


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Watch the book trailer 





Book Review

Breen Kelly is young, healthy, and employed, but she is not happy. She’s not happy with her full-time teaching job. She’s not happy with the amount of student loan debt she has. She’s not happy that she has had to work several part-time jobs just to help pay off her debts. In addition, she has a horrible relationship with her mother, Jennifer Wilcox. The only part of her life that she is happy with is her friendships with her roommate — Marco Olsen, one of Marco’s bosses and Breen’s surrogate mother, Salvador “Sally” Travino — drag queen extraordinaire and bar owner, as well as Derrick Lacross — Sally’s lover. So when Breen learns that her father hadn’t simply abandoned her, had been sending money all these years he’s been gone, and the account held close to four million dollars AND that her mother had never said a word to her about it, Breen blew up. She quickly took control of the account, quit her teaching job at the end of the current school year, and made arrangements to travel first class with Marco to Ireland. That would have been enough if it weren’t for the unusual dreams involving dragons, horses, a gorgeous man with a sword and staff, as well as an impending sense of evil and doom. Although Breen’s mother did everything she could to keep Breen “average and ordinary” she was something much, much more, born of the Fey, a demigod, and of the modern world. Breen has finally awakened to her gifts and the possibilities of being more. As she awakened to her Fey talents, she also discovered her talents for writing. With the push from Marco and others, she began to write a travel blog and then fiction She ultimately finds that she can make a living at something other than teaching when she not only finds a literary agent but sells not one but three books to a publisher. While in Ireland, Breen also discovers the reason why her father never returned for any visits, meets her paternal grandmother, and uncovers much more than she could ever imagine when she falls (literally) into the multiverse land of Talamh. Will Breen embrace the true legacy left by her father and his people and fight against evil in Talamh or turn her back on them and try to live her life quietly in the modern world?


If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed via my GoodReads feed that I’ve read and re-read quite a number of Nora Roberts books over the years. Okay, I’ve re-read quite a few in just the past few months. What can I say other than I enjoy reading Nora Roberts’ books! The Awakening is somewhat reminiscent of several of her previous fantasy trilogies, namely “The Cousins O’Dwyer” and “Chronicles of The One” series where someone is “awakened” and discovers their magical talents, and then must accept their duty that comes with their awakening, namely to fight against evil. The difference with The Awakening is that Breen must accept that if she doesn’t fight against evil, namely her paternal grandfather Odran, the land of Talamh, as well as her modern world might be lost. All her life, Breen has tried to be unobtrusive and fit in, and now she has to not only stand out and stand up but be exceptional and fight to protect all that she loves. I enjoyed the self-discovery portion of this story, as well as the friendship/found-family relationships between Breen, Marco, and Sally. I loved reading about Talamh and all of the Fey as well. Hey dragons, elves, witches, and trolls, what’s not to love?! I enjoyed the way Ms. Roberts melded the two halves of Breen’s life as Breen became more comfortable with the two worlds that she straddles. Of course, there are bad guys in the story, namely Breen’s paternal grandfather Odran and his followers, but there are also good guys and a romance interest guy, namely Keegan Byrne — the current taoiseach or leader of Talamh and the Fey. There are also old friendships renewed, new powers discovered as well as new talents uncovered. There’s a lot happening in The Awakening, but Ms. Roberts, as always, does an excellent job of creating the world of Talamh, introducing us to the evil that threatens that world and ours, as well as crafting the beginning of a fine romance. I can’t wait to see what happens next. If you enjoy reading about fantasy, magic, dragons, the fey, or a romance with a little something different, then I suggest you grab a copy of The Awakening to read. For now, I’ll be patiently waiting for the next installment in this series by re-reading a few more stories by Ms. Roberts.


Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy 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.”

2020 Book 389: SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

Snapped, The Playbook #4, by Alexa Martin 
ISBN: 9780593102503 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593102510 (eBook)
ISBN: 9780593291375 (Audiobook)
ASIN: B088HHBFR5  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B084786PTF   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 20, 2020 
Publisher: Berkley Books


With the stakes this high, it’s no longer just a game for the quarterback in this romance by the author of Blitzed.


Elliot Reed is living her best life—or pretending to. She owes it to her dad’s memory to be happy and make the most of her new job as Strategic Communications Manager for the Denver Mustangs. Things are going well until star quarterback Quinton Howard Jr. decides to use the field as his stage and becomes the first player to take a knee during the national anthem.



As the son of a former professional athlete, Quinton knows the good, the bad, and the ugly about football. He’s worked his entire life to gain recognition in the sport, and now that he has it, he’s not about to waste his chance to change the league for better. Not even the brilliant but infuriating Elliot, who the Mustangs assign to manage him, will get Quinton back in line.


A rocky initial meeting only leads to more tension between Quinton and Elliot. But as her new job forces them to spend time together, she realizes they may have more in common than she could’ve ever imagined. With her job and his integrity on the line, this is one coin toss that nobody can win. 


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Okay, the first thing you should know is that I am not a sports person by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Playbook series by Alexa Martin. I just binge re-read the entire series over the past few days (yes, I re-re-read Intercepted, Fumbled, and re-read Blitzed) in preparation for reading the latest addition to this series, Snapped. I’m so glad I did. It was nice refamiliarizing myself with the Lady Mustangs (the wives and girlfriends of the Denver Mustang players) and their drama and romances. Each book in this series touches upon some serious issues while also providing a great steamy romance read. Snapped is a bit more serious in that it takes to heart the issues of long-term adverse effects of head injuries or CTE and lack of player parity within the football league, as well as professional athlete protests on-the-field and racial representation within the industry. I knew little about any of these subjects before reading this book (trust me, you’ll want to do some research if you watch any professional football). 

Elliot “Elle” Reed is just as lacking in confidence as some of the other women we’ve seen in previous books in this series. If I were dealing with professional athletes pulling in millions of dollars each year and having hundreds, if not thousands, of groupies throwing themselves at these players, I’d probably be somewhat lacking in confidence as well. But Elle is also dealing with childhood issues from being biracial and not quite knowing how to fit into society as she was raised by her white father without any strong black role models or guidance. She’s had to quietly straddle the fence of both races without being fully embraced into either one and trying to live her life colorblind, the way she was raised. I can tell you that it isn’t going well. Quinton Howard Jr. is the new star quarterback for the Denver Mustangs and has become something of a problem issue by blacking out the league logo on his jersey at the start of each game and his taking a knee during the national anthem. He’s quiet and respectful to all, but he’s also using his voice and money to try and right some wrongs. Elle’s job is to make the Mustangs and the league look good, so she has to once again straddle the fence by keeping the team’s owner happy whilst also working with Quinton to assure his personal goals are met. Needless to say, there’s a bit of friction and attraction between the two. Will they be able to make things work or will things frizzle out? Hey, this is a romance, and what is a romance without a HEA. Yes, there is trouble. Not only for Quinton and Elle but also for “Vonnie” Lamar and her husband Justin Lamar. Most of the trouble gets resolved (not all, but most). This book deals with quite a number of issues, including racial identity, racism, systemic racism within certain professional sports leagues, lack of parity in the treatment of retired professional athletes (NFL vs. NBA for example), and more. Yes, these are heavy topics to be dealt with in a romance, but Ms. Martin deals with these issues without lightly glossing over them or being too heavy-handed, or at least she does so in this reader’s opinion. There are plenty of light-hearted moments (it is a romance, people) and some moments that just make you want to say “aww.” If you’ve read any of the previous books in this series, then you’ll definitely want to add Snapped to your immediate TBR list. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series and you enjoy romance, then you’ll definitely want to grab all three of the previous books as well as a copy of Snapped when it releases. Something tells me that I’ll be re-re-re-re-reading this series at some point soon (yes, I’m enjoying it just that much!). I’m hopeful that this isn’t the end of this series, simply because I want to read more about these amazing women along with their struggles, their careers, their friendships, their families, and yes, their romances. 

Happy Reading, y’all!

 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital 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.