2019 Book 225: NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062855312 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062855336 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062855336 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07DTC3MTW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 30, 2019 
Publisher: William Morrow


In this game, even winning can be deadly…


Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love-filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.




Purchase Links:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Audiobook  |  B&N Nook  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  Kobo eBook  |  Kobo Audiobook


Amy Whey is a happily married woman with a teenage stepdaughter and infant son. She loves her family and her life. It has taken Amy a long time to get to a point in her life where she feels happy with who and where she is in life. Amy was involved in a car accident as a teenager that took the life of a neighbor that she babysat for and destroyed a family. Her mother never forgave her for being the reason their family had to uproot their Florida roots and relocate to Massachusetts during her beloved older brother’s senior year of high school. Amy never forgave herself for not standing up for her best friend, Tig, immediately after the accident. It took years for Amy to forgive herself and get her life on an even keel and now she’s back in Florida and quite happy until Angelica Roux shows up and seems intent on destroying the calm and sisterhood in the neighborhood as well as Amy’s liberty. Blackmail isn’t pretty, but can Amy pay Roux the money she’s demanding and be assured that will be the end of it? The bigger question seems to be just who has more to lose and can you ever be free from your past? Who has more to protect and gain? How far is too far when it comes to protecting your freedom, your family, and your friends?

I think I’ve probably read everything that Joshilyn Jackson has written and I definitely have my favorites (The Almost Sisters ranks at the top at the moment although I may have a new favorite). Never Have I Ever is a bit different from most of the books written by Ms. Jackson as this is her first suspense thriller and let me tell you she’s not playing around with this one. This story has plenty of twists and turns in it that kept me guessing until the very end, especially when it came to Roux (no, I’m not going to reveal the secrets — read the book to find out for yourself!). Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, you guessed it, plot twist. I loved the fact that I couldn’t quite figure out where the story was going on. I knew Roux was a bad girl, but there were a few times when I felt sympathy for her (that didn’t last long). I really liked Amy, her husband Davis, her stepdaughter Madison aka Maddy or Mads, Amy’s friend Charlotte or Char, and Tighler “Tig” Simms, and baby Oliver. I loved the introduction of Amy’s backstory in bits and pieces because it felt as if I was putting together a puzzle along with the contemporary storylines. I enjoyed the friendship between Amy and Char, as well as the interactions between Amy and her family. There’s a lot going on in this story, but it all works and works quite well. There are surprises throughout the story as well as a surprise ending (again, no I’m not telling you what the surprise is, read the book!) and I don’t think it could have ended any other way. I’m hardpressed to find anything about this story that I didn’t like especially the themes of family, friendship, expiation for past mistakes, forgiveness, and guilt. If you’ve ever read anything by Ms. Jackson in the past, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Never Have I Ever to read. If you’re into suspense-thrillers and haven’t read anything by this author, then I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Never Have I Ever to read. I’ll be putting my copy of Never Have I Ever on the shelf for a few weeks before I re-read it (yes, it was just that good!). Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+ and a free print review copy from the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ Program. 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.”

2017 Book 221: CHASING DOWN A DREAM by Beverly Jenkins

Chasing Down A Dream: A Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins 
ISBN: 9780062412652 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062412669 (ebook)
ASIN: B01MCUOP4A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 4, 2017 
Publisher: William Morrow 



NAACP nominee and USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins continues her beloved Blessings series with a heartwarming novel about what really makes a family.

There’s never a dull day in Henry Adams, Kansas.

Tamar July has always had a hate-hate relationship with her cousin Eula, which is why she’s shocked when Eula arrives with the news that she’s dying and wants Tamar to plan her funeral. Still, family is family, so Tamar is willing to drop everything for her. 

Meanwhile, after a horrendous storm, Gemma finds a young boy and his little sister walking on the side of the road. She takes them in and quickly falls in love with the orphaned siblings. But when Gemma contacts Social Services to try to become their foster mother, she’s told she’s not an appropriate candidate, leading to dangerous consequences. 

And in the midst of these trials, Jack and Rocky are trying to plan their wedding. The entire town comes together to lend a helping hand, and once again, Henry Adams’s irrepressible residents show that despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, families come in many forms.


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Welcome back to Henry Adams, Kansas the coolest “fictional” small town in America (in my opinion), for the eighth installment in The Blessings series by the incomparable Beverly Jenkins, with Chasing Down a Dream.

For those of you unfamiliar with Henry Adams, this town was founded by freed slaves in the late 1800s. This once prosperous town was down to a handful of residents before the current mayor, Trent July (grandson to the town’s matriarch Tamar July) put the town for sale on eBay (yes, eBay). That’s when the wealthy divorced Bernadine Brown stepped in and bought the town lock-stock-and-barrel. Over the past few years, she’s helped to rebuild the town’s infrastructure, paved roads, built a school, community recreational center, church, homes, and more. This once dying town is now a thriving small town where everyone comes together to help out the town and each other. 

Tamar July is the town matriarch and a speed demon (as evidenced by the speeding tickets she’s been accumulating lately). At 90+ years of age, she’s also wondering if her end is near as she’s recently begun having some strange dreams. The dreams begin to make sense when her cousin Eula Nance shows up, reveals she’s dying, wants to be around family near her end and wants Tamar to plan her funeral. Tamar, being Tamar, does the only thing she can do and takes her in, calls in the family. Gemma Dahl is making a new life for herself and her grandson in Henry Adams. She has a good job, a nice home, and is even going back to school to take a few business classes to give herself more opportunities for advancement. What she doesn’t expect to do is come upon two orphaned children and become a foster mother, but that’s exactly what she plans on doing until one social worker breaks up her newly enlarged family. Meanwhile, the town’s one restaurant, a diner actually, isn’t large enough and tentative plans are underway to build a slightly more upscale restaurant. Needless to say, the current restaurant’s owner isn’t really happy with that idea even though there’s more than enough business to go around. In just a few short years, Henry Adams has a world-renowned recording studio, a newly refurbished diner, a recreational center, a church, a school, a newly refurbished and historic hotel featuring one bedroom apartments upstairs and mixed-use space downstairs (a hair salon, medical clinic, and a coffee shop), a community swimming pool, a volunteer fire department, and more. Although this town is growing by leaps and bounds, there’s still plenty of drama, some from ancient feuds, some from newly minted feuds, internal and external family feuds, and more.


I love the Blessings series and Henry Adams, Kansas. Yes, this town is filled with drama, but the people are realistic with their problems, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Some of these get worked out and some don’t, just like real life, but through it all the people of this small town work together to overcome obstacles. Ms. Beverly Jenkins has provided a wide array of themes in Chasing Down a Dream, including prejudice against past mistakes, racism (overt and covert), aging and the concept of usefulness, and family and she does it with respect for the weightiness of these issues and often a touch of humor to lighten things up. I feel as if I know the characters in this series, the women, men, and children. I can’t tell you what happens (read the book), but I was just as disappointed with Mal as others by his actions. I was a little worried at first that Tamar’s dreams might be foreshadowing her death, and I’ve got to say that I’m not ready to see Tamar die. I loved the drama around Rocky and Jack’s wedding, especially the drama caused by Jack’s cousin-in-law. I recently discussed this series with an online bookish friend and we both feel that The Blessings series are much more than just inspirational stories (no, there’s nothing wrong with being just an inspirational story); these are feel-good stories about family, community, and paying it forward (paying it forward even in the smallest way to make a difference). If you read this series, I don’t even have to tell you to grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream because you know just how good this series is already. But just in case, go grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream! If you haven’t read this series, you are really missing out, so go ahead and grab a copy of Chasing Down a Dream and then go back and read the previous seven titles. You can thank me later. If I hadn’t already reread this series earlier this year, I’d be re-rereading from book one, Bring on the Blessings, through book eight, Chasing Down a Dream. (Yes, I like this series just that much.) 


Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. 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.”




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Chasing Down a Dream (Blessings Series #8)

Chasing Down a Dream (Blessings Series #8)

Chasing Down a Dream

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Chasing Down a Dream

Chasing down a Dream : A Blessings Novel

2016 Book 204: FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffin



First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
ISBN: 9780345546920 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345546937 (ebook)
ASIN: B014NZ4SXW (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 
Publisher: Ballantine Books


In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads. Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.  As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first. Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.


When we first meet the Garland family, they seem to be a happy family with three adult children and no major worries in the world. Then tragedy strikes and the family is torn apart rather than brought closer together. Sisters Josie and Meredith have taken totally different paths over the past fifteen years and both feel as if there is something missing in Emily Giffin’s latest, First Comes Love.

Josie Garland is the middle child and can’t live up to her eldest brother’s legacy of being super smart and kind. Her younger sister, Meredith, is making her own way in life by studying theater arts. When we meet Josie and Meredith, they are in their early twenties and still searching for their paths in lives. Their lives, indeed their entire family is turned upside down after the tragic death of their older brother in a car accident. Meredith graduates with a degree in Theater Arts but opts for law school. Josie graduates with a degree in education and becomes a first-grade teacher. Meredith winds up married to her brother’s best friend and the mother of a four-year-old. Josie is living with her best friend, her male best friend, and still single. As Josie gets closer to her 38th birthday, she decides to pursue motherhood even if it means being a single mother. Meredith is having her own mid-life crisis, and wonders if she made the right decision to marry her husband and if she should stay married. She doesn’t want more children and her husband wants at least two or three more. Both Josie and Meredith are dealing with a lot of stressors and sadly, they don’t have one another to turn to as they epitomize sibling rivalry even in their adult relationship. Just when it seems like their relationship might wind up getting better, a secret is revealed that might tear them apart forever.  

I found First Comes Love to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. I was intrigued by the relationship between Josie and Meredith, as they both seemed to constantly find fault with one another no matter the situation. The relationship between these two sisters was probably more realistic than not, as not all siblings like each other even if they do love one another. As someone that has had to deal with the death of a sibling in adulthood, I was interested to see how the evolution/devolution of the family would play out. I liked both Josie and Meredith, especially Josie’s extroverted nature compared to Meredith’s introverted nature. Although Josie and Meredith don’t seem to get along due to their entrenched sibling rivalry, jealousy seems to be at the heart of their problems with each other. First Comes Loves spans only a few months in the adult lives of Josie and Meredith, but there’s a lot crammed into those few months. Ms. Giffin has crafted a story that provides tragedy, turmoil, drama, hints of romance, and a sense of hopefulness throughout it all. If you want to read a realistic story about siblings and family that has a hopeful ever after thread woven throughout, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of First Comes Love. I recommend waiting until you have the weekend to binge read this book because you won’t want to put it down.


Disclaimer: I received a print advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher. 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.”



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2015 Book 369: ASHLEY BELL by Dean Koontz

Ashley Bell (Ashley Bell #1) by Dean Koontz
ISBN: 9780345545961 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345545978 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VCZOKM6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 8, 2015 
Publisher: Bantam


THE MUST-READ THRILLER OF THE YEAR: Featuring the most exhilarating heroine in memory and a sophisticated, endlessly ingenious, brilliantly paced narrative through dark territory and deep mystery, this is a new milestone in literary suspense and a major new breakout book from the long acclaimed master.

At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

Unprecedented in scope, infinite in heart, Ashley Bell is a magnificent achievement that will capture lovers of dark psychological suspense, literary thrillers, and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Beautifully written, at once lyrical and as fast as a bullet, here is the most irresistible novel of the decade.  



Bibi Blair is a young, vibrant, and highly imaginative young woman. Her imagination is one of the things that is of great assistance with her writing. The one thing Bibi could never have imagined was dealing with a death sentence due to an inoperable brain tumor. Now she’s in the fight of her life in Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz. What, if anything, does Bibi’s imagination have to do with her present predicament? Can she find and save Ashley Bell before it’s too late?

Bibi has always had an active imagination, and sometimes she’s felt like her imagination has become her reality. At the age of five she wasn’t afraid of the dark, but afraid of the shadows and what hides there only to find a shadow monster creeping into her bed and touching her feet and legs. At the age of ten she wrote a series of stories about a dog seeking the perfect home and lo and behold a lost dog finds Bibi and a home. In college, her imagination lands her in hot water with a college professor and forces her to leave college behind. To this day, Bibi isn’t quite sure why the professor was so upset over her short story. As an only child, Bibi has always had the love and support of her parents, Nancy and Murphy Blair, and she has it now while dealing with this medical catastrophe. Even with parental support, Bibi longs for her fiancé, Navy SEAL Paxton Thorpe to be by her side. Fortunately, Bibi receives a reprieve and a miraculous cure occurs. All Bibi knows is that she has been saved in order to save the mysterious Ashley Bell and she must do so before evil destroys them both.

Although Ashley Bell has more than 500 pages, I found this to be a captivating and fast-paced read (even with a moderately-severe migraine I finished reading this in one day). Mr. Koontz combines elements of suspense and thriller genres with the paranormal. He then mixes a little bit of a quest element with the occult, fantastical, and horrific for one truly amazing story. Bibi isn’t a typical heroine, but she perseveres throughout the story in order to do the right thing for the right reasons no matter what. I thought I knew where the story was headed and then a major twist occurred and the story took off in an entirely new direction (no, I won’t tell you what happened . . . read the book!). We learn just enough (or so we think) about Bibi, her parents, her fiancé Paxton, and her friend Pogo (a nickname), that they become quite realistic over the course of the story. The good guys are true white hats and the bad guys are the blackest hats around. It’s a little difficult to describe Ashley Bell without giving too much away, so I’ll just say read this book (I’m serious, read this book)! I’ve never read anything by Dean Koontz before (I don’t know why), but I do know that I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in this series. While I’m waiting, I’ll simply have to read some of Mr. Koontz’s previous writings to tide me over.



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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley; I also received a print copy of this book for review purposes from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ program. 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.”




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2015 Book #291: THE HUMMINGBIRD by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan
ISBN: 9780062369543 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369567 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R1K3V94 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 8, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow


Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightmares, anxiety, and rage. She is determined to help him heal, and to restore the tender, loving marriage they once had.

At the same time, Deborah’s primary patient is Barclay Reed, a retired history professor and expert in the Pacific Theater of World War II whose career ended in academic scandal. Alone in the world, the embittered professor is dying. As Barclay begrudgingly comes to trust Deborah, he tells her stories from that long-ago war, which help her find a way to help her husband battle his demons. 

Told with piercing empathy and heartbreaking realism, The Hummingbird is a masterful story of loving commitment, service to country, and absolution through wisdom and forgiveness. 



Deborah Birch is a caring hospice nurse and only wants to make things easier for the dying and their families. She is also a loving wife and has no  idea how to help her husband, Michael, heal from the psychological wounds he suffers as a result of fighting in Iraq. Barclay Reed is a former college professor and dying from kidney cancer. Deborah enters at the end of Barclay’s life in The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan.

Deborah begins her time with each client by reviewing their records in the office and gently caressing her totem, a small wooden hummingbird. That hummingbird is a symbol and a reminder that each patient may provide her with gifts and “…to see the person behind the problem.” Deborah has had difficult patients and difficult families to tend to in her years as a hospice nurse, but Barclay Reed is perhaps one of the most tragic. Mr. Reed, or Professor Reed as he has Deborah call him, is dying without friends or family. His 30+ year career ended in a huge scandal, so he isn’t even leaving behind the legacy of his good name. To say the Professor Reed is somewhat cantankerous is a major understatement. He wants what he wants, how and when he wants it. Sadly, in his quest to get what he wants he has gone through three hospice agencies and several hospice nurses. Deborah is determined to provide him not only what he wants but what he needs. Over the course of Professor Reed’s final weeks, Deborah learns more about the man and his final work that caused the scandal, The Sword. What is the lesson Deborah will learn from assisting Professor Reed?

“If you think of a person, anyone, even someone you dislike, if you imagine for a moment how one day they will lose everything—family and home and pleasures and work—and people will weep and wail when they die, you cannot help it: You feel compassion for them. Your heart softens. What’s more, every single human being is going to experience this same thing, without exception: Every person you love, everyone you hate, your own frivolous struggling self. It is the central lesson of hospice: Mortality is life’s way of teaching us how to love.” The Hummingbird


You might think a story about a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a dying professor might be overly sad and morbid, but The Hummingbird is simply a darn good story. Mr. Kiernan takes the current happenings between Deborah, Professor Reed, and Deborah’s husband Michael and alternates it with the story of a Japanese WWII pilot that firebombed Oregon and returned as a guest of the city years later. Michael is just as trapped by his sense of guilt over his actions as a sniper, as well as a sense of honor by serving his country as the Japanese pilot was in the past. Deborah must decide if she believes the Professor’s story and if she can find something that might allow her to help her husband. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hummingbird and found it to be a riveting read. Seriously, I pulled an all-nighter just to finish the story and I’m way too old for all-nighters. I enjoyed the characters, the storylines, and the settings. Mr. Kiernan has a deft way of writing that pulls me into his stories with just a few pages. He deals with death, dying, and the trauma of war in a realistic yet sensitive manner. If you read The Curiosity then you’ll definitely want to read The Hummingbird. If you haven’t read The Curiosity, what are you waiting for . . . read it and then read The Hummingbird. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Kiernan in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. 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.”




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