REVIEW – An Ambush of Widows by Jeff Abbott

I’ve had some not-so-great luck with new thrillers lately. As a longtime fan of the genre, I was struggling to pinpoint if either newer thrillers just weren’t good (to me, at least) or if I finally became burned out on the genre.

Well, kudos to Jeff Abbott for reminding me why I loved thrillers in the first place! An Ambush of Widows was a pleasant surprise. Sure, the synopsis sounded intriguing. But this exceeded my expectations by a mile.

So many chapters are left on a cliffhanger, and you have to make it through a few chapters from differing perspectives before you get your answers. Abbott drops clever clues throughout, and even though I had it (somewhat) figured out with a decent amount of the book left, there were still things I missed.

If you’re feeling a little disenchanted by the thriller genre as a whole, pick up An Ambush of Widows. It just might reignite your love of twisty, mysterious novels.

Thank you Novel Suspects for the ARC!

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

“I was lost in the dark,” he whispers. “You found me.”

I went on a JOURNEY with Lisey’s Story. I picked it up, read a few dozen pages, got annoyed, decided to DNF. Then, a few minutes later (literally)…I picked it back up, read a few more sections, found myself annoyed again, decided to DNF. The next morning? Picked it back up and barely put it down again.

Here’s what you need to know: Lisey’s husband, Scott, has been dead for two years. Lisey is just now starting to sort through his office (he was a famous author, of course). This book feels almost feverish in the beginning. I felt like I was entering a story at the middle, and there was some jumping back and forth between the present moment and some memories that threw me off the timeline a bit. It took a while to get used to King’s cadence here and get a feel for the foundation of the story, but…stick with it.

Scott and Lisey have their own little language within their marriage, made up primarily of words from Scott’s childhood. And it’s incredibly annoying. Thankfully, after a certain point, it tapers off…but at the beginning of the book, it borders on insufferable and childish.

Scott’s backstory is unsettling and I found myself looking for clues about what was really going on, but I suppose I was meant to suspend disbelief and just buy in to the supernatural “bad-gunky” that has allegedly plagued Scott’s family for decades.

Avid King readers will find shades of Rose Madder and Bag of Bones here (and now, as I type this, I feel like maybe a little touch of Duma Key, even?) If you’ve read any or all of these books, you’ll almost feel like you’ve already read Lisey’s Story, but it does stand (albeit, a bit shakily) on its own.

There are some deeply emotional moments throughout Lisey’s Story and for that reason, i’m glad I read it (I reluctantly gave this four stars because the parts that I loved…I REALLY loved). Lisey’s Story is another one of those books that’s a must for the Constant Reader, but not necessarily required reading for the more casual King fan.

Scott & Lisey: Now We Are Two

REVIEW – Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

I had SO MUCH FUN reading Satisfaction Guaranteed. Stetz-Waters pulls you right in from the first chapter – with countless laugh-out-loud moments packed into just a few pages. Not only is Satisfaction Guaranteed hilarious, but it’s also sweet (and spicy). What’s not to love about a sex-positive romance, filled with adorable, lovable characters and effortless humor? Even in the sweet moments, I found myself giggling at some of the subtle details and witty one-liners.

I don’t usually like to compare new books to other things, but I will say this: Fans of The Roommate, you’ll like this. Fans of huggable characters you want to be best friends with, you’ll like this. Fans of joy, you’ll like this.

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of Satisfaction Guaranteed!

REVIEW – Haven Point by Virginia Hume

Haven Point is a (mostly) historical fiction novel that follows three generations of the same family – Maren, Annie and Skye Demarest have a lot in common but are also very unique characters on their own.

While I did go into this thinking we’d get chapters from each woman’s perspective, that’s not quite the case. Annie is a focus of the book but takes somewhat of a backseat to the narratives surrounding Maren and Skye. Given what we know about Annie’s character and what we learn throughout the book, I think this was a good choice. After a family tragedy, Annie really closes herself off and ends up in a dark spiral that culminates in her eventual death a few decades later (“present day” in the book’s timeline).

This book is mostly sad and melancholy – all three women feel like outcasts at some point or another during their time in Haven Point. There’s a lot of heartache and tragedy and dark family secrets, and most of these things are Maren’s burden to carry.

Content warning: alcoholism (a prominent theme in this book), suicide

Thank you Jennifer Musico and St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC of Haven Point!

REVIEW – How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish

What a delightful historical romance! From the first chapter I was pulled into the story. Amelia has been engaged to a duke practically since birth, but when she’s caught in a compromising situation with Benedict (a misunderstanding!), everything she’s worked for is ripped away.

I never thought the marriage of convenience trope would be something I would enjoy, but here we are. Parish handles the situation well – yes, Amelia and Benedict are married before really getting to know each other, but they take their time warming up to one another and eventually (I mean, duh) fall in love.

I absolutely loved Benedict – he’s a delightful character. His little sister, Cassandra, is precious (I hope we see more of her in future books!)

I’m also looking forward to book two, which will focus on Fiona (don’t worry, you’ll meet her and you’ll LOVE her!)

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of How to Survive a Scandal!

REVIEW – The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens is good. It’s not GREAT, but it’s definitely a decent read that keeps you moving, with short, punchy chapters. There’s an interesting (and sinister) murder mystery, and a few major plot twists that will definitely shock some readers. Although I had the killer figured out pretty early on, another twist caught me off guard (and i’m honestly not sure how I felt about it, even weeks after finishing the books).

I think Michaelides is claiming his place as the author of some reliably twisty and compelling summer thrillers. If you’re a fan of darker, psychological mysteries, you’ll want to give this one a shot!

Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Elizabeth & Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters by Andrew Morton

“When others referred casually to “your sister,” Princess Margaret would snap haughtily, “You mean the queen.””

It’s no secret – the Royal Family is fascinating. I think we’ve all had an interest at one point or another in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of arguably the world’s most famous family. Elizabeth and Margaret is a portrait of two sisters who could not be more different. The book covers most of the sisters’ lives, starting at birth and ending when Margaret passed away in 2002.

At one point, the book really pivots to being primarily about Margaret – i’m not sure if that’s because she’s more “interesting” or if the Queen has just been that well protected, but as someone who didn’t know much about Margaret, I found it fascinating. It’s a little repetitive at times, but overall it’s a very accessible and easily readable book.

Fans of The Crown will be surprised at some of the facts presented in this book (especially concerning Peter Townsend). This is a great supplement to the show, and gave me a little more knowledge behind what I see on the screen (i’m only on season two so i’m catching up!)

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Lemon Drop Dead by Amanda Flower

I am absolutely loving this series! I need to go back and start from the beginning. Lemon Drop Dead takes us back to Harvest, Ohio, to visit Bailey at Swissmen Sweets, a candy shop she owns with her grandmother.

When a mysterious baby shower guest turns up dead later that night, Bailey gets tangled up in yet another murder mystery, complete with some intense family drama and a secret child. Amanda Flower does a great job of balancing the Amish and the English characters, and often explains the differences in culture and the issues that can cause.

And, of course, Jethro the pig makes an appearance!

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me an ARC of Lemon Drop Dead!

REVIEW – The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey

2021 is turning out to be “the year where I read a ton of historical fiction” – luckily, each book in the genre i’ve read so far has been pretty decent. The Secret Stealers is no exception. When Anna Cavanaugh takes a job working for family friend Major General William Donovan (WWII buffs probably recognize this name – yes, he was real, and yes, he was kind of a badass. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WWII-era US history, i’ll give you this: founding father of the CIA).

Anna quickly becomes close with other women in the organization, and the bits and pieces we get of their friendship are some of my favorite parts of the book. Anna and a few of her friends are eventually sent overseas (to different countries) and she becomes a spy in France (very interesting, VERY dangerous).

In terms of historical fiction, this is a little bit lighter. Yes, there are some incredibly sad parts, and Healey doesn’t shy away from the horrors and aftermath of war, but compared to other books in the genre i’ve read, it’s a bit tame (this isn’t a criticism, I would highly recommend this book to readers who are wanting to dip their toe in the WWII fiction world, or those who are a bit more sensitive when it comes to the tougher topics).

Thank you Get Red PR for the finished copy of The Secret Stealers!

REVIEW – The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

“You cannot feel time grind against you. Time is nothing but everything, not the seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. Yet this substanceless substance, this bending and shaping, this warping, this is the way we understand our world.”

At its heart, The Night Watchman is about a community fighting for their right to exist on the land that’s rightfully theirs. It’s a historical moment that I haven’t heard a lot about (oh, surprise surprise, American history tries to cover up its less savory bits…)

“We don’t want to leave our homes. We are poor, but even poor people can love their land. You do not need money to love your home.”

At times the story can be a little disjointed and I felt that some plotlines meandered and ended up nowhere. I would still definitely recommend this book – it’s long (clocking in at more than 400 pages) but it reads fast. Each chapter is relatively brief, and it almost feels like a collection of shorter stories that feed a larger overarching narrative. I do wish we would have gotten more of Thomas and less of Pixie/Patrice (especially after the waterjack storyline was so short-lived) but you won’t forget these characters and their journeys.

However, Erdrich’s writing is impeccable. I have a ton of passages bookmarked and I often went back and read certain paragraphs and sentences over and over again before moving on.

“He hated their approval just as much as he hated their condescension. And yet this truth was buried so deep inside him that its expression only emerged, in their presence, as a friendly smile.”

“Dread of the situation, ungraspable in its magnitude. Loneliness. The forces he was up against were implacable and distant. But from their distance they could reach out and sweep away an entire people.”

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!