Thursday, June 10, 2021

REVIEW: Olive by Emma Gannon

Title: Olive
Author: Emma Gannon
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Buy The Book: Amazon | BN

Description: The debut novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon.

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
Knows her own mind.

OLIVE is many things, and it is ok that she is still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they have always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

My Thoughts: Though I enjoyed the story overall and found the subject matter interesting, it took much too long to finish. I did not have any solid connection to the characters, so I had a difficult time mustering up any empathy for them. For the most part, they all come across as very self-centered and selfish, rather than embracing their life choices and being the supportive “best” friends that the reader is led to believe they are.

The decision to have children or not is a very personal choice and, for some, they are not given a choice, as one of the characters is dealing with infertility issues. Olive decides she does not want to have children but her three best friends, Bea, Cecily, and Isla all do, so it feels quite uneven as the lives of Olive’s best friends seem to take off in a different direction, which leaves Olive isolated. After she and her long-term boyfriend end their relationship, Olive does not feel she can talk to her friends about it because the break-up was because Olive chooses child-free, and Jacob wants to start a family.

The issue of whether to have children or not causes walls to go up between Olive and her friends as they all stand firm on their beliefs and choices, rightly so, but somehow a line has been drawn and there is an unspoken expectation that sides must be chosen. Most of the story centers around each character defending their choice and the resulting conflict and strain it brings into these friendships.

My Final Verdict: Life is not always a picnic, being an adult is not all it is cracked up to be and interpersonal relationships are a lot of work. I recommend this story to readers who enjoy stories that have realistic issues and conflict that the characters must face. Sometimes life is messy, sometimes it is amazing, and this story was a good reminder that nothing in life worth having ever comes easy.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Olive from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

REVIEW: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Title: Mother May I
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 2021
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

Description: Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts: Mother May I by new to me author Joshilyn Jackson takes the reader on a fast paced, twisty and suspenseful story about a woman whose baby is kidnapped practically under her nose and the journey she has to go on to get her child back. I was initially surprised that the protagonist and kidnapper connected on an emotional level, though there is still anger and fear on Bree’s part as well as desperation. The kidnapper appears hostile, bitter and angry at the start but the reader is given a sense of the pain she has gone through and the level of desperation she is also feeling to exact the revenge she feels she is owed to make everything right.

I really enjoyed that the lines between good and evil in this story are very blurry, making it a challenge for the reader to empathize with only the mother of the kidnapped child. I even began to feel some empathy for the kidnapper as well as more layers of the story were peeled back. I liked Bree and the range of emotions she expresses were easy to relate to. The author does an excellent job of creating characters that are so well developed, they come alive on the page. The plot is very complex and not one I could easily predict the outcome; there are several moments in the story that took me by surprise and the ending was completely unexpected. I listened to the audio version of this story, which was narrated by the author, who did an excellent job with the different voices and the precise elements needed for each scene, which I feel would have been missing had I read this book in my voice.

My Final Verdict: I highly recommend this story for readers who like complex plots featuring characters that demonstrate many layers to their personalities. Fans of domestic thrillers, suspense and women’s fiction novels will find this book appealing and riveting. I really enjoyed this author’s style and will be looking for more of her work.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Mother May I from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

REVIEW: Witness to Slaughter by K.A. Lugo

Title: Witness to Slaughter (Jack Slaughter Thrillers #2)
Author: K.A. Lugo
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Publication Date: December 2020
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Buy the Book: Amazon | BN

Description: Jack has coped through previous holidays, but this one feels different. It's been four years since he lost his family, and clues to finding those responsible have dried up. Hopelessness has him so tightly wound that he's often driven out of his claustrophobic apartment before the ever-present black dog of depression drags him to a place where there's no coming back from.

Jack wants to be left alone with his sorrow, but when he's offered double his fee by the wife of one of the city's most elite families, how can he refuse? She wants him to follow her husband, Franklin, as she suspects he's cheating and needs photos to get around the strict prenup. Franklin leads Jack across the city to The Majestic Lounge, the Castro District's most popular gay nightclub. By the time he finds Franklin, Jack is forced to break up a heated argument between him and club owner, Chad Lucas.

Lucas approaches Jack the following day, wanting to hire him for added security during the club's popular annual Drag Queen Extravaganza. The event's usual excitement is marred by the deaths of several of Lucas' friends that authorities are calling suicides. Lucas convinces Jack something more nefarious is going on and agrees to the job.

Does the city have another serial killer on its hands, one who's targeting the LGBTQ community? Can Jack find a witness? Surely in the crowded nightclub, someone must have seen something.

My Thoughts: K.A. Lugo delivers another intense thriller and a complex case for Jack Slaughter, one of the most interesting characters I have had the pleasure to get to know. Jack has not come any closer to discovering who murdered his daughter and dog or where his wife is, and I worry he may give in to his dark thoughts. I really like this character. He has suffered the worst kind of pain imaginable and it has cost him everything. In spite of that, he doesn’t take it out on those around him who care about him. He withdraws into himself and tries to stay busy taking long walks in sketchy neighborhoods at God-awful hours or have the occasional booze bender.

I really enjoyed this case Jack is hired to do, which goes beyond, way beyond, the typical husband cheating, wife needs proof so she can take him to the cleaners. I found the gay bar and drag queen backdrop very interesting and a little intriguing. Jack follows his client’s husband to The Majestic Lounge where he is known as Carol. After breaking up an argument between Carol and the club owner, Jack is hired by the club owner for security detail as several patrons of the club have died and the police are ruling them all suicides.

Jack and his former partner, Ray Navarro, team up once again to investigate these deaths as the clues and evidence do not point to suicide. This story really worked all of my emotions, anticipation, surprise, amusement and sadness and I loved seeing Ray and his wife, Maria with a sizable role in this book. You really can’t ask for better friends than these people and if Jack is ever going to find his way out of his depression, I believe these people will be part of the reason for that. The author did a brilliant job researching her subject matter and environment and gives the reader a lot to consider while putting the pieces together.

My Final Verdict: I highly recommend Witness to Slaughter to readers who enjoy intense thrillers featuring characters that are complex but easy to care about and relate to. I look forward to another adventure with Jack.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Witness to Slaughter from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Wednesday, March 03, 2021

REVIEW: Shadows in Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Shadows in Death (In Death #51)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Urban Fantasy
Buy The Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

Description: Lt. Eve Dallas is about to walk into the shadows of her husband's dangerous past.

As it often did since he had married a cop, murder interrupted more pleasant activities. Then again, Roarke supposed, the woman lying in a pool of her own blood a few steps inside the arch in Washington Square Park had a heftier complaint.

When a night out at the theatre is interrupted by the murder of a young woman in Washington Square Park, it seems like an ordinary case for Detective Eve Dallas and her team. But when Roarke spots a shadow from his past in the crowd, Eve realizes that this case is far from business as usual.

Eve has two complex cases on her hands - the shocking murder of this wealthy young mother and tracking down the shadow before he can strike again, this time much closer to home. Eve is well used to being the hunter, but how will she cope when the tables are turned? As Eve and the team follow leads to Roarke's hometown in Ireland, the race is on to stop the shadow making his next move . . .

My Thoughts: Another wonderful installment that brings Roarke’s shadowy past into the spotlight when a case Eve catches leads her to a killer who is determined to destroy Roarke. This story takes the reader back to Ireland to visit with Roarke’s family, which is always a treat, because it really throws Eve out of her element being around a large and loving family. I have enjoyed watching her adjust and accept these people as her family as well.

I thought the villain was intriguing as well. Plain old-fashioned jealousy motivates him. He grew up with Roarke and wanted the approval and acceptance of Roarke’s father probably more than Roarke did. His need to always outshine Roarke still drives him, but he does not factor in Eve and her tenacity.

There are some very intense scenes that Eve struggles with and her worry over the safety of those around her plays to her strengths, which I have always admired in this character. This series continues to be very character driven, with interpersonal relationships at the center of each story. I feel a connection with these characters, they are part of my family and that is crucial for a reader.

My Final Verdict: As with most of this series, there is not a lot I can say that I have not already said before. This series continues to surprise and entertain me. I anticipate the next installment with excitement, like a child coming downstairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa left.


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

REVIEW: The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose


Title: The Perfect Marriage
Author: Jeneva Rose
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Publication Date: July 2020
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

Description: Sarah Morgan is a successful and powerful defense attorney in Washington D.C. As a named partner at her firm, life is going exactly how she planned. The same cannot be said for her husband, Adam. He's a struggling writer who has had little success in his career and he tires of his and Sarah’s relationship as she is constantly working. Out in the secluded woods, at the couple’s lake house, Adam engages in a passionate affair with Kelly Summers.

But one morning everything changes. Kelly is found brutally stabbed to death and now, Sarah must take on her hardest case yet, defending her own husband, a man accused of murdering his mistress.

My Thoughts: A very enjoyable domestic thriller filled with lots of twists, turns and surprises. The Perfect Marriage by new to me author Jeneva Rose explores the marriage of a couple who, on the surface, appear to have it all. Attorney Sarah and writer Adam have been married for several years. The reality is Adam is struggling with his career and Sarah is the primary financial contributor to the household, which Adam deeply resents. He resents the time Sarah spends away from him working. Sarah purchases a vacation home for them where Adam goes on the weekends supposedly to clear his head and get some writing done. Instead, he begins an affair with a local girl who is married to one of the sheriff’s deputies.

Everything changes for Adam when the murdered body of his mistress is discovered in the bedroom of the vacation house and Adam is subsequently arrested and charged for the crime. Everything changes for Sarah when she learns about Adam’s arrest and decides to defend him at his trial.

First of all, let me start out with a big BOO HOO for Adam. None of this would have happened if he had just manned up and quit whining about what is missing in his life and instead tried to be a little more appreciative for Sarah carrying the burden. The writing isn’t working for you? How about get off your behind and get a different job? It would be an understatement to say that I found Adam to be less than likable and felt minimal sympathy for him.

As the story progresses and my shock that Sarah is willing to defend him subsides, the question of Adam’s guilt becomes more of an issue as several potential suspects exist which left me wondering if Adam really committed this murder or if he was being set up. Everyone from Kelly’s husband, a creepy stalkerish customer of Kelly’s, to the sheriff himself appeared to have motive and opportunity as well. This story kept me engaged all the way to the end.

In addition to the interesting plot, I thought the characters were well developed and interesting. In addition to Sarah and Adam, there was Adam’s mother who was completely awful to Sarah throughout the entire book. Sarah’s friend Matthew was entertaining and characters from Sarah’s firm brought more depth to the story.

My Final Verdict: I highly recommend this story to fans of the suspense and thriller genres as well as readers who enjoy stories that pull out all the stops to provide the reader with numerous twists that keep the reader in a state of heightened anticipation for what is coming next.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Perfect Marriage from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, January 18, 2021

REVIEW: After All I've Done by Mina Hardy


Title: After All I’ve Done
Author: Mina Hardy
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: November 2020
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Buy the Book: Amazon | BN |

Description: Writing as Mina Hardy, New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart delivers a thrilling new psychological suspense for fans of The Woman in the Window and When the Lights Go Out.

She's lost her best friend, her husband--and possibly, her mind.

Five months ago, an accident left Diana Sparrow badly injured and missing a few months of her memory. As if that's not enough, she's started having recurring nightmares about the night of the accident. Dreams that feel so real, she's left questioning: maybe she didn't just slide off the road into a ditch. Maybe, just maybe, she hit something. Or someone.

She can't turn to her former best friend Val, who's been sleeping with Diana's husband Jonathan for months, but she might find some comfort in newcomer Cole Pelham. Yet the closer they become, the more Diana begins to wonder what really happened that night--and how Cole might be connected. Worse, it seems everyone else could be involved, too.

Who was with her that night? What really happened? As her life unravels thread by thread and the dreams become too real to ignore, Diana will have to face the unthinkable--and do the unforgivable.

My Thoughts: This was a real page turner of a suspense novel that centers on a woman recovering from a horrific car accident suffering from amnesia and nightmares that leaves her wondering just who she can trust. Her mother in law appears at first glance as a loving and caring nurturing type who only wants to help, which is necessary because when both of your collarbones are broken, even the simplest tasks like washing your hair is nearly impossible. The nurturing, caring fa├žade quickly starts to feel clingy and obsessive. The husband and the best friend are sleeping together and not everything is as it appears. I even began to wonder who in this story I could trust.

As Diana begins to regain her memories and learns some shocking truths about her mother, best friend and husband, survival becomes her priority. This story shocked me on so many levels beginning with the revelation that Diana knows her husband and her best friend are having an affair and when the layers start getting peeled back, more surprises and shock ensues.

I thought Diana and Cole were good characters, easy to relate to but not sure about their relationship and whether Cole could be trusted at first. The story moves at a very good pace, keeping me engaged in the plot without getting too mired in irrelevant details.

My Final Verdict: I highly recommend this story to fans of the suspense or domestic thriller genres and also to readers who like to be surprised by unexpected twists in the plot that leave the reader’s pulse pounding.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of After All I’ve Done from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

REVIEW: Unfaithful by Natalie Barelli


 Title: Unfaithful
 Author: Natalie Barelli
 Publisher: Bookouture
 Publication Date: November 2020
 Genre: Mystery / Thriller
 Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

 Description: “Thank you,” I say sweetly when she tells me I’m lucky to have  such a beautiful family. But I want to tell her it’s not just luck. A family is like a fortress you have to defend all the time. You can’t relax because there’s always someone looking for a breach, always someone trying to get in. Someone just like her…

When I arrive unannounced at my husband’s studio in need of a shoulder to cry on after hearing that my best student, Alex, has died, I see a pair of wineglasses drying by the sink and my deepest fear is confirmed: my husband is having an affair.

Most women would fall to their knees in tears and throw him out of the house—but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Instead, I go home and cook a healthy dinner for our children, walk the dog and unload the dishwasher without complaint. I will make him see that I’m still the woman he married; attractive, successful, the glue that holds our perfect family together. I need this marriage to work to protect a terrible secret of my own, something that would destroy everything I’ve already sacrificed so much for.

But when the police arrive at my door asking questions about Alex’s death that I can’t answer, and threatening text messages start appearing on my phone, I know that someone close has been watching me very carefully.

The truth is, there are three people in my marriage, but only one of them is deadly…

My Thoughts: On the surface, this story appears to be another typical marriage on the rocks cheating spouse story. The main character is Anna, a university professor who is working with one of her students on a paper to solve a complex math problem that will award a substantial prize to the winner. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong for Anna when the student dies and her life starts to unravel in nearly every area. She learns her husband is having an affair and instead of confronting him and dealing with it, she buries her head in the sand.

Without giving away the extent her bizarre behavior affects her and the road she ends up on, I will say that she compounds her problems by making so many bad decisions and choices. The lines between right and wrong became so blurry, I had a difficult time keeping it straight. Several moments in this book had me wondering if she were the actual villain of the story or just a participant in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because of that, I didn’t feel a lot of empathy for this character and several times felt she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic and we all would do well to run in the opposite direction.

Anna has many secrets of her own and her marriage appears to be the only good thing in her life. This story had me wondering how far she would go to hold on to it. Most people would argue that if your spouse is cheating on you, it’s not a good marriage and you should cut your losses and run but Anna is determined, almost obsessed, with keeping her marriage intact.

My Final Verdict: In spite of not liking the character or agreeing with her choices and decisions, this story was riveting and hard to put down. I had to know what was going to happen next. Who would come out on top? This story kept me on the edge of my seat totally unprepared for the outcome, which blew me away. I recommend this story to readers who enjoy complex characters that don’t have to be likable or stories that captivate the reader so much, the reader forgets what a train wreck the characters are.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Unfaithful from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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I am not a professional reviewer, but I love to read and share my opinions on my reading with others who are interested. I work full time but my ideal perfect day would be to curl up with a good book. The majority of the books I review here are from my private collection and my reviews are provided purely for entertainment purposes. I receive no compensation whatsoever for sharing my thoughts and review on any book. If you would like me to review your book, please email me at sharalsbooks@yahoo.com Happy Reading! :o)