The Family Game (book review)

Description

A rich, eccentric family. A time-honored tradition. Or a lethal game of survival? One woman is about to find out if she has what it takes to join her husband’s family in this riveting, must-read thriller from the author of Something in the Water, Mr. Nobody, and The Disappearing Act.

Harriet Reed, a novelist on the brink of literary stardom, is newly engaged to Edward Holbeck, the heir to an extremely powerful family. And even though he’s long tried to sever ties with them, news of their marital bliss has the Holbecks inching back into their lives.

As Harriet is drawn into their lavish world, they seem perfectly welcoming. And when Edward’s father hands Harriet a tape of a book he’s been working on, she is desperate to listen.

But as she presses play, it’s clear that this isn’t just a novel. It’s a confession.

A confession to a grisly crime. A murder. And suddenly, the game is in motion.

This was good! Harriet (Harry) seems like an average woman…but you quickly realize that she’s hiding something. As the book progresses it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. There are hints about the secrets and then there are the twists and turns which keep you guessing throughout.

I was so excited to read this, as I had read another book by Catherine Steadman a couple of months ago – Something in the Water – which I enjoyed a lot. The Family Game has a great plot, interesting characters, and tons of surprises.

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman will be out November 8, 2022. Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the ARC.

Book Review: The Mother In Law

Description

I’ve fallen in love with a man called Sam. And he’s perfect, just perfect.

It’s a whirlwind romance. And when our dream home falls through just before our wedding, we decide to move in with his parents. He says his mother, Evelyn, is the sweetest person. But I’m not so sure.

She’s obsessively protective over Sam. She wants to know where he is all the time. She wakes us up in the morning, bustling into our room like he’s a small child, not a grown man. She doesn’t want me to be alone with him. And with every day that passes – as I keep having accidents I can’t believe are coincidental – I start to fear more that she doesn’t want me to marry her son.

That she wants to be the only person he will ever love.

Then I overhear an argument between her and Sam’s dad. Evelyn has a secret. And it changes everything I thought I knew about the family I’m marrying into.

From that moment, I know that if I want to make it to my wedding day alive, I will need to be very, very careful…

I was so intrigued by the description of this book, and it didn’t disappoint. There are twists and turns, and a few surprises that keep you guessing.

4 stars – mostly because I became so frustrated with Dana, the bride to be. She seems hopelessly naive at times. Sam, her fiancé, was equally annoying. He believed his mother over her and seemed to always manipulate Dana (for example, moving into his parent’s house)…I was very frustrated with both of them.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the advance reader copy. Look for The Mother In Law July 29, 2022.

My Husband’s Secrets (book review)

Another ARC from NetGalley and another thriller I really enjoyed.

Description

On the evening of their wedding anniversary, Ali and Matthew are involved in a fatal car accident.

Grief-stricken, Ali can’t bring herself to believe that her beloved Matthew is gone…

The smell of his aftershave lingers in their bedroom. His voice still rings out on their answerphone. She sees his face in the eyes of strangers.

But as the months pass, and her family and friends rally round, Ali starts to uncover secrets that Matthew kept from her.

This book was really, really good. The characters were well rounded and believable and the plot was surprising all the way through. I read this in one sitting because I was so intrigued and invested that I had to find out what happened.

4.5 stars…I had to take off half a star just because Ali annoyed me so much at times. She seemed willfully ignorant of her husband’s true character and it drove me crazy.

But…this is a really good, well written book. Look for My Husband’s Secrets by Louise Sharland August 9, 2022. Thanks to NetGalley and Harper360.

5 Stars!

I just finished reading an ARC of Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer, and was utterly captivated by it.

Here’s the description of the book:

When a close relative falls ill, Hannah Larson and her young son, Nicky, join him for the summer at Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England. A frustrated academic whose ambitions have been subsumed by the challenges of raising her beloved child, Hannah longs to escape her life in New York City, where her marriage has been upended by a recently discovered and devastating betrayal.

Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman’s household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the multilayered secrets of her own life begin to unravel, Hannah comes to realize that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own, and she confronts what mothers throughout history have had to do to secure their independence and protect their children.

I love historical fiction and though it’s set in the present, Ashton Hall delved into the past as well. I appreciated the many layers to the story…from Hannah, to the health of her Uncle Christopher, to the challenges of her son (it’s never actually disclosed but it’s hinted that he is on the spectrum), to the mystery surrounding the skeleton and the history of Ashton Hall. While there’s a lot going on, it never felt like too much and was never difficult to follow along.

I devoured this book. And as I got closer and closer to the end I read more and more slowly, because I didn’t want it to end. I sympathized with Hannah, cheered her on, felt as if I knew her. The characters are all well developed and (mostly) likable.

If you like mysteries, or history, or reading about Cambridge, or just enjoy a well written book…be on the lookout for Ashton Hall June 7, 2022!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing, and especially to Lauren Belfer for writing the book.

Update and Another Book Review

We’ve been busy around here. Besides a few house projects, I bought a bunch of used furniture and painted it for…P’s new apartment! We got her moved in about 3 weeks ago.

(Seems very apropos right now, right?)

Because we’ve been so busy around here, I haven’t been reading much. BUT! I just finished The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett, and !!!

I was quite intrigued by this one when I read the description…

On a chilly November morning at the University of Georgia, a fraternity brother steps off a busy crosswalk and is struck dead by an oncoming car. More than a dozen witnesses all agree on two things: the driver looked identical to the victim, and he was smiling.

Detective Marlitt Kaplan is first on the scene. An Athens native and the daughter of a UGA professor, she knows all its shameful histories, from the skull discovered under the foundations of Baldwin Hall to the hushed-up murder-suicide in Waddel. But in the course of investigating this hit-and-run, she will uncover more chilling secrets as she explores the sprawling, interconnected Greek system that entertains and delights the university’s most elite and connected students.

The lines between Marlitt’s police work and her own past increasingly blur as Marlitt seeks to bring to justice an institution that took something precious from her many years ago. When threats against her escalate, and some long-buried secrets threaten to come to the surface, she can’t help questioning whether the corruption in Athens has run off campus and into the force and how far these brotherhoods will go to protect their own.

The Resemblance did not disappoint. I was captivated from the first page. It’s fast paced (but not too fast), and the mystery of who killed the fraternity brother in a hit and run continued to evolve throughout the story. Just when I thought I’d figured it out, there was a twist, and then another and another.

The main character, Marlitt, is likable and sympathetic…although there’s another mystery concerning her lurking beneath the surface. The fraternity brothers, university president, and police chief are complicated characters; both intriguing and, at times, villainous.

I found the setting, Athens and the University of Georgia, fascinating as well. Lauren Nossett has written a riveting and compelling mystery and I highly recommend it. 5 stars!

Thank you NetGalley & FlatIron Books for the ARC. Look for The Resemblance November 8, 2022.

One of the Girls (book review)

Synopsis:

It was supposed to be the perfect weekend away. Six very different women travel to a sun-soaked Greek island for a bachelorette trip, to celebrate Lexi’s upcoming wedding. From the glorious ocean views to the quaint tavernas and whitewashed streets, the vacation seems too good to be true. But dangerous undercurrents run beneath the sunset swims and midnight cocktails – because each of the women is hiding a secret. Someone is determined to make sure that Lexi’s marriage never happens – and that one of them doesn’t leave the island alive.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke. The first chapter reveals that someone dies on the hen weekend to Greece, and you’re left wondering who it is throughout the rest of the book – and trying to figure it out. Each chapter is from a different character’s point of view, which I’m not usually a fan of, but in this case it works (at least for me.) Every character has a secret, and they’re slowly exposed throughout the book…which makes the mystery of who dies even more mystifying.

I was intrigued and enthralled throughout the book. It’s an easy read, with a satisfying conclusion.

Five stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for the ARC. Look for One of the Girls June 28, 2022.

Spells for Forgetting (book review)

Description

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings. But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

I received an advance reader copy of Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young and wow! I LOVED this book! Definitely 5 stars.

The writing is evocative and eloquent, the characters are interesting, and the setting, Saiorse Island, is mysterious and intriguing. I found myself completely engrossed in August and Emery’s stories, both current and past. They overlapped gracefully and seamlessly, smoothly describing the tragedy of Saiorse.

I loved, loved, loved this and am so grateful for NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read this before the publication date of September 27, 2022. Special thanks to Adrienne Young for writing such a fabulous book.

Built to Last (book review)

I received an advance reader copy of Built to Last by Erin Hahn…and really enjoyed it!

The Description:

Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like she does the rough spots on the vintage furniture finds she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a mediocre pop career, a meltdown widely documented by the paparazzi, and a huge public break with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs — the one who got away.

Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can’t help but come on board.

There’s something in it for everyone — almost. Cameron wants to come home and set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove to the world she’s not the messy party girl anymore. And Lyle wants to twist the screws on his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could dream of with anyone. Sparks and sawdust fly as Shelby and Cameron film the pilot for “Homemade” and battle Lyle’s shenanigans at every turn.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this! It’s a fun, easy read. I love how both of the former child stars have moved on and found new careers. They’ve matured, but both still care for each other. When they reconnect through an HGTV-like renovation show, the sparks are still there, but they focus on their friendship first.

The main characters were very likable, engaging and believable, as were most of the supporting characters (with the exception of the sleazy Lyle). It’s well written, without grammatical errors or typos with an intriguing story.

Sometimes you just need a light, pleasant read and Built to Last fits the bill perfectly. Built to Last will be published October 18, 2022.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC.

5 stars.

Star Bright by Susannah Nix (book review)

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Description

She’s an A-list Hollywood starlet. He’s a gossip reporter. Sleeping with the enemy has never been sweeter…

Kimberleigh Cress didn’t get to be one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood without learning how to protect herself. Rule number one? Don’t show weakness. Ever. Especially not in front of the press.

So when a sleazy tabloid reporter comes upon her during a vulnerable moment, the last thing she expects is kindness.

Sexy, charming, and surprisingly thoughtful, Spencer Devlin isn’t at all who Kimberleigh thought he was. After their fateful encounter, she can’t seem to stay away from him—even though she knows she should.

Spencer never expected to share an unlikely connection with the spoiled starlet who hates his guts. With the face of a goddess and an attitude to match, Kimberleigh Cress is one ice queen he’d love to melt.

Now that she’s gotten under his skin, he’ll do anything to keep her in his life. Or will he?

This book was…just okay. The premise is great and after initial bad impressions of the main characters, they do redeem themselves somewhat. I just found it very difficult to get into the story. The romance felt rushed and not realistic at all. Kimberleigh and Spencer went from hating each other to suddenly jumping into bed and then having a secret relationship. And it simply didn’t work for me.

I really wanted to like this. I realize that it’s supposed to be a novella, but perhaps if the author had tried to fill in some of the many gaps and flesh out the characters and plot line a bit more it would have made more sense. As is, it has potential…but it left me feeling empty.

3 stars.

As always, thanks to NetGalley and Haver Street Press for the ARC. Star Bright will be published April 19, 2022.

Five Stars for The Housemaid

Description:

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.

I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

They don’t know what I’m capable of…

I was so excited to read this ARC of The Housemaid by Freida McFadden and wow! It did not disappoint! I read (devoured) this book in one day…super good, full of surprises, lots of suspense, and twists and turns.

I don’t know what else I can say about this book that’s not in the description (without giving anything away 😅) except to say, look for The Housemaid when it’s released April 26th. Add this to your summer reading list. Five fabulous stars!