The Last Straw

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sharon Sala

General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Published February 23, 2021 by MIRA

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.

My Thoughts:

I got this ARC and immediately went and found the first 3 books so I would know everything that had happened from the beginning. I read all 4 within 1 week. I loved the mystery. A woman disappearing without a trace? It was spooky and a little creepy. Once I started reading I was completely invested from the first page to the last. While I knew the romance part of it was coming, it still was hard to switch gears from them holding each other at arms length to “let’s have a relationship!” I liked that they became a team in more ways than one, but it was still a hard switch.

Thank you to #SharonSala and #Edelweiss for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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The Forever Girl

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jill Shalvis

General Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published January 12, 2021 by William Morrow and Custom House

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery. 

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

My Thoughts:

The forever girl is a novel of friendship, second chances and the transformative power of love in all its forms. This is the 6th novel in Ms Shalvis’ wildstone series, but it is not necessary to have read the previous 5 to enjoy this. It’s a stand alone book, and  I enjoyed it so much I’m going to find the rest of the series.

Maze has been hurt and rejected her entire life and has learned to shut everyone out to protect herself. And it is the same for Walker. They are forced to be together the week leading up to Caitlin’s wedding and they slowly learn that past events may not have been exactly  the way they had thought. Watching them overcome and learn to trust themselves and each other was heartwarming and enjoyable. Through the course of their story you come to care so much about these characters that you almost forget they aren’t real. Normally I speed through books but this time I dragged my feet a bit. I didn’t want it to end.

  • A few scenes are for mature audiences.

A huge thank you to #NetGalley and #JillShalvis for allowing me to read this! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Out of the Storm

⭐⭐⭐⭐

B.J. Daniels

General Fiction, Romance

Published December 29, 2020 by HQN

She can’t lose him again…

One look at his warm brown eyes and Kate Jackson knows she’s found her husband. It’s been twenty years since Daniel was declared dead in a refinery explosion, but Kate never gave up hope, convinced he was somewhere out there, suffering from amnesia. Then, on a trip to Buckhorn, Montana, she sees him—working as a carpenter, scarred, but still her Danny. Yet Jon Harper, as he calls himself, insists he’s a stranger.

Jon is certain he’s not the man Kate’s looking for. Though some of his memories are lost in shadow, how could he ever forget a woman like that? One thing Jon’s instinct does tell him is that she’s in danger from the very person she should trust most. Helping loyal, lovely Kate will mean exposing his own perilous past…but it’s the only way to protect her and this new chance at forever…

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. Some of the twists and turns I saw coming, but a few surprised me too. You get to know the characters pretty well although I felt the character of Jon could have been developed a little bit better. If we had more of his thoughts and backstory, instead of this mysterious “strong and almost completely silent” guy, their relationship would have flowed better.

My one big complaint is how the book started. From the first paragraph you are dropped into a fast moving story. There is no “set the scene” lead in, just boom you are off and running. If B.J. Daniels had done a prologue where we went through the last day with Kate and Danny, saw their devotion to each other, examples of their love and life, and what it was like when Kate learned of the explosion, I think the reader would have been better prepared to believe Kate’s 20 year devotion and unwillingness to move on. Chapter 1 could have started with the header, “20 years later….”

One scene is for mature audiences although it’s easily skipped since it was short. (I don’t feel like I missed anything by skipping it) Other than that, it’s a clean read.

Thank you to #edelweiss and #BJDaniels for allowing me to read the book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

The Jigsaw Files – #1-3 – Sharon Sala

⭐⭐⭐⭐ for all three

Overall: I loved them. I read the first book on Monday, the second one on Tuesday, and the third, I read Wednesday and Thursday. (Life got in the way) Can’t wait for book #4.

PI Charlie Dodge knows what it’s like to have something important disappear. His wife, Annie, suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s, causing her to remember little of the life she shared with her husband. Charlie has devoted his career to saving what he can—missing people, threatened lives. But when prominent Denver multimillionaire Carter Dunleavy vanishes without a trace, Charlie and his assistant, Wyrick, discover missing doesn’t always mean gone.

It turns out Carter didn’t vanish after all—he’s gone into hiding. Someone in his inner circle wants him dead and now Carter needs Charlie to expose the culprit before the Dunleavy empire spirals into ruin. But with a tangled web of suspects looking to silence Charlie’s investigation, he’ll have to find Carter’s would-be killer and fast, before the traitor can finish the job.

My Thoughts

This is different from all of Sharon Sala’s other books (no romance) but there are still key elements will be familiar to long time readers (I’ve been reading her stuff since she was writing as Dinah McCall) such as seeing the view point of the “bad guy. ”

At first I was a little put off by Wyrick because she is so different from the typical heroine, but the more I learned about her, the more I loved her. Charlie and his devotion to his wife made my heart melt and Wyrick is a kick-ass woman with a tough no nonsense shell that protects who she really is. Charlie and Wyrick are the perfect team and I loved the first book so much I rushed to find the second the moment I read the last word. The language isn’t too bad but there is one scene (really a paragraph) that I found rather crass and I wished the author had skipped it. It didn’t add anything to the plot or storyline.

The clock is ticking…

When Charlie Dodge gets a phone call from a frantic woman stating her daughter has been kidnapped by her ex-husband and taken into a cult called Fourth Dimension, he takes the case without hesitation. The cult’s rumored purpose is to gather men with psychic abilities with the goal of breeding a race of people who have supernatural powers. Once accepted into the cult, men are given a young girl to marry in exchange for one of their own daughters.

The FBI has been monitoring the cult’s activities, but Charlie and his assistant, Wyrick, aren’t bound by the same rules as the feds. They head to the mountains of West Virginia to infiltrate the cult’s compound. The lives of children are at stake, and Charlie and Wyrick will risk everything to destroy the cult and its leader—no matter the cost—because this case is personal.

My Thoughts:

Oh I loved this one! I listened to the audio book most of the time ( I didn’t want to put down the book, so when I had no choice I switched to the audio book and then stuck with it) and the narrator was so great. The voice of Charlie!!! Oh, that’s a voice I could listen to for a long time. Anyway, I adored Jordan. Sometimes she seemed older than 12, but when you add in her physic powers and the stubbornness of a 12 year old girl, it worked. It goes to show that if one person has the courage to resist and stand up to what is wrong, it gives others the courage to do so as well. The storyline was fast paced through out the book and I never got bored. Charlie and Wyrick are still a favorite! Clean-ish: occasional language, not excessive.

He has nothing and everything to lose…

When a seventeen-year-old boy goes missing while camping with his buddies in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend, the case is right up PI Charlie Dodge’s alley. Charlie’s reputation for finding missing people—especially missing kids—is unparalleled. Unfortunately, trouble seems to be equally good at finding him.

Charlie’s still in the thick of it when bad news arrives regarding his wife, Annie, whose early onset Alzheimer’s is causing her to slip further and further away. The timing couldn’t be worse. Thankfully, Charlie’s ride-or-die assistant, Wyrick, has his back. But when Universal Theorem, the shadowy and elusive organization from Wyrick’s past, escalates its deadly threats against her, it pushes both partners past their breaking points. Finding people is one thing; now Charlie will have to fight to hold on to everyone he holds dear.

My Thoughts:

This one wasn’t as fast paced as the other two, but still a great read. Charlie is losing his Annie at a faster rate and UT won’t leave Wyrick alone. The beginning had my heart pounding (don’t like heights, and when I hike I’m always worried about falling over the edge, even when it’s not warranted.) But after that, the cases take a bit of a back seat as each character has to deal with more problems in their personal lives. Cleanish: language, not excessive.

Link by Link

⭐⭐⭐

Elle Beaumont, Meg Dailey, M. Dalto, Pam Dunn, Kristin Jacques, Candace Robinson, Leslie Rush, C. Vonzale Lewis, Jess Moore, Lauren Emily Whalen

General Fiction, Holiday

Published December 2, 2020

“‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link…’”
-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Link by Link is a collection of 9 stories of ghosts, spirits, and creatures unnamed, all come to teach lessons we won’t soon forget. From sweet Christmas tales to terrifying holiday hauntings, these stories take a dive into the past in the hopes of creating a better—or at least different—future.

My Thoughts:

As with anthologies you get a mixed bag of contents. Some stories were great, but some of them were not so great. It’s tough when writing short stories to get enough content and back story to get your reader to connect with the characters and a few of the authors were more successful . It’s hard to rate this because some of the stories deserve a 1 star, while others deserve a 3 or 4. My two favorites were Yesterday’s News and Between the Quiet. 

Thank you to #BookSirens for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Love in Lockdown

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Chloe James

General Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published November 23, 2020 by Avon Books UK

Sophia is afraid lockdown will put her life on pause – just as she was she was going to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest, and is going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until that night he hears a woman crying from the balcony beneath his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile back on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

My Thoughts:

Throughout the first 40% of the book I kept thinking “too soon.” Where I am, we are dealing with skyrocketing cases and currently two of my kids schools, and the school I work at, have been shut down for 2 weeks due to a high number of cases. I kept putting the book down, shaking my head, thinking I just lived this, I don’t want to read about it. But then I would pick it up so I could find out what happened next. But I’m glad I kept going. The pacing is fairly slow the first half (I think that was part of my struggles as well) but then it picks up and gets going. Once that happened I was able to set aside my “too soon” feelings and really enjoy the story. I liked the community that came together through Jack and Sophia’s efforts and how they all learned to appreciate parts of the lockdown. Didn’t we all experience that as well this year? It was a relatable and charming story and I’m glad I stuck with it.

A Broken Bone

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Melinda Leigh

General Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Published November 3, 2020 by Montlake

On Widow’s Island, the secrets are dark…and everybody has one. So when Deputy Tessa Black responds to a call about an explosion in a quiet neighborhood, she gets more than she bargained for: the body of a teen who went missing weeks ago.

Until recently, Gavin was living in a reputable foster home. But now that he is found dead—Tessa can’t help but wonder if sinister forces are at play. Who would want to hurt him, and why?

With the help of her partner, Park Ranger Logan Wilde, Tessa tries desperately to decipher what happened to Gavin before another life is cut short. Someone on Widow’s Island knows the explosive truth. Will Tessa find the answers she needs before someone else turns up dead?

My Thoughts:

This book is not a stand alone book. I highly recommend reading the previous 5 before reading this one. In the 6th book of the Widow’s Island series we switch back to Tessa and Logan’s story. We have the usual murder to solve and I was surprised by the resolution of that problem. I didn’t figure out who the murderer was before it was revealed in the book. I really liked how Tessa and Logan’s relationship is played out and portrayed, although I was a little confused that he was consistently her back up. Maybe in his role as a forest ranger it was okay? But I digress. Logan is a companion that grounds Tessa and keeps her going. Dementia is a hard, hard disease. We had my husband’s grandmother with us for one week while arrangements were being made for her care and it was a very difficult week. We didn’t know what to expect from one moment to the next, if she would know us, if she wouldn’t and how she would react. Ms. Leigh did a good job of showing the beginnings of the disease with Tessa’s mom in this book and previous ones. I enjoyed how the book ended.

Below the Bones

⭐⭐⭐

Kendra Elliot

General Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Published October 27, 2020 by Montlake

Former FBI special agent Cate Wilde is a new bakery and bookstore owner—and retirement is now complete with a doctor boyfriend. Although she struggles with PTSD, the sweet life she’s living is a far cry from the gruesome work she left behind six months ago.

But when skeletal remains turn up on Widow’s Island—and the MO of the killer is too familiar to Cate—the dream comes to an abrupt end. What if the case she solved eight years ago isn’t as closed as she thought? Her hometown needs her, and despite her mental health and her boyfriend’s protests, she has no choice but to return to her dangerous past life.

Soon Cate is in a desperate race to stop a cold-blooded murderer from killing again, once and for all…only this time, she’ll have so much more to lose.

My Thoughts:

First off, this is not a stand alone book. You will be lost if you haven’t read the previous 4 novellas.

This one is hard to review. Because I can’t tell if the novella was lackluster or if I was so distracted by events all around me that I couldn’t concentrate on it. I listened to the majority of the book on Election Day and I would find myself tuning out and then having to rewind to try and listen again. I don’t think it pulled me in as much as the previous 4 books did. The relationships between the characters was barely there. There was a internal dialog with Cate as she tried to decide what to do about the FBI, and in turn the murder, but not much dialog between her and the other characters.

I have alternately listened/read the previous 4 books so I know I have heard the narrator, Christine Williams, before but this time I thought her performance was lackluster as well.

I remain a fan of Ms. Elliot, but I don’t think this was her best.

My Most Recommend Book

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Someone recommended this book to me and I wish I remembered who it was so I could thank them. I, in turn, recommend this to everyone who asks me for suggestions. Need a book for bookclub? Read this one! Going on vacation? Take this with you! I love this so much but I sit here almost paralyzed trying to think of the words that would entice you to read it. Gorgeous descriptions of food? A little mystery that needs solving? A sweet story with a satisfying ending? A great escape from the awfulness of 2020?

Delicious! is about a girl, a food magazine, a famous chef and set in New York City. I tend to think I’m a pretty strict reviewer and if there is something I don’t like I’ll tell you about it. But there isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. Written by Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine, it is her only fiction book. I wish she had more!

So if you are looking for something to read? I’ve got a suggestion for you…..

The Cookbook Club

⭐⭐1/2

Beth Harbison

MUST LOVE BUTTER: The Cookbook Club is now open to members. Foodies come join us! No diets! No skipping dessert!

Margo Everson sees the call out for the cookbook club and knows she’s found her people. Recently dumped by her self-absorbed husband, who frankly isn’t much of a loss, she has little to show for her marriage but his ‘parting gift’—a dilapidated old farm house—and a collection of well-loved cookbooks

Aja Alexander just hopes her new-found friends won’t notice that that every time she looks at food, she gets queasy. It’s hard hiding a pregnancy, especially one she can’t bring herself to share with her wealthy boyfriend and his snooty mother. 

Trista Walker left the cutthroat world of the law behind and decided her fate was to open a restaurant…not the most secure choice ever. But there she could she indulge her passion for creating delectable meals and make money at the same time.

The women bond immediately, but it’s not all popovers with melted brie and blackberry jam.  Margo’s farm house is about to fall down around her ears; Trista’s restaurant needs a makeover and rat-removal fast; and as for Aja, just how long can you hide a baby bump anyway?

In this delightful novel, these women form bonds that go beyond a love grilled garlic and soy sauce shrimp. Because what is more important in life than friendship…and food?

My Thoughts:

I’ve made it a point to be 100% honest in my reviews. This was a good-ish book, but it could have been great, and that’s disappointing. I feel a little cheated. With 4 different characters’ perspectives (Margo, Max, Trista, Aja) you never get to fully “bond” with any of them. There were quite a few plot points that were never explained (so frustrating!!) and there was a whole lot of telling instead of showing. I wonder if it went through extensive re-editing. There were contradictions, like information about Margo’s husband’s job, and I’m wondering if story gaps were parts that needed to be re-written. The women formed a cookbook club but we only got to see them at the book club once or twice. With-in a few chapters, the club took a complete backseat to the story and we only got to see the notes about the food from each meeting. I expected the book (based on how the story was flowing) to be a lot longer so the epilogue took me by complete surprise. 

A big thank you to #BethHarbison, #NetGalley and #WilliamMorrow for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.