First & Then by Emma Mills

Book Description:

Published: October 13, 2015

Format: Audio

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Review –

“Senior Devon Tennyson assumes college is next but isn’t so clear on why. Her longtime friend and crush, Cas Kincaid, isn’t interested in her romantically, alas. While she is part of his football crew, Devon has other friends who are as individual, though not as average, as she is.

The wide-ranging cast provides background to Devon’s struggles with her future, exemplified by her boring college essay. Add in the long-delayed and dreaded phys-ed requirement to make her unhappiness complete. It’s mostly freshmen except for Devon and an All-American football player and transfer student, Ezra. Also in the class is Foster, a freshman and a cousin who recently joined her household after his mother asked her parents to take him on full-time. Devon’s clearly not impressed with his irrepressible presence and knowing observations. However, her protective instincts go on high alert when socially inept and scrawny Foster’s great ability to kick a football is discovered by Ezra. When Ezra takes Foster under his wing, Devon isn’t sure if it’s a setup or real, given Ezra’s low popularity quotient. With sporadic references to Jane Austen’s famous characters and wickedly inventive language, Mills closely observes the social milieu of an American high school obsessed with our favorite sport and makes readers care what happens.

A fresh, smart, inventive, and altogether impressive debut. (Romance. 11-16)” Kirkus Review

A totally sweet young adult romance mixed with football.  Love it!

 

 

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One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Book Description:

Published: April 11, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A handsome stranger moves to the small Pennsylvania town of Central Valley, and his name is Chris Brennan. He’s applying for a job as a teacher and varsity baseball coach at the local high school, and he looks perfect, on paper. But his name is an alias, his resume is false, and everything about him is a lie. And he has a secret plan – for which he needs a pawn on the baseball team.

Susan Sematov loves her younger son Raz, the quirky and free-spirited pitcher of the team. But Raz’s adored father died only a few months ago, and the family is grief-stricken. Secretly, Raz is looking to fill the Daddy-shaped hole in his heart.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who’s dedicated to her only son Justin, the quiet rookie on the team. But Justin’s shy and reserved nature renders him vulnerable to attention, including that of a new father-figure.

Mindy Kostis is the wife of a busy surgeon and the queen bee of the baseball boosters, where her super-popular son Evan is the star catcher. But she doesn’t realize that Evan’s sense of entitlement is becoming a full-blown case of affluenza, and after he gets his new BMW, it’s impossible to know where he’s going – or whom he’s spending time with.

The lives of these families revolve around the baseball team – and Chris Brennan. What does he really want? How far will he go to get it? Who among them will survive the lethal jeopardy threatening them, from the shadows?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will keep readers riveted to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

Review –

Five stars !

“If you were looking for a mid year replacement for a departing government teacher, you could hardly do better than Chris Brennan. He’s clearly prepared to cover the courses in government and criminal justice; he’s bright, attractive, and personable; he bonds instantly and effectively with students; and he can even serve as assistant coach of the school’s faltering baseball team. Chris is clearly too good to be true, an observation it never occurs to his new colleagues to take seriously. Only Abe Yomes, the gay African-American language-arts teacher, poses any threat, not because he sees through Chris but because he actually grew up in Wyoming, where Chris is pretending to be from. Soon enough, however, Mr. Y is dead, an apparent suicide, and Chris is ready to go ahead with his plan, which requires him to befriend a lonely, vulnerable boy—preferably somebody both in his class and on the baseball team—separate him from his cohort, and turn him into a patsy for a scheme that involves a rented truck and a mountain of ammonium chloride fertilizer. To say more would undermine several whopping surprises Scottoline has in store, but readers can be assured that the author nails the high school milieu, from athletic rivalries to sexting, and that even if they spot every twist coming from a mile away, they’re still in for one thrilling ride on the roller coaster.” Kirkus Reviews

At first you’re not sure where the book is heading but after a few chapters it is clearly unveiled and from there it is action packed, fast paced and gives you a hero to cheer.

Excellent read.

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Book Description:

Published: June 12, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review –

Georgina was an upwardly mobile executive in a highly successful company when she is arrested for helping her teenage boyfriend dispose of the body of her best friend and fellow cheerleader, whom he had killed, fourteen years before.She made a plea deal and only got five years.

Prison is very hard for her and the author goes into detail about her experiences while incarcerated. She receives letters in blue envelopes over the years but after having read the first does not read the others. Of course, we are to think they are from the SweetBay Strangler, her ex-boyfriend, but are they really?

Once out, she goes to live with her father in her childhood home and try to start a new life but people in the neighborhood don’t want her there and vandalize her home and car with red spray paint, because they believe she helped to kill her friend. Her father is very supportive, as is Kaiser Brody, also a best friend from her high school years and now a police detective. He believes Geo, Georgina’s nickname, know where Calvin is and tries to get her to tell him every chance he gets. Fourteen years ago he had a crush on Geo and still loves her but believes it’s a lost cause.

The author  does not flinch from visceral descriptions of murder and rape,( a very important part of the story) it is a much deeper story about a high school girl who fell head over heels with a killer and how it destroyed her life.

Jar of Hearts is an unpredictable and riveting thriller that keeps the pages turning with characters who are stimulating and a storyline that keeps you totally on the edge of your seat.

Five stars!

 

 

 

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Book Description:

Published: July 18, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Review –

I loved his book, even though it did become a bit monotonous with Cass bemoaning the murder on Blackwater Road all the time and that made her become a victim easier.

I won’t go into detail because it would be easy to give the ending away, but know this, it’s not what you initially think. It’s not cut and dried. There are misdirections and all of this makes for a class A “who-dun-it mystery”. 

I highly recommend  this book if you enjoy this genre.

Beartown ( Bjornstad #1) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: April 25, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Review –

This novel concerns a Swedish youth league hockey team and its  place in a declining town. “Hockey is just a silly little game,” he writes. “We burn and bleed and cry, fully aware that the most the sport can give us, in the very best scenario, is incomprehensibly meager and worthless: just a few isolated moments of transcendence. …But what the hell else is life made of?”

Beartown quickly turns dark as the author exposes the one-track hearts and minds of some of Beartown’s residents. The isolated community in the novel is in Sweden, but “Beartown” is a universal story of homophobia, sexism and politics that could take place anywhere.

“Small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world,” Backman writes, and, as readers soon learn, covering up a heinous crime is not up for debate if the town is going to make economic and social advances. It’s why Backman’s descriptions of screeching hockey parents who yell at coaches and other parents during games — we’ve all seen them — seem almost comical set against the ugly group mentality that takes over after a teen is raped and the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s star player is accused of the crime.

Current fiction may have no more courageous young female character than Maya, who faces hate and threats after she comes forward about the rape. Backman writes a gritty, heart-stopping account of the sexual assault after which the novel then pivots into even more ominous territory as the town turns on her and her family.

Beartown is not just about a sexual assault; it’s also about Beartown families closing ranks and perpetuating falsehoods to protect themselves and the hockey team. It’s also about the all-encompassing culture of youth sports — the physical, mental and emotional commitment demanded of the players (not necessarily a bad thing) and the way that team sponsors, coaches and fans treat players like products rather than human beings.

So, although the book initially seems to be about the sport of hockey in a very small Swedish town, it is about sooo much more than that.

Five stars and I highly recommend it.

 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Book Description:

Published: March 7, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Review –

This book is very on point for today’s society because do we even think about a person’s whereabouts before texting? I usually don’t and I bet I’m not the only one. 

Carver (nicknamed Blade by the Sauce Crew, his three best friends) KNEW where Mars was when he sent a text. Mars was driving with his two best friends in the car and tried to answer the text only to crash into a parked semi instead.

This book is all about the repercussions of his act but also about sharing a Goodbye Day with the relatives of his deceased best friends. A Goodbye Day is spent doing things the deceased would have done and sharing memories of them with family members. I love the idea and think it should become a real thing.

It’s a very moving book that will make you think long after the book is closed for the last time. This is the second book I’ve read by author, Jeff Zentner and all I can say is that he really knows how to write about feelings.

I highly recommend it!

 

Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell #2) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published: September 2, 2008

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Portland detective Archie Sheridan, the former head of the Beauty Killer Task Force, hunted Gretchen Lowell for years before she kidnapped him, tortured him, and then let him go. Now that she is behind bars, Archie is finally piecing his life back together. He’s returned home to his ex-wife and their two children. But no matter how hard Archie tries, he just can’t stop thinking about Gretchen!

When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert; but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he’s the only one who can capture Gretchen and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim!

Review –

In Sweetheart Archie’s best friend and detective, Henry, as well as his wife step in and stage a whole intervention scene. They are severing all ties between Archie and Gretchen. Henry explains that they are moving her to a place far out of his reach and banning all phone calls and visits with her. It doesn’t matter that every time Archie visits her she gives up another name of another victim. It’s just not worth it anymore.

This novel opens up with the shuffling of transporting Gretchen from one prison to another, in which she escapes. Archie knows she will kill anyone, especially those who are important to Archie. She will kill anyone to get his attention.  She wants him and she will not stop until she has him all to herself. With so many people Archie cares for there are a lot of people she can come after to gain his attention. But Gretchen isn’t playing games anymore. After a few leads that send the detective all over the city yet seem to get them nowhere to finding her, Gretchen comes directly for Archie and he goes to her willingly.

With Archie missing, our favorite reporter Susan Ward is back in action. Of course, she never left the action of trying to find the real scoop on the U.S. senator who seduced his children’s babysitter a decade ago. Only he’s dead and the babysitter is too. Susan worries her story is long gone? Until she finds a connection between the dead bodies that seem to be popping up everywhere and the sex scandal? Working with Henry trying to find Archie, Susan struggles with who to trust with the clues that she keeps uncovering about the other case she is working on.

The story goes back and forth between Archie’s relationship with his captor and Susan’s struggle to piece together all the parts of more than one head-scratching case.  I found the book a bit sluggish at times and felt that Cain was not doing as great a job at holding my attention with this installment of her Gretchen Lowell series.  The tension in this book was not up to par compared to her first book and the gory details of the previous book was traded for some lewd scenes between Archie and Gretchen ( we find out that Archie and Gretchen were having an affair before she kidnapped and tortured him and no one know but just the two of them.). Cain does however utilize the multiple plots going on in the book quite well and is easily switched from one to the other. I give kudos to Cain for incorporating the psychological complexities to the relationship between Archie and Gretchen as well as keeping the main characters busy with moving the storyline in the right direction. Though I feel the book could have been a wee bit better it was still a page turner (Archie tries to commit suicide while handcuffing Gretchen to the stairs in a cabin in the middle of a wild fire) for the most part.  It’s believable or as believable as one who’s never experienced a psycho serial killer can be and I am totally looking forward to the third installment, Evil at Heart.  I have it on hold on OverDrive but there are two people ahead of me.

Excellent read!

 

 

Fatal by John Lescroart

Book Description:

Published: January 24, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.

What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.

 

Review-

“Oh! What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive”  Sir Walter Scott

This simple statement perfectly sums up the moral of this story, and what a story it is!

This was  my first reading of a John Lescroart book and I loved it.  I found the storyline to be very on point and the characters very credible. 

In today’s society of “instant gratification” the consequences of actions are rarely considered and that was the problem with Kate having a “one night stand” with Peter.

Along with her infidelity, there is a domestic terror attack, a murder and multiple suspects, and a friend who doesn’t know her best friend as well as she thought she did.

The author  serves up a brilliant whodunit mystery that had me holding my breath until the very end, which is perfect, by the way, if not a little frustrating.

Fantastic standalone read.

Five stars!!!!!

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Book Description:

Published: July 25, 2017   

Format: Audio/OverDrive

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Review –

This is a book that will keep you guessing at every chapter.  You think you know what’s going on and in the next sentence you discover you were totally wrong.  I LOVE books this this because you never get bored and it “strains the brain” to figure out what comes next.

I have now read all three books by this author and she out does herself with every one.  Were Alfred Hitchcock still around, he surely would have snapped up the rights because it would be right up his alley. Hitch would have more of a challenge, though, making “The Lying Game” into something memorable. This story stays scrupulously within the lines: to the degree it satisfies, it does so because — like a Lifetime movie — its premise, setting and characters are so comfortably broken-in. There’s even a haunted house, a dark and stormy night, a baby in danger and climactic trials by flood and fire. But even if the story hints at being a cliché, you can’t help but be drawn in.

The plot ambles back and forth between the women’s youth and their anxious present, they are four old school friends bound together by a terrible secret. Fifteen years ago, Isa Wilde arrived at Salten House, a boarding school on the south coast. She and three other girls, Fatima, Kate and Thea, form an inseparable clique impervious to the world around them. They spend their weekends at Kate’s home, the Old Mill, a ramshackle building overlooking the nearby estuary, under the watchful eye of her father Ambrose (the school’s art teacher), and in the company of Kate’s sort-of half-brother Luc.

Most of the girls’ time, however, is spent playing the Lying Game, competing with each other to get away with increasingly outrageous untruths: to “outwit everyone else – ‘us’ against ‘them’”. Then one day something terrible happens, and henceforth they’re “lying not for fun, but to survive”.

What is the secret they are hiding, who else knows about it, who is blackmailing Kate, who killed the sheep and is the note Ambrose wrote really a suicide note? These are just a few of the questions in this fantastic read.

  Five stars!!!!

 

 

Her Last Breath (Kate Burkholder #5) by Linda Castillo

Book Description:

Published: June 18, 2013

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A rainy night, an Amish father returning home with his three children, a speeding car hurtling toward them out of nowhere.

What at first seems like a tragic, but routine car accident suddenly takes on a more sinister cast as evidence emerges that nothing about the crash is accidental. But who would want to kill an Amish deacon and two of his children? He leaves behind a grieving widow and a young boy who clings to life in the intensive care wing of a hospital, unable to communicate. He may be the only one who knows what happened that night. Desperate to find out who killed her best friend’s husband and why, Kate begins to suspect she is not looking for a reckless drunk, but instead is on the trail of a cold blooded killer amid the residents of Painter’s Mill. It is a search that takes her on a chilling journey into the darkest reaches of the human heart and makes her question everything she has ever believed about the Amish culture into which she was born.

Review –

The story opens with a horrible accident. An Amish father and his children, returning home in their horse-drawn buggy, are demolished by a speeding car that flees into the night. A scene that is so harrowingly rendered it’s as if the reader is an eyewitness.

But was it an accident? Or was it a murder of horrific proportions? If so, why? What’s the payoff for killing off a father and his children?  Nothing is apparent and as Kate digs deeper into the family and the community, a community that still resents her departure from the fold, she uncovers dark deeds and motives that defy understanding. She was best friends, as children, with the wife of the murdered family, but did she really know her at all?

Kate’s continuing and growing relationship with FBI agent John Tomasetti only complicates her life (John has bought a farmhouse about 20 minutes from Painter’s Mill and has asked Kate to move in with him) and skews her choices. Choices that could end her career. John’s too.

Excellent story.