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.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Book Description:

Published: March 22, 2011

Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most.

Review –

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This is a fantastic read/listen ( I had the audio version ) and although it is slow and repetitive in places it grabs your heart-strings and doesn’t let go.

It’s a book to be equally enjoyed by young adults as well as their parents because the issues are presented from both perspectives. The main characters are twins, Mia and Zack  and Jude, their adept but hovering mother and Lexi, a lonely teen living with her aunt.

Mothers will  relate to her parenting skills and worrying. Young adults and teens will relate to the push and pull of finding independence from one’s parents and the necessity of being accepted by peers. It’s layered with issues on family dynamics, teenage angst and romance, first loves, sibling rivalry, friendship, forgiveness, grief and motherhood making it an excellent read.

I felt so sorry for Lexi who just can’t catch a break and so angry at Zack for putting Lexi in a position that  endangered all three of them and ended Mia’s life.

The ending is a bit too much HALLMARK, but I’m glad everything worked out for everyone.

All in all a great book.

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Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Book Description:

Published: August 11, 2015

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

Review –

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While I LOVED the book, I have read reviews that said that the going back and forth in time between the two points of view distracted many readers. For me this was not a problem because I listened to the audio version and going back to 1995 when Tessie is  sixteen and seeing different doctors to help her cope with the trauma that she went through and then to the present as Tessa trying to help free the man serving time on death row and it flowed very smoothly.

It’s a creepy psychological thriller and will keep you hanging on to every word. There are a couple of surprise twists that you don’t see coming and that makes it even better.

Five stars *****

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A Mess of Reason by A. Wilding Wells

Book Description:

Published:  February 2016

“Scout Steele is the country music star People magazine just voted “sexiest bachelor”. More than that, he’s my best friend forever, my bff. OK, not quite my lingo – I’m almost thirty. We’ve shared everything, and then some. Even crossed the line a few times, but not too far. Well, mostly…. He’ll go to the end of the world to make me happy; he knows me inside and out. Except, that is, my most intimate and darkest defect; this he must never know. It would ruin us, and ‘us’ is the only thing that matters. So I’m marrying someone who doesn’t care about the truth or, frankly, even me.”

“She’s twisted and sexy as all get out. Brilliant and beautiful, Tess Harlow is my best friend and my forbidden fruit – the woman I’ve always known and loved the best but can never have. Between my tours (and sexy groupies) and her man-juggling, we’ve never found “our time”. I love her to pieces but she’s about to marry the bane of my existence, rocker Creed Luce. He’s a walking cliché and he treats my Tess like hell – why she stays with him I still haven’t figured out. I am always there for her…but not this time. Tess deserves better, way better, my better. The door is half-open and I have my ways. Her best friend is about to become her best lover.”

Review –

So, this book has a common story line-best friends, who have known each other for ages but want more from each other but won’t act on it. Also the girl, Tess, is engaged to a real jerk.

Tess also has a secret that no one knows about, but it’s not as bad as the build up leads you to believe, so when Scout finds out, it’s like no big deal.

The only reason they finally did act on their attraction to one other is that her fiancée had se with another woman. Who knows what would have happened if Tess actually went through with the wedding. Scout should have acted long before e did.

To me, the story didn’t flow and it felt like there were holes in it; like Tess’s accident, hospital stay and recovery. It was just glossed over, yet Tess contends it’s a secret as big as the location of the Ark of the Covenant. Overall, it’s not an award winner but it was a pleasant read and I LOVE the cover.

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Seizure (Virals #2) by Kathy Reichs

Book Description:

Published: October 18, 2011

Ever since Tory Brennan and her friends rescued Cooper, a kidnapped wolf pup with a rare strain of canine parvovirus, they’ve turned from regular kids into a crime-solving pack. But now the very place that brought them together – the Loggerhead Island Research Institute – is out of funding and will have to shut down. That is, unless the Virals can figure out a way to save it.

So when Tory learns of an old Charleston legend about a famous she-pirate, Anne Bonney, whose fortune was never found, she can’t believe her luck – buried treasure is exactly what she needs to save the Institute on Loggerhead! Trouble is, she and her friends aren’t the only ones looking for it. And this time, the Virals’ special powers may not be enough to dig them out of trouble . . .

Review –

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first because it was just WAY too improbable !

The teens being infected with a rare strain of canine parvovirus and having super powers is bad enough but I can live with that-it’s the finding of the buried treasure that had me rolling my eyes.  For hundreds of years experienced treasure hunters had looked and failed the find the treasure of the pirate Anne Bonney, but along comes four teenagers and viola they find it in a matter of days.  GIVE ME A BREAK!

While is was okay to listen to, I don’t know if I’ll  check out other books in the series.

 

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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Book Description:

Published: September 15, 2015

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Review –

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This is the best “feel good” book that I have read or listened to (I did both)  that I have experienced in a long time.

Being a girl/woman with a bit of extra chubbiness here and there I can totally identify with Willowdean and I know just how she feels when Bo lets it be known that he “likes” her.  It’s a scary thing, especially at sixteen, and I was so afraid that she was going to let the bullies in the book win, but she didn’t.

When Willowdean entered the pageant, as a confidence builder, three other girls, all with her own physical “flaws”, entered as well and whenever they were in a scene together in the book, it was hilarious and heart warming, as well. Willowdean’s best friend El enters too, and this causes a break in their  friendship that lasts for months. El works at Sweet Sixteen, a dress shop that caters to small sizes and has made new friends there and Willowdean feels totally devastated that her best friend is now sharing secrets with girls other than her.

With the death of her Aunt Lucy, her crazy Beauty Pageant focused Mom, missing her best friend, and going from having never been kissed to having two boys that are interested in her, Willowdean’s life is brimming over with drama.

Fantastic book and I have added Bo Larsen to my Favorites Book Beaus List, (swoon)

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Stirred Up by S.E. Hall and Angela Graham

Book Description:

Published: April 26, 2014

Certain men. Certain professions. Some things are just universally sexy.

But maybe not quite this sexy…

“Lay back for me.”

Review –
Addison and Brady, who is her brother’s best friend,  fight their feelings for each other. They are best friends and never can be more, at least that’s how Addison feels. She’s afraid if the relationship went further and it didn’t work out, it would ruin their perfect, long time friendship.

Brady is constantly pushing for more because he’s had real feelings for her as long as he can remember.
Addison is trying to figure her feelings while having a secret tryst with the handsome Dr. Reynolds, who is an OBGYN and he examines her thoroughly each time she goes to his office.  He wants to take her out in public as in date, but she says she wants to keep it private and will only see him in his office.  Eventually, he tells he does not f**k his patients and refuses to see her at his office. Without  seeing him for a few days she  finally calls in to his office and uses and fake name to get an appointment. When Dr. Reynolds walks in he plays along for a while but then tells her again that he can not carry on with her in his office. So, she bites the bullet and asks him to dinner at her house.

Of course, he comes and after some wine, one thing leads to another and they have sex and Addison makes her move and tells the doctor that she loves him but was afraid it would ruin what they had.  ARE YOU READY FOR IT?  The twist is that Dr. Reynolds and Brady are the same person.  I never saw it coming and it made me smile from ear to ear.

 It’s short and doesn’t take long to read and is well worth your time.
Adult with explicit sex

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Theirs to Keep (Tangled Hearts Trilogy #1) by Maya Banks

Book Description:

Published: October 22, 2013

When Cade Winslow and Merrick Sullivan find Elle hiding in the cabinet of a gun store, they know they can’t just walk away from the fragile woman with no memory of who she is or who tried to kill her. Merrick is training for the title shot in the heavyweight division as a mixed martial artist and can’t afford distractions, but neither can he turn his back on the woman who tugs at his heartstrings.

Elle feels safe with her two protectors, and the longer she spends with them, the more she realizes that she has no desire to remember her past. Not when it could compromise her future with Cade and Merrick.

Cade has his own set of concerns when it comes to Elle, and it quickly becomes clear to the two men that for the first time in their friendship, a woman is coming between them. But what if they just kept her there? Between them. Where she belongs.

Review –

This is a MMF Menage Erotic Romance involving a mixed martial arts fighter and his best friend who jointly owns a security firm and a woman, badly beaten with amnesia, who they take into their home, hearts and beds.

Over the course of the story Elle remembers bits and pieces and thinks the man who beat her and tried to kill her might be a cop. After Merrick wins the title she remembers the name of a town where she might have been when she was beaten, so the trio decides to soon make a trip and see what else Elle can remember so that her past can be dealt with and their future can proceed.

I thought it was good and the sex scenes were tastefully done but very explicit.

This is the first of three books in the Tangled Hearts Trilogy.

Adult

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The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: March 1, 2008

Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie. . . . The book’s title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache’s personal and professional challenges — making this the series standout so far.’
–Sarah Weinman


Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruellest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a seance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil — until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the SQ (Sûreté du Québec) is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

Review –

Five stars *****

I am truly loving this series. It reminds me of the old Agatha Christie mysteries except these have a man in the role of the solver of crimes. 

I also like how, again ,the murderer turns out to be someone least expected-and you find out that all is never as it seems.

In this installment, Gamache’s so-called friend leaks under rumors and pictures to the newspapers and television in the hopes that it will make him resign and be the subject of such shame that he will have to leave town. BUT, this does not happen and he is found out is resigns and moves out of the area. I was thrilled that he finally got caught,

I’m currently listening to the next in the series and will report on it very soon.

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The Body Finder (The Body Finder #1) By Kimberly Derting

Book Description:

Published: March 16, 2010

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer.. she might become his next prey.

Review –

THE BODY FINDER is the story of high school junior Violet Ambrose and it is the beginning of the school year, and she has a secret. She has fallen in love with Jay Heato, her  best friend since elementary school. Though they are accustomed to spending all their time together, it is getting more and more difficult for Violet because of her new feelings toward Jay. Complicating matters is the fact that half the girls at school are suddenly attracted to the handsome, easygoing Jay as well. Violet is determined to push aside her feelings, hoping to preserve the friendship that has meant so much to her for so long.

THE BODY FINDER is suspenseful but not too scary. In fact it could have been far scarier. I like that Violet’s parents weren’t depicted as idiots but as supportive of her and her ability. I also enjoyed seeing the growth of the relationship between Violet and Jay from best friend to boyfriend and the positive way he treated her.  There is bad language and dark issues in the last half of the book and I’m not really sure why the author included them.

 There are a few nice twists in the novel (as well as a few predictable ones), Violet’s ability is interesting, and the author keeps it fairly mysterious. Unfortunately, the killer is not creepy enough and the ending is abrupt. Still, the book is an intriguing debut and intense enough to make it a worthwhile and fun YA thriller.

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