Sparrow by L.J. Shen

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

Troy Brennan

Every southie in Boston knows that name. The son of a dead mobster. The heart throb with steel blue eyes. “The Fixer” who can make or break you in this city.

Oh, and my new husband.

Sparrow Raynes

That’s me. No one seemed to remember my name up until he barged into my life.
But then he caged me.
Kidnapped me.
And killed every chance I had to runaway from the place where we grew up.
Put simply, Troy Brennan clipped my wings.

I have dreams, big ones, but I doubt he’d ever let me chase them. I have no idea why he’d decided to take me as his wife. But I do know this: pissing off this man will not do me any good. At all.

Sparrow is a standalone, full-length novel. It contains graphic violence and adult situations some may find offensive.

Review –

Sparrow Raynes is a survivor. She can’t be caged or caught or forced unless she wants to.  Abandoned by her mother at an early age and caretaker for her alcoholic father, she has learned that life is never going to be easy.  She was never going to have free and easy. She had to work for everything she has. That’s fine. She doesn’t mind working hard for what she loves.  She’s going to cooking school with dreams of owning a food truck one day. Until, everything gets taken from her… yet again.

Troy Brennan knows death. He knows blood and loss and pain.  The son of a murdered mobster. When he was nineteen and Sparrow only nine, his father made him make another promise –to marry and take care of Sparrow.  Another burden that his father heaped on him. He is stuck with her, but he won’t ever love her and she better get used to it.

Troy Brennan is on a mission to avenge his murdered father.  But before he can finish his mission he has to full fill  a promise to his father first.  Marry Sparrow Raynes. Yes, he’ll be stuck with her, but that’s beside the point.  He doesn’t have to like her. He is just full-filling the promise he made to the father the loved. He informed her of their impending marriage by take her from her home, installing her into his apartment, supplying her with take out menus and leaving her to it.  Have a good week.

Marriage is new for him. Feeling are new to him. Her spark of fire and take-no-shit attitude attract Troy. She reminds him of… well, him. He doesn’t really see the point in caring about her. He know their relationship is doomed from the beginning.But he does like to see her occupied and maybe a little happy. (It would get her out of the house and allow him to see his mistress without having the worry about her) So when he finds out that she likes to cook he installs her into his high end restaurant where she meets Brock, right hand man of Troy and restaurant manager.

Sparrow tries to finds her way in the new world that she is trust into.  Working, jogging, meeting with friends.  Living with her awful husband as best she can, but it’s more that difficult.  He cheats on her openly and living with him is a chore.  She tries to connect with him but he takes joy in trying to make her feel small.  Well, good luck with that.  She can’t be taken down by a man like her husband.

As the days go on, Troy watches Sparrow take all of his challenges and rise above them. All of them. She is strong. She proves that daily.  He stops looking at his mistress as the ideal beauty and starts to really see this small, red haired, girl-woman as the true beauty and warrior that she really is.  As he learns more about her life, he finds she has survived much more than he knew.

When she is taken on the street on morning, Troy must finally come to feel and acknowledge the feeling that he hasn’t been dealing with for a few weeks. He has to find her.  He finally sees what his hate has been blinding him to for too many years.  He has to save his wife. He does and fast forward and he frees her from their marriage and eventually she realizes she can not live without him and there is a very HEA.

I loved this book.  I loved the story and the characters, although, Troy at first, not so much!   The pace of the plot is good.  You get to see the couple first hate each other, then slowly find things they liked about each other and then come to love each other in the ways that they can, but so much of this book is about Troy’s mission and Sparrow’s past.  Troy isn’t ever going to be anything but who he is, but once he figures out that he loves her, Troy loves her wholeheartedly.

Loved this book and the narration was great, although might have been plus five stars with the addition of a female narrator.

 

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Review – 

On the day after Iris and Will’s seventh wedding anniversary, they’re ready to start trying for a baby. But all is not as it seems.

From the outside, it looks like they have a perfect marriage. Friends and family admire their beautiful home, great jobs, and passionate commitment to each other. All this changes when Will dies on a plane flight he wasn’t supposed to be on.

Scheduled to be en route to Florida to make a presentation at a cybersecurity conference, his name is found on the passenger manifest of a plane bound for Seattle after it crashes in a field. Looking through his files to try to figure out what he was up to, Iris finds a new will and $2.5 million in life insurance policies Will had taken out only months earlier. At a memorial service for the crash victims, she meets Corban, who introduces himself as a friend of Will’s from the gym. According to Corban, Will was on his way to a job interview in Seattle, but the office he was interviewing with has never heard of him. Will doesn’t seem to be hiding a secret lover, but nothing Iris believed about her husband turns out to be true. Iris proves herself a relentless investigator in a case that takes her to Will’s hometown to solve the mystery of whom she married. High school classmates present a very different—and chilling—picture of Will. The suspense builds rapidly from there as Iris pulls back Will’s layers of deception and solves the mystery of what the circumstances of his death meant for their marriage.

Another  compelling adventure from Kimberly Belle!

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: September 30, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

One woman will stop at nothing to discover the devastating truth about her family…

Chasing disasters around the globe keeps humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews away from her own ground zero. Now, after sixteen years in jail for the murder of her stepmother in small-town Tennessee, Gia’s father has come home to die of cancer. And she’s responsible for his care.

Resuming the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer means confronting the past she’s spent over a decade avoiding. But in the end, the truth about what really happened may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated…

Review –

Have you ever thought that you would give anything to know the truth about a situation and then when you do find that truth, wish you hadn’t? That, for me sums up this debut novel by Kimberly Belle.

This book is a thought provoking dramatic undertaking that takes a decade old crime and uses it to dissect and examine the characters who all were affected by it.  While the mystery is a strong base the story is built on, I found the character dynamics far more prevalent. A trio of siblings, torn apart by their stepmother’s death and father’s conviction of the crime must come together and finally deal with the past and their own feelings towards their father and each other. The author combines a blend of humor,  sorrow, and compassion as she tells us a story of love, loss, jealousy, guilt, and forgiveness. Using the past and the present, Belle guides us down a long twisting road, letting us form our own opinions about what happened as we listen to the victims recollections of what happened and the accounts of all those left behind to question and wonder.

Fantastic read!

 

 

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: August 27, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Catastrophic spring flooding, blistering attacks in the media, and a mysterious disappearance greet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he returns to the Surete du Quebec in the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny.

It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.

In the next novel in this “constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves” (New York Times Book Review), Gamache must face a horrific possibility, and a burning question.

What would you do if your child’s killer walked free?

Review –

She has done it again. With a vengeance. Take the same backwater in Québec, the same core of main characters, and write fifteen crime stories with that. You will probably end up with predictable plots. But Louise Penny doesn’t. Not ever. A Better Man is here to prove it. Once more.

The  author is a mystery in herself. Once again, she managed to deliver a unique book, with an original plot. And red herrings. And many twists and layers. Layers that keep getting more involved. If her last book dealt with drugs in the city, this one focuses on domestic violence. And violence through social media.

Fans of Three Pines have a new chance to enjoy Penny’s great art at describing characters, the depth of human emotions, as well as landscape:

  The sky was grey and stretch and threatened rain. Or sleet. Ice pellets or snow. The dirt road was covered in slush and mud. There were patches of snow on the sodden grass. Villagers out walking their dogs were clumping around in rubber boots and wrapped in layers of clothing, hoping to keep April away from their skin and out of their bones.

     and   

     Woodsmoke drifted from the old fieldstone, brick, clapboard homes. A signal to some higher power. Send help. Send heat. Send a real spring and not this crapfest of slush and freezing, teasing days. Days of snow and warmth.

Armand Gamache does not hurry. He takes time to look, feel, and think. The writing style itself, with many short sentences and pauses, beautifully conveys the same atmosphere.

And yet, when the time is ripe, the book also contains nerve-wracking suspenseful scenes, where events rush too quickly at the protagonists, with the violence of the Bella Bella river threatening to engulf the nearby villages.

Lovers of this series will also enjoy how the author integrated elements of previous books. And of course, we meet the same characters. Including the poet Ruth. And her duck Rosa—featured with short refrains, another nice little touch that helps keep all the threads together.

Reading another book by Louise Penny is like spending some annual time with good old friends. And age and experience have the potential to make them better. The only bitterness to it, is that we’ll have to wait next year to meet them again. Write faster, please !!!

Five Stars!

 

 

 

 

Fatal Burn (Northwest #2) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: March, 2006

Format: Audio/Audible

Three years ago, Shannon Flannery was accused of murdering her wife-beater husband Ryan Carlyle, who was found burnt beyond recognition after a forest fire. At the time, many people believed that Ryan was the Stealth Torcher, a serial arsonist who lit many fires in the area, and suspected that Shannon had gotten back at her husband by beating fire with fire. The suspicions about Ryan’s ‘occupation’ seemed confirmed when the fires stopped following his death. However, although Shannon was acquitted for the murder, she still faced much public speculation over the case, especially from those who believed that she had gotten away with murder.
Now, believing that the worst is finally behind her, Shannon is attempting to get on with life. She has just bought a new property, where she hopes to expand her search-dog training facility.
But then strange things start to happen that make her question her safety, as well as the safety of those that she loves. Fragments of her past come back to haunt her, and mysterious fires begin to crop up, leading Shannon to suspect that somebody is out to get her. Then Travis Settler, an ex-Special Forces agent, arrives on the scene. His teenage daughter Dani has been kidnapped, and he believes that Shannon’s dark past has something to do with her abduction.
With the body count slowly rising, Shannon and Travis have to learn to trust one another, and uncover the dark secrets of the fire-loving serial killer before he seeks his ultimate revenge.

Review –

This novel takes readers into the often-unexplored world of arsonists, and the emotions that they feel when lighting or witnessing a fire. While many people, myself included, cannot fathom the reasons that some people may have for lighting fires that do nothing but cause destruction and chaos, this novel allows readers to view just how some people respond to flames, and makes readers aware of the power that many arsonists experience when dealing with this deadly element.
I am in no way suggesting that all arsonists are murderers, as many do not think of the consequences of their actions. I am simply saying that this novel is a good study of the way that firebugs may react to flame.

The author keeps readers guessing, as she continually introduces new plot twists and scenarios. Travis Settler’s relationship with Shannon adds a bit of romantic spark to the story, and Dani Settler’s determination to survive at the hands of her kidnapper is inspiring, especially considering her age.

This book will keep you guessing and the suspense will burn up the pages (excuse the pun) if reading and heat your ear if listening.

Five stars!

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: June 25, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

From the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing comes a riveting new novel of suspense about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she’ll go to escape the person she once loved

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Review –

A woman is on the run with cash, a burner phone, and plans that have taken ten months to build. But can she escape?

Beth Murphy, from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, has planned every detail of her departure meticulously; from her new name to her new appearance and car, she is leaving nothing to chance. But the person she is fleeing continues to be an overwhelming presence in her mind, and she expects to see him hiding in every shadow. He has trained her well through years of abuse, and she knows that he will find her—the only question is when.

Her jumpiness during the days and terror-soaked nights are hardly going unnoticed, and it becomes obvious to her new co-workers and rooming-house neighbors that she is not who she says she is. From her new life as a cleaner in Atlanta, Beth obsessively tracks the media coverage of a missing woman from Pine Bluff, Sabine Hardison, and the police’s search for her. Sabine is a successful realtor who disappeared one afternoon while her husband was away on business, but as the police dig deeper, it becomes clear that this was not a happy marriage. The author switches between three points of view as the story unfolds, giving insights into Beth and her efforts to re-create herself; Sabine’s husband, Jeffrey, who is picking up the pieces left behind by his wife’s disappearance while coming to terms with the aggressive publicity around his marriage’s shortcomings; and the detective, Marcus, who has been assigned to find out where Sabine has gone. Is Beth actually Sabine? Is she not? Are those continuity errors the whisper of red herrings or just the different ways multiple characters perceive the same events? An unexpected ending hinges on information missing from the story.

Everything is not quite as it seems and the ending will leave your mouth hanging open. Fantastic read/listen.

Five stars!

Buried Deep by Margot Hunt

Book Description:

Published: December 5, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

In this pulse-pounding short thriller, Maggie Cabot refuses to sit by idly as police re-open an investigation into the mysterious death of a woman her husband used to know.

After two decades in a near-perfect marriage, Maggie and James Cabot are enjoying their first year as empty-nesters in their charming Florida suburb, until two detectives arrive at their front door and change their lives forever.

The remains of a young woman have been found at a campsite in the Florida Keys. Hannah Nilsson, only 21 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen on a camping trip with a group of friends—including James, who dated Hannah long before he and Maggie ever met. Shocked and heartbroken, everyone on the trip said they assumed Hannah had wandered off toward shore, intoxicated from a long night of partying, and drowned. But the discovery of her body 25 years later, half a mile away from the campsite and buried six feet deep, makes it clear that her death was not accidental.

As the police dig back into the case, Maggie begins her own investigation, desperate to piece together the truth and clear her husband’s name once and for all.

Review –

Another Audible Original that I picked up for free in December.(another great reason to subscribe to Audible)

I’ve never read anything by Margot Hunt before, but this was a really well put together story. It was a great who-dun-it that keeps you guessing, but at the same time has its predictable moments.  I know the synopsis describes it as for fans of Big Little Lies and The Last Mrs. Parrish, but for some reason I couldn’t shake the similarity to the movie A Simple Favor.  It had similar pacing and a similar shock and awe value at the end.

Speaking of the end.  This book both ended how and different than I expected.  I won’t go into full details as to not spoil it, but it had a “hmmm, that makes sense” type of story arc ending. But it also had a “wait, is that really how this is ending?” vibe to it.  I can’t really explain it more without spoiling, but I think if you read it you’ll understand.

Overall, a REALLY  enjoyable  less than three hour listen that had wonderful narration by Therese Plummer. If you’re looking for a short listen with good suspense and a great ending, give this a try.

Five stars.

Broken Knight (All Saint’s High #2) by L.J. Shen

Book Description:

Published: August 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Not all love stories are written the same way. Ours had torn chapters, missing paragraphs, and a bittersweet ending.

Luna Rexroth is everyone’s favorite wallflower.

Sweet.
Caring.
Charitable.
Quiet.
Fake.
Underneath the meek, tomboy exterior everyone loves (yet pities) is a girl who knows exactly what, and who, she wants—namely, the boy from the treehouse who taught her how to curse in sign language.
Who taught her how to laugh.
To live.
To love.
Knight Cole is everyone’s favorite football hero.
Gorgeous.
Athletic.
Rugged.
Popular.
Liar.

This daredevil hell-raiser could knock you up with his gaze alone, but he only has eyes for the girl across the street: Luna.

But Luna is not who she used to be. She doesn’t need his protection anymore.
When life throws a curveball at All Saints’ golden boy, he’s forced to realize not all knights are heroes.

Sometimes, the greatest love stories flourish in tragedy.

Review –

Wow!

What an absolute rollercoaster of a ride! Broken Knight has absolutely wrecked and ruined me for all books for quite some time I’m sure. This book was beyond phenomenal and a favourite book of mine for 2019. L. J. Shen’s writing is always right on point, but she knocked it out of the ball park with this one, I just don’t know if I’m ever going to get over this Broken Knight. I knew this book was going to be great because Shen does not write bad stories, but I was unprepared for how truly captivating this story really was. If there is one book you need to read this year, it is without a doubt BROKEN KNIGHT!

My emotions really went through the wringer with this one; I was moved, I was heartbroken, I cried, I sobbed, I smiled, I laughed and above all else I loved. I was unsure at some points whether my poor heart could take much more, but there was no way I was putting this book down even if my life depended on it. I thrived on the push and pull of the tempestuous friendship and lived vicariously through these characters who became such an important part of me. This story was just so real, I really felt like I was watching everything unfold in front of my very eyes and I was a part of this deep and emotional journey. I’m not sure I can ever get past these characters as I feel like they are now a part of me and our lives will be forever intertwined.

Broken Knight had so many layers to be discovered and the more I pulled these layers back the more I became addicted to everything that’s exposed before me. The author positively broke me with her storytelling which is true perfection, but then she also healed me in the most breathtaking way possible. Broken Knight is a true love story that will stand the test of time as it is positively unforgettable.

I have not gone into details of the story and that is deliberate because this needs to be devoured free from spoilers. If you are yet to read this book, my advice is to try to go in completely blind without knowing all the ins and outs of the story.

Broken Knight is EVERYTHING and more! I was completely enthralled from start to finish and could not get enough. Definitely one of the  best books of 2019 thus far.

Five stars !

Savaged by Mia Sheridan

Book Description:

Published: May 28, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

When wilderness guide, Harper Ward, is summoned to the small town sheriff’s office in Helena Springs, Montana, to provide assistance on a case, she is shocked to find that their only suspect in the double murder investigation is a man described as a savage.

But the longer she watches the man known only as Lucas, on the station surveillance camera, the more intrigued she becomes. He certainly looks primitive with his unkempt appearance and animal skin attire, but she also sees intelligence in his eyes, sensitivity in his expression. Who is he? And how is it possible that he’s lived alone in the forest since he was a small child?

As secrets begin to emerge, Harper is thrust into something bigger and more diabolical than she ever could have imagined. And standing right at the center of it all, is Lucas. But is he truly the wild man he appears to be? A cold blooded killer? An innocent victim? Or a perplexing mix of all three?

Harper must find out the answers to these questions because the more time she spends with him, the more she risks losing her heart.

Review –

Savaged is unlike any other Mia Sheridan’s that I have read so far! It is rather a crime/mystery mixed with romance.

The opening scene begins in the night somewhere above a cliff where four little boys will be abruptly thrown into empty air with a question: Will you die today?
These four kids were obviously kidnapped and we’ll learn later that they were part of a sick scheme.

Throughout the story we will follow one of them Jack forced to do unspeakable things to survive, totally alone for years in the Montana’s wilderness.

Why was he thrown into this life? Who is he? Why him? To whatever ends?Round and round these questions circled my mind while my heart broke so many times for that abandoned little boy.

Go back to present time on a crime scene.
The small town of Helena Springs has seen two murders by arrow in a few days and the person of interest is Lucas. A man looking like a caveman who happened to be close to the last crime scene.
Mark Gallagher freshly arrived from California is tasked with elucidating the crime. He’ll enroll Harper a local nature guide.

When Harper meets Lucas their connection is immediate. She just has to know that savage man who seems connected to her parents death years ago.

All these plot lines entertwine going from past to present and back again to form an intriguing story with the horror of what happened to these kids as a constant background.

This is a story of survival and resilience.
This is a story of madness and evil.
This is a story of new beginnings and hope.
This is a story of love and meeting your soul mate. That perfect someone who will love you whole animal and man alike.

Five stars !

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Book Description:

Published: January 9, 2018

Format:   Audio/OverDrive

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Review –

Murder, mayhem, and chalk figures in a sleepy English village.

“In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie Adams enjoys spending time with his group of friends: Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo, and the lone girl in the group, Nicky. He’s largely insulated from his mother’s work as an abortion provider and its accompanying risks, and it’s her income that keeps the household afloat, since his father’s freelance writing jobs are hit and miss. When Eddie finds the decapitated and dismembered body of a local girl in the woods, it stirs up terrible secrets and forbidden passions.

In 2016, Eddie is a teacher who harbors a mild crush for his much younger boarder, Chloe, and isn’t eager to revisit the traumatic events of ’86. He still feels particularly bad about his part in the downfall of a teacher with albinism who was kind to him. When he’s contacted by Mickey Cooper, who claims he knows who really killed that girl, it opens old wounds, and a body count follows.

Readers will undoubtedly be reminded of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT. The dynamics among the kids are similar, complete with Nicky’s flaming red hair, and Eddie’s first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. The chalk markings the group works out to communicate tap into kids’ universal love for secret code and, of course, getting one over on their parents. Things takes a creepy turn when the symbols are twisted to fit someone’s not-so-innocent agenda.

A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980s will enjoy the nostalgia.” Kirkus Review

The ending is creepily eerie and changed my mind about Eddie. (no spoilers -you’ll have to read or listen to the book to see what I mean)

Five stars.