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.

Pretty Reckless (All Saints High #1) by L.J. Shen

Book Description:

Published: April 21, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Penn

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
I’d had four years to stew on what Daria Followhill did to me, and now my heart was completely iced.
I took her first kiss.
She took the only thing I loved.
I was poor.
She was rich.
The good thing about circumstances? They can change. Fast.
Now, I’m her parents’ latest shiny project.
Her housemate. Her tormentor. The captain of the rival football team she hates so much.
Yeah, baby girl, say it—I’m your foster brother.
There’s a price to pay for ruining the only good thing in my life, and she’s about to shell out some serious tears.
Daria Followhill thinks she is THE queen. I’m about to prove to her that she’s nothing but a spoiled princess.

Daria

Everyone loves a good old unapologetic punk.
But being a bitch? Oh, you get slammed for every snarky comment, cynical eye roll, and foot you put in your adversaries’ way.
The thing about stiletto heels is that they make a hell of a dent when you walk all over the people who try to hurt you.
In Penn Scully’s case, I pierced his heart until he bled out, then left it in a trash can on a bright summer day.
Four years ago, he asked me to save all my firsts for him.
Now he lives across the hall, and I want nothing more than to be his last everything.
His parting words when he gave me his heart were that nothing in this world is free.
Now? Now he is making me pay.

Review –

Pretty Reckless took high school rivals, added a splash of enemies to lovers, wrapped around heart-wrenching angst, and delivered one finger-licking utterly addicting page-turner/ audio book.  If NA angst is your crack of choice, then Shen is about to become your favorite dealer.

If you’ve read Shen’s Sinners of Saint series, then you’ll be familiar with the Followhill from Defy. Daria is the daughter of Melody and Jaime. And if you recall their forbidden union, then you already know that their daughter will have one big chip on her shoulder as she attends the same high school as her parents had their notorious relationship at.

Daria is easily one of my favorite heroines of LJ Shen to date. I love a female that can own the fact that she’s a queen B. But she’s also not the stereotypical do-gooder. This is a girl with a huge chip on her shoulder and she can be downright vicious to those that cross her path. She’s completely unapologetic about it, though being in her head, you see the glimpses of the vulnerability that causes her to lash out the way she does. Poor little rich girl.

As for Penn. Sweet mother of ovaries! I turned cougar for this man and I have no regrets. The turbulent enemies to lovers relationship that happens between these two kept me absolutely riveted. Daria may give as good as she gets, but Penn doesn’t pull any punches with her either. They are pure fire together.

I devoured and I mean straight up DEVOURED this book and was left desperate for more. Shen is a master of her craft and just keeps getting better and better with each new book. I’m already frothing at the mouth for more ASH!

Five stars !

 

The Ruin (Cormac Reilly #1) by Dervla McTiernan

Book Description:

Published: July 3, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

It’s been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he’s never forgotten the two children she left behind…

When Aisling Conroy’s boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget – until Jack’s sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.

DI Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of an ‘accidental’ overdose twenty years ago – of Jack and Maude’s drug- and alcohol-addled mother. Cormac is under increasing pressure to charge Maude for murder when his colleague Danny uncovers a piece of evidence that will change everything…

This unsettling crime debut draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can’t – or won’t. Perfect for fans of Tana French and Jane Casey.

Review –

Dervla McTiernan’s powerful debut  novel has the authentic feel of its Irish setting, which I loved.

In 1993, police detective Cormac Reilly is called to a house in Kilmore, County Mayo, where he finds fifteen-year-old Maude Blake and her five-year-old brother, Jack, alive, and  in an upstairs bedroom lies the body of their alcoholic mother, dead of a drug overdose. In 2013, Jack’s body turns up in a Galway river after an anonymous caller claims he saw Jack jump in. Jack’s girlfriend, Aisling Conroy, is sadly willing to accept the obvious conclusion that it was suicide. But Maude, newly back from Australia, is convinced it was murder. Based on new information, Cormac investigates the now twenty-year-old death of the mother, while Maude and Aisling try to figure out what actually happened to Jack, since the police seem unwilling to. Various other threads in the tightly woven plot lead to rape, child molestation, drug dealing, police corruption, and more murders. The author neatly ties them all together in the suspenseful conclusion. Dervla McTiernan,(I love her name) born in Ireland but now living in Australia, is a writer to watch. 

Five stars.

The Silent Waters (Elements #3) by Brittiany C. Cherry

Book Description:

Published: September 22, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Moments.

Our lives are a collection of moments. Some utterly painful and full of yesterday’s hurts. Some beautifully hopeful and full of tomorrow’s promises.

I’ve had many moments in my lifetime, moments that changed me, challenged me. Moments that scared me and engulfed me. However, the biggest ones—the most heartbreaking and breathtaking ones—all included him.

I was ten years old when I lost my voice. A piece of me was stolen away, and the only person who could truly hear my silence was Brooks Griffin. He was the light during my dark days, the promise of tomorrow, until tragedy found him. Tragedy that eventually drowned him in a sea of memories.

This is the story of a boy and girl who loved each other, but didn’t love themselves. A story of life and death. Of love and broken promises.

Of moments.

Review –

This book was simply amazing  These characters were so raw and real, and so amazingly developed, you can’t help but fall in love with them.

The Silent Waters tells the story of Maggie May and Brooks, neighbors, childhood best friends, and eventually lovers as they go through the best and worst experiences of their lives. From the prologue through the epilogue the story spans a few decades. Now, I’m not sure how much I want to say, sometimes you need to go into some books blind and discover them by yourself. And I definitely think this is one of those. So, I will try not to spoil major plot points.

Maggie May is a beautiful, smart and lively child that experiences a traumatic event that marks her forever. She is such a beautiful and amazingly developed character, I dare you not to fall in love with her. I felt so much for her and her struggles. She was truly remarkable.

And Brooks, what can I say about Brooks. He’s amazing and beautiful, patient and understanding. He was Maggie’s anchor, her beacon of light through the darkness. He was hers, completely. I loved everything about Brooks. He also went through a dark time and was able to overcome everything life threw at him. 

The love between them was definitely my favorite part of the book, it was so pure, so real, so powerful. It’s what kept them both going in difficult times and what kept me hopeful that they totally deserved a happy ending.

This book will hook you from the prologue all the way to the author’s note at the end. I felt a lot while reading this book, happiness, sadness, fear, frustration, love, and anger. It was truly a journey. It was also so moving and inspirational. And beautiful, just beautiful.

So, needless to say, I absolutely, 100% recommend The Silent Waters. It’s one of my favorite books this year. It has all the feels and you will not be disappointed! 

Five stars.

Crew (Crew #1) by Tijan

Book Description:

Published: August 26, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

 

To survive where I live, you have two options.

You can be a Normal–a cheerleader, jock, member of the debate team, or on the yearbook committee. You pretend everything is normal.

Or you can be crew.
You insult us? We hurt you.
You hurt us? We really hurt you.
And if you screw with us, we will end you.

My name is Bren.
I’m the only female in the Wolf Crew–the best, fiercest, and most dangerous crew there is–and we have a rule: There’s no falling in love.

Well… too late.

*This book contains mature young adult situations.

Review –

Crew is centered around four teen-agers and they aren’t a gang but they have each other’s back at all times. In this book we are introduced to Bren, a very complex person, with many layers. Bren is  cold, closed off, a bad ass, and volatile but there is a vulnerable, sad and scared side to her as well.

Throughout the story we get glimpses and pieces as to why Bren is the way she is and it really breaks your heart. Bren was a very interesting character to read about and some of the stuff she did in the book had me stunned. She was a legit badass at times and I loved it! Bren also did some growing in this book and that warmed my heart as well.

Cross is also apart of the crew and I’ve added him to my list of Book Boyfriends.  He was very protective of Bren. He was silent but lethal and always had Bren’s back and was there for her and could reach her in ways no body else could at times.

The other two members of the Crew are Jordan and Z. Each of them plays an important part in this story.

This book was  addictive from start to finish. I’ve read a few books by Tijan and this one is a lot darker and grittier  than her others and it was great. It’s a best friends to lover romance and those are some of my favorite reads. It was a delicious slow burn between the two characters and I loved seeing their relationship played out. 

I have not read Tijan’s series, Fallen Crest, but Heather and Channing are integral in this new series. I may have to go back and read the series later.

This isn’t your typical YA story. Yes, there’s a romance, but this series starter really is about love, family, and friendship, and how there are times that family isn’t limited to just the ones who share your DNA. This also has quite a few supporting characters, but majority of them have marked appearances. Warning:  Crew does end in a cliffhanger.

Loved this book.

Five stars !!!!

 

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

 

Book Description:

Published: July 30, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

Review –

It was supposed to be book club as usual: a group of suburban mothers gathering to talk over a glass of wine or two and then going home to bed. But when new neighbor Angelica Roux shows up at hostess Amy’s door, it doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose. The booze flows freely, and soon the women are engaged in a game: What is the worst thing you did today? This week? This month? In your life? There are many women in the gathering with secrets to protect, but none more than Amy, who, as a teenager, committed a terrible crime that almost destroyed her. Saved by her love for diving, and then by meeting her husband and stepdaughter, Amy has worked hard to build a normal, stable life; she even has a new baby.

Angelica has come to threaten all of this; she clearly knows about Amy’s past and will expose her to her loved ones if Amy doesn’t pay her. As Amy tries desperately to outscheme Angelica, she also realizes just how much she has to fight for—and what she might be willing to do to keep her family safe and her secrets buried.

This is a fantastic book and once you start reading or listening(as in my case), you can’t bear to stop.

There are so many twists and turns. Just when i thought I knew the motive for all of Roux’s actions, the author throws a curve ball that puts the story in a totally different direction. No spoilers, but you don’t get to the true crux of the plot until the end and what an ending it is!

Five stars!

The Fire Between High & Lo (Elements #2) by Brittainy C. Cherry

Book Description:

Published: March  25, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

There once was a boy, and I loved him.

Logan Francis Silverstone was the complete opposite of me. I danced while he stood still. He was quiet, and I was always running my mouth. He struggled to find a smile while I refused to frown.

The night I saw the darkness that truly lived inside of him, I couldn’t look away.

We were broken together, yet somehow whole. We were wrong together, but always right. We were the stars that burned across the night sky, searching for a wish, praying for better tomorrows.

Until the day I lost him. He threw us away with one hasty decision—a decision that changed us forever.

There once was a boy, and I loved him.

And for a few breaths, a few whispers, a few moments, I think he loved me, too.

Review –

This is the second book in the Elements series by Brittainy C. Cherry and boy oh boy can she write the Hell out of angst!

The Fire Between High & Low is not an easy book for me to read. There was so much angst. I had to take breaks. I even knew at 4% that this book was going to wreck me, and it did. The author is like a puppeteer who pulls at your heartstrings until you have no choice but to feel. I sniffled, I cried, I bawled big, fat, ugly tears. It wasn’t within my power to NOT feel empathy for these characters and their situation. This made their HEA so much more powerful, too.

Alyssa (High) and Logan (Lo) came from opposite sides of the track. Each had different interests. Each lived very different lives. They were opposite in most every way that should have mattered. But their spirits were the same. Each was damaged from their parents — whom I hated with every fiber of my parental being! Each was lonely and desired to be loved.

What started out as childhood friendship eventually turned into teenage love. They depended on each other for their mental well-being. Spending time with one another, laughing with and supporting each other, they were inseparable. High needed Lo as much as she needed him. And then due to lies and manipulation, Lo left. Leaving High to figure out how to live without him.

Fortunately, this is written in dual POV. I don’t think this would have worked any other way. Because when Lo acted like an ass, we eventually found out why.

This story shows the power of how people can endure so much hurt, but overcome it. They couldn’t catch a break. Bad things kept getting between them until they didn’t.

Their story is a train wreck happening in slow motion and I couldn’t look away!!!!!

Five stars!

 

The Air He Breathes (Elements #1) by Brittainy C. Cherry

Book Description:

Published: September 25, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

I was warned about Tristan Cole.

“Stay away from him,” people said.
“He’s cruel.”
“He’s cold.”
“He’s damaged.”

It’s easy to judge a man because of his past. To look at Tristan and see a monster.

But I couldn’t do that. I had to accept the wreckage that lived inside of him because it also lived inside of me.

We were both empty.
We were both looking for something else. Something more. We both wanted to put together the shattered pieces of our yesterdays.

Then perhaps we could finally remember how to breathe.

Review –

The Air He Breathes had all the makings of a rich, romantic and beautifully told  “second chance at love “story between two wretchedly broken characters seeking solace with, and in each other following the loss of their loved ones.

The slow to smolder relationship was superbly and sensitively handled by the author,Brittainy C Cherry, the romance was emotional and yet encompassed a swoon factor that took my breath away.

The slow burn relationship was superbly and sensitively handled by Brittainy C Cherry, the romance was emotional and yet encompassed a swoon factor that took our breath away. She also showed us that the previous relationships were just as important as the new one.

The sex scenes are HOT  but low-key so I place this book in the “soft smut” category, meaning they are there for a purpose and not just to take up space.

It’s a sad but beautiful love story with a shocking event near the end and I gave it five stars!

 

 

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Book Description:

Published: July 23, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The revered New York Times bestselling author returns with a novel set in 1960s Baltimore that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir, about a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman.

In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know–everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl–assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie–and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life–a jewelery store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people–including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

Review –

In this most recent book by Laura Lippman, she tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive thirty-seven year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known.

Sherwood’s body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo’s, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills.

The story unfolds from Maddie’s point of view as well as that of Cleo’s ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting  on Maddie’s nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers.

We also see her effect on some of the people she comes into contact with: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, “Mr. Helpline,” a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Though allusive for one, make a single appearance  they greatly add to the enjoyment of the novel.

Maddie’s ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman.

To achieve realism for the newspaper part of the story the author interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., and included  fascinating historical facts.

Mixing noir with hints of hard-boiled fiction, Lady in the Lake gives readers unlikeable but entertaining characters surrounding a mystery loosely based on actual events of the time period.

Five stars!

The Wish Collector by Mia Sheridan

Book Description:

Published: November 26, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

When ballet dancer Clara Campbell arrives in New Orleans, lonely and homesick, she is immediately captivated by the story of Windisle Plantation and the tragic tale that is said to have transpired beyond its gate. Legend has it that it is abandoned by all living souls, but to Clara’s great surprise, it is not a ghost she hears through the stone wall surrounding the property, but a flesh and blood man. A scarred stranger with a pain deeper and darker than the churning waters of the Mississippi river that flows beside his self-imposed prison.

The ruined man behind the wall hides himself from the world. The last thing he expects is to find a friend in the selfless girl who speaks to him through the cracks in the rock. The girl who keeps returning week after week. The girl who makes him wish for things he has long since given up on. The girl who strikes both fear and hope within his wounded heart. But there can be no future for them, no life beyond Windisle, for no one knows better than him that monsters only live in the dark.

The Wish Collector is the story of shame and triumph, of loneliness and love, and the miracle of two hearts connecting despite the strongest of barriers between them.

Review –

“Amongst the city streets of New Orleans you’ll find Clara Campbell, a ballerina. She just arrived to this mysterious and magical city, still trying to find herself and she pursue her dreams. She hears a legend of an abandon house and a love that ended in tragedy making her curious and wanting to know more. The talks of Windisle Plantation lead her to a wall and ultimately to the stranger behind the wall. The Wish Collector as she called him. A enigmatic and dark man hiding behind the fence of the property she is so curious about.

They’re both lonely for very different reasons and she begins a weekly visit to the man behind the weeping wall. They strike up an unusual friendship. Build a delicate companionship. Their story is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The man who deemed himself undeserving and broken beyond repair and the girl with a heart of gold and a spirit that shines off the pages take a journey that will tear them down and lift them up as they uncover all the secrets of the plantation and their hearts too.

A fairy tale dust mixed with New Orleans’s dark magic and mystery of present and past will keep you pulled in till the last page. I was mesmerized, enchanted, completely put under the spell of this unique plot with exquisite story-telling that made this book fascinating and engrossing.”schemexygirlbookblog.com

Loved this book!   Five stars.