2018 Book #74 – The Killing Game by Nancy Bush

51szCW+gBIL.jpgTitle: The Killing Game
Author: Nancy Bush
Date finished: 8/24/18
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: Rafferty Fmaily series #5
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The Rules Are Simple:

It’s the ultimate test of strategy and skill. The killer chooses each opponent carefully, learning each one’s weaknesses. Every meticulously planned move is leading to a devastating checkmate. Because in this game, all the pretty pawns must die.

First You Play

Andi Wren is fighting to keep her late husband’s company safe from vindictive competitors. When she receives an ominous note, Little birds must fly, she turns to P.I. Luke Denton. But though Luke has personal reasons for wanting to take down Wren Development’s opponents, his investigation suggests this is deeper and far more dangerous than a business grudge.

Then You Die. . .

In a basement on the outskirts of town, police detectives unearth piles of skeletons. As they learn the shocking truth about each victim’s identity, their case collides with Andi’s, revealing a killer’s ruthless plot and a chilling, lethal endgame. .

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I finished this book for ARC August 2018! Love this reading challenge. And this year I’m especially excited because as part of the challenge they added one of my favorite things, reading Bingo! This book will be checking off my “Released more than 30 days ago” box, since its a 2016 release. And this is also one of the books counting towards my Bout of Books 23 Goal. AND (there’s more) this is counting towards my  book as part of the 2018 Bookish Reading Challenge,  for the “A book whose title begins with K, Q, J, X, or Z” category.

I’ve never read anything by this author before, but this one sounded pretty good so I thought I’d give it a try! The plot was pretty interesting and it was creepy enough. The bad guy was someone that I didn’t see coming – I was pretty surprised once we got to that plot twist. Overall though I didn’t find the book to be overly thrilling, I just couldn’t get fully into the story. I mean the plot held my interest, it wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the story. I just couldn’t emotionally connect to the characters in the story. Andi was a little timid to me, and I thought her character development was a little choppy. I also thought that the transitions between the detective chapters and Andi / Luke story was not always the smoothest and sometimes it took me a minute to catch up. Other than those things the book was good, I liked it and it was a pretty good story. I would recommend trying it, and it might be better to try with the rest of the series.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2017 Book #39 – Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

511YXgsLkWLTitle: Almost Missed You
Author: Jessica Strawser
Date finished: 4/26/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Pages in book: 319
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.
So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.
Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Violet, her husband Finn, and their 3 year old son Bear. Violet and Finn had a short courtship compared to most, but Violet has never doubted that fate brought them together. Their story seems like a real life fairy tale and she is beyond happy with their family and their life together. And so she is blindsided when Finn disappears from their Florida vacation without a word, taking Bear with him. And after the FBI gets involved with trying to find Bear, Violet learns about the secrets that Finn has kept from her about his past and begins to wonder how well she really knew her husband. Meanwhile, Finn and Violet’s best friends Caitlin and George each have secrets of their own in their marriage and the most recent one added to the list is that Caitlin is allowing Finn and Bear to hide out in their family cabin at the lake. When Caitlin decides enough is enough though and that Bear must be returned to his mother, the secrets start to unravel with explosive consequences. And once everything is out in the open, we’ll see who’s left standing at the end.
Overall I liked this book a lot. To be honest the main topic (a mother having her son ripped away from her without a word or a clue) made me a bit sick to my stomach. I can’t even imagine the hopelessness and the pain that must have been unbearable for Violet’s character. The author did a great job of capturing this I thought but that piece of it is difficult for the reader to live through Violet’s eyes but necessary to the story. This was an incredibly intense novel that had my heart pounding for most of the novel. The author did an amazing job of building tension and creating drama, revealing secrets at just the right time and adding in perfect plot twists. At the end I still felt so bad for everyone involved but man it was a wild ride. I would definitely recommend this book, this one is going to be a must read for the summer!

The bottom line: Wow this was definitely an intense book. I liked it a lot but at the same time I hated how sad it was. This one is definitely a must-read though!!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #64 – Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

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Title: Whiskey & Charlie
Author: Annabel Smith
Date finished: 6/27/15
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

A captivating debut novel of brothers who have drifted apart and the accident that will determine their future, by an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
Whiskey and Charlie might have come from the same family, but they’d tell you two completely different stories about growing up. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not – bold, daring, carefree – and Charlie blames his twin brother for always stealing the limelight, always getting everything, always pushing Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.
When they were just boys, the secret language they whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies connected them, in a way. The two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) became their code, their lifeline. But as the brothers grew up, they grew apart.
When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, Charlie can’t make sense of it. Who is he without Whiskey? As days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to consider that he may never get to say all the things he wants to say. A compelling and unforgettable novel about rivalry and redemption, Whiskey & Charlie is perfect for anyone whose family has ever been less than picture-perfect.

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book set during Christmas” check box since most of the story happens in the space between Thanksgiving and just after New Years. Charlie was close with his brother Whiskey when they were younger but now as adults they barely speak to each other. When Whiskey is involved in a freak accident though and ends up badly injured and in a coma, Charlie wants nothing more than to have more time to make amends with his brother. What follows is a combination of Charlie’s memories from his childhood with Whiskey, stories from Whiskey and Charlie interacting as adults leading up to before Whiskey’s accident, and the agonizing progress of Whiskey’s path to recovery.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the use of the NATO phonetic alphabet and its part in how the story was told. Charlie and Whiskey were given walkie-talkies as children and one of their neighbors taught them the NATO phonetic alphabet. That’s actually why Whiskey is called as such and is not called William by anyone but his mother, even though that is his real name. Anyways, each chapter represented one letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet and the story in that chapter was always somehow connected to the word representing that letter in the alphabet. The Bravo chapter was about their pet dog whose name was Bravo, the India chapter was about a job that Charlie and Whiskey worked on together in India, and so forth. I thought that was an interesting and different way to tell the story. That being said, telling the story in this way caused there to be a bit of jumping around between time frames to tie to whatever letter that chapter was for. The flow of the story wasn’t always easy for me to follow. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book but I did notice the issues I was having.
Overall I thought this was a great story. Grief and guilt and forgiveness are major themes in this book and we take an in-depth look at Charlie’s insecurities with the many people in his life. Charlie’s character was a bit frustrating for me because he really did act like he was better than a lot of people in the story, like his feelings were always more important than someone else’s. Other than that though I think this was a good book.
The bottom line: While the subject matter can feel a bit heavy at times, I thought that this was a very true depiction of a family traveling through stages of grief. I would recommend this book.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #17 – The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

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Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Date finished: 3/3/15
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: March 16, 2010
Pages in book: 269
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.
Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?
Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

My rating: 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my “Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “Magical realism” square. For anyone who doesn’t really understand what the magical realism genre is (because I didn’t really know) its basically when magic is readily accepted in the “rational world” as being normal or accepted. If you’d like to read more about the concept of magical realism as a genre, you can do so here. I really liked this book a lot. It hooked me in almost from the beginning and I couldn’t seem to put it down. Allen has such a talent for writing, as you read her books you can feel the magic in the words leaping off the pages. It is really something special to experience. I loved the plot too, the connection between Julia and Emily. One had given up her daughter a long time ago and the other had just recently lost her mother, both searching for comfort and home. It was a touching and magical (duh) story and I can’t wait to read more by this author.

The bottom line:  This was a charming and magical story, I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website
Link to Amazon