First line: I don’t know what made me determined to go to the hanging.
Summary: Hannah Masury has spent her life working along the Boston harbor, seeing the ships and crew coming and going each day. When she needs to flee the city she decides to disguise herself as a cabin boy and stows away on a pirate ship, captained by Ned Low. As she chooses her own destiny she knows that there could be rewards as well as danger lurking in her future.
In 1930, Marian Beresford is given a manuscript by one of her students which leads them on the hunt for Hannah Masury’s buried treasure. Marian, a professor, believes that this mystery will help her career if she is able to authenticate the document and discover the history that has been left for them in the beaches of the Caribbean.
My Thoughts: Like Howe’s other books, this a dual narrative spanning centuries. She does this very well and it makes for an interesting and enjoyable story. As I was traveling to the Caribbean at the time, this felt like a good book to listen to as we prepared for our trip.
I have been fascinated with pirates ever since the Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out years ago. And then with the show Black Sails I really got hooked on the real life pirates who actually sailed the seas. It seems like such a crazy life but one that could be very lucrative.
Hannah is a tough girl who is able to deceive many of the men who she sails with. Marian is struggling with her career and is sucked into the thrill of adventure. I definitely enjoyed the parts with Hannah much more than Marian. Marian was more of a supporting character who never seemed too developed while Hannah was the star with a full life and more of a personality.
The end has a big twist which I did not see coming and then another twist that seems to shift the other twist completely out of whack. It was an interesting ending to the story but this was definitely not my favorite of the author’s books.
First line: As a little girl I walked for hours alone in the silent woods behind my house in Louisiana, singing songs.
Summary: For the first time, Britney Spears is sharing her story in her new memoir. She lays out her childhood spent performing, the relationship with her family and finding love. With each page Britney gives the reader a look into what it is like to be a teen pop star, a young woman in love and then having her life controlled by others but eventually finding freedom.
My Thoughts: I remember seeing Britney Spears in concert at the Kansas State Fair in September 1999. It was her first ever tour. I had listened to her album on repeat so that I knew all the words. I was thirteen at the time and it was the highlight of my year! And as soon as I heard she was releasing an autobiography I knew I needed to read it. Britney was a major part of my teenage years.
I listened to the audiobook, which unfortunately Britney does not narrate, and found it very heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. She started out very poor, rose to fame, struggled with love (from her family and romantic partners), and finally was able to free herself from the control that was forced upon her by the people that were supposed to love her.
It was brave of her to put herself out for the world to see. She revealed secrets from her past, some rather shocking, and explained her darkest times so that everyone can see her side rather than what the press reported.
The writing was simple, to the point and very easy to read.
First line: Since I have no family of my own, I am yearly asked by friends and colleagues to their homes for the Christmas holidays.
Summary: American student, Ashley Smith, is studying abroad in London. It is Christmas and she is alone. Her mother died a few years before and never knew her father. She imagines a quiet holiday in the big city until she is invited by a new friend to her family’s home in the Cotswolds. Excited with the prospects of having a truly English Christmas she quickly accepts. Upon arrival she is instantly impressed with the house, the village and especially her friend’s brother. As the days pass she falls into the family routine and deeper into her crush for Adam. But when she hears that Adam is a suspect of a recent killing she doesn’t know what to believe about him. Has she been fooled by this handsome English boy or is there someone else lurking in the woods around Starvewood Hall?
My Thoughts: This was a hard book for me to review. I was waffling between 3 and 4 stars. I did not like the first half of the book with the diary entries. I know that the main character is a nineteen-year-old girl, but it was just annoying to read at points. It did feel very juvenile which I applaud the author for achieving since that was the goal, but I did not like it too much. However, the second half throws everything on its head. I loved this bit with the twists and background for the first half of the story. And then when you discover the reason behind the title it gave me goosebumps. Part of it felt a little corny but I was in for it at this point. This would definitely be a perfect read for a cold night at Christmastime. It could easily be read in one sitting with a cup of tea and a warm blanket.
First line: “Ali Alligator?” my mother whispered as she crept into my room, slipped under my heavy quilt, cuddled up next to me on my twin bed.
Summary: With Christmas on the horizon, Alison receives a phone call that her mother has cancer with only weeks left to live. Making the difficult decision to allow her mother to spend her last days with Alison and her family she wonders if they can heal the wounds of her childhood. As her mother moves in, Alison is reminded of the horrors her alcoholic and abusive mother put her through. But with each passing day Alison notices strange changes in the woman she knew. Who is or what is her mother? And can Alison stop whatever has taken hold in her house before it infects her family?
My Thoughts: This is one of those books that is perfect for this time of year. It’s a spooky Christmas story with a dark entity stalking our main character. There is a rising tension throughout the book leading up to the final chapter. Alison is plagued by her memories but keeps hoping for a better end but as a reader we know that this will never happen. Something has taken over Mavis. As the story continues you can see Alison’s fear and obsession taking over making conflict with others around her.
I loved/hated the relationship between Mavis and her granddaughter, Olivia. It was menacing. She is having her call her a strange name and keeping secrets from Alison. You instantly feel like something bad is on the horizon. As more is revealed about who Mavis really is and her back story the pieces start to fall into place. It is pretty easy to tell what a catalyst for the evil in the house is but it takes a while to dawn on Alison.
The story is more character driven as Alison deals with her past demons and her relationships. I never felt that I could completely trust her and her memories. But I got a shock in the last chapter that gave me chills! Such a fun read for either October or Christmas time.
First line: I learned about the death of my uncle Jake in a deeply unexpected way, which was from the CNBC Squawk Box morning show.
Summary: Jake has just learned that his estranged billionaire uncle, Charlie, has died. Jake hadn’t seen him since he was a child but when Uncle Charlie’s assistant asks Jake to stand up at his funeral, he feels like he owes it to him. But as he learns at the funeral, his uncle had powerful enemies and now they are targeting Jake. As his uncle’s heir Jake is thrown into the world of supervillains, including volcano island lair, spy cats and minions. As Jake learns the business, he has to stay alive long enough to achieve his uncle’s vendetta against the league of supervillains.
My Thoughts: The first thing you notice about this book is the quirky cover! A cat in a suit is the reason I picked up Scalzi’s newest novel, but I stayed for the plot that reminded me of a mix between Austin Powers and Despicable Me.
I enjoyed every minute of this book. It was a short, quick read filled with cutthroat villains and super intelligent spy animals. Jake has fallen into hard times but the only thing he finds comfort in is his cat. It’s easy to relate to him throughout and cheer him on as he takes over his uncle’s business. I loved his interactions with the animals around him. The dolphins were hilarious!
Even though there is not too much of a plot in the story, I would highly recommend reading this! It is filled with dark humor and spy cliches that know they are cliches. This was my first book by John Scalzi but it won’t be my last. I will finally read Redshirts, a book I have looked at for years but never picked up.
First line: Silas loved a good puzzle, especially if it involved the interlocking pieces of science and soul, the known and the unknown.
Summary: Grace had just bought her first home when the COVID pandemic hit, she lost her job as a hairstylist and now her mother wants to move in with her. They never had a great relationship and the hours spent together start to strain their nerves. Grace starts having nightmares about her twin who died when they were young and struggles to differentiate between what is real and what is a dream. And then her mother reveals a dark secret from their past but Grace cannot believe her. There is no way that things happened the way her mother claims. Is her mother trying to drive her mad? Who and what can Grace believe anymore if she cannot trust her own mother?
My Thoughts: This book was STRANGE! It was a fever dream almost literally. Grace tilts back and forth between moments of sanity and bouts of fear and nightmares. She is a very unreliable narrator. But really it is more like the book who is unreliable. So many chapters are dream sequences filled with Grace’s fears and memories. Everything seemed just so wild until I realized that it was another dream.
Neither of the main characters was very likeable but Jackie, Grace’s mother, was awful. She seems like the ideal mother who cooks, cleans and is sweet to your friends but she can quickly use guilt and manipulation. I kept waiting for her to crack and cause some harm to Grace or the cat.
The setting of isolation during the pandemic set the perfect atmosphere for the downward spiral of these two women. Luckily I was still able to work at times during the pandemic because I can see how it easy it would be to lose touch with reality being home bound for long periods of time. The beginning of the story dragged on a little after a catchy first chapter and then it picked up at the end as tensions finally reached a climax. This is not as a good as Baby Teeth but still a chilling WTF book.
First line: Josie can feel her husband’s discomfort as they enter the golden glow of the gastropub.
Summary: At a local pub, Alix Summers and Josie Fair, meet each other and discover that they are birthday twins, they were born on the same day in the same hospital. A few days later, they bump into each other again and Josie has a proposition for Alix. After listening to Alix’s podcast, Josie believes that her story is one that Alix will want to share. As the women start recording, Josie starts to work her way into Alix’s life and even her home. Even though Alix finds Josie to be a bit strange she cannot help needing to know her story. But as suddenly as she appeared, Josie disappears. It seems like the end until Alix finds that she has been living inside a true crime podcast. And the big question is, who is Josie?
My Thoughts: After finishing this I had to sit and think, ‘What did I just read?!’. This is probably the best Lisa Jewell I have read. It was absolutely crazy! This story was jam packed full of shocking events, eccentric people, horrifying back stories and an ending that leaves you guessing.
I never knew what to make of Josie. As a reader we saw what life was like in her home and inside her head. But how much of this is real or skewed based on her perceptions? This is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Josie is very willing to discuss her past with a total stranger. She reveals a life that was filled with misfortune and regrets. I felt sorry for her and shocked as more of her life is revealed. But with each new detail you start to wonder how this has affected Josie and what is she going to do to change it?
I highly recommend listening to this book because it is told using a full cast. Since the premise is that it is a podcast recording that is picked up as a true crime documentary, the full cast idea adds an extra layer to the story. Using this format style, it is easy to forget that this is a novel and not an actual podcast.
First line: “You’ve got a nerve showing up here,” he hisses, coming to an abrupt halt beside me as he leads the mourners back up the aisle.
Summary: Jess has just landed her dream job. She is going to be a real reporter for The Globe newspaper. With her new job she hopes to change the world with her reporting. But once she meets the infamous Stella, her boss and deputy editor, she sees that standing by her morals may be harder than she thinks. On her first assignment she learns that the underhanded ways of the paper can lead to some deadly consequences. How can she continue working at a place that puts sales over the lives of those they report on?
My Thoughts: I was not sure about requesting the newest Sandie Jones book. The last two books were just not that good. I wondered if it was time to move on but I am glad I picked this one up. It was a quick paced and shows the backstabbing nature of modern news outlets.
The two main characters seem to be night and day. Stella is the hardened reporter who will do whatever to get the big story. Jess is the rookie who still believes in justice and the truth no matter what. With the alternating chapters the reader sees the differences in how they deal with similar situations. But really how different are they? Both are women in a world dominated by men.
Reading this really made me think about how tabloids and clickbait is used to destroy people’s lives. How much can we really trust some of the “news” that is circulating all over social media? I think this will give readers a look at something we see every day but then question how these stories were tailored.
FYI: Suicide, rape and stalking.
First line: Wes can’t get the song out of his head.
Summary: Wes and Ivy have a deep relationship. They love each other beyond words. But at times they also hate each other with a fierce passion. In their on-again off-again relationship they have damaged property, taken revenge and called the cops. But during one of their breakups they did something that they refuse to discuss. However, a police detective is digging into their past and it may lead to the darkest night of their lives. Can they stay together through everything? Or will this finally destroy them?
My Thoughts: The characters and their relationship was a disaster in this book! I could not believe how these people acted towards each other. No one was likeable. There is not someone to really cheer for. It is just a big train wreck. But I did think that some of the petty things were pretty ingenious.
I don’t know how to feel about this book. It is a domestic thriller dealing more with personal relationships than anything else. There are flashes back to times during Wes and Ivy’s past relationships that gives us a look at their troubled history which leads to the night that changed everything. Much of the reasons behind the drama was spurred on by them. If they hadn’t been vengeful then it would not have led to other events. It just seemed to be a cycle and became repetitive. But then the story just comes to an end. I didn’t feel like there was a real conclusion. I just did not like it as much as some of Downing’s other books.
FYI: Abuse, assault and violence.
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
First line: He is flying.
Summary: When Anne Morrow travels to Mexico City to visit her family she meets the national hero, Charles Lindbergh. Just months before Charles had flown across the Atlantic, securing his place in world history. Awed by his fame and talent of flying, she is quickly drawn to him. Together they become America’s golden couple. Anne joins Charles in his flights and even becomes the first female glider pilot. But tragedy strikes after a few years when their first child is kidnapped. The crime tears brings an end to the fairy tale romance. As Anne tries to navigate the world after the loss of her son she finds that she is stronger than she ever thought possible.
My Thoughts: I feel that every person has heard the legendary name of Charles Lindbergh. Either because of his daring flight across the Atlantic or the kidnapping of his first son. I remember learning about him in history classes throughout my school years. He is portrayed as a hero. And for parts of his life it appears that he is but there were also some darker sides that Melanie Benjamin covers in this story.
As with many historical fiction novels I spend lots of time looking up the characters and events while reading. I had no idea about his links with Nazi Germany, extramarital affairs and rather controlling personality. It appears that people at the time were aware of some of these controversial aspects but it was not covered in my history classes. Another great reason to pick up historical fiction!
But I found Anne to be just as fascinating if not more. She came from a prominent family, had a good education and achieved many feats during her lifetime. Anne even lived into my lifetime, only dying in 2001 at the age of 94. She saw many changes to the world around her and even made history herself. I am glad I finally got around to reading her story. I highly recommend it to fans of women’s history.