Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

OIP (5)

Galaxy “Alex” Stern has lived a very hard tough life for such a young woman. She has never had a happy go lucky type of personality. She was never liked by the other students. She has always “felt” and “seen” things no one else did. She dropped out of school early and became immersed with drug-dealing, stealing and abusive people.  So when her best friend dies and her boyfriend is murdered she ends up in a hospital with no place to go.

That is when she is asked to attend Yale University as a freshman by the dean himself. Alex jumps at the chance for some normalcy. Stunned by the invitation she looks forward to attending classes and going to parties with her roommates.  But, as we all know by now, be careful what you wish for!

What Alex discovers is that she is not living a normal campus life.  Nor is she a “normal” student.  She has been chosen and placed at Yale by important alumni who are involved in a mystical and magical underworld with secret houses on the campus.  Only a select few have the understanding of the crafts which take place.  Alex soon discovers she has a few untapped talents of her own and begins to understand why she was always so different than others.

When one of the locals from the town is murdered, Alex in her capacity as one of the underground police, so to speak, is not comfortable with who they think was the murderer.  Thus begins a race before time runs out as to who really killed the girl and why was there such a coverup.

As Alex tries to fit all the pieces together while battling not only faculty, but characters from beyond the grave, she gets assistance from an unlikely source.  A ghost who is looking for his dead wife-to-be makes a pact with her to assist her in discovering who really was the killer. In return, she will try and find information on his dead fiancee.

Alex is unsure why she has been chosen.  More important if she was chosen, why do they want to kill her?  Alex herself has some secrets.  Secrets she does not want anyone at Yale to find out. What has she seen or heard that she was not suppose to?  One thing for sure, Alex will not stop until she gets the answers she needs, regardless if she does not live.

The Ninth House is like a Harry Potter for girls, with a strong female protagonist who is smart, funny and quirky.  It’s a story filled with magic, suspense, intrigue and yes, even humor!  I am positive this is the first of many more Galaxy “Alex” Stern stories.

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

OIP (4)

A year ago, there was a horrific tragedy at a prestigious prep school in Indiana.  A teacher went on a grisly rampage and murdered two students, and then threw himself in front of a train attempting suicide but did not die and now is living in a vegetative state. And some of the students who witnessed the incidents have since taken their own lives, by throwing themselves in front of trains.

Now, a year later, the murder and the sordid ordeal are being brought back into the spotlight by a very popular criminal podcast.  They are calling the episodes The Suicide House due to the abandoned boarding house where the tragedy happened.  As the episodes begin, the anxiety of students and teachers at the school increases.  And then another one of the students who witnessed the murder throws himself in front of a train.

That is when cold case expert Rory Moore and her partner Lane Phillips, a forensic psychologist are asked to come to Indiana and recreate what happened that night at the isolated house which was often times used for student rituals. Perhaps clues were missed at the scene and new eyes can shed new light on that night.

Moore, who herself has a few idiosyncrasies, has just finished up solving a cold case and usually needs time to decompress, but Phillips who knows her soft spots convinces her to help him. But nothing is as it seems in this small town and their presence begins to stir things up.  Why?

The story races back and forth between what happened during the days leading up to the murders, to the new investigation and new puzzle pieces. There are chapters in which diary entries from a mysterious unknown person are read while they are in what seem to be counseling sessions.

Is someone lying? What really happened that night? What kind of burden do the students carry with them from that evening that they would want to take their own lives? Why would a teacher snap and kill his students?

The Suicide House is a heart thumping psychological case study in insanity with twists and turns that leave you craving for more.  The ending….a volcanic eruption!

This is the second book in the Moore/Phillips series and as Donlea writes in the afterward, he tries to make sure that all his books can be read as a stand alone as well.  Since I was unaware this was a series book until I read his note at the end, I can certainly say he was able to accomplish what he set out to do.

The Suicide House can be preordered right now.  Publication date is July 28.  Get it!

Thank you #NetGalley #Kensington #CharlieDonlea #TheSuicideHouse for the advanced copy.

 

Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

OIP (3)

Please See Us is the haunting story set on the boardwalk and in the casinos of Atlantic City’s seedier side, where drugs are important and the addicts will do just about anything for a quick fix. Where women will accept abuse from men just to try and escape the life they have been dealt. And some will be killed.

In the vein of The Long Island Killer, there is someone who is killing prostitutes and escorts and dumping their bodies in a marsh.  No one is aware this is happening.  The only solace the dead women have are each other as they lie in wait for someone, anyone, to find them.

Clara is an eighteen year old boardwalk psychic who lives with her aunt above their dilapidated shop.  Her aunt Des is as crooked as they come.  Both have been banned from some casinos for stealing and escorting.  But all Clara really wants to do is put enough money away to get out of Atlantic City and find her mother who she has not seen since she was a child. Des has decided it’s time to put Clara to use and begins looking for men she can date.

When a client comes in for a reading, begging Clara for help in finding his missing niece, she tries to pacify him, but after he leaves she begins to have horrible visions. The same happens when a few other women come in for readings.  She does not understand why they all seem to be connected.

Lily is a former New York gallery worker who through circumstance beyond her control loses her job and moves in with her mom in Atlantic City where she begins working at a spa in one of the casinos. She has a bit of a drinking problem.  When Clara steals her bracelet and Lily goes looking for her she discovers a lost girl who is in way over her head.  They become friends and Clara tells Lily about the visions she is having and asks her for help. Clara believes the two of them working together can perhaps figure out what is happening to them.

As Clara and Lily delve deeper into the mystery, the reader meets the dead women and learn the stories of how they ended up in Atlantic City.  But no one is safe from this killer.  Have Clara or Lily already met him? Could one of them possibly be his next victim? Will the dead girls ever be found?

Please See Us is an incredibly different psychological thriller which not only has suspense, but also heartbreaking and makes the reader truly feel sorrow for the characters in the story who seem to be trying to begin a new life only to have that precious hope silenced.

Thank you Anne Jaconette of Gallery Books for sending me an advanced copy of this riveting book.

The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

OIP (2)

Sisters Kate and Lauren and their mom Rose have been dealing with great loss in their lives.  First, the matriarch of their family, their dad and husband, died suddenly leaving terrible grief in the close knit family.  Kate has been desperately trying to get pregnant through IVF with her husband Matt.  This is their last shot.  Lauren, who has three children with her husband Simon is beginning to realize her life is miserable.  Unbeknownst to her family, Simon is verbally and physically abusing her.

But, during their weekly Sunday dinner, a knock at the door will create a chaos no one could ever see coming.  A girl who introduces herself as Jess is looking for her father.  She claims to be his daughter.

Kate who idolized her father knows Jess is lying.  Lauren whose relationship with hem was strained at best welcomes Jess with open arms. Rose is just speechless. And then each of their worlds begin to explode.

Kate, a journalist by trade begins to investigate Jess’ claim.  She uncovers untruths, deceptions and malice.  Lauren on the other hand embraces Jess and agrees to assist her in finding out who her mother could be. Rose will have no part of this circus.  She loved her husband and he loved them all, end of story.

Then Kate and Lauren begin to remember a time years before then they heard bits of conversations and perhaps saw things which at the time meant nothing. When Kate begins questioning her mother, she shuts her down, which only makes Kate more suspicious. DID something happen years ago? What is Rose not saying? Was their father not the person they thought he was? Could Jess really be telling the truth?  What family secrets have been buried and what will happen if and when they are exposed? Will their family survive?

Sandie Jones, author of the best-selling book The Other Woman has once again written a cat and mouse thriller with so much suspense that it allows the reader to just go along for the psychological chilling ride and wait for the stunning conclusion.

My thanks to #NetGalley #MinotaurBooks #SandieJones #TheHalfSister for the advanced copy.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy

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This is an enjoyable, yet sad story of secrets, trauma, love, hate and forgiveness.  The emphasis being that no family is without pain, and some families can feel isolation in different ways.  The question is can a family rise above all the mess and become one again.

Ann Gordon’s family owns a summer house on Cape Cod.  The last summer she was there when she was just a teenager with her sister Poppy and newly adopted brother Michael something happened which would not only change her life, but would tear her family apart.

Now, years later, her parents have died and it’s up to Ann and Poppy to decide whether to sell the Cape house or keep it.  Ann and Poppy have not been close since that last summer.  Ann works in Boston and Poppy lives wherever she lands, traveling and working and has never really settled down.  Michael’s whereabouts, after he left mysteriously that last summer is unknown.

So when the decision needs to be made whether to sell or keep the Cape house, Ann, who cannot bare even being in the house decides she wants to sell.  Unfortunately for Ann, Poppy who has come back with her own emotional baggage from the past decides she cannot imagine selling the house.

To complicate the situation even further, Michael discovers what is happening and is furious he had not been notified.  He concludes he cannot let this house go and wants to buy it himself.

Is it possible for three siblings who suffered great trauma, hurt and mistrust in their past be able, without their parent’s guidance, comeback together as a family, not the one they remember from the past, but a new type of family, one their parents would be proud of.

As I thought about the story after I finished it, I realized that the title, The Second Home has many meanings.  There are many seconds in this story for most of the characters.  The Second Home was an uplifting and satisfying read.

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #ChristinaClancy #TheSecondHome for the advanced copy.

 

 

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

51p9PhHI38L._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is the sweetest love story I have read in a very long time. It is about a talented chef and newspaper restaurant reviewer who meet and become friends not knowing what the other does for a living. Through a huge mistake one will destroy the other’s dream.

Lou is a hardworking chef/owner of a restaurant named after her beloved grandmother Luella.  Although engaged to be married, nothing makes her happier than cooking for people and watching them smile.

Al is British and misses his homeland.  Hardly adjusting to the Wisconsin weather, he reviews restaurants for a Milwaukee newspaper.  He uses a pseudonym because some of his reviews can be quite scathing.

When he decides to dine at Luella’s, not only does he not know this is his new friend Lou’s restaurant, but he also is unaware that she has just had the worst day of her life.  Needless to day his review is not very pleasant.

As Lou begins to introduce Al to all the wonderful places Milwaukee has to offer, Al not only begins to love the city, but also begins to have feelings for Lou. And the feeling is mutual.

When Al’s review of Lou’s restaurant comes out Lou is unaware that Al is the actual writer.  And Al is unaware that Lou is the actual owner.  But the damage has already been done.  Luella’s starts losing business and Lou is in the horrible position of possibly having to close her beloved eatery.

And then Al discovers what he has done and cannot tell Lou for fear she will leave him. But Lou does find out and breaks all contact with Al. Is their love strong enough to keep them together? How could they give up what they both believe to be true, everlasting, until death do us part and beyond love.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a scrumptious tale of love and forgiveness with a recipe for a a mouthwatering coconut cake at the end.

The New Husband by D.J Palmer

OIP (1) When Nina Garrity’s husband Glen disappears suddenly while on a fishing trip leaving her with two children, a dog and debt she was never aware of, she was not sure how she would be able to cope. But a few months later she is accidently introduced to Simon Fitch, a teacher at her daughter’s high school who as a widower himself, is kind, generous, charming, attentive and even smells like her missing husband. Simon seems to good to be true.

As their relationship progresses, much to the ire of her daughter, but to the excitement of her son Connor, they decide to move into a house together and be their own family. Although Maggie and Simon clash, Nina believes everything is going well.  Until little problems seems to pop up.  Simon gets sick on a night Nina is suppose to go out with her two best friends.  He finds a picture in a magazine and begs Nina to cut her hair in the same way. When Nina decides to get a job, although Simon does not admit his disapproval, she can tell for some reason it bothers him.  Nina blames herself, thinking it must be her fault.  She’s not communicating enough with him.

As she tries to adjust to her work and home life, she finds herself constantly doubting herself and feeling overwhelmed by trying to adjust to work, home and the constant fighting between Simon and Maggie.  When Nina suggests to Simon that they go to counseling to try and put themselves back on track he immediately agrees.  But the night before their session, her counselor’s home is broken into and she is attacked.

Then, Maggie has a terrible accident and Nina begins to question not only herself but what Simon could really be.  There are only so many accidents until they begin to seem like something more sinister.

The New Husband is a psychological rollercoaster thriller with twists and stunning turns you could never imagine.

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #D.J.Palmer #TheNewHusband for the advanced copy.

 

Wow, no thank you. By Samantha Irby

OIP

Author Samantha Irby started out as an accidental blogger who according to her accidentally transitioned into an author.  But her essays and storytelling in her new book Wow, no thank you. are insightful, hysterical, easily relatable and so honest it hurts, but still makes you laugh.

At 40 years of age she is finally coming into herself, which as she is a medical accident waiting to happen, and with her many illnesses and even though ailments are not funny, Irby somehow is able to not only make light of them, but makes the reader laugh out loud and then feel sort of guilty that they did. She immediately catches our attention on the dedication page as her book is dedicated to Wellbutrin!

Her essays explain her pretty sad childhood, being unable to pay her electric bills (and how to steal someone else’s) to becoming homeless and living out of her car.  She writes of her love of music and how she is constantly being confused with writer Roxane Gay, always gladly accepting the compliment.

She explains when she worked as a veterinarian assistant she  would jot down stories on napkins.  She would leave work and go to a club and share her stories, never believing they were anything special, just stories. Everyone else did, but not her.

She explains her life in movements…for example, when she gets up in the morning (afternoon) she retrieves everything she needs for the day then goes downstairs as she refuses to make the trek upstairs more than once! She has a bowel issue…that’s all I am going to write.

This past year she was asked to write for the Hulu comedy series Shrill.  She moved to LA for three months. She describes the differences in living in LA and living in Chicago…just imagination those essays! Yes, I am smiling as I am reliving what happens to her.

But throughout the book I learned many important lessons, laugh at yourself, laugh at other people, push yourself, go ahead, be paranoid in your head because everyone is to one extent on another, don’t take everything seriously, have fun…or try to, hone your craft when you can and finally, listen…to yourself, to others and to your surroundings because boy, there are certainly stories to tell! And quite honestly, Irby seems to have stayed the same throughout her rising fame, only now she and her wife live in a house.

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

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Sunshine Vicram has just been elected Sheriff of her hometown, Del Sol, New Mexico.  She never knew she was running!  Today is her first day on the job.  Although she and her daughter Auri have returned to the place Sunshine calls home, the place seems different, yet very much the same, as if time has stood still.

Her first day and the next few will find Sunshine questioning herself for saying yes to the position. Between a young girl being kidnapped, a prisoner on the run, being worried about her daughter, seeing her first love again, finding a dead body in the mountains and having to navigate a feud between two townspeople over a rooster…what else could life throw at her?  Believe it or not, even more!

The young girl, Sybil goes missing just before her 15th birthday.  A new friend of her daughter’s, Sybil has been haunted for years believing that she would die before her 15th birthday. Was she really kidnapped or is this just a ruse for attention?

While trying to find Sybil, they discover a dead body up in the mountains.  Does this have anything to do with the kidnapping? Or is this just added stress on Sunshine.

All this is happening as Sunshine begins to relive her own abduction from years ago.  Could any of this be connected to her own kidnapping, something she has little to no recollection of because she had a brain injury.

Her daughter Auri is not fairing any better!  On her first day, when her friend Sybil fails to show up at school, she must try and navigate her peers, who know she is the daughter of the Sheriff and want to have nothing to do with her. And when she discovers her friend is missing, decides to play sleuth against her mother’s wishes.

Now, throw the quirky townspeople into the mix, including her own sheriff’s department staff, add a missing deputy that no one seems to know where he is (although they seem to know where he is) and you have a story reminiscent an episode of The Gilmore Girls, sharp witted humor, funny and sarcastic, with a very strong female protagonist.

The creative book chapter headings only make you fall in love with the town and the people in it even more!  Hopefully there will be a second in the series and Sunshine can continue to keep us smiling!

Thank you NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Darynda Jones for the advanced copy.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry

OIP If you are looking for a book which is funny and sweet and a feel good read, look no further.  The Roxy Letters is all those things and more.  Roxy is somewhat like a Bridget Jones, comical, confused and looking for Mr. Right, but she is much more.  She’s a vegan who works at a deli department at a Whole Foods store  trying to get over a boyfriend she thought was the love of her life, who can’t seem to make a grown-up decision to save her life and she is always broke.

Roxy’s escapades are all told to us through letters which she writes to her housemate, Everett, a past boyfriend living with her now to help her not only split the rent, which according to some of the letters he seems to forget to do, as well as help take care of her pets Charlize Theron, a cat and Roscoe, a dog who needs a nightly insulin shot.

She comically tells tales of being Vegan and having to deal with patrons who order meat, from a deli, which sells meat! And don’t get her started on the run-ins with “Dirty Steve” her manager who seems to dislike everybody and keeps trying to get her fired, or give her food poisoning on any given day.

As she maneuvers through life, dating men who act like children… literally, pining over the one she lost, she befriends a woman name Armetis Starla who is so carefree and put together that Roxy envies her. Why can’t she be more like Armetis? But Roxy seems to become lost in her past unable to see any hope for a promising future.

Until a Lululemon store moves into their quaint block and Roxy, well just does not feel the store belongs. So she gathers her friends to make signs and picket the store. That’s when chaos really begins to ensue! As Roxy starts to stand up for what she believes, her confidence seems to grow and she becomes stronger.

Roxy learns she needs to let go of her past and forgive her ex to move on realizing that he may have actually loved her very much because he did let her go. And something unique begins to happen to her.  She begins to become an adult! And she learns a very valuable lesson…not everything is always what it seems!

The hijinks are never ending and pretty amusing and the dialogue is quick-witted as we follow Roxy and her merry band of misfits to a very satisfying ending.

Thank you NetGalley, Simon&Schuster, Elizabeth Breeden and Goodreads for the advanced copies.