Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Well, this book was just fabulous! I absolutely loved that the story kept taking me in a different direction. I would think I knew what was happening, and then something would change, and I’d be blown away by the new information. It was absolutely wonderful!

My Synopsis:

Eleanor Hardwicke has just found out that her father, a man she wholly loves and respects is not actually her biological father. She has just the name of her actual father and begins to research who he is. What she finds is a half-sister she didn’t know she had living the life she feels was meant for her.

Victoria, Eleanor’s newly-found sister seems to have everything and as Eleanor learns more and more about Victoria, she wants nothing more than to be her.

How I Felt:

The characters in this book drew out such emotion from me. I would be infuriated by Eleanor’s actions, and then the next minute, I would totally understand her anger and resentment. She is a deeply flawed character, and I felt that this made her easier to connect to. Eleanor’s relationships with everyone, except her father, are terrible. She has trouble connecting with others, and I really enjoyed her character arc as she begins to explore who her real father and his family are, and what kind of relationship she could have with them.

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

The Guest List had so many questionable characters and it made it impossible for me to figure out who the killer was. I loved that suspenseful feeling the story gave me! Every chapter brought new information, building a motive for each character!

How I Felt:

The story is told through the point-of-view of multiple characters as well as an omniscient narrator. The narrator’s story is told in the present, during the discovery of the murder. The other POV’s sort of rewind to the beginning of the weekend and progress in time to the wedding night and murder. I thought that the author found a way to write these different views in a way that was easy to follow, which was much appreciated! Each chapter started with the character’s name as well as their character title, such as “Wedding Planner”, “Plus One”, and “Bridesmaid”. These labels helped to keep everyone straight throughout the story.

Everyone has traveled to a secluded Ireland island for the wedding of Jules and Will. Each character has something to hide. The book starts with an “event” that has happened at the wedding, but you don’t quite know what it is. You do know that it’s not good. There’s clearly chaos and confusion, but it’s a mystery. As the story progresses, you learn about each character and their connections to other characters. More details about the “event” are revealed and you begin to suspect everyone of everything!

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The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What I Loved:

The Wives had an awesome premise that had me so excited to pick this book up. I loved all the secrets that surrounded the intricacies of this relationship!

My Synopsis:

Thursday is married to Seth. Seth is married to Thursday…and two other women, sort of.

Thursday went into her marriage fully aware that Seth had two other wives, but she was okay with the arrangement because she loved him so much. She’s happy with their arrangement. She gets to see him once a week, and that makes her content.

Until she accidentally finds the identity of one of his other wives and a receipt for a prenatal doctor’s visit. One thing leads to another and Thursday finds herself on the doorstep of this wife to see what she’s like.

Thursday’s life begins to spiral out of control from there as she suspects Seth of abusing this other wife. Except that her Seth is nothing like that…is he?

How I Felt:

This story did not go where I thought it was going to go and it threw me for a loop! I was really hooked on the whole plot until about halfway through. Then everything kind of got turned upside down, and I felt like I was reading a different book. The story completely changed and it felt less like a thriller and more like an odd domestic fiction.

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Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What I Loved:

I really enjoyed the mystery of this story. Roux is this mysterious woman with a secret story that Amy has to understand so that she can beat Roux at her own game.

My Synopsis:

Amy is the mother of an adorable infant boy, the stepmom of a lovely teenage girl, and married to a wonderful husband. Her life feels picture-perfect.

Then, a bookclub meeting is taken over by new-to-the-group Angelica Roux. A dominant woman who starts a game of “Never have I ever” where the women share the worst thing they have done today, this week, this month, this year . . . ever. Amy immediately dislikes Roux and knows that she’s playing dirty for some reason.

Then, Angelica Roux confronts Amy revealing that she knows what Amy did. It turns out Amy has a secret and she’d like to keep it buried. Roux blackmails Amy, but Amy isn’t just giving in. Now, she’s on a dangerous path to find out who Roux is and just what she knows.

How I Felt:

The characters were extremely interesting, but I didn’t really connect with Amy as I would have liked. As the MC, I wanted to care a bit more about her. Angelica Roux was definitely a character I loved to hate. She always seemed to be one step ahead of Amy, and I couldn’t wait to see what it would take for Amy to outsmart her.

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The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires had this mixture of Steel Magnolias type characters with a vampire plot and I really enjoyed it! I think that overall, it was the southern-style ladies that saved this book for me. Their gentle, southern charm softened the horror enough that I wasn’t terrified throughout the story!

How I Felt:

I don’t do horror well. I get scared, like read with the lights on and my back to a wall creeped out super easily. I couldn’t even pick a super scary image for my “Horror” genre image above. So, let me first of all say that this book was more horror-lite than full-on horror.

While The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a story about a group of book club ladies that think there is a vampire living in the neighborhood, it is also about so much more. I was surprised by the additional pieces of this story. There is a focus on family, sacrifice, love, poor choices, and relationships. It was, all-around, a well-written story that I really enjoyed.

The story begins with an introduction of the main character, Patricia Campbell, that really gave me a good feel for who she was as a person. Patricia is supposed to lead her book club’s discussion of this month’s book, but she hasn’t read it yet. She tries and fails to discuss the book by posing questions to the group, but it turns out that most of the women also didn’t read the book. After being called out by the head of the book club, the group disbands. Patricia is invited to join a new group, but they “aren’t a book club” as the leader likes to say.

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The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

This is my first book by Megan Miranda and it WILL NOT be my last! I was blown away by her writing and story-telling. I found myself unable to put this book down!

How I Felt:

Olivia tries to keep her past a secret from everyone around her. As a young child, she was Arden Maynor. She suffered from sleepwalking and was swept away during a rainstorm and trapped for three days in a storm drain. Those three days are locked away in her brain and she cannot remember any of it. The media storm that followed her disappearance and eventual discovery and recovery followed her for years. Finally, she chose to move away and change her name.

Olivia is now an adult. She owns a home, a bit out of the way, but has a friendly neighbor that keeps her company. She’s happy until she receives a box filled with her mother’s belongings and the information that her mother has died. The sleepwalking returns and Olivia wakes one night to find a dead body at her feet.

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Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What I Loved:

There were a lot of secrets in this story. I really enjoyed all the unraveling that had to be done to get to what was really going on.

How I Felt:

The story starts with a murder. That’s always an exciting place to start with a thriller! The main character Eva is standing over her mother’s body holding a bloody knife… Eva wakes up in a hospital after being struck by lightning. A detective comes to her hospital room to inform her of her mother’s murder. Eva doesn’t remember or know anything. As the day progresses, she remembers standing over her mother holding the knife. What really happened? Can Eva trust her memory of events when they keep changing?

Behind Every Lie is told through alternating views. Eva’s story is told in present-day, but she is constantly thinking, analyzing, and reliving the past as she tries to figure out what is going on. The second POV is Eva’s mother, Kat. Kat’s view starts 25 years ago and gets closer to the present day as the story progresses. I really liked this storytelling choice. It offered secrets to the reader and I found the best reveals were told through Kat’s story.

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The Diary of a Serial Killer’s Daughter by L.A. Detwiler

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

This entire book is written as diary entries from the perspective of the daughter of a serial killer. I really liked the changes made as the daughter grows. Her sentence structure changes, her view on the world, and her vocabulary, all evolve as she grows.

How I Felt:

I was somewhat disturbed by this book, and yet I could not stop reading it. That doesn’t happen to me often. I’ll DNF a book if I find the subject matter to be too much for me, but in this case, I just couldn’t put it down. It was a well-written and extremely intriguing story. I’m putting my CONTENT WARNINGS at the end of my thoughts, so please read them before deciding if this is a book for you.

The story starts when Ruby is 6 years old. She’s just gotten her diary and discovers how much she enjoys writing in it. She shares all of her thoughts and secrets with her diary and we, the readers, begin to see that Ruby views the world differently than many people. I think that she may have had some OCD and autistic tendencies. She repeats words a lot, always in threes, and she likes the number 7 for things. Schedule is extremely important to her, and she is bothered by loud noise, among other things. Her diary entries begin to discuss the game her daddy plays in the garage, where there is always red, red, red.

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Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Little Secrets was such an amazingly well-written story. I was completely entranced by it! I loved how I kept thinking I knew where the plot was headed, and then a twist, and I’d be completely off-guard again!

How I Felt:

How have I never read a book by Jennifer Hillier?!?! Her writing is amazing! I have NEVER cried while reading a mystery/thriller before. This is a first for me. Her ability to draw every possible emotion from the reader was impressive. I fully enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading another one by her!

The writing was excellent! I mean, I cried. And it’s a thriller! Who cries reading a thriller? Well, I did, and I can’t really tell you why because that would be a spoiler, and I don’t do that. BUT I will say that Jennifer Hillier connected me to the characters in such a wonderful way. They were people my heart went out to…and a little bit because I’m a mom and the book got to me. Regardless though, I was feeling this book deep down thanks to the writing. I loved it.

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Bulwark by Brit Lunden

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I loved that Bulwark had this creepy story feeling that had me nervous, but not completely terrified. It felt like a campfire scary story, and that was a lot of fun!

How I Felt:

I listened to the audiobook of Bulwark. My review includes my thoughts on the book overall, as well as the experience of listening through audio.

The story reminded me a bit of Hansel and Gretel. Considering that the house is called “Gingerbread House”, it would make sense that I would think that way. Aside from the house name though, the idea of an old witch and the disappearance of younger children reinstated that similarity for me. Clay, the main character, visits a house and has an odd conversation with the older women who lives there and is later told by others in town that in fact, that house no longer exists.

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A Top 2020 Read: Under Glass and Stone by A.N. Willis – Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Under Stone and Glass was such an amazing story with a well-written plot and I loved all of it. I was blown away by the story of the house. A.N. Willis wove such an intricate story in such an amazing way, I was absolutely captivated.

How I Felt:

The characters give a young adult feel to this story, however, it’s perfect for adults. Evelyn, our main character, is a high school student plagued by terrible dreams that feel more like memories of the house across the street. Everyone thinks she is obsessed with the house and needs to move on. She’s such a determined character and knows deep down that something is not right. She meets Alex and quickly finds that she’s infatuated with him, but also that he may hold secrets that she needs to know. Alex was a great character. He’s a bit about breaking the rules, but also wants to do the right thing. It was a nice mix for his character that kept me wondering what his motives were.

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The Reckoning by D.M. Taylor – Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

D.M. Taylor’s The Reckoning created a mixture of science fiction and real-life feel that had me utterly captivated. The characters were well-built and easy to love. The story was a fabulous journey that so many readers will enjoy. Overall, I loved everything about this book!

How I Felt:

The characters Taylor created were so relatable. I connected to each sister in a different way. I loved that Taden was this super-smart woman who had cracked the code to time-travel, and yet she was vulnerable. She falls in love with the wrong men, she has a history that is filled with regret, and she feels the need to protect her sister, Ruth. Ruth’s story was incredibly interesting to me. She is a woman who was once lost but has found her way, only to have everything uprooted in a surprising turn of events. Her decisions throughout the story kept me captivated, and I enjoyed following her story.

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