Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams

4.5 stars Thriller

Given the evidence, I’d have done exactly what Lena did when she was notified that her twin sister had committed suicide.  Sure, Cambry wasn’t completely stable but Lena feels that she knows her sister and that she wouldn’t commit suicide.  Cambry was supposed to be taking a break from life, traveling, living in her car, enjoying the world around her so, why would she suddenly decide to end her life by jumping off a bridge?  Then, there’s the police report.  This piece of paper raises too many red flags for Lena.  Why hasn’t anyone else questioned this record?  Do they understand all the phone calls Cambry made?  What about Cambry’s last message, what did she mean by that?  Was it just a coincidence, the contact between Cambry and the same highway patrolman before and after her death?  This was one intense read and I wanted needed to know the answers.

As Lena meets Reymond Raycevic on Hairpin Bridge, she wants the full account of what occurred between Reymond and her sister, when the two of them came into contact.  As Lena listens, the Montana Highway Patrolman comes off irritated for having to repeat this but nevertheless, he gives Lena what she wants.  Whoops!  Better slow down Mr. Patrolman, you might just not want to be so overconfident.  This is getting good as Lena is a great listener and she’s paying close attention to everything that he’s saying. She’s not giving up until she knows the truth and she’s not putting any trust in the words on the typed-up police report.      

Another fantastic book by Taylor Adams, an exciting pursuit that had me turning the pages way past my bedtime!  I received a copy of this book from Scene of the Crime Early Read Program in exchange for an honest opinion, thank you for sending me this book. 

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

4 stars Mystery

This book really wasn’t a thriller to me. I would classify it as a dramatic mystery.  I picked it up based on the thriller genre and that the fantastic cover and although, the genre didn’t fit for me, I really enjoyed the book.  I listened it on audio and it kept me engaged and I couldn’t wait to get back to it when I had to shut it off.  The relationships, a few unknowns, and a few twists, had me talking to myself, as I went about my day.

The story centers around identical twins, El and Cat, who grew up in an older house in Scotland with their mother and their grandfather.  It is now 10+ years later and Cat has moved to California and El is now married to Ross, residing in the girl’s childhood home. I thought at first that the idea of them buying this house was sweet but the more that I read, I quickly changed my mind.  El has now vanished and they feel that she has died but Cat thinks otherwise.  Although, it has been years since the girls have talked, they are twins and Cat returns to Scotland to help find her.   

There is a lot of time shifting as you read this book, from when the girls were younger to the current time period, especially in the beginning of this book.  I found at times it was confusing at the beginning of the book and I didn’t understand where it would come into play or if it really mattered but in the second half of the book, I was consumed by the book. I really enjoyed the twists and the breakthrough moments that the author spread throughout the book. When they were children, the girls had created a world in the house called Mirrorland.  This fantasy world consisted of bizarre and absurd things that children could envision and it is in this world, that El tries to find her sister. 

There were times as I read this book that I didn’t know what was the truth and what wasn’t. I liked the idea of Mirrorland and how the girls used it to escape their current life when they were children.  Cat was so certain that she knew her sister even though, they hadn’t spoken to each other in years.  Coming back to Scotland was hard for Cat.  She had left her childhood behind and now, she has to face it again and also see what El’s life has been like.  Although it was confusing at times for me, I thought it was a great book.  

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

5 stars Fiction

Does biology trump love?  As I listened to this book, I kept wondering what I would do if I were placed in such a predicament.  After caring for a young child for 2 years, do you think you could relinquish control because someone made a mistake?  Was it a mistake or was it done on purpose?  It’s not like you got the wrong car, or the wrong dog (although this would be hard too), this is a small child who has depended on you, someone that you have cared for, protected, loved and bonded with for over 700 days. How could you walk away from that?  My mind couldn’t fantom how anyone was going to win in this situation. 

So many questions had to be answered after they proved that an error had occurred, and it began with who?  Who would commit such an act?  What did they have to gain from it?  I should have slowed the speed of the audio down as I felt that the book was speeding out of control or was it just the intensity of the situation.  I had my suspects but I didn’t feel that their motives were solid enough.  I felt an emotional connection to the children, how would they feel now and again, later in the future, knowing what happened to them?  Would this mess them up, could they bounce back, or would they need counseling to figure out why they now had another mommy and daddy?  Trying to correct the situation, I found myself arguing out loud, as each set of parents had their own idea on what they felt was the best plan.  Miles wanted to run the show, he thinks that he has everything under control and it frustrated me how he tries to take charge.  As I learned more about the children, the motive of why become clearer and the suspect list dropped to just a few individuals.  It was such a great book to listen to and one that completely took over my morning.  I highly recommend it.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

3 stars Fiction

I listened to this book on audio one weekend as I did projects around the house. I was hoping for something along the lines of a thriller, for that’s what the synopsis promised me but I found that, the book was more dramatic and historical in nature. Returning to Brooklyn, Sydney finds the neighborhood that she once called home changing. Although some change is expected, this modification becomes more like a revolution as the issues become deep and connected.

Sydney was trying to make a difference in her old neighborhood when she moves back to Brooklyn. Conducting research for a new job that she’s creating; she discovers what’s truly happening right before her very own eyes. I liked Sydney’s initiative and eagerness to move forward in her own life when she returns home and I liked how she steps up and starts to care for the garden area which was her grandmothers. The neighborhood of her childhood, which was once predominantly Black, is now being uprooted. The individuals behind this and why they’re allowed such behavior is what Sydney needs to uncover. She never expected to find gentrification or racism on her neighborhood block but what can she do about it? I wish I could leave the book like this but then, the ending came. I clearly was not a fan on how things came together in the final pages. I’m glad that I read the book as it deals with some of the current issues that some individuals face. 3 stars

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

5 stars YA

“Content warning: mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.” Yes, to all of this but yet, there is no warning about not being able to eat, drink, or think of anything else besides this book once you step inside its pages.  Then, there’s that book hangover, once you’re finished and you’re left staring at the back of the book breathing, reliving those incredible scenes that were more than just words on a page, where was this warning, as my mind tries to unwind. 

Korey, was everything she ever wanted.  He was perfect, at least that side of him was.   When Enchanted finally sees all sides of Korey, it’s too late.  This was a fantastic page-turner of a book, a book in which I felt a deep connection to the characters and the story couldn’t have been more honest and real unless I knew these individuals personally.

The book opens with a brutal murder and then, the book flashes back to when the characters first met each other and their story unfolds.  Enchanted was trying to fulfill her dream, a dream filled with music when she is spotted by Korey. Korey, the famous R&B artist has taken an interest in Enchanted and tells her everything that she wanted to hear.  As he works his charm, she is swept away.  Korey knows exactly what he’s doing, as he wins Enchanted over but Enchanted is an innocent, 17-year-old, victim who just wanted a music career.  And Korey, he’s a manipulator, a controller, an abuser(mentally), and a serial pedophile, who just got his next victim. 

This was a hard book to read as Enchanted voice got harder to hear. Korey began placing restrictions on her which confused her yet Korey made them seem like a positive part of their relationship.  More constraints and limitations began to weigh Enchanted down.  She was losing control as she began acting like a puppet, doing what she was told, losing her self-confidence as she feels she has no other option.  Such a powerful book, a book that had important messages and I appreciate the author addressing these issues openly and directly.  I highly recommend this book if you enjoy stories addressing these issues.  Amazing story!   

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

4 stars Mystery

Love makes some individuals blind and stupid.  Claire claims that she loves Jack and Jack feels that Claire is the one yet, let’s be real here.  Do they think that they can hide parts of their lives from each other, when they’re days away from tying the knot?  I wasn’t sure who was wearing the better disguise, Claire or Jack?  I do know that I enjoyed discovering how they each thought that they had the upper hand.    

I was in Claire’s corner as I learned how closed-lipped Jack was about parts of his life.  Was he just wanting to move on or was he trying to hide something? She knew that she wasn’t Jack’s #1 but I wasn’t prepared for how this really affected her. The longer I read the book, I thought perhaps they might just be right for each another, as Claire’s secrets were disclosed.  

Setting in motion the events leading up to their wedding ceremony, the parties arrive on the island and I was in awe. Talk about money! It’s an amazing place but dang, this wonderful day was turning into a nightmare.  A nightmare that I enjoyed but the individuals on the island, weren’t having so much fun. 

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The author did a great job disclosing their secrets and I enjoyed the implications that these had on the individuals involved. A time for celebration, the main characters were on edge while many of the guests were enjoying themselves on the island, I liked how there was this mix as it provided an element of uncertainty in the book.  This was a great mystery that I had a hard time putting down.

Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. #HerDarkLies #NetGalley

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

4 stars Mystery

Jane was their dog walker, a new face, who was just looking for a fresh start, trying to put her past behind her.  Welcome to Thornfield Estates, where everyone has secrets and nothing is private.

I listened to this book on audio and the characters definitely shined.  These Southern women provided me with some great laughs as they tried to be discreet about their actions.  Jane runs into Eddie, whose wife is missing and soon, Jane becomes a constant figure in Eddie’s life.  

There were a few great twists in this story yet some parts of this story were predictable as I read.  I liked the story’s pace and how the story unfolded as it kept me engaged.  Even though the ending may seem to be open-ended,  I liked how the book ended.   

White Ivy by Susie Yang

4 stars Fiction

She thought she was privileged so she took what she wanted, even at others expense. As she looked at the lives around her and compared them to her own, she wanted to fill in the missing pieces but at the same time, Ivy knew that she had to be the person that others saw her to be. Ivy was a devious character, someone who could play you and you wouldn’t even know it.

I found the beginning of White Ivy engaging as I learned about the character of Ivy.  Ivy was born in China and when her parents moved to America, they left her behind.  When she was 5, they send for her.  She lives with her parents and her grandmother, Meifeng. Oh my gosh, Meifeng!  This woman was such a powerful influence to Ivy growing up.  Meifeng and Ivy went shopping at Goodwill, good old grandma shows Ivy how to shoplift and price swap. I couldn’t believe it! The “shopping” at Goodwill was just the beginning for Ivy.

Ivy obtains free tuition from a private school since her father works there and she begins seeing items that she’s missing in her life and her “shopping” expands. Ivy also begins to take interest in Gideon who goes to school with her.  When she returns home from a trip, she’s heartbroken as she discovers that they’ve moved, and she can no longer attend that school and see Gideon.  I found this middle section of the book a bit drawn out and long. 

Years later, Ivy later runs into a relative of Gideon but she’s supposedly into Roux.  This woman!  I could have smacked her a few times towards the end of the book where things really picked up and I couldn’t put the book down.  When is this girl going to wise up?  Was she going to go after Gideon after all this time?  What about Roux and what they had?  Dang, girl!

This book was not what I had expected.  If you can work through the middle of the book, it’s a great book to read. I read this book for my Read Woke Challenge.

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

5 stars Mystery

What a terrific book by Tudor!   This was my third book from this author and she never fails to amaze me.  From the beginning pages, the story had my curiosity as Jack and her teenage daughter are relocated by Bishop Durkin.  I didn’t know what to think as the reverend and her daughter were transferred to the small community of Chapel Croft.  As the Bishop talks to Jack about this move and he mentions that Jack will be leaving behind the police observations, the crime scene and her angry congregation, whatever Jack did, it sounds pretty serious.  The Bishop felt that this would-be Jack’s best option yet, as I read the book, this was supposed to a good option?  I guess I wouldn’t want to know, what the Bishop thought were bad options.   

When the mother and daughter arrived at their new community, it’s not all that promising.   What happened that first day, should have told them something but I guess the reverend is used to drama.  The pair was met by a pair of Burning Girls at their gate, Jack later find a gift that was left for her.  Upon opening this gift, Jack finds she was gifted an exorcism kit and later, as their first visitor approached them, they realized that she was covered in blood.   Welcome to Chapel Croft.

I liked how the book unraveled itself.  I was interested in Jack’s past yet as the book progressed, there were other more intense issues at hand now.  It felt as if Jack was trying to separate herself from her past and start anew, as she wasn’t saying much about what happened.  As they arrived into Chapel Croft, they were pulled inside Chapel Croft and the events that surrounded this small community.  Jack had seen the small church and she thought that it needed to be revived but she didn’t really know the church’s history nor the people who resided in the town.   Jack was trying to distance herself from one horrible scene in her past and then, she ends up walking right into another one.  As Jack tries to make sense of what has just been uncovered, she realizes that her past is never really gone.   There were plenty of twists inside this book, and they were amazing as the stories unfolded. 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine in exchange for an honest opinion.  Thank you for my copy.

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

Virginia was charged with murder, yet she claims that she was innocent.  Leading this remarkable expedition, Virginia knew that other excursions had failed in their attempt yet, she accepted the position and prepared for the voyage.  Each of the other passengers that accompanied her, knew the dangers that awaited them before they set off but still, they all followed Virginia when she set off to the North. 

In this book, we follow Virginia as she prepares for and leads the expedition.  I don’t think any kind of preparation could have helped them for what awaited them.  Simultaneously, we also read about the court case that is brought up against Virginia.  A dramatic and intense case, Virginia knows her life is in the hands of the court now.

This was a group of 13 women, some not physically/mentally prepared for such an expedition.  Virginia was their leader and she was hired to guide these individuals into the North in search of Lady Jane’s missing husband. Virginia was only able to pick a few of her crew and those were individuals that she knew would be beneficial as they made their way.  The other women were chosen by Lady Jane and there were various reasons why she selected them.   They only had a fixed window of time before winter opened up its gates and turned the area into a frozen wasteland.  They’ll be on a ship for most of the journey but then, they’ll have to walk to where they believe the lost party was thought to be.  They would face many challenged but they didn’t know this when they set off.

I felt bad for Virginia as she only had a few women with her who were actually helpful.  As the journey continued, a few of the women started to understand exactly what they had gotten themselves into.  This is not a pleasure cruise ladies! It was a difficult and eye-opening journey and I’ll tell you now, not everyone made it home.   

In court, Virginia sits and listens as the prosecutor calls up his witnesses.  Virginia feels the door slowly closing shut on her prison cell as her attorney stands silent and does nothing as each witness takes the stand.  It’s hard for her to just sit and be silent, as others speak about her and the expedition.  I cringed as events in the case continued, I can’t believe it’s moving in this direction. What a dramatic case for this time period.  

I enjoyed the story as it was well written, intriguing and I liked the character of Virginia.  She wasn’t afraid of jumping in and taking a challenge.  Sure, this was a difficult one for her but she did the best she could.  There were a few big moments in the book and I enjoyed those ahhh moments.   I liked the idea of the women traveling together alone, trying something on their own.  They spent a lot of time getting ready for their voyage in the book and I really wished there would have been more time spent on their travels.  4.5 stars