Monday, March 28, 2022

Review: Infamous by Alyson Noel


Review:

This is the third and final book in the Beautiful Idols series. I was first introduced to the series when I picked up a copy of Unrivaled at BEA shortly before it was released. The book sat on my shelf for quite some time until I needed a book that started with a U a couple of years ago for the the A to Z reading challenge. The concept behind the series is that a club owner in LA, Ira Redman, recruits Tommy, Layla, and Aster to participate in a contest to help promote his clubs. At the end of the first book, an A list celebrity, Madison Brooks, vanishes and everyone presumes she was murdered. 

The second book in the series involves the contestants trying to unravel the mystery of Madison's disappearance to clear their names. Tommy Phillips is linked to the murder because he was the last one to see her alive. Aster is the primary suspect because her dress was found with what appears to be Madison's blood on it. Layla is a celebrity blogger that had a feud with Madison and is guilty by association with the Tommy and Aster. While none of the contestants think any of them are responsible, they do not have any good evidence that suggests who is.

Throughout Infamous, Tommy, Aster, and Layla find a number of clues that lead them to believe Madison is still alive. They, however, do not know where she is or who is really behind her disappearance or the motive behind it. They discover Madison has a secret past that she has spent a lifetime trying to keep buried. Someone is determined to bring to light all of her past indiscretions and does not care who goes down with Madison in the process. Tommy, Aster, and Layla must find Madison not only to clear their names, but to prevent any further harm to Madison. 

Overall, this was an entertaining series. I really enjoyed the characters and how everything connected together. I think, however, it could have been consolidated into two books to eliminate some of the drag and make it a more enjoyable and fast paced read. As I said in my review of Blacklist, the story did not advance much. In addition, there were parts of the third book that I considered filler as well. I get that authors and publishers want to sell more books to generate additional revenue, but they need to take into consideration the readers who are spending their hard earned money and time on these books. I read for entertainment, not to log the highest number of pages read. Keep the readers actively engaged and they will keep coming back for more. If not, they are moving on to something bigger and better regardless of how many books you want to publish in a series. I shouldn't feel like a have to persevere just to see how a story ends. All of the books in a series should be just as captivating as the first. 

If I had it to do all over again, I would stop after the first book in the series. Hindsight is always 2020, so hopefully you will find this knowledge useful.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Review: The 9th Judgment by James Patterson

 


Review:

I really enjoy the Women's Murder Club books. The camaraderie between the women and the unique skill set each brings to the table definitely keeps me coming back for more. This is a lengthy series with 22 books currently published, so it is a major undertaking if you plan on reading this series straight through. I have been reading a book or so a year and am not sure if I will ever catch up with the pace Patterson puts out books, but I am still enjoying them none the less.

This time around Claire, the medical examiner, and Lindsay, the detective, are busy trying to tackle the murders of several mothers and small children that have been taking place around the city. The perpetrator is extremely good and doesn't leave any clues behind that he doesn't want to leave. He is toying with them by leaving clues written in lipstick or blood. 

At the same time Cindy, the newspaper reporter, has been writing about a series of burglaries that have been taking place at some of San Francisco's wealthiest homes. When one of the burglaries results in the murder of an A-list celebrity's wife, the chief puts Lindsay on that case as well. Lindsay and her partner Rich are working long hours trying to unravel the cases, but things get a little too close to home when the perpetrators in both cases reach out to Lindsay and she has to put her life on the line to protect the lives of others.

Yuki, the prosecutor, didn't have as instrumental of a part in the book, but she does make several appearances and contributes in her usual way within the legal system. She does seem to make a connection with the bartender at their favorite meeting spot when she needs someone to lean on. Hopefully this budding relationship doesn't crash and burn like her last one.

Overall, this was one of the best books in the series yet. It kept me engaged and sitting on the edge of my seat. Once the mystery was unraveled, everything made sense and you could see how all of the pieces fit together, which is an important characteristic to a mystery for me. I don't really enjoy when elements come out of nowhere just to tidy up the conclusion. This was a very well thought out and action packed story and I can't wait to see what is in store for these ladies in the next installment. Somehow I don't think they will every have any rest and relaxation in their future.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Review: You'll Be The Death of Me by Karen McManus

 


Goodreads Overview:

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day. Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out from working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again.

So when the three unexpectedly run into each other, they decide to avoid their problems by ditching. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school—and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse. It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common...like a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

Review:

This is the third book of McManus's that I have read. I started with One of Us is Lying and then read the sequel One of Us is Next. One of Us is Lying was REALLY good. I was a huge fan of The Breakfast Club as a kid and could definitely see the similarities. Five students with very different backgrounds all end up in detention together. One of them ends up dying and the rest are being investigated for murder. One of Us is Next continued the original saga with a game of truth or dare spiraling out of control at the school. This book wasn't quite as good as the original, but it was still a very entertaining story.

By the third time around, I feel like it is time for McManus to move onto another topic. This book had more of a Ferris Bueller's Day Off vibe with three students skipping school. They were close friends growing up, but have drifted apart since the start of high school. Them reconnecting out of nowhere was odd enough, but then witnessing the murder of another student, who was also skipping school, was completely random. Throw in an odd relationship between one of the characters and a teacher and I really felt like McManus was grasping at straws to keep this school themed murder mystery theme going. While this book did not take place in the same school and involved a completely new set of characters, it was essentially the same concept readers have already experienced twice already.

The threads to this mystery were so far fetched and convoluted that it is not something readers can relate to. Something going terribly wrong in detention...YES. A game of truth or dare getting blown out of proportion....YES. The events that took place in this book...NO WAY. I guarantee if I gave these books to my son, who is a junior in high school, he would have the exact same reaction. This was so unrealistic that you couldn't help but think McManus has jumped the shark and it is time to move onto a new subject matter.

I gave the book 3 stars simply because I liked the characters and enjoy McManus's writing style. I do plan on reading her book The Cousins, which does seem to have a new subject matter, to hopefully turn things around. In addition, I just noticed she has a One of Us Is Lying book 3 now listed on Goodreads. Seriously? Is there going to be a third death at Bayview High? I will have to read the description and some reviews before diving head first into that one. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Review: Illusionary by Zoraida Cordova

 


Goodreads Overview:

Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she's reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They're united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.

With the king's forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She'll have to control her magics--and her mind--to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.

For years, she was wielded as weapon. Now it's her time to fight back.

Review:

I received the first book in the series as part of an Owlcrate book box, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I immediately downloaded the Audible audio book when Illusionary was released to see how the series would conclude. There is a lot of tension and lack of trust between Renata and Prince Castian at the start of the book, but they must work together if they want to defeat King Fernando and bring peace to the kingdom.

I had a hard time understanding why the Whispers seemed to be working against Renata the majority of this series. She was a part of their group for so long, but they turned their backs on her when she needed them the most. Their lack of trust in her type of magic should have been outweighed by her years of loyalty and service to their cause. 

Prince Castian was her childhood friend, but those memories were lost in the depths of "The Gray" and replaced by the illusions he projected in more recent times. She believes he is the ruthless prince who has been trying to destroy the Moria and killed her boyfriend, but this couldn't be further from the truth. I enjoyed seeing them rekindle their friendship and seeing Ren discover who her true allies are. Appearances are often deceiving, especially when dealing with the types of magic the Moria can yield. Some are able to manipulate emotions while others, like Castian, can crate elaborate illusions.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Leo, Castian, and Ren grow as they traveled the kingdom in search of the Knife of Memory. They discover a hidden community of Moria, and for the first time in her life, Ren sees that her magic can be used for something other than a weapon. Their leader teaches her to control her magic and eliminate The Gray, which allows her abilities to soar instead of consuming her.

I am happy this was only a duology and the author/publisher did not feel the need to turn it into a trilogy. Both of the books were action packed, fast paced, and easily held my attention. It was a unique world and I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and their magical abilities. There were some twists and revelations that I did not see coming that really added to the enjoyment of this final book. In addition, I really enjoyed this book on audio. The narrator did a great job and I never would have pronounced the names of some of the characters and cities correctly.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

 


Review:

The "Gator Girls" book club, which consists of several residents in Florida's Bonita Bay community, selected this book for their February meeting. I have an exceptionally long to be read list, so I don't usually read all of the new releases when they are the hot topic of conversation. In fact, I am usually years behind the times, but this new release did pique my interest.

Molly is a little quirky, and if I had to guess, may be on the autism spectrum. She is high functioning with an exceptional vocabulary and manner of speaking. She is extremely proud of her job as a maid and takes it very seriously. One should not expect to find so much as a fingerprint left behind after Molly returns a room to a "state of perfection". Why I say she may be autistic is because of her obsessive compulsive love of cleaning as well as her lack of social skills. She has a very hard time reading other people's emotions and finds herself in some difficult situations as a result. 

Molly was raised by her grandmother, who passed away prior to the start of the book. She is barely making ends meet and doesn't have anyone to turn to for emotional or financial support. She becomes "friends" with Mrs. Black, who is the wife of one of the wealthy guests that frequents the hotel. One day, Molly finds Mr. Black dead in the room and quickly becomes the prime suspect. Fortunately for her Mr. Preston, the doorman, was good friends with her grandmother and agreed to look out for Molly after she passed away. Mr. Preston's daughter is an attorney and quickly steps in to help clear Molly's name, but the web of suspicious activity taking place at the Regency Grand Hotel is much larger than Molly ever could have imagined. Mr. Preston, on the other hand, is very observant of the comings and goings at the hotel and has a good idea who is behind the shady activity.

This was a very entertaining and quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think my mom may have suggested this book because she has a bit of Molly in her as well. Not the lack of social skills, but the obsessive compulsive cleaning. She is always trying to return things to a state of perfection when the average person wouldn't find anything out of sorts. I should recommend this book to my teenage son who could certainly benefit from some inspiration from Molly. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

 


Goodreads Overview:

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother.

Review:

This is a book that was immensely popular several years ago that I never got around to reading. It was also released as a movie, which I watched shortly after reading the book, so this will be a combined review of the book and movie. 

Bernadette was an award winning architect before moving to Seattle with her husband Elgin. He took a job at Microsoft and is famous for a TED talk about a project he led that could turn someone's thoughts into action. For example, if you want to send an email, you can simply think what you want to say and it will type and send the message. After years of miscarriages they were finally blessed with a daughter, Bee, but she had some serious health problems as a child. Bernadette threw all of her energy into Bee's care and vowed never to build another house as long as Bee survived. This resulted in the family living in a dilapidated house, that she planned on fixing up, but never had the motivation to begin. She never adjusted to life in Seattle and became a recluse. 

Bee asked if the family could take a trip to Antarctica to cash in on her parents' promise that she could have anything she wanted if she maintained perfect grades. Bernadette had severe anxiety about the trip, but could not tell her daughter no. A series of events eventually lead to Bernadette's disappearance. The majority of the story is told through emails back and forth between one of their neighbors and another mother at Bee's school, who happens to be Elgin's new administrative assistant. There are also a number of emails with a personal assistant that Bernadette was using that gives her perspective on the events that were taking place.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and the movie, but I think Hollywood did the book a favor and removed some elements that were not necessary in my opinion.  The trip to Antarctica was not what the family had hoped for, but the result was far more than they ever could have anticipated. While there was a considerable amount of drama along the way, this was exactly what Bernadette needed to get her creative juices flowing and bring her out of funk she had been living in years. The scenery in the movie was absolutely stunning and I can see why someone would want to experience it first hand, but I was happy to enjoy it in the warmth of my home.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Review: Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

 


Goodreads Overview:

Seventeen-year-old Mia, an American girl at an elite summer ballet program, has six weeks to achieve her dreams: to snag an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. But there’s more to Paris than ballet—especially when a charming French boy, Louis, wants to be her tour guide—and the pair discover the city has a few mysteries up its sleeve.

In the vein of romances like Love and Gelato, this is the perfect summer adventure for anyone looking to get swept away in the City of Love.

Review:

Mia has lived a life dedicated to ballet. Stories have been handed down through generations about an ancestor who was a prima ballerina in Paris. This woman was allegedly depicted in a painting by a famous artist, but only a few members of the family believe it is true. Mia is one of the believers and thinks it is her destiny to follow in her ancestor's footsteps.

While in Paris training for the summer, she has the opportunity to meet with some distant relatives to help uncover the truth behind the family mystery. With the help of Louis, a French boy she meets shortly after her arrival, she sets out on a quest to find the mysterious painting, but her time is limited and she refuses to put anything before her ballet training. 

Much like Tiny Pretty Things, this book gives readers an in depth view of what it is like behind the scenes in the world of ballet. The training is grueling and the competition is fierce. One missed step could quite literally destroy a career.

I absolutely loved Mia and Louis and enjoyed exploring Paris with them. I was a bit shocked by some of the events that took place at the end of the book, but I was happy with how the epilogue tied up loose ends. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this YA contemporary romance. I haven't read Love and Gelato yet, but based upon this book's description, I guess I should move that book up my TBR list.