Just a book blog

Just a book blog

I'm Jenn.

I like to read then blog about it :-)

Review
5 Stars
Fierce Kingdom
Fierce Kingdom: A Novel - Gin Phillips

Joan and her four-year-old son have been playing in a secluded part of the zoo, but now they're cutting it close as the zoo is about to close for the day. As they hurry toward the exit Joan immediately turns around, Lincoln in her arms, and races back into the zoo. Those pops she heard earlier weren't balloons bursting or fireworks - they were gunshots and there is a man with a gun at the exit. Joan loves the zoo and it's her knowledge of this place - the hidden pathways and what exhibit is empty - that keeps them one step ahead of danger for the next three hours. She will do whatever it takes to protect her son.

With a cover like that and especially after reading the blurb I desperately wanted to read it right away. As an animal lover it pains me to read about fictional animals being hurt and killed and since this takes place in a zoo I figured it would happen. (I skimmed over those parts and I'm pretending they didn't happen!) But this book is so good! I couldn't help but fall in love with little Lincoln. His imagination and the love he has for his mother - their bond - it was something special. I was totally absorbed in this and if life didn't get in the way I would've read it in one sitting. It was very intense. Never a dull moment.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
Now You Know Canada
Now You Know Canada: 150 Years of Fascinating Facts - Doug Lennox, Jean-Marie Heimrath

This book is packed with facts all about Canada and Canadians. The author covers a variety of subjects from geography, sports, disasters, war and heroes. What I enjoyed reading about the most - baseball, war, explorers and those who weren't afraid to lead the way and stand up for what they believed in. It was fun to read about some of the brave Canadians who helped shape this country into what it is today!

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Dundurn for a copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
Betrayal In Blue
Betrayal In Blue: The Shocking Memoir Of The Scandal That Rocked The NYPD - Ken Eurell, Frank C. Girardot Jr., Burl Barer
Mike Dowd and Kenny Eurell were two cops who ran the most powerful gang in New York's 75th precinct. They were drug dealers and they robbed drug dealers. They stole drugs, money and guns not only from criminals but also from the homes of people who had just called in saying their home had been broken into and they took these things from dead people's pockets. They formed an alliance with Adam Diaz who was the kingpin of a Dominican drug cartel. Mike and Ken were raking in big money and they were buying fancy cars, nice homes, and treating their wives to a life of luxury. Everyone knew what was going on but an officer could not squeal on another officer and the bosses did not want a public scandal so they turned a blind eye. But they couldn't get away with it forever. Mike, Ken and their fellow partners were eventually arrested and soon the newspaper headlines read "The biggest police scandal in New York history"

Wow. The amount of stuff the cops got away with in New York in the 1980's is unreal. It makes me wonder what went on in other places around the world, and how much of it is still happening to this day. Who are we supposed to turn to when the very people who are supposed to protect us are so damn crooked? Mike Dowd especially was just so brazen and so arrogant and flashy. This is quite the story of greed and very interesting (and frustrating) to read about.

Thank you to Netgalley and WildBlue Press for a copy of this book.
Review
4 Stars
Gone Without a Trace
Gone Without a Trace - Mary Torjussen

Hannah Monroe returns home one night to find her boyfriend of four years gone. All his belongings are gone and everything of Hannah's has been put back the way they were before Matt moved in. All trace of him being in her life is gone - the call logs, the texts, pictures. His cell number is no longer in use and all his social media accounts have been deleted. She can't understand why he'd do this but she's desperate to find him so he'll know she's not mad at him and he can explain himself when he comes back to her. She'll do whatever it takes to track him down.

Right from the beginning I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. What happened to Matt?! Things weren't moving fast enough. It was so suspenseful. Then when I found out, eh. I wasn't really surprised. There was one thing I didn't see coming that tied the whole story together but it just felt anticlimactic. I wish a few things could've been different. I feel so let down. But the first three quarters of the book was intense!

Review
4 Stars
Caught on Camera
Caught on Camera - Madelle Morgan

Rachel Lehmann is a young chambermaid who dreams of working on Hollywood film sets. She's accepted into Toronto Film School, but she needs $35,000 for tuition by the end of summer. Luckily for her there is going to be a big wedding full of famous people at the Inn she works at. She'll just take candid photos of the guests and sell them. But her idea seems even better when she's asked to fill in for a missing bridesmaid, pretending to be the bride's cousin. But she falls head over heels for Mickey McNichol, a talent agent to the stars. He also falls hard for the bride's so-called cousin. He thinks he's finally met a beautiful woman he can trust. But that trust will be broken beyond repair if Rachel sells the wedding pictures.

 

This is a cute little romantic comedy. It has insta-love and is predictable but I found myself totally absorbed in Rachel's star-studded world. I liked all the characters and how their antics added a little drama to the weekend of the wedding. And I really liked that it took place in Canada! A fun, well-written beach read - just make sure you can get online because there's also a playlist, which I thought was a nice touch. I'll keep an eye out for the second in the series!

 

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy through a Booklikes giveaway.

Review
5 Stars
The Ex
The Ex: A Novel - Alafair Burke

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she gets a call about her ex-fiancé, Jack Harris, being arrested for a triple homicide, she knows two things: 1. He didn't do it, and 2. This is her chance to make it up to him.

 

Jack Harris is a widow. He hasn't been interested in women since his wife was shot and killed three years ago. But on his early morning run along the Hudson River he spots a beautiful woman in last night's party dress, barefoot, drinking champagne out of a bottle and reading his favourite book. He tells his good friend Charlotte about the sighting and she immediately puts up a "missed moment" post on her popular website. Days later the beautiful woman responds to the "missed moment" post, gets in touch with Jack and invites him to meet her in person at the waterfront.. where a triple murder takes place at the same time they were scheduled to meet.

 

I thought this book was clever. It's full of twists and turns that kept me guessing. I was convinced Jack was innocent one minute and then I was convinced he was guilty the next - this went on throughout the whole book. It was well-written, not too bogged down with legal terms. The ending wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, but it's still a five star read.

Review
4 Stars
Feel Me Fall
Feel Me Fall - Christopher Fowler;Gary McMahon;Adam L.G. Nevill;Pat Cadigan;Paul Meloy;Ramsay Campbell;John L. Probert;Nicholas Royle;Simon Bestwick;Al Ewing;Conrad Williams;Mark Morris;Stephen Volk;Michael Marshall Smith;James Lovegrove;Natasha Rhodes;Joel Lane

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane that crashed in the Amazon. The plane was carrying 134 passengers; 37 of which were students, teachers and chaperones from Riverdale Academy High. But she wasn't the only one who actually survived the crash. Six students were left stranded in the jungle. With each passing day their hope and strength dwindle. It's survival of the fittest and Emily is the only one left to tell her story.

 

We come to learn Emily's past and how she ended up on a plane to Paraguay. And what happened in the jungle. And how her guilt is eating her up inside. She did what she had to do to survive. Their fear and desperation were palpable. Throughout most of the book I really liked Emily. I thought she was a headstrong young woman who made the best of what she'd been dealt and tried to do the right thing. I really enjoyed the story. It was a page-turner. I had to know how Emily came to be the only one left. What happened to the others? I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as gruesome as I thought it would be. But the ending just didn't work for me. I did not like it even a little bit.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for a copy.

Review
5 Stars
Goodbye Days
Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs is a high school student at Nashville Academy for the Arts. He makes up one fourth of the Sauce Crew along with his best friends Blake, Eli and Mars. Carver's talent is writing. The cruel irony is that he just killed his three best friends with a simple text that said "Where are you guys? Text me back." He blames himself but he's not the only one - Mars's father, who is also a judge, is pushing for a criminal investigation into Carver's actions. But Carver's not alone. He has supportive parents and a supportive older sister. He's become close with Eli's girlfriend Jesmyn. And Nana Betsy, Blake's grandma, is on his side. Nana Betsy suggests they spend a day together sharing their memories of Blake and to say a proper goodbye. The other families want Carver to spend a day with them as well, sharing a side of their son they never knew, but he's not sure it's a good idea especially when Mars's father tells him he wants to have a Goodbye Day.

I knew I was going to love this book before I finished the first page. The writing was good and made the pages fly by. I enjoyed getting a glimpse here and there of the Sauce Crew - just regular teenage boys getting together and laughing at stupid stuff and enjoying life and peanut butter and banana milkshakes. I liked the idea of getting together with the families and sharing memories. I think this book is very important in this day and age where most people's cell phones are glued to their hand and their eyes glued to their cell phone. I felt bad for Carver. I felt bad for everyone involved. What a tragedy - one that could have been avoided.

Thank you to LibraryThing and to Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a hardcover copy.

Review
5 Stars
The History of Hilary Hambrushina
The History of Hilary Hambrushina - Marnie Lamb

This is the summer before Hilary Boles starts junior high. Hilary and her best friend Lynn dream of becoming popular and being besties with the most popular girl of all Chanel Winters. But things don't go as planned for Hilary when Lynn leaves for the summer and Kallie moves in next door. She's very quirky - her room is black with constellations painted on her ceiling, she sleeps in a hammock in her room instead of a bed and she enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach much to Hilary's embarrassment. But they become friends and Hilary knows Kallie is definitely not cool and not part of her plan to becoming popular. So when school starts Hilary has to decide if she wants to be part of the popular group who looks down on "losers" like Kallie or if she wants to hang on to a true friend and be seen as a loser too.

This is labelled as young adult on Netgalley but it's more middle grade - preteens especially will enjoy it. The same old story of wanting to fit in and bullies picking on someone simply because they're different. I thought the writing was strong. It was funny in places but was also serious when need be. Kallie was such a strong character. But poor Hilary is torn between doing the right thing by sticking up for her new friend and not being able to say anything because it wouldn't be cool. It's always funny thinking back to being twelve and realizing that the things that seemed important really weren't - needing the same shirt as so-and-so or liking a band because all the cool kids are listening to them. I'm glad those days are over!

Thank you to Netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for a copy of this book.

Review
5 Stars
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel - Hannah Tinti

Samuel Hawley has spent most of his life on the run. But now he has somewhat settled down in Olympus, Massachusetts for the sake of his teenage daughter, Loo. Olympus was where his late wife grew up and while he finds work as a fisherman, Loo struggles to fit in at school. Loo's maternal grandmother, Mabel Ridge, is still living in Olympus and still hates Samuel Hawley. She thinks the circumstances surrounding her daughter's death are suspicious and thinks he's to blame. She gives Loo newspaper clippings and leaves her wondering whether or not her father killed her mother. After all, he has a criminal past and twelve bullet holes to prove it.

This book was GOOD! It alternates between Hawley's past - how he got the bullet holes, how he came to know and love Lily and what happened to her and how he carried on after she died; and the present - what his life is like now and what Loo's life is like. And their lives are interesting! Both past and present are equally compelling. There was never a dull moment. These characters really came to life and I hated for the book to end. I felt like I knew Hawley and Loo and I certainly didn't want anything bad to happen to either of them. This book uncovers Hawley's dangerous past but also shows how much love a father has for his daughter and how far he'll go to protect her. Their bond was really something special. I added this to my 'favourite' shelf!

Review
3 Stars
The Girl with the Red Balloon
The Girl with the Red Balloon - Katherine  Locke

Sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum and her classmates are visiting Germany. When she spots a red balloon, she tells her best friend to take a picture so she can show her grandfather when she returns to the United States. But by grabbing that red balloon Ellie is taken back in time to East Berlin in 1988. There she meets members of an organization who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the wall to West Berlin. But to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. Eventually it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history and Ellie wants to do everything she can to stop them, even if it means never returning home again.

There are three points-of-view: Ellie's when she briefly travels to Germany in present time then travels back to 1988 where the rest of her story is told, Kai's who is a Runner, someone who helps people get over the wall, and Benno's back in the 1940's in a Polish ghetto. This is such an interesting concept - using balloons to send people over the Berlin Wall. But there was something about this book that didn't quite make it as enjoyable as I'd hoped. I liked the characters, but I felt as though, except for Benno, we only scratched the surface of who they really were. The writing itself was just okay - sometimes the characters were overly dramatic. I think this book may appeal more to younger readers.

Thank you to Netgalley and Albert Whitman & Company for a copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
Last Breath
Last Breath: A gripping serial killer thriller that will have you hooked (Detective Erika Foster Book 4) - Robert Bryndza

When the body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first on the scene, even though it's not her case. While Erika tries her hardest to be a part of the team officially, she can't help but get involved beforehand. She finds a link between the woman left in the dumpster and an unsolved murder of another young woman whose body was also found in a dumpster four months earlier and had the exact same wounds including the fatal incision to their femoral artery. Erika is finding this case tough to crack - the killer is stalking his victims online using a fake identity and a VPN. Another girl has been abducted and now Erika and her team have to figure out the killer's identity before he can kill again.

This is another compelling book in the Erika Foster series. As always Erika is strong and determined. She's not afraid to speak her mind and do whatever it takes to catch the killer. However, I'm not crazy about the romance part of her life. I liked the killer's point-of-view and his use of social media. This book may be a reminder for some who share a bit too much in their social media lives that we don't always know who we're talking to online and to be careful.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for a copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
Sisters One, Two, Three
Sisters One, Two, Three - Nancy Star

Glory Tangle and her four children were staying on Martha's Vineyard when something tragic happened. Afterwards Ginger and Mimi, the oldest sisters, are not supposed to mention what happened to anyone, not even to their mother, and their younger sister, Callie, is sent away to boarding school. Many, many years later Ginger is forced to reveal a secret when her teenage daughter overhears a comment. And so the Tangles' web of secrets and lies begins to unravel. When Glory dies and long-estranged Callie returns home, Ginger goes back to Martha's Vineyard to piece together what really happened on the day no one dared to mention in the Tangle household.

This is told from Ginger's perspective. It's a slow-moving book but I enjoyed reading about the Tangle's, especially in the early years. They're dysfunctional and have their quirks and I didn't always like how they handled things but you can't help but like them just the same. It's a realistic portrayal of how keeping secrets and not talking about memories and your feelings can damage relationships.

Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
Here and Gone
Here and Gone: A Novel - Haylen Beck

Audra Kinney is fleeing through the United States with her two children, Sean and Louise, in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. All is going well until she stops in Arizona. She's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff who then calls for the deputy to come and take Audra's children to a safe place while she's taken into custody. When she starts asking about her children, the sheriff tells her he didn't see any kids when he pulled her over. It's two crooked cops against Audra and they insist she did something to her kids and left them in the desert. This becomes big news and catches the attention of a man halfway across the country. This sounds similar to what happened to him and his family five years ago - his wife was pulled over for something trivial and their daughter was taken. With someone else on Audra's side, they race against the clock to find her son and daughter before it's too late.

This was an intense action-packed thriller. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened to Sean and Louise. I liked Audra. I could feel her frustration, desperation and helplessness. Her husband and those cops made me so angry!

Thank you to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for a copy of this book.

Review
4 Stars
The Girl Who Was Taken
The Girl Who Was Taken - Charlie Donlea

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald have more in common than just being high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. They both disappeared from the same beach party at the beginning of summer. The police launched a search but no clues were found. Shortly afterwards Megan manages to escape from a bunker deep in the woods. Fast forward a year and Megan has turned into a national celebrity when her book detailing her time spent in captivity and her escape has landed on the bestseller list. But for some this is another painful reminder that Nicole is still missing. Nicole's older sister, Livia, is a fellow in forensic pathology and she expects that someday her sister's body will end up on her autopsy table. But for now, Livia's first clue about her sister's disappearance comes from another body that shows up in the morgue - a young man she's never seen or heard of before. After some digging around Livia is close to figuring out the truth. With snippets of Megan's memory returning, the pair will uncover something deeply disturbing.

This was suspenseful! It goes back and forth from the summer leading up to the disappearances and the aftermath. It was well-written and left me guessing until the very end. Livia has an interesting profession and I didn't find it too bogged down with the terminology that went along with it.

Thank you to Kensington Books and Netgalley for a copy of this book.

Review
3 Stars
The Castaways
The Castaways - Jessika Fleck

Olive Gagmuehler is tired of getting picked on because of her name. While she's waiting for her best friend at the Castaway Carnival she runs into the trio of mean girls from school. She runs away into the infamous cornmaze, where kids go missing. She wakes up on an isolated island where a war between two teams of rival teens has been going on for many years. She's taken in by the Lions where she develops a strong bond with each of them and will do whatever it takes to protect them and help them win the war. Then hopefully find her way back home.

Poor Olive, not only does she hate her name, but she seems to always have a knot in her throat. Ouch. I liked the concept of this book - a Pirate Carnival with a cornmaze where kids disappear, an island of lost teens. It did kinda drag in parts, was a bit repetitious, full of clichés. And I didn't care for the ending because I just don't understand how that could happen. But overall it was a fun read.