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Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Long Black Veil - Jennifer Finney Boylan

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was a bit of a different story than I expected it to be only because I don't tend to read book summaries very carefully. I went into this book expecting a straight forward mystery thriller but I think that this book really a bit different. I didn't really think that the mystery was really the main driving point of the book instead the focus was on the characters and how their lives have changed since the event at the prison. I am glad that I decided to give the book a try.

This book focuses on several different periods of time. In 1980, this group of friends were locked in an abandoned prison and one of them never made it out. The other main focus of the book is set in more recent times when her body is finally discovered. There are some chapters that are told entirely during one period of time but a lot of the book set in the more recent times include a lot of memories. The past is obviously still a big part of these characters present day.

The book spends some time with each member of the group that was at the prison that night back in 1980. The main focus really seemed to be on Judith's life since that day. Her life is nothing like it was back then. Her situation has changed dramatically but it really doesn't have anything to do with what happened at the prison that night.

I did have a few issues with the story. Judith's deception to her husband of many years just seemed like to big of a stretch. I don't really understand how a close married couple like that would be able to keep such a huge secret from each other. I also don't get how the body could of been lost for so long when it was right there the whole time. Did they not do a proper search? I also feel like I should probably warn readers that there is a scene in this book where an individual is putting shelter dogs to sleep one after another as part of his job. I know this happens and I really wish it didn't but I know that reading that kind of scene will bother some readers.

The writing is what really won me over with this book. The story just flowed and even when I was questioning a plot point, I didn't want to put the book down. The point of views in the story seemed to be changed exactly when they needed to be and I always felt like the book was moving forward. The memories of the past worked into the sections set in the present worked perfectly. This was a book that I read very quickly because it completely held my attention.

I would recommend this book to others. The book isn't perfect but the writing is great and the story is solid. This is the first book by Jennifer Finney Boylan that I have read but I would definitely pick her work up again in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from Crown Publishing via Blogging for Books.

Initial Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way the story unfolded and was equally interested in the present and the past.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying - Karen  M. McManus

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

Every once in a while a book that is a joy to read ends up in your hands. This was one of those books. Initially this book completely escaped my notice but then I started seeing some really great reviews for it from a lot of different people. I saw a bandwagon and decided to jump on. I am so glad that I did. This book was such a surprise for me. I hoped that I would like it but I never expected to love it. Once I got about midway through the book, I didn't put it down until I turned the last page.

The characters in this story are great. I had hoped that I would like the characters when I started reading this book. I never dreamed for a moment that I would love them. The four main characters at the heart of this book are all very different from each other and I really felt like I got to know them over the course of the book. There were times that I felt like the book was really focusing on one character more than the others but then the focus would move on to the next character for a while. I really enjoyed getting to know all four members of the group.

This book starts out in detention. Simon, Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper, and Nate are the only students in detention that day but after a terrifying emergency only four students ever get to leave. Simon is rushed to the hospital where he later dies. The authorities think that one or all of the other students might be responsible for his death since Simon was about to reveal big secrets about each person on his gossip blog.

The mystery in this book was really very well done. I had no idea what happened to Simon. I would come up with a theory only to realize that I had to be wrong soon after. I was literally guessing until the end of the book. I also really felt for each of the characters as their secrets were revealed. All four really go through a major life change during the course of this book.

I would highly recommend this book to others. This was a very smartly written story that was next to impossible to put down. I am very impressed by the fact that this is the first book written by Karen M. McManus. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Children's - Delacorte Press via NetGalley.

Initial Thoughts
I can't even believe how good this book was! I liked the whole thing but the ending really got to me. I cannot believe that this is the first book the Karen McManus wrote.

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews
My Review

This book was absolutely amazing.  The writing team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews have consistently been able to produce books that are written to a higher standard.   I have only one complaint regarding this book - the cover.  Nevada looks like a damsel in distress on the cover instead of the strong woman she is in the book.  Can someone please tell me why Mad Rogan's shirt is half off on this cover?  If Mad Rogan (or this cover model) were anywhere near me, I would encourage him to remove his shirt right away but I don't think this image represents the book at all.

I loved that the world this book is set in was so easy to jump into.  There is a very brief intro before the prologue that really sets the stage for the novel very well.  I never felt lost regarding the rules of this world which is a major strength for a first book in a series. 

The characters were phenomenal!  Nevada is a competent, strong woman who places her family above all else.  Nevada does not yet seem to know the extent of her power and I look forward to watching her learn throughout this series.  Her family was so much fun.  How can you not love Grandma?  Everybody who reads this book should love Grandma. 

Mad Rogan is your average lovable psychopath.  Alright, maybe he is not a psychopath (or average) but he does have a few violent tendencies.  And he is powerful and he knows exactly how to use his powers.  The powers that the characters had were just so much fun.  I would love to be able to shake a building when I feel that I am being ignored - I bet that would get my husband's attention even when his favorite show in on television.

This book had tons of action and kept the excitement going.  The banter between the characters was some of the best that I have ever encountered in a book.  The sexual tension between Mad and Nevada was intense but we will have to wait until later books to see that fully realized.  This book ended up being everything I had hoped it would be and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in this series.  I would highly recommend this book and all other Ilona Andrews books to everyone. 

The Audio

Renee Raudman does a fabulous job narrating this audiobook.  All of the characters have a unique voice and the dialog between them always felt very natural.  Nevada experiences a wide range of emotions over the course of this story and it was really well portrayed in the delivery of the audiobook.  I think that the way the story was told added to the story making the exciting parts more exciting, the funny parts even funnier, and the chemistry between Mad Rogan and Nevada was even more intense.  I have already pre-ordered the audiobooks for the next two books in the series and cannot wait to listen to them.

Unsub by Meg Gardiner

UNSUB: A Novel - Meg Gardiner

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed this one. I have never read anything written by Meg Gardiner before picking up this book but after reading the description, I knew that I would have to give this book a shot. I am very glad that I did. The books opens with a lot of excitement so I was immediately hooked. There was never a moment where I felt like I wanted to put this book down even though I had to every once in a while due to various responsibilities including my job and other such boring things. This was one of those stories that really got into my head and didn't let go until I got to the last page.

The Prophet killed one person after another, sometimes more than one at a time, before suddenly stopping over twenty years ago. He was never caught and he killed his victims in different ways so that it was hard for the police to get ahead of him. Mack Hendrix was one of those detectives tasked with catching this ruthless serial killer. He was never able to catch the murderer and the case ended up destroying his life.

Caitlin, Mack's daughter, became a detective even after everything her father has went through. She has worked in narcotics but as soon as a murder occurs similar to that of the Prophet, she gets a call. Is it a copycat or could the Prophet be back? She is highly motivated to catch this killer but also fears losing herself in the case as her father did.

I really liked the characters in this one. They just all felt really authentic to me. Caitlin seemed like she really cared about her job but she worked hard to have a life outside of it. I really felt that all of her emotions during the case were very well done. Sean was amazing. He knew exactly how to be supportive without being overbearing. I thought that Sean and Caitlin were wonderful together. The secondary characters were equally well done.

I thought that the mystery was exciting and pretty complex. This wasn't one of those books where you figure out what is going on early on. I don't think I ever figured anything out before the author wanted me to but I never stopped trying. All of the descriptions in the story really helped bring the story to life.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of mystery thrillers. This story does involve a serial killer so there are a few more graphic scenes as you would expect in this kind of story. I am really looking forward to future book in this series.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group Viking - Dutton Books via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
I like this one. It kept me guessing until the end and it was pretty exciting.

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Spectacle - Rachel Vincent

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This book lived up to all of my expectations. That is saying a lot because I really set the bar pretty high for this one. Last year, I picked up the first book in the series, Menagerie, on a whim and completely fell in love with the story. I immediately started counting down the days until I would be able to see what happens next in the life of Delilah and everyone else from Metzger's Menagerie. I had a few guesses about where the story would go next and all of them ended up being wrong. I couldn't be happier about that because I love it when a book really surprises me as this one was able to do.

This book picks up right after the events of Menagerie. This is a series that really should be read in order so I do recommend that readers new to the series go back and read Menagerie before starting this one. It is a great book so you wouldn't want to miss it anyway. Delilah and the gang are running the show and trying to make things work. Things are tough but they are enjoying their new found freedom until things go horribly wrong.

They soon find themselves being added to Vandekamp's Spectacle. This is not a place you would want to be. It isn't a traveling show as Metzger's was. Vandekamp's serves a different kind of customer. The exhibits are subjected to pretty much anything the clients are willing to pay for and the owners find profitable. The captives are controlled through high tech means which seem impossible to overcome.

This story proved to be incredibly exciting for me. Everything that Delilah goes through and sees in this story really got to me. I was as confused about what was happening at first as the characters were and my heart broke for them as we discovered more about what was going on. I kept wondering what was going to happen next and by the end of the book, I couldn't turn the pages nearly fast enough. Let's just say that this book definitely ends with a bang.

I would highly recommend this series to others. It is the kind of story that really makes you think about the things that people do to each other. Even though this is set in a world full of cryptids, I think that the behavior of the humans really felt authentic which makes me very sad. This is a series that has earned a spot on my favorites list and I can't wait to see what happens in the next installment!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Harlequin - MIRA via NetGalley.

Initial Thoughts
This book was fantastic. I did like the first book just a bit more but I enjoyed every minute of this one. This book was pretty fast paced and I was never sure what would happen next. I couldn't put it down.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

What a treat this book turned out to be! I decided to read this book because I usually enjoy books with quirky characters. Eleanor Olipahnt certainly fits that description. I was really grabbed by the book right away and before long I didn't want to put it down. I was completely fascinated by everything Eleanor Oliphant and had a lot of questions that I needed answered. I am so glad that I decided to give this wonderful book a try.

Eleanor Oliphant is a creature of routine. She goes to work, eats her lunch while she works a crossword puzzle, then goes back to her apartment where she makes herself a simple dinner. On weekends, she stays home and reads books while polishing off a bottle of vodka. Then she starts back over at the beginning. Her mother calls her every Wednesday night and she gets a pizza on Friday.

Eleanor doesn't really have a lot of personal connections. She has worked at the same job for the past 9 years but she isn't really a part of their group. Then she meets the new IT employee, Raymond. It is total chance that Raymond and Eleanor are walking together when an older man falls on the sidewalk and need their help. They spend a lot of time together and develop an unlikely friendship.

I really think that this is one of those books that it is best to go in not knowing a whole lot about where this story might be going. I really started reading this book thinking it would be one kind of book but I soon figured out it was something quite different. Something wonderful. I am still completely surprised by how much I was touched by this story.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It is such a wonderful story told from a very unique character. This book really starts out good but just keeps getting better until the very heartfelt ending. This is the first book by Gail Honeyman that I have read but I hope to read more from this talented author in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group Viking - Pamela Dorman Books via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
This book drew me in from the very beginning. If you would have asked me where the story was going at the start of the book, I couldn't have come close to being right. Very well done.

Free Space by Sean Danker

Free Space (Admiral) - Sean Danker

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really had a lot of fun reading this book. The story was fast paced and imaginative and I found myself really wondering what could possibly happen next. This is the second book in Sean Danker's Evagardian series and I do think that this book will work the best for readers of the series since the history of the characters is such an important part of the overall story. It could possibly work as a stand alone but I don't think it would be quite as enjoyable.

The Admiral and Salmagard are going away together for the weekend. That should be a simple thing but it ends up being anything but simple. Before they can even get to their destination, they are kidnapped along with another pair, Diana and Sei. The kidnappers are quickly able to deal with the two women, Salmagard and Diana, but the men quickly prove to be a problem.

The Admiral and Sei are in a really bad situation. The kidnappers want to get rid of them but they keep running into obstacles. The men have no idea what is going to happen to them and they really don't have any kind of chance to fight back and free themselves. Meanwhile, the women are working to try to find them but always seem to be one step behind.

I really liked how this story was told. The alternating points of view worked incredibly well in this book. It was really exciting to learn what was going on with the Admiral and then to learn how Salmagard was doing in the next chapter. I kept wonder if they would ever be able to meet up with each other. I loved all of the imaginative settings in this story as they moved through space.

I really liked the characters in this book. The Admiral is still such a mystery but an interesting one. He is smart and resourceful but you never know what he might be hiding. Salmagard is loyal, tough, and refuses to give up. I really liked Diana in this story, maybe more than Salmagard. She is unusual but incredibly smart and works well under pressure. I didn't really get as much of a feel for Sei but since he couldn't speak for most of the book, I guess that is to be expected.

I would recommend this book to others. I had a whole lot of fun reading this book and ended up enjoying it just as much as Admiral if not a bit more. It was one of those books that really felt like it would make a great movie script. I can't wait to see what Sean Danker comes up with next!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group - Ace via NetGalley.

Initial Thoughts
I thought this book was a lot of fun. It was a bit different than Admiral but just as entertaining.

Hunger by Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, and A.C. Arthur

Hunger - Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, A. C. Arthur

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I don't read a lot of anthologies anymore but when this book showed up at my house unexpectedly, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised with the experience overall. This is a big book and each of the stories were fairly long. I would say that they were long novellas or even short books depending on how you look at it. Each of the stories really had a lot to them and it was nice to try out several new to me authors. I am glad that I decided to read this book.

In the first story, The Alpha's Mate, things get off to an exciting start. Fabian rescues a woman who is being thrown to her death. I had a lot of fun reading this section of the book. Fabian and Vixen were great characters that had a lot of chemistry between them. It was a pretty intense story and the writing flowed well. I would definitely read more books set in this world.

The second story, Dangerous Passions, ended up being my favorite of the group. The story revolved around two couples Evan & Darnell and Trak & Chelo. I loved this pack of werewolves and really enjoyed their sense of community. There were a lot of characters in this story but everything really worked well together. I liked that the story followed two different couples each having a different set of obstacles to tackle. I really liked the chemistry between each of the couples and liked how they worked together and communicated with each other. I would love to read more about this group of wolves.

Unfortunately, Bound to the Wolf didn't as well for me as the other two parts of the book. I thought that the story started out strong with Marena's attack. I also really liked Phelan's character when we first met him. I just really never connected with the world this story was set in. I think I would have liked the book more if it had only focused on Lycans but with the addition of Zeus and other things just became too much. I didn't completely feel the chemistry between the characters and thought that the sex became the main focus of the story.

Overall, this book was a win for me and I would recommend it to others. It was a nice way to sample some writing by a few new to me authors. I will definitely consider reading more from this group in the future.

I received review copy of this book from St. Martin's Press.

Initial Thoughts
As it usually works with anthologies, I like some of the stories in this book more than others. My favorite of the group was Dangerous Passions by Kate Douglas. I liked The Alpha's Mate by Eve Langlais well enough but I honestly didn't care for the story written by A.C. Arthur.

The Watcher by Bella Jewel

The Watcher - Bella Jewel

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This book was just okay for me. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it but I am still rather disappointed because I had really expected to love it. After reading Bella Jewel's previous book, 72 Hours, in a single afternoon, I really expected this book to be a similar experience. I felt somewhat detached from the story and was never completely pulled in. I did want to see how everything would work out but it was never a book that was too hard to set aside.

Marlie spends each day living with what happened to her when she was kidnapped. It is really a miracle that she is alive today after her ordeal. She was taken by a serial killer and none of his previous victims survived. She made it out but lives with the ramifications every day. She leads a simple life in a small town and never wants to return to the town where her nightmares happened. When she learns that her sister is missing, she knows that she must do just that.

Marlie hires Kenai, a private investigator, to help her find her sister. They start out on their trip to find her not caring for each other very much. Things change as they work together for a while and they soon become a couple. I have to admit that I was never sold on Marlie and Kenai as a couple. I didn't really feel a lot of chemistry between them and they seemed to go from hate to love before I could blink.

This book was really a mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed some parts of the book. My favorite parts were the parts that described her ordeal with the serial killer. Some of those scenes were truly frightening yet entertaining. There were also parts that I didn't care for as much. Some of the action scenes with Kenai and Marlie were a bit too far fetched and didn't seem realistic. I was also really disappointed that I was able to figure out who the bad guy was really early in the book so when the big reveal happened in the book, there was no surprise for me.

I do think that a lot of people will enjoy this story more than I did. It had a lot of good moments for me despite the problems that I had with it. I would definitely read more from Bella Jewel in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.

Initial Thoughts
I figured out who the bad guy was in this book very early on so when the big reveal happened it wasn't any kind of surprise for me. I wasn't completely sold on Marlie and Kenai as a couple and I had a few other issues with the book. There were parts of the book that I really did enjoy so my feelings are pretty mixed with this one.

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter - Karen Dionne

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed this book. I decided to pick this book up simply because the story sounded interesting. I had never read anything by the author so I really didn't know what to expect. I was immediately hooked. I actually ended up reading the whole book in a little more than a day because I wanted to read it during every free second I had. If I wasn't reading, I was thinking about this captivating story. I am very happy that I decided to give this book a try.

This was a really exciting story told from a very unique point of view. I really liked how the story was told through present day events and memories. Helena was a wonderful character. She has lived a life very different than other people. She spent the first portion of her life with her mother and father in their home in the wilderness. She never saw anyone else and they were her entire life and that was her normal. In reality, her situation was anything but normal because her father had kidnapped her mother and was holding her captive.

Helena learns that her father, known as the Marsh King, has escaped from prison. She knows him better than anyone in law enforcement so she sets out to try to catch him herself. Helena's father taught her how to navigate in the wilderness. She knows how to track and hunt because her father made sure that she had those skills. She needs those skills to find him before it is too late.

I really enjoyed the way this book was written. I think that having the entire book come from Helena's point of view really worked well. Helena has a very unique point of view with memories from her childhood told through an adult's filter. The were times that we see things as she saw them as a child but other times that her adult views play a role. The book is set in the wilderness of northern Michigan and the descriptions were vivid in detail. The parts set in the present day were nicely balanced with the memories from the past.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It is an exciting story told from a very unique point of view. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough because I was eager to learn how everything would end. This is the first book by Karen Dionne that I have read but I look forward to reading more in the future.

I received an advanced reader edition of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
Very well told story with a very interesting point of view.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall - Jennifer E. Smith

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed reading this fun story. The first thing that really got my attention was the cover of this one. Isn't it gorgeous? After reading the description, I knew that this was a book that I would need to read. I just love the premise. I don't really play the lottery but anytime the jackpot is at an outrageous level, I do buy a single ticket. I know that odds are that I will never win but from the moment I put the ticket in my pocket until the numbers are drawn, I can dream about it. I have some pretty big dreams when it comes to lottery winnings. Usually by the time I find out that I didn't win, I have thought of twenty different plans for handling the money. While I read this book, I really thought about what would I have done if I had that kind of money as a teenager and it wasn't pretty.

Alice, Leo, and Teddy have been best friends for a long time. Alice has been living with her cousin Leo and his family ever since her parents died. Alice decides to get Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday just because he is now legally old enough to buy a ticket. Teddy is having party in the small apartment he shared with his mother and the whole group celebrates his birthday. The next morning when they hear the numbers that were drawn, they are in for a big surprise.

Alice lost both of her parents when she was only nine years old. She tries to make them proud through her actions. She volunteers at a variety of organizations and is very focused on getting into the college of her dreams. Leo is trying to decide which college he really wants to go to along with figuring out his relationship with Max. Teddy didn't really have a lot of plans before winning the lottery and he has a lot to figure out once he does.

I liked the characters in this story and thought that they felt realistic. Teddy handled everything better than a lot of adults would have but he was impulsive enough that it felt genuine. Alice was very reserved and not quite sure if she was making the right choices. Leo was supportive of his friends but also having a hard time making some of the important decisions that need to be made at this stage in his life.

This story really hits on all of the highs and lows of coming into a sudden fortune. There is also a small bit of romance to keep things interesting. All three of the main characters learn a lot about themselves and each other over the course of the story. They do open up about a lot of things that have been unsaid for a long time.

I would recommend this book to others. It was a fun read that moved quickly. This is only the second book by Jennifer E. Smith that I have read but I do enjoy her writing style. I hope to read more of her work very soon.

I received a review copy of this book from Delacorte Press via Blogging for Books.

Initial Thoughts
This was a really cute story. I can't tell you how many hours of my life I have spent planning out what I would do if I were to win the lottery so it was fun reading about these kids who actually had that happen.

Cannibalism by Bill Schutt

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History - Bill Schutt

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction books but for some reason as soon as I saw this book I knew I wanted to read it. I love learning about anything medical or science related so it was as surprising of a choice as you might think. I have always said that I read a little bit of everything and this book is proof positive of that fact. Cannibalism is a really interesting subject and I learned a lot while listening to this book. It was really an enjoyable experience.

I have to admit that as soon as I saw this book, I started thinking about criminals who practice cannibalism. If you are looking for a book that chronicles the actions of serial killers, this probably isn't the book for you. There is a little bit of those kind of stories in this book but very few. The author actually makes a point to explain why he chose not to focus on criminals. This book instead deals with many other topics pertaining to cannibalism.

If you are interested in learning about cannibalism in nature, look no further because this book is full of that kind of information. This books covers cannibalism in fish, birds, tadpoles, insects, and spiders. It discusses why it might be advantageous for animals to cannibalize others creatures of their own species sometimes including their own offspring. I can honestly say that I learned more about cannibalism in nature than I even knew that I wanted to know.

I really enjoyed the sections of the book that involved human cannibalism. The very few sections that did discuss criminal cannibalism were very interesting. At the very beginning of the book, I learned that the book Psycho is based off a true story of a man that killed and cannibalized his victims. Survival cannibalism was another very interesting topic. I had never heard of the Donner party prior to listening to this book but I was captivated and saddened by their story. There is a section that discusses the eating of one's placenta, not something that I ever gave any thought to before this book but interesting nonetheless.

I thought that Tom Perkins was the perfect narrator for this book. It almost felt as if I were listening to a nature show on television. His voice is exactly the kind of voice I think of when imagining the voice over sections in any nature program. This book had a lot of details and was full of information but I never tired of listening to it largely because of the narrator's skill.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. It is a heavy subject but it is delivered in a very readable manner. There are a lot of details but it is presented in an entertaining manner. I was entertained and learned a few things. This is the first book by Bill Shutt that I have read but I would consider his work in the furture.

I received a review copy of this book from HighBridge Audio via Audiobook Jukebox.

Initial Thoughts
This was an interesting book. I learned quite a few things and was entertained. There were some sections that were a bit too detailed for my tastes but overall this was a good listen. I am ready for a cannibalism category in the next trivia night I attend!

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

All the Best People - Sonja Yoerg

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was a really well done story. When I first noticed saw this book, I honestly didn't give it a lot of thought. I have never read the author and hadn't really heard much about it. For some reason, I went back to it and read the description and was intrigued so I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did. This was a book that really stayed in my head and made me think about everything that goes along with mental illness. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.

This book was told from multiple points of view and in different periods of time. Carole is a wife and mother leading a pretty normal life. Alison is her 11 year old daughter and the youngest child in the family. Janine is Carole's younger sister who happens to work at Alison's school. The other story that we are told is that of Carole's mother, Solange, who resides at a nearby institution. Each of these voices really worked together to tell the story well.

Carole is noticing that she is starting to have a hard time with some tasks that never caused her trouble before. She has always taken care of the shop's books but it is becoming difficult. She is hearing voices and she can't get the sound to stop. She doesn't want to go anywhere and she is not being the mother that her children need her to be at times. She is terrified about what is going on in her mind.

Alison needs her mom. She knows that something isn't right but nobody else in the family seems to think it is a big deal. Sure, her father is pitching in on some of the things her mother can't seem to get done but it isn't quite the same. She tries talking to her aunt Janine but nothing seems to happen.

Solange's story was my favorite part of the book. We meet her at the very start of the novel when Carole visits her at the institution but I wondered what her story really was. Solange and her husband, Osborn, fell in love and got married. They were from different classes and over time they learn that a lot of their beliefs were quite different. Solange was smart and opinionated and I was really curious about how her live changed so dramatically.

The writing was very well done. I really felt like each of these characters were telling me their story. I felt Carole's fear regarding the changes she couldn't control. Alison's desperation to get her mom back to normal was nicely illustrated. I really liked the fact that we learn Carole's past through Solange's story and then from Carole's memories. Each piece of the puzzle really came together to tell a story with a big impact.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It is a very well done story of a family touched by mental illness. The characters are extremely well done and the writing flows. I look forward to reading more of Sonja Yoerg's work in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
This was very good. Well written and hard to put down. A really well told story about mental illness.

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed this book. I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I hadn't read anything by Renée Ahdieh before this book but had heard great things about her work. I saw so many comparisons of this book to Mulan that I was a little fearful that this would just be a rehashing of a very familiar story. I had no reason to worry since this was really a very original story. This was one of those books that I found myself thinking about during the times that I couldn't read.

Mariko is on her way to be married when her entourage is attacked. She is able to escape to safety but she has no idea how long she will be able to remain safe. She decides to dress as a boy and find the group that tried to kill her. She does find them and is eventually taken back to their camp. Things start out hard at the camp and she is treated as a prisoner. Eventually, she earns some trust and gets to know some of the members of the group.

The way this story was written really just pulled me in. Everything flowed so perfectly and the pacing was well done. I liked this author's voice a lot. It seemed that the words all came together almost magically to create a story that was beautiful and entertaining. There are a lot of really exciting scenes that are offset by others that are more thoughtful.

The characters were amazing. Mariko is smart and determined. She learns a lot of really hard truths over the course of this story and is able to accept them and decide how to proceed with her life. Okami was a bit of a mystery which I really liked. He was obviously drawn to Mariko almost immediately and I liked the tension between them. They had some really great banter that was a lot of fun.

I would highly recommend this book to others. This is a really great start to a new and exciting series. I seriously did not want it to end and can't wait to find out what happens next!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
I liked this one a lot. I really wasn't ready to end. What happens next? I need to know!

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

A Million Junes - Emily Henry

This review could also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

There was so much to love about this book. It was almost a magical experience reading this book. The story just kind of sprang to life for me and I was really swept away by the story. I couldn't get this story out of my head and if I had a moment free I was reading this book. This was a book that I quickly learned to expect the unexpected and just let the beauty of the storytelling take over. Simply put, this was an amazing book.

Jack goes by many names. She answers to Jack, Junior, and June but her real identity is wrapped up in the fact that she is an O'Donnell. Her family has a long standing feud with the neighboring family named Angert. Jack doesn't have a whole lot of rules that she has always been told to follow but staying away from the Angerts is one of them.

Saul Angert is back in town and it doesn't take him very long to cross paths with Jack. His family has also told him to stay away from the O'Donnells for his entire life. The problem is that they don't want to stay apart and are in fact drawn to each other. They start spending more and more time with each other and strange things begin to happen.

The magical realism in this book was wonderfully crafted. There are ghosts and pieces of light that let you see the memories of those that came before. If you leave your shoes unattended, the coywolves will most likely steal them. Jack and Saul both get swept up in the memories of their ancestors and start to unravel the true reason for the long standing feud.

I cannot say enough good things about the writing. This is a story that was beautifully told. I loved how easily the author was able to blend the magical elements into our contemporary world. The relationships in the book felt very authentic and I ended up loving all of the characters. I had no idea where this book would end up and to be honest I didn't care since I was having such a good time on the journey.

I would highly recommend this book to others. I enjoyed Emily Henry's debut novel, The Love That Split the World, but loved this one even more. I can't wait to read Emily Henry's future works.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group - Razorbill via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was brilliant and the story was one I couldn't quit thinking about.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I thought that this was a very moving book. As soon as I read the summary, I knew that this would be a book that I would need to read. Just imagine sending a text to a friend and then finding out that at the same time you were texting them they die in an automobile accident. Now imagine that that car was carrying not just one of your friends but all 3 of your best friends. Can you even imagine that level of grief and the guilt from knowing that your text may have been the cause of the crash? I don't think I could handle that know much less as a teenager. This was a book that I felt that I needed to read and I am glad that I did.

Carver is the teenager that sent that text. As the book opens, his friends are dead and he is at one of their funerals. His parents are out of the country and haven't been able to make it back to support him. He feels completely alone and responsible for everything that has happened. He does have a bit of support from, Jesmyn, the girlfriend of one of his friends that died in the accident.

This book not only deals with grief and overwhelming guilt but it also asks whether Carver should be held criminally responsible for his decision to text his friend. So while Carver is trying to deal with the death of 3 friends, he is worried that he may have to go to jail because of the accident. It is really not surprising when Carver has a panic attack when you think of how much he is going through. He eventually goes to therapy and I think that it is a really important part of the novel that is handled very well.

Carver and his friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake, called themselves the Sauce Crew. Carver and the family members of his friends get together to remember those that they love in what they call a Goodbye Day. It is a day to also get to know facets of that person that they didn't get to see. Each person shares different parts of themselves with different people and by coming together they can learn a little bit more about who the person was that they lost. These were my favorite parts of the book.

I loved the writing. I thought that Carver's memories of his friends really helped the reader get to know how important their friendship was and how big of a loss it really was for him. The pacing was very well done with some funny or light hearted moments showing up at just the right times. I think that this book really deals with some tough issues and does it remarkably well. This was the kind of book that I really didn't want to put down.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It was very emotional at times and I may have even shed a tear or two. I am very glad that I made the decision to read this book and look forward to reading more from this talented author soon.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Crown Books for Young Readers via Blogging for Books.

Initial Thoughts
Moving story that really made me think about a few things. A really good look at grief and guilt. I may have even shed a tear.