Updated: May 7, 2021
Confessions of the 7:45 by Lisa Unger *****
Probably my favorite read of the month. Lisa Unger is a master of suspense thrillers and this one does not disappoint. I loved how she masterfully left me guessing about the characters and the missing nanny. So many webs of lies to untangle. I loved the character development and how Unger helps us to see the truth of the good and bad that are a part of us all.
Everyone has a secret… Now she knows yours.
Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.
But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.
Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.
Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.
The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda ***
All the Missing Girls, Miranda’s first book, received great reviews. I was hopeful that this one would be equally great. I, however, was not all that impressed with this book.
This book had a moody feel to it, that left me feeling like I was in a funk. I think Leah’s life just felt so depressing and I suppose part of that added to the story, making the reader unsure if she was a reliable character. There was the fair share of red herrings, leaving you wondering and guessing - a key element to any good mystery.
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford*
I paused this one several times when other book came in from the library. This was a used bookstore find and I probably should’ve left it there! I couldn't finish this. The story of an orphanage filled with despair and a boy who comes to discover his mother is a famous performer. This is told through dual timelines, which I love, I just found it all so hopeless.
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.
The Dancing Girls by M.M. Chouinard **
I enjoy detective stories and get excited when they are in a series so I get to keep connected to the characters. I picked this one up in my local Amazon bookstore. I don’t think I’ll bother reading the rest. The characters fell flat and this just didn’t intrigue me. I enjoyed the character Jo and her commitment to solving the crimes but otherwise, it’s not really worth the read.
When loving wife Jeanine Hammond is found dead in a small leafy town in Massachusetts, newly promoted Detective Jo Fournier is shocked to her core. Why leave her body posed like a ballerina? Why steal her wedding band and nothing else? Hungry for answers, Jo questions Jeanine’s husband, but the heart-breaking pain written on his face threatens to tear open Jo’s old wounds. It’s the same pain she felt when her boyfriend was cruelly shot dead by a gang in their hometown of New Orleans. She couldn’t get justice for him, but she’s determined to get justice for Jeanine’s devastated family.
But before Jo can get answers, another woman is found, wedding ring stolen, body posed in the same ritualistic way.
Digging through old files, Jo makes a terrifying link to a series of cold cases. She knows a serial killer is on the loose, but nobody will listen to the truth – not her bosses, nor the FBI. Still, Jo won’t let her superiors keep her from stopping the murderer in his tracks, even if it means the end of her career.
Just as she is beginning to lose hope, she finds messages on the victims’ computers that feel like the crucial missing link. But she knows the murderer is moments away from selecting his next victim. Will she be able to take down the most twisted killer of her career before another innocent life is lost?
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell ****
I definitely felt the suspense in this one. There was murder, mental illness, love and betrayal. I loved the idea of the community living arrangement where the space in the gardens meant families were often close, sometimes closer than they should’ve been. I like the way Jewell kept me guessing and trying to figure out what happened and who did it. There were certainly several possibilities!
You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.
You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert ***
This was a Book of the Month Club recommendation. While I don’t subscribe to this box (yet) I love to pay attention to their lists. I enjoyed the silly banter between Chloe and Red and the ways they were both a bit broken but were able to be vulnerable enough to make something that worked. I did feel like some of the sexual drama got in the way of the character development to me, like it was forced in there. I think the author did a good job really discussing Chloe’s chronic illness and how that affected her life. This book is a quick easy read and I think I'll give the rest of this series a try.
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And... do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Fix Her Up ***
Ok, so this series is not something I’d normally pick up and I found this after searching for fiction books that included home renovation - something I love. I wasn’t really aware they were definite romance novels disguised with playful rom-com covers! I requested the full series form the library and felt committed to finishing all three. I did find them quite enjoyable if I didn’t think too much about them! There are definitely a lot of scenes that make you cringe like how Georgie is never noticed until she puts on a dress or how Dominic is such a dominant controlling husband. I think throughout all three books the characters grow and develop in ways I appreciated. Fair warning, these books are all pretty x rated and have some intense scenes.
BOOK 1: Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World... whatever that means.
Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)
Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?
Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there's Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her...
BOOK 2: Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret... and it could demolish everything.
BOOK 3: Hair, makeup, clothing, decor... everything in Bethany Castle's world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family's real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She's on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.
When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother's construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany's skin on day one, and the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.
As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It's a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany's perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson *****
As a huge fan of historical fiction and authors that delve into the lives of slaves this one hooked me. This story shares so many raw emotions and concepts of family that helped even the most horrific conditions bearable as slaves found ways to triumph and develop love for each other. Johnson documents in the epilogue that this is based on true landmarks she discovered and her research is evident. Fair warning, there are horrific scenes that depict the cruelty slaves endured, but what keeps you reading is the ways in which these men and women found strength to find hope. My biggest complaint about this book is the abrupt ending. I feel as though this story could have had a sequel that took the last few chapters and expanded upon them. There was so much that happened in the ending that left me wanting to know and understand more.
Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Brown was promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But when her birthday finally comes around, instead of the idyllic life she was hoping for with her true love, she finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half-Acre, a jail where slaves are broken, tortured, and sold every day. Forced to become the mistress of the brutal man who owns the jail, Pheby faces the ultimate sacrifice to protect her heart in this powerful, thrilling story of one slave’s fight for freedom.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy *****
I read this when it first came out and borrowed it again from the library so I could share it with my kids. It is one of the sweetest books and would make such an amazing gift for a graduation, a birthday, or baby shower. It reminds me so much of Winnie the Pooh’s declarations and quotes. Messages of kindness, hope, love are shared alongside ink drawings in this book that everyone should read. I wanted to make posters of ½ the book and hang them everywhere! I will definitely be purchasing this one to keep!
Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared millions of times online - perhaps you've seen them? They've also been recreated by children in schools and hung on hospital walls. They sometimes even appear on lamp posts and on cafe and bookshop windows. Perhaps you saw the boy and mole on the Comic Relief T-shirt, Love Wins?
Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie's most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and feelings that unite us all.