Catchy, Quick Little Zombie Read

Is it possible for a book to be “catchy” like a tune? And maybe, the more important question, is it possible for a Zombie novella to be catchy?

I received Beginning of the End, an ‘In the End’ novella from the author, G J Stevens, and quickly finished the read even though I had little time! This one thing alone makes it my favorite kind of book. G J Stevens writes the entire story from the 16 year old main character’s perspective which brings about a very personal sort of engagement with the story as it reminds me of sitting down with one of my kids to hear a story about their day. Thankfully their day never includes zombies, but still, same sort of story telling. That being said, I would not want to read a longer piece written in this style because I need a little respite from the overall “this happened, then that, then that.” I’m curious what Stevens’ longer books might be like.

A Weekend Reading Escape by G J Stevens

All in all, an entertaining read set in the UK, and just the little escape across the pond that I needed over a busy weekend.

Just Married

Book Cover: Just Married by Kiersten Modglin on Amazon

I have read amazing historical fiction, romances, biographies, autobiographies, self-help, and even a how-to book or three in my lifetime, but the thriller genre keeps me coming back for more.

My latest read, Just Married by Kiersten Modglin was absolutely everything I hope for in a thriller: deep, twisty secrets suggested and suuuuuper slowly revealed from the first to the last page.

Grace and Ryan are taking a delayed honeymoon. They seem like a sweet couple, though Grace is a bit of a nervous wreck. Everything is perfect at their remote cabin…until it’s not. And then, it becomes very, very bad indeed. The twists and the psychological games in this book kept me reading long after I should have been in bed, and definitely while I should have been seeing to the laundry or the dishes.

I’ve read a book or two by Kiersten Modglin before, and they do not disappoint. Ms. Modglin definitely has a million ideas in her head that she can pull into the most amazing narrative. This particular story began with a spooky prologue that made me think I knew what was going to happen from the beginning, but as I read, changed my mind once then twice, and Ms. Modglin still surprised me with the turn of events. Bravo, Ms. Modglin, because I’m a dang good guesser!

Right now, many of Kiersten Modglin’s books are FREE on Kindle if you have an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription. She has written many, many books (how does she DO it?) and I can’t wait to read them all.

Happy Reading!

The Perfect Marriage

The Perfect Marriage: a completely gripping psychological suspense by [Jeneva Rose]

This book – OMG! If you are looking for a great thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last chapter…

I’ve found the perfect story for you! Jeneva Rose, a brand new and ridiculously fabulous author, wrote an intense thriller, The Perfect Marriage, with characters that whirl around each other with the perfect balance of chaos, intrigue and exceptional literary timing.

The book starts with a married couple that I am just sure is going to be a repeat of some sorts of the story line in The Last Mrs Parrish (which I loved, by the way, but don’t need the remake). The opening with a disappointed, disapproving husband interacting with the beautiful wife who is styled to a “T” leads me to think I’m in a classic marital abuse story. BUT NOT AT ALL! The chapters alternate between the perspectives of husband and wife, Adam and Sarah Morgan, both actively trying to solve the murder of Adam’s mistress, but perhaps with different motivations. While Adam himself stands accused of the murder, Sarah loyally defends him as she is the best criminal defense lawyer in the region.

This story is filled with a host of exciting characters – from fellow colleagues at the law firm, to a despotic mother-in-law, to a small town sheriff who might be a little too friendly. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much I don’t like figuring out the end before it happens. Not even halfway in, I was feeling disappointed because I thought I’d figured out the bad guy. I was SO wrong – and that delights me in ways I can’t even explain.

Warning – this story is not for the very young or the faint of heart. Drugs, violence, sex, language are all present. Sounds like most network television, am I right?

So, my friends, if you love thrillers, please start The Perfect Marriage asap. Ms. Rose’s next book is due out in September and I got chill bumps reading the description. Can’t wait.

Happy Reading!

Authors Liz & Lisa

Y’all – One of my favorite author pairs is Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. I love the stories they write, I love following them on social media, I LOVE that one time that signed and mailed me a first edition copy of Girls Night Out just to MAKE MY DAY. And it totally did.

Unfortunately, I’ve been having a tough time getting into a book just lately. I started Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, but got almost nowhere. Too many stories happening at the same time, and almost none of them interesting to me. I was also trying to read the first book in the Game of Thrones series. It is far less “cover your children’s eyes and ears” than the HBO series. However, it also feels like it is written on a sixth grade reading level. Clearly, neither of these books are going to grab and keep my attention during this crazy time that is chock full of real, scary, and very distracting stories.


THEN Kindle Unlimited decided to give me a gift (actually, it was just doing what it always does by offering subscribers books for $0.00, but let’s not get caught in the details): the newest Liz & Lisa book, How to Save a Life was ZERO DOLLARS FOR ME!!! I dropped any and every other book I was trying to power through and immediately entangled myself in the characters’ lives.

How to Save a Life is a great story successfully designed to keep the reader guessing, so I’m walking on eggshells not to give anything away here. Here goes:

Dom, the main character, finds himself living a particular Thursday over and over again. He is trying to fix what he thinks is the main thing, but ends up working on a lot of other things. Dom and the reader (ME) are both so confused by what Dom is meant to be fixing and why he is stuck in a time loop. I know it sounds unbelievable, but the repeating of one day of life for basically an entire book tells a lifetime of a story! And of course, everything comes together in the end – My FAVORITE ENDING! I did start to get an inkling of how the story would end just before the big reveal which made me feel so dang smart. Have I been murky enough that you are now excited to read the novel without spoiling anything?

Happy Reading!

Author Anya Mora

Anya Mora, author

Do you ever get addicted to a particular author? My daily BookBub email introduced me to Anya Mora this year and I quickly inhaled two of her suspense novels. She does not write for children by any means – There are a plenty of adult situations and being murder novels, some violence, too. But it’s suspense, my friends, and that’s par for the course.

Tuesday's Child by Anya Mora

My first read by Mora was Tuesday’s Child. I love a book that doesn’t tell me where it is going, but leads me through the fun twists and turns of the story with the main character. This story delivered! While I struggled in a couple of spots where the story felt disconnected or reaching, I could 100% overlook those weaknesses because the ending surprised me and caused me to think back through the various characters and their roles in the way everything ended.

This title is still $0 for Kindle Unlimited readers as of publication! (7/16/2020) and a great chance for you to try this author for yourself.

The Wife Lie by Anya Mora

So after the big hook with Tuesday’s Child, I could not wait to try another story by Mora. The Wife Lie is another five star thriller that kept me engaged, no matter how exhausted I was at the end of an exhausting workday during these unusual times. That’s saying something! This one was sad in the sense that I got attached to the “good” and “bad” individuals and I don’t love that feeling because it doesn’t work out great for everyone. However my feelings matched the main character’s, so to me, that is a point for Mora’s writing style.

By the way, as of today (7/16/2020), this title is $0 for Amazon Kindle Unlimited members, too!

I know many readers have had trouble focusing this summer with all of the heavy and very real challenges of our world. So, if you need an easy read that quickly grabs your attention, I highly recommend you download or buy one of these two books. Sometimes you just have to get away and reading provides the least expensive, COVID-free way to transport yourself to a different world for a few hours!

Happy Reading!


A Whole New World

globe on books

My world feels really big and oh so small right now. Thanks to the world wide web, I can find out what is happening around the globe anytime I open Facebook. Thanks to COVID19 Stay-at-Home orders from our governor, and curfew from our mayor, my world also feels TINY as my daily outings consist mainly of my bitty neighborhood.

Times like these make me especially glad to be a reader. Books concurrently expand my horizons and give me a mental break from the very immediate devastation and tragedy of daily news. Books have the power to question my assumptions and perspective, and yet still give me the space to process peacefully. It is as if books know I need a minute to think before I can answer. I believe books are one of the world’s most powerful agents of cultural change.

I’m wondering – Has a book ever introduced you to a new culture or human experience in a profound way? Which book invited you into someone else’s life for a few minutes, opening your eyes to a whole new world? Did you expect to be changed when you opened the cover, or was the door to something new thoroughly disguised as entertainment?

About 20 years ago, I read a very thick novel that I just could not set aside about life in India. I remember carrying this giant of a book to the gym at 5:30 am so I could read it on the stair stepper and even between bicep curls. The avalanche of misery pushing the characters down, down, down through an inescapable caste system captured me as an American reader who longs for the happy ending. But an American story this was not, and ended in tears (mine). It saddens me that I do not remember the book’s title or author because I would recommend it to you AND reread it! Regardless of those very important details, the book fed into what has become a lifelong fascination with Indian culture.

About 10 years later, I read The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. Once again, I started a book that I could hardly put down. This one opened more doors to Indian culture, specifically the impact of culture on Indian families who immigrate to the US. I remember there being some very difficult things and many, many adult themes. I also recall reading it in the driver’s seat of my car, sitting in my own driveway dying to know what happens next while my kids waited for me to do the actual next thing in our lives – this book really got to me. Mira Jacob introduced me to the concept of finding/creating community in a foreign country in a way that was both attractive and unattractive. She described a very intense community of “belonging” that some of the characters pursued and some despised. In fact, the younger generation of characters in the story tended to feel oppressed by the close knit community of fellow immigrants. It is worth mentioning, as a food-lover, I ate up (pardon the pun) the descriptions of Indian dishes and the concept of food as a cure-all in any culture. I think food can also bridge many gaps and open doors to relationships across cultures.

And while I prefer the ‘could be real, but isn’t actually’ novels that allow me a little space from the reality, and sometimes horrors of real life, I’ve also found a couple of memoirs that I found quite touching, humorous and educational at the same time.

Of course I love Mindy Kaling (honestly, who doesn’t love Mindy???) and her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? The peek into her childhood years and her parent’s definition of career success is a little mind blowing for this American girl who was encouraged to study hard, and follow my dreams, whatever they may be. Kaling’s parents even thought knitting was a waste of time compared to studying and that hits a little too close to home for this reader!

The second book I’ve recently enjoyed is In Stitches by Anthony Youn, a Korean-American. Much like Kaling’s family, there was a tremendous amount of parental pressure on young Youn, not just to be Somebody, but to be a particular kind of Somebody with a particular kind of career. Dr. Youn tells the story beautifully, keeping me laughing, and warming my heart as he shares his family’s own history and how they came to a place each individual could grow as a Korean-American.

This week I have been so happy to hear that many of the books about the Black American experience are sold out. WOW! Not only does it make me happy that so many people are reading (and washing hands, thanks to COVID which is almost all I’ve ever wished for), but people are allowing books to open their hearts and minds to cultures and experiences different from their own. And while there is a great deal of pain in our big/small worlds right now, I hope we are each able to find the bright spots of change and growth as we develop in understanding the richness and complexities of our neighbors.

Happy Reading!

Thank you Freepix for the header photo!

I Dare You by Sam Carrington

I Dare You by Sam Carrington was a fun read over the holidays. It was an easy book to pick up and read for a few minutes without getting so engaged I had to stay up all night to finish it. And sleep during the holidays is Very Very Very important to me! It’s a sign of maturity.

This book follows the visits of two young women to the village where they grew up. Their memories of childhood are very fuzzy and while they both suspect that everything is not as it seems, neither one has any real clue about the tragedy of their shared history. For that matter, neither woman realizes that they even have a shared history!

Sam Carrington created a nice complex story with interesting (but not deep) characters. And while I had a gut feeling as to how the story might end, likely thanks to the hundreds of books I’ve read in this genre, the final outcome was still an exciting surprise.

As I reflect back on the outcome of I Dare You, I can’t help but think that the truth only sets you free if you are willing to own it. Hidden truth just seems to set one up for a lifetime of misery and despair. And on that not so cheerful note, I’m on to the next book!

*PS If you buy the book from my link, I might make some money to buy more books!

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enjoyable, twisty story. This is one of my favorite Ruth Ware books to date.

I listened to the story on Audible, read by Imogen Church, one of my favorite narrators. I’ve found that the narrators make a significant difference in my level of enjoyment of an audiobook, so I tend to choose books Ms. Church has narrated. My one regret about listening to this instead of actually reading it is that the last few pages were SO IMPORTANT when it comes to the elaborate twistiness of the entire plot. It would have been easier to flip back and forth a few times to make sure I fully understood the absolutely delicious (well, at least in storytelling terminology) outcome.

Ms. Ware tells a story about British and Scottish characters in the middle of nowhere Scotland (which actually sounds like a lovely place). Being a dark and twisty book, there are plenty of bumps in the night, plotlines with their roots tightly wrapped around each other but hiding way beneath the surface, and bits and pieces of fabulous fictional folklore mixed in – everything you would expect from a novel set on a vast estate in an untamed part of Scotland. I’m not big into sharing plot in these comments, but if you enjoy a good suspenseful story, I highly recommend Ms. Ware’s ‘The Turn of the Key.’

What I didn’t love about the book it that is happened in a very brief time period with the description of minutes feeling like days upon end. I felt emotionally and physically exhausted from listening to the story because it seemed the poor central character never got to sleep or mentally relax. I think this story would have been ok and still maintained plot integrity if it had stretched out over at least a month! But to finish that thought, it’s the holidays and I work full time and have three children, so maybe I’m just actually exhausted…

Let me know if you love or hate Ms. Ware. She can be pretty controversial as an author. I’m loving engaging with other book lovers online and have set up my own Facebook page for this purpose – I hope you will join me in fun conversations there:

Until next time, happy reading!

*PS If you buy the book from my link, I might make some money to buy more books!

View all my reviews

Book Challenge Failure

Christmas Tree hunting takes a long time for a family of five…A Very Long Time.

I failed, friends. I set a book challenge for myself, and then I became a complete book challenge failure. I did not complete even ONE of the books I set out to read, not even one. I’m using this failure as a learning experience and would love to share what I’ve learned about book challenges and how I can better challenge myself in the future.

1 – Timing is everything. The book challenge I chose was for the month of November, and I did not even start it until something like November 11th. That would have been FINE except for the fact that the majority of books were outside my normal genre of preference and I can be a very slow reader when dealing with something that I don’t just love. This is especially true when reading nonfiction for me. ALSO, it was Thanksgiving holiday which means our little family had a great deal going on that distracted from my reading more than usual.

2 – All but one of the books I chose were on my kindle. I did not know how long they actually were. Turns out the nonfiction book I chose is actually 464 pages in real life. That might even surpass a Diana Gabaldon novel, probably not actually, but I could read the Gabaldon novel much faster, being as it’s fiction and all… So to finish the story, I chose The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World. It is a very serious read, and every detail feels so important. Not to mention that it seems downright disrespectful at a very gut-wrenching level to skim through the decisions leading up to dropping nuclear bombs in Japan. I should not have set a time limit on this book any shorter than six months.

3 – I borrowed one book through the County digital library and let the loan run out due to the book mentioned in #2, then somehow didn’t get it back through renewal process. I don’t think it was a technical glitch. I just think I was over the challenge by this point, and did not want to try that hard.

4 – One of the genres in the challenge was sci-fi. Sci-fi/fantasy just really isn’t my jam. And when I switched from the nonfiction to the sci-fi book in desperation to get some easy reading done and AT LEAST ONE BOOK COMPLETED in this dang reading challenge, I hated it so much, I gave up probably by chapter three. People, I HATED the book. Everything was just so boring and science-y. If I’m going to read fiction, at least I should enjoy it.

5 – Finally, I had one book I was excited to read as it was a recent fiction purchase. But after points #1- #4 had played themselves out, I was just over the whole situation and did not feel like reading…anything.

So, there you have my dramatic book challenge failure story! I honestly feel pretty great about it because I’ve played with setting up challenges for others, and it never seems to work out that great. Now, I better understand why not. It’s not that book challenges can’t work out ever, it’s just that a challenge might look different for different people. And seriously, if the challenge makes me stop reading, it is definitely a sign that the book challenge is not the right one for me.

As I look forward into 2020, I would like to find a book challenge that is accomplishable for me (other than the 52 books in 52 weeks, pshaw, is that even a challenge? I could be reading Goldenbooks for all they know!). I look forward to seeing what some of my favorite book bloggers put out there. Do you have any great ideas? Please share them in the comments. Oh, and if you have a great book challenge failure story to share, I’d love to commiserate!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ended up being one of my favorite reads this year.

I actually purchased this book in the hardback form which is a bit unusual for me. Since I read sooo many books and my family often accuses me of being a book hoarder, I mostly borrow books from other readers or read cheap/free books on Kindle through Amazon Prime membership. But this one I had to have and used the following three reasons to support my purchase decision:

1 – Kristin Hannah is one of my all-time favorite authors.
2 – The cover is gorgeous. Love that little bit of metallic shine.
3 – Good friends of our family were planning a move to Alaska and this book would qualify as research.

I am SO DELIGHTED I bought the book. I think I could actually reread this book cover to cover, and that almost never happens for me. Hannah’s characters are vibrant and real, and the story is gripping as usual. It’s Alaska itself that shines through as the most real, living soul of the book. I fell in love with the place itself – it’s darkness, light, beauty, ocean, and snow (all very unexpected for this Southern girl!).

The storyline itself is hard, so hard. The father’s mental instability lands the mother and daughter in Alaska. I imagine this is a true order of events for so many people. My heart broke for the mother and daughter in this book (may I remind you that I almost always end up crying in every single Kristin Hannah book?), so I had to count on Hannah to bring us home to at least an ending that I could live with, if not actually happy, since that tends to be her way. It’s been a few months since I finished the book, so I can’t remember all of those details and won’t ruin it for you!

A major theme of the book is belonging. Who doesn’t want to belong? I do. I think we all spend a lot of time trying to belong – at work, with friends, in community or school groups, wherever we can. Belonging helps us know who we are, and I daresay that an Alaskan is very proud to claim the title. After all, doesn’t this title imply the sense of belonging to a harsh and beautiful land, and signify the strength of the person who is able to thrive in such a place?

And so to bring things back around to one of my justifications for purchasing the book, I pray that my sweet friends will find they truly belong in Alaska. As a longtime resident of the gentle, temperate Blue Ridge mountains, it’s hard for me to imagine belonging somewhere so wild and fierce in beauty, and formidable in every element of its environment. (Think giant mosquitoes if you need someplace to start! We can talk about bears and feet of snow later.)

In summary, I’m encouraging you to purchase, beg, borrow (but not steal) this book. Hannah’s story is epic, not a sweet bedtime story, but a tale as big as the mountains and sea where it is set. And please, oh please, don’t forget to tell me what you think – and if you feel that you could ever belong to a place so resolutely untamed by the drive for human comfort. I don’t know that I could…

*PS If you buy the book from my link, I might make some money to buy more books!