Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Last Letter Review


Title:  The Last Letter
Author:  Rebecca Yarros
Publisher:  Entangled: Amara
Release Date:  February 26, 2019
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Broken Hearts


*Many thanks to Entangled Publishing for an arc of this book.




Synopsis:
Beckett,

If you’re reading this, well, you know the last-letter drill. You made it. I didn’t. Get off the guilt train, because I know if there was any chance you could have saved me, you would have.

I need one thing from you: get out of the army and get to Telluride.

My little sister Ella’s raising the twins alone. She’s too independent and won’t accept help easily, but she has lost our grandmother, our parents, and now me. It’s too much for anyone to endure. It’s not fair.

And here’s the kicker: there’s something else you don’t know that’s tearing her family apart. She’s going to need help.

So if I’m gone, that means I can’t be there for Ella. I can’t help them through this. But you can. So I’m begging you, as my best friend, go take care of my sister, my family.

Please don’t make her go through it alone.

Ryan
 

Review:
Grab tissues and settle in for the long haul because you won't be able to put this one down, and I guarantee you'll finish it crying.  But please don't let that stop you from reading this beautifully written, emotionally charged story that now sits on my Favorites Shelf.  It's truly an experience - a deeply rooted, character-based story that pushed all my buttons.  The title, The Last Letter, is woven into the storyline in more ways than one.  I found myself sitting long after I finished - thinking about this story and its relevance. Please avoid all spoilers and read this book.  I don't think it'll be the same if you know how the story plays out when you begin.

I'll briefly set up the story by saying that Beckett and Ryan are friends serving in the military - hard-core special ops service men.  Ryan suggests to his younger sister Ella that she should write deployment letters to Chaos (Beckett's call name) because he has no one.  She begins sharing the highs and lows of her life through letters to Chaos - without ever knowing his real name or seeing a picture of him.  Eventually, events lead Chaos to start writing her back, and a life altering connection is gradually forged.  As you can tell from the synopsis/blurb, Ryan doesn't make it home, but he leaves a letter for Beckett asking him to take care of his sister, Ella, and her five year old twins, Maisie & Colt.  It's complicated as Beckett/Chaos is carrying a lot of guilt and baggage.  I'm not going to say more about the story that develops.  It has so much more depth and meaning than I first imagined as it explores love, loss, perseverance, survival, heartache, and the trust and courage it takes, in yourself and others, to accept what you can't change and search for a way out of the darkness when your load becomes too heavy.  It's a story with great passion exploring the many different connections that occur between different people, and the lasting effect they have on their lives - including the rich rewards and high price of loving with everything you've got.  I know I'm being vague, but as I said earlier - there's a reason for that.  Read the book.  I'll share one quote:

"I'd forgotten what this feels like."
"Being hugged?"  My voice was sandpaper-rough.
"Being held together."  (Quote from The Last Letter)

I don't want to leave the impression that The Last Letter is all sadness and tears, it's not.  There's so much love and laughter in heart-touching scenes with a broken but strong hero and heroine, adorable, scene-stealing children, a protective but lovable military dog named Havoc, passionate romance, and a support cast that lends so much to the telling of the story.  The writing is beautiful and the tie-in of the letters, revealed to readers at the beginning of each chapter, is genius.  Souls are bared, hearts are lost, tears are shed . . . and hope springs eternal.  In my opinion, Yarros does a brilliant job of handling the difficult subject matter thus bringing awareness to a subject near and dear to many parents' hearts.  I highly recommend this book.  It is on my Favorites Shelf.  An undeniable Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Broken Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Raw: Rebirth Review



Title:  Raw: Rebirth
Series: Raw Family #3
Author:  Belle Aurora
Purchase Link:  Amazon



My Rating:  4.5 Demented Hearts







Synopsis:

It had been six years since my world was turned upside down.
He exposed me to the darker side of life and I could never go back to the person I was.
I had been through more things the average person couldn’t even relate to.

If I had the chance to go back and do things differently though?
Not a chance.

I’d pick him a thousand times. A million times. For eternity.

I guess not much has changed.

My name is Alexa Ballentine, and I am still in love with my stalker.

Review:
For me, Raw: Rebirth is all about closure.  Good or bad, I needed to know how Twitch and Lexi's story would play out.  Before I say more, please understand that you really need to read the first two books prior to this one before proceeding.   This book could be read as a standalone - the author certainly does her best to fill up a blank slate with needed information, but there's simply too much history and too many life-altering events with these characters to skip the first two books.  Having said that, it's no secret or spoiler to say that Twitch has returned from the dead and is making his presence known to a select few as he tries to reclaim the life he once had, including his family.  To say things aren't easy would be a gross understatement, but I'll leave it at that other than to say that this book covers much more than just the return of Twitch.  The plot is dark, gruesome, and graphic and goes into dark, demented, taboo territory.  The intensity level is through the roof, and the action is almost non-stop.  

Raw: Rebirth is, without a doubt, a highly emotional, dark, twisted, f'd up experience in more ways than one.  The story unfolds through multiple points of view giving readers an insider's perspective on what individual characters are thinking, along with what's motivating them.  Aurora does an excellent job of peeling back layers and letting readers in to see the obvious character growth, and I liked that.  These characters have not become stagnant - they have evolved and changed in the six year separation that has occurred.  Is Twitch still an arrogant, bad*ss alpha?  Of course!  But there's so much more emotional depth to him this go-round.  I believe he's described at one point as "Twitch 2.0", and I couldn't agree more.  But, for me, the one person who made the biggest difference in this saga is A.J. - little Twitch - Twitch & Lexi's 5 year-old-son.  He's the heart of much of the story and adds needed depth, emotion, and believe it or not . . . even humor while taking the plot to another level.  A killer support cast rounds out this crew of misfits, including family, friends, and villains.

Raw: Rebirth is a rebirth of sorts for several characters.  It's an intense, passionate, emotional read that I couldn't put down.  I loved that the author brought things "full-circle" in the end, but I won't explain what that means.  You need to read this one without spoilers and experience it first-hand.  I will say that I now feel the "closure" I needed and am curious to see if Aurora will explore the possibilities created in this book in the future.  I, for one, would welcome it.  Well done Belle Aurora!  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4.5 Demented Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra




Friday, January 4, 2019

The Lost Man Review


Title:  The Lost Man
Author:  Jane Harper
Publisher:  Flatiron Books
Release Date:  Feb. 5, 2019 (USA)
Purchase Link:  Amazon


My Rating:  4 Atmospheric Hearts


*Many thanks to the publisher for an arc of this book.



Synopsis:
Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…



Review:
The Lost Man is a highly atmospheric mystery/suspense story featuring the beautiful yet deadly Australian landscape.  Harper's descriptive writing style sets a grim, yet hauntingly beautiful scene as readers find themselves stranded in the remoteness of the Outback - a region where the people survive or perish from the elements based  solely on their level of preparedness.  So the big question is - why would a man born and raised in the Outback, fully aware of the danger posed by the brutal land and relentless sun, wander nine miles from his vehicle leaving his supplies and all means of survival behind?  Why is cattleman Cam Bright lying dead in the shadow of the Stockman's Grave in the middle of nowhere?  Did the well-liked middle Bright brother succumb to the elements in order to commit suicide?  Or did someone leave him there knowing he would die?  Why was he at the legendary Stockman's Grave?

The mystery of what happened to Cam and "who-done-it?" may be at the center of this story, but it's the many characters and relationships - people hoarding their own secrets and agendas - that fuel it.  The Lost Man is very much a character-driven, suspenseful journey.  The utter isolation of these families and their lack of quick help from authorities becomes apparent as the story progresses, as does the role played by the deadly, desolate landscape.  Harper excels at drawing readers into the scene, allowing them to see, breathe, and smell the ominous threat bestowed on man and beast by the treacherous, unforgiving land.  While the story unfolds slowly, by the halfway point I felt the pace and tension rising to another level, along with the increasing list of possible answers to the mystery.  I'll admit to changing my mind about what had transpired and who was responsible several times as I filtered through the clues and examined each player more closely.  I began to suspect the truth of it all near the end as various layers are peeled back and blanks are filled in.  I'm still not completely sure how I feel about the ultimate resolution, but it in no way lessened my intense satisfaction in the delivery of this story.  The Lost Man is truly a study of "nature" -  both human and the land.  And it's most certainly a story of survival - in more ways than one.  Another stunning Must Read by Jane Harper!  I'm already looking forward to her next book.

My Rating:  4 Atmospheric Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IWSG: Those Pesky Questions . . .

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a website media business with affiliates to enhance our service to visitors. We are a home for writers in all stages; from unpublished to bestsellers. Our goal is to offer assistance and guidance. We want to help writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement we are creating a community of support. Visit IWSG to learn more about this great writing community!  

IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. It's a great writer's resource that I'm sure you'll find well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with other IWSG Members.  


Join me in thanking our awesome January Co-Hosts: Patricia Lynne, Lisa  Buie-Collard,  Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue

Happy New Year Y'all!  I hope 2019 proves to be your year! 

IWSG Day Question: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

First, I'll say that getting any question at all is mostly a good thing!  It means someone is taking notice - so "favorite/least favorite" - either way, questions aren't something to be shunned.  I compare them to less than flattering vs. glowing reviews - while we all could bask in the glory of 5 star reviews, any review counts when it comes to boosting author ranking on sites like Amazon.  Simply put, if people are reading and talking about your books, it's a good thing!  While my dear ole mother always said, "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all", that's not entirely true in this situation (sorry mama).  Yes, some questions can be annoying, but I go with the flow and thank the powers that be people are at the very least recognizing the fact that I'm a writer.  They may not understand it or attach much importance to it, but they associate me + writing so I count that as a plus!  It's up to me to own and elevate my position by producing my best work in my own time. 


Still, everyone has a favorite or least favorite question, right?  Here are mine:

Least Favorite Question - Are you done yet?  Is it finished yet?  Do "we" have a book yet?  "We"??  Sigh.  If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked that question, I'd be rich.  Well, not really but you know what I mean.  It's like that one pesky fly at a summer picnic . . . I just want to swat it/them.  Family and friends mean well, they really do, but they don't always understand the time, process, heart and soul invested in writing a book.  And as magical as it can be to read a book, you can't wave a magic wand, say "Abracadabra",  and produce your own written book.  But, remembering what mama said, I smile and give the standard answer "not yet".  For me, the downside to this question is its potential to make me doubt myself when I once again answer "not yet".  But then . . . that's on me.  One day soon, my answer will change.

Favorite Question:  Other than a few articles, I'm unpublished.  Not having a book out yet, I don't field as many questions about my writing as many published authors do, I'm sure.  I do have acquaintances who respect the importance of my writing to me, and they often ask me how it's going (not to be confused with "are you done yet?").  Their inquiry opens a beneficial discussion about characters, scenes, or plot lines I'm pursuing, and that's encouraging.  I welcome those questions and discussions.

What are your favorite and least favorite questions about your writing?


Monday, December 10, 2018

An Anonymous Girl Review



Title:  An Anonymous Girl
Author:  Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Jan. 8, 2019
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Obsessive Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an arc of this book.



Synopsis:
Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Review:
Jessica Farris seizes an unexpected opportunity to earn some extra money by showing up at an appointment for participants in a morality and ethics survey - one that was meant for another girl.  Jessica takes her place and becomes Subject 52.  Upon subsequent survey sessions, Jessica's involvement progresses from answering questions to following precise instructions and venturing out into questionable real life situations, causing her to question the morality of what she's being asked to do.  Meantime, her curiosity drives her to start searching for information on the illusive Dr. Shields  - an action that brings about a game of cat and mouse, leaving readers to figure out who's playing whom?  

I highly advise going into this thriller blind.  Do yourself a favor, and don't read spoilers.  The beauty of this story is in the slow development and peeling back of layers, revealing the true nature of characters and raising the stakes chapter by chapter.  Through dual narration, readers are lured into menacing mind games fueled by obsession and paranoia.  At times, I felt like I was fighting my way out of a dark maze trying to determine who was telling the truth and who was lying.  While I did figure it out, I still wasn't one hundred percent sure I was right until the end.  An Anonymous Girl is an addictive, creepy thriller that is hard to put down.  The authors have created a dark, tense atmospheric setting that reeks of impending doom.  Flawed characters sporting disguises of normalcy keep readers working to unmask the identity of the real villain.  I greatly enjoyed the originality and delivery of the plot line and look forward to more from these authors.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Obsessive Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra